Looking for Advice on Congregational Participation

Jan 31, 2019
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... I understand you fear them caring so much about you that they might swarm you with love, but such is the price we pay being a family member.
Yep, there it is.

In my home is where MY family is and not in the congregation.

If a particular congregation infers (as I believe you have just done) that if you are a Christian, you must consider the congregation to be family; then if you don't consider the congregation to be family, how can you really be a Christian? It's the sort of situation unfortunate folks like me choose to avoid. And who then fills the pews? Those willing and able to consider others in the congregation as family.

I expect the majority of the readers here will think, "Of course we are family. That's what Christianity is!" I am probably in the wrong place being here, too.
 
Feb 5, 2013
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How do I respond in a Christ-like way when someone brings up the subject of congregational participation being an expectation, or even a requirement, of Christ-like living?
When people ask these questions, they are doing it out of Christian love. Actually if people do not ask these questions, there is something wrong. It would mean people are self-centered. It would mean they don't care about others. It is encouraging that people are actually taking effort to notice if someone is coming regularly or not. I think the real question, what is it that you want? Do you want to work over your challenges and be part of a local Church? If that is what you truly desire, then this is not the right question to ask. Either you are part of a congregation or not. There is no in between status. You can't be just a permanent visitor to a Church. Bible is very clear that we need to fellowship together. There are lot of Bible verses on that. If that is what Bible teaches, then it is "good" for us to be a part of local Church. It does not mean anything to your salvation, but it is "good".
 
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Jan 31, 2019
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When people ask these questions, they are doing it out of Christian love. Actually if people do not ask these questions, there is something wrong. It would mean people are self-centered. It would mean they don't care about others. It is encouraging that people are actually taking effort to notice if someone is coming regularly or not. I think the real question, what is it that you want? Do you want to work over your challenges and be part of a local Church? If that is what you truly desire, then this is not the right question to ask. Either you are part of a congregation or not. There is no in between status. You can't be just a permanent visitor to a Church. Bible is very clear that we need to fellowship together. There are lot of Bible verses on that. If that is what Bible teaches, then it is "good" for us to be a part of local Church. It does not mean anything to your salvation, but it is "good".
"You can't be just a permanent visitor to a Church.

"
Really? Shouldn't a congregation like that put up a sign saying:

VISITORS WELCOME!
(Limited time offer, restrictions apply, see Amen Pew for details)

I see the problem with this attitude in that it speaks of a recruitment campaign where you are trying to get newcomers to serve the congregation's will rather than the congregation serving our Sovereign Lord and Savior by doing good for others (agapao - an action, not just agape - a feeling).

I am even more convinced to say: "I fellowship with Christians outside of Church." and perhaps add: "It is the best way to witness to non-Christians, too."

This may seem like a real slam, I dunno, I really don't ... But when I can bring my self to go to a Sunday Service I want to hear the word of God and worship Him with fellow believers. But what I see most often looks much more like worshiping the fellowship of the congregation. It's like a poor excuse for self idolatry.
 
Feb 5, 2013
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This may seem like a real slam, I dunno, I really don't ... But when I can bring my self to go to a Sunday Service I want to hear the word of God and worship Him with fellow believers. But what I see most often looks much more like worshiping the fellowship of the congregation. It's like a poor excuse for self idolatry.
What you mentioned is the primary purpose of coming together. But Bible is very clear that that is not the sole purpose of Church. It is not a self contained group just for Christians. If no one is taking the effort to reach out to the lost, who is going to do that? Who is going to go out and help the needy? Who is going to go out and serve people outside Church? How these things are going to happen if people just come, worship, hear and Word and leave without having fellowship among each other? How can a bunch of strangers function as a body of Christ without understanding each others gifts?
 
Jan 31, 2019
25
19
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Bradford County, PA
What you mentioned is the primary purpose of coming together. But Bible is very clear that that is not the sole purpose of Church. It is not a self contained group just for Christians. If no one is taking the effort to reach out to the lost, who is going to do that? Who is going to go out and help the needy? Who is going to go out and serve people outside Church? How these things are going to happen if people just come, worship, hear and Word and leave without having fellowship among each other? How can a bunch of strangers function as a body of Christ without understanding each others gifts?
Good question.

John 15:5 (NASB) I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.

I made the text red because they were written in blood by our Sovereign Lord and Savior. We are required to be attached to Him in order to bear fruit. Then all things are possible. Because of this scripture and my own experiences I strongly question the interpretation of Paul's analogy of the Body of Christ being that of one of intimate fellowship with other Christians. Again, it is like a poor excuse for self idolatry.
 
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Feb 5, 2013
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Good question.

John 15:5 (NASB) I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.

I made the text red because they were written in blood by our Sovereign Lord and Savior. We are required to be attached to Him in order to bear fruit. Then all things are possible. Because of this scripture and my own experiences I strongly question the interpretation of Paul's analogy of the Body of Christ being that of one of intimate fellowship with other Christians. Again, it is like a poor excuse for self idolatry.
The context and purpose of the verse is nothing to do with fellowship among believers. Jesus did not say I am the vine and hence do not have fellowship among yourselves. The context of the verse is to say Jesus is the Vine and apart from Him we can do nothing. There is no works that can get us close to God. There is no fruits that can be produced without abiding in Him. Paul's analogy of body of Christ does not require any special interpretation. When you read the entire chapter, Paul is directly addressing unity in Church. It is a symbolic message. It is a direct message
 
Jan 31, 2019
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Bradford County, PA
The context and purpose of the verse is nothing to do with fellowship among believers. Jesus did not say I am the vine and hence do not have fellowship among yourselves. The context of the verse is to say Jesus is the Vine and apart from Him we can do nothing. There is no works that can get us close to God. There is no fruits that can be produced without abiding in Him. Paul's analogy of body of Christ does not require any special interpretation. When you read the entire chapter, Paul is directly addressing unity in Church. It is a symbolic message. It is a direct message
Thanks, I just reviewed I Cor 12 and Eph 4. But I have to disagree that Paul is talking about church unity; he is talking about humility, without which there cannot be church unity, of course. There is no reason to be proud that God has given you a gift others do not have and no reason to be ashamed if God has given others a gift you do not have.

But perhaps my point was overlooked. It is the misinterpretation of Paul's analogy, not what he wrote, that can cause self-idolatry in a congregation.

And perhaps you think I do not value the fellowship of believers. Far, far from it! I value it and desire it greatly, but was not given the gift of sociability. And like a person without legs, it is best to stay off the dance floor, and to avoid situations where I am expected to dance, and especially where dancing is idolized.

Is this such a place? Seems like it right now.
 

bobinfaith

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Thanks Largest Cervidae. I have given your suggestion a couple days of consideration and see problems with it. First, can I be sure God IS leading me in that direction? I, myself, am not very sure of his leading until I see where I end up. Second, what if the counter response is: "Oh, you must be mistaken. Away from this congregation, which is THE Body of Christ, is never a place God would lead anyone. Obviously Satan has decieved you. You must ask forgiveness and repent. Let me get the Deacons that are huddled over there in the corner and we will lay hands on you and pray. Hey, Franklin! where's the annointing oil? All used up from Thursday Bible study? Wait, I got some brake fluid out in the truck..." Yeah, humourous exaggeration, but you could see where pulling the G-card might lead.
Generally.....I stress GENERALLY.... Christians are an understanding lot. Being truthful with them should be the way to go, don't be flippant with them nor should you say truths that hurt feelings. The old example of telling an over weight lady that she is fat is truthful, yet uneccesarily harmful. I understand you fear them caring so much about you that they might swarm you with love, but such is the price we pay being a family member.
And perhaps you think I do not value the fellowship of believers. Far, far from it! I value it and desire it greatly, but was not given the gift of sociability. And like a person without legs, it is best to stay off the dance floor, and to avoid situations where I am expected to dance, and especially where dancing is idolized. Is this such a place? Seems like it right now.
Hello TwoBlocked;

Thank you for your thread, Looking for Advice on Congregational Participation. You posted your thread on January 31st and this is a huge blessing!

I've personally read this two times and had to re-read what the others wrote. Your sharing is not easy to understand.

Someone's thread can come and go so quickly because we don't understand, or others can blow the writer's feelings off and not give a care. Unfortunately, this can be the Christian attitude. But what matters in this topic, is our brothers and sisters have hung on and interacted with you, and everyone else, for almost 2 months.

On one side, what you shared may well have given many of us much to think about, like me. I have my own story that many don't understand. So I don't believe what you wrote is in vain. This is a good thing. Praise Him!

One the other hand, we may not fully understand what you are conveying, but standing with you is what encouraged me to see, people on all four corners of cyberspace, wherever we are, loving you, despite you. This is a wonderful thing. Praise Him!

Personally, despite my story, it doesn't matter if I can't bring myself to the church dance, or if I can't dance, what matters is I'm still a part of the fellowship, the unity of Christ. Far with it! God made me, despite my story and undesires, to be a part of His church, not by another popular member or minister of celebratory status, but because God loves me.

God is my audience, He is my approver.

My prayer for you is nothing specific, just you and your daily walk with Jesus and worship with God.

TwoBlocked, you're doing fine and did the right thing by sharing your thread. Thank you.

God bless you and your family.
 
Feb 5, 2013
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Wharton NJ
Good question.

John 15:5 (NASB) I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.

I made the text red because they were written in blood by our Sovereign Lord and Savior. We are required to be attached to Him in order to bear fruit. Then all things are possible. Because of this scripture and my own experiences I strongly question the interpretation of Paul's analogy of the Body of Christ being that of one of intimate fellowship with other Christians. Again, it is like a poor excuse for self idolatry.
I have a feeling this is taking your original post in a totally different direction. Partly my responses did that and my apologies. I went back and read your original post :)

>> How do I respond in a Christ-like way when someone brings up the subject of congregational participation being an expectation, or even a requirement, of Christ-like living?

This is what you had asked originally. I don't know if there is an answer to that. I know many people who come to Church just at the time worship starts and are out of Church just at the time when final Amen is said. You can do that. You still get to worship, hear the Word and avoid socialization. I don't think anyone is going to say you need to become a member to enter the Church. I am sure deacons or pastor would find it and get in touch with you outside of Church to understand why you would avoid fellowship with others. I don't know if there is any other direct answer to your question
 
Jan 31, 2019
25
19
3
Bradford County, PA
Hello TwoBlocked;

Thank you for your thread, Looking for Advice on Congregational Participation. You posted your thread on January 31st and this is a huge blessing!

I've personally read this two times and had to re-read what the others wrote. Your sharing is not easy to understand.

Someone's thread can come and go so quickly because we don't understand, or others can blow the writer's feelings off and not give a care. Unfortunately, this can be the Christian attitude. But what matters in this topic, is our brothers and sisters have hung on and interacted with you, and everyone else, for almost 2 months.

On one side, what you shared may well have given many of us much to think about, like me. I have my own story that many don't understand. So I don't believe what you wrote is in vain. This is a good thing. Praise Him!

One the other hand, we may not fully understand what you are conveying, but standing with you is what encouraged me to see, people on all four corners of cyberspace, wherever we are, loving you, despite you. This is a wonderful thing. Praise Him!

Personally, despite my story, it doesn't matter if I can't bring myself to the church dance, or if I can't dance, what matters is I'm still a part of the fellowship, the unity of Christ. Far with it! God made me, despite my story and undesires, to be a part of His church, not by another popular member or minister of celebratory status, but because God loves me.

God is my audience, He is my approver.

My prayer for you is nothing specific, just you and your daily walk with Jesus and worship with God.

TwoBlocked, you're doing fine and did the right thing by sharing your thread. Thank you.

God bless you and your family.
Thanks, Bob. I see it as a good thing that others don't understand my position. Why would I want anyone else to have this same problem? Thru the interactions I was able to come up with a workable reply: "I fellowship with Christians outside of Church."

It was just a by product of the interactions that brought up how church fellowship can become an idol. (If someone doesn't think it's possible, they may be doing it...) I'll have to look thru C. S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters to see if he covered this.
 
Jan 31, 2019
25
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Bradford County, PA
I have a feeling this is taking your original post in a totally different direction. Partly my responses did that and my apologies. I went back and read your original post :)

>> How do I respond in a Christ-like way when someone brings up the subject of congregational participation being an expectation, or even a requirement, of Christ-like living?

This is what you had asked originally. I don't know if there is an answer to that. I know many people who come to Church just at the time worship starts and are out of Church just at the time when final Amen is said. You can do that. You still get to worship, hear the Word and avoid socialization. I don't think anyone is going to say you need to become a member to enter the Church. I am sure deacons or pastor would find it and get in touch with you outside of Church to understand why you would avoid fellowship with others. I don't know if there is any other direct answer to your question
Thanks. As I just mentioned to Bob, taking the a "totally differnt direction" was a by product. And why shouldn't respond as you decide??? Btw, I really do fellowship with Christians outside of Church.

Maybe this will smooth off the rough edges: I was in Church Sunday and decided to go out to the fellowship hall (ahem) partway thru the sermon. It was all about Church Family... So after a while one of the Church leaders that I know well came out and sat down with me and I told him my problems with the sermon due to the emphasis on fellowship. It was nothing new to him. We had discussed it before. I doubt he really understands, but accepts it. After some chit-chat he talked about a roofing problem he has that he can't figure out and was hoping I could give him a hand. Of course I would! I'm really looking forward to it. THAT'S the kind of gift God has given me and THAT is how I "fellowship" although I consider it just doing good: agapao - action, not agape - feeling.

It would be pretty boring Forum if everyone stuck strickly to the original topic, don't you think? :)
 
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How do you respond in a christ-like way ...?
Well even Jesus did not go to everything and get to talk with everyone. He would say 'its not my time' or 'im going about my Fathers business' he was actually limited and could only be in one place at a time when he was on earth. He would often go up to the mount to pray alone.


Sometimes you have work to do, or you just want to have quiet time with God and thats ok, thats where you are at in your spiritual walk.

Dont feel you are obligated to go to everything a church puts on. As long as you dont give up meeting together entirely. The thing is if you are daily communing with Him then thats a good thing, probably the most important thing that cant be taken away from you. Read the story of Mary and Martha, Mary was sitting at Jesus feet, and Martha was wanting Jesus to tell her off for not helping her. Maybe she felt like she wasnt fulfilling her obligations or she was just totally stressed out and needed a hand. But Jesus said Mary had chosen the most important thing.
 
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Thanks. As I just mentioned to Bob, taking the a "totally differnt direction" was a by product. And why shouldn't respond as you decide??? Btw, I really do fellowship with Christians outside of Church.

Maybe this will smooth off the rough edges: I was in Church Sunday and decided to go out to the fellowship hall (ahem) partway thru the sermon. It was all about Church Family... So after a while one of the Church leaders that I know well came out and sat down with me and I told him my problems with the sermon due to the emphasis on fellowship. It was nothing new to him. We had discussed it before. I doubt he really understands, but accepts it. After some chit-chat he talked about a roofing problem he has that he can't figure out and was hoping I could give him a hand. Of course I would! I'm really looking forward to it. THAT'S the kind of gift God has given me and THAT is how I "fellowship" although I consider it just doing good: agapao - action, not agape - feeling.

It would be pretty boring Forum if everyone stuck strickly to the original topic, don't you think? :)
Yes I do!
 
Apr 13, 2019
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Hi, I am not a very social person even though I like just about everyone. Those few that I don’t like I can still love, meaning I can do good things for them (verb agapao, rather than noun agape). Best I can tell, I am this way due to both nurture and nature, much of it deliberately self-inflicted like an animal that chews a leg off to get out of a trap. So being part of the Body of Christ can be a confusing, frustrating situation for all involved. I have had a number of conversations about this with other believers and it has never been a good experience. Maybe it is best not to bring it up at all. But even if I don’t bring it up, how can I respond in a Christ-like way when someone challenges me about my congregational participation?

See, when I am “encouraged” to be more involved in congregational activities (membership, attendance, small groups) because that is what the Body of Christ is and that is how He works, it smells more like “If you were really saved you would <blank>” I am sure many have smelled that aroma from those that want you to, well, be more like them whether it be a particular doctrine, financial contributions, door-to-door evangelism, etc. The <blank> is something those people happened to be passionate about and gifted at, so you should too! (Following that track can show how Cults get started and grow…)

But congregational participation is viewed very differently. Perhaps it is inevitable when you consider how a Local Church Congregation functions. If they weren’t tightly knit, would they exist for long? I doubt it. So where does that leave those, like me, that aren’t very social? Should we consider ourselves, as some others certainly do, reprobates, beyond God’s salvation because we choose to be? This would be true if having a social personality is a choice. And might it be so? What if the only reason someone did not have a social personality was due to some kind of sinful pride? They might THINK there is nothing, but God’s healing touch, that can change them and yet be deluding themselves. And what greater proof than to intentionally isolate yourself from the Body of Christ!?!?!

For me that is a bone chilling thought. But where else would I be presented with that terrorizing thought but from those promoting congregational participation as evidence of being part of the Body of Christ? Ironically, that has the opposite of the intended effect: It DIScourages me to be where this thought abounds – in a congregational environment! HaHaHa

But when I walk out of the Church doors and see the natural things God has created, and re-live the moment of my personal, private revelation of Salvation, that terrorizing thought disperses like the exhaust from an old rusty truck going down the road. And yet, I see enormous good that comes from the congregational participation of others. It is a blessing from God, but is it either a requirement for, or an indication of, God’s Salvation? I don’t think so, although I accept that others do. In fact I can and do much to support the congregational participation of others because it is such a wonderful thing. As I mentioned, it can be a really confusing, frustrating situation for all involved. And that is what I am asking you fine folks for help with.

How do I respond in a Christ-like way when someone brings up the subject of congregational participation being an expectation, or even a requirement, of Christ-like living?
Tell them to go read their bibles. The book of Romans explains over and over that being a Christian does not require you to do anything. The only thing a Christian has to do is go to heaven.

I can't point to any verse, but AFAIK the only reason to go to a meeting is to fellowship with like-minded believers.
 
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Tell them to go read their bibles. The book of Romans explains over and over that being a Christian does not require you to do anything. The only thing a Christian has to do is go to heaven.

I can't point to any verse, but AFAIK the only reason to go to a meeting is to fellowship with like-minded believers.
Unless they want you to read the bible with them. Some people actually want to read the bible together in groups. But if you all have your own copies you can read it on your own. In that case just say sorry I am up to Romans at the moment and prefer to read at my own pace. But thanks for inviting me.
 
Apr 13, 2019
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Unless they want you to read the bible with them. Some people actually want to read the bible together in groups. But if you all have your own copies you can read it on your own. In that case just say sorry I am up to Romans at the moment and prefer to read at my own pace. But thanks for inviting me.
BTW even the people who taught me these things fussed at me because I didn't attend meetings as much as they thought I should!
 
Apr 13, 2019
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John 15:5 (NASB) I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.

The problem comes up when people start thinking "We are the vine, you owe the group support."
 

bobinfaith

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Well, even the pastors of many churches dont actually live AT the church. Otherwise the church would be open 24/7. If it really annoys you just ring them up at 3 in the morning and ask if they want to get together to pray.
Hey Lanolin;

I don't live on the church site but have taken calls at 3am from those with extreme situations and will pray with them. Most know to call in the morning because I'm resting. I also know other pastors that will take a call late at night.

Congregational participation does not force, but encourages reaching out to a brother or sister. Spiritual leaders should give the example. After preaching on Sundays I don't shut down but make every effort to my weekly visits or calls to my church family.

But for those who are very private, love and encourage them, let them know you are thinking and praying for them, then leave them be until the next time we gather for worship.

God bless you all.
 
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