I will be writing an article on our freedom in Christ (though I could write a whole book on it).
Meanwhile, I need to comment further on my observations from yesterday...
I have been in (but not OF) churches since I was born, being taken by my mother and her family every Sunday and, later at other times as I grew up. So I know what I have seen, heard and experienced.
I have also been individual. I don’t mean trying to be different, which a lot of kids do nowadays, just for the sake of it, or even to show a rebellious streak. That is, I never followed the herd, whether in the world or in the churches. Even when I was singing and playing music, I did my own thing, not following the bands of the day. it was just... ME.
But, I watched as many like me (until about age 18 or 19) – unbelievers – became Christians, saved by grace.
I noted how they became like everyone else around them. They began to develop the same speech, same words, and even began to wear similar clothes, and copied the same behaviour. For example, in some denominations all the women were compelled to wear head scarves worn in a certain manner, their dresses fairly plain, their hair uncut and long; the men were dour-faced, rarely smiled, and always wore suits and ties to services. But, it went much farther...
Many Christians comply with these unwritten ‘codes’ because they want to fit in. They learn that to NOT fit in was to draw attention to themselves. This had a double-effect, because when everyone says and does the same things, it reinforces the idea that what they are doing is ‘correct’ and this then becomes ‘necessary’. Those who stand out as different will be pressured to comply. Not necessarily by direct command, but by an instinctive ‘atmosphere’ exuding from everyone... polite, courteous, loving... but stand-offish!
These churches may be doctrinally true, but their desire to be uniform in absolutely everything has many attendant problems. By smothering personalities and pushing people into a cloned atmosphere, every member becomes spiritually and emotionally malnourished. What is part of a person’s real self is slowly buried under the cloned self, and gifts or talents are stifled, so everything is channelled along the same church paths.
In any other situation this could be called brainwashing or even cult behaviour. But, because doctrine is right and the overall figure is outwardly nice and pleasant, few draw back from it. And so everyone is cloned, and speak and act the same way. If few smile, then no-one will smile. If few admit to doubts, then no-one admits to them.
If few give new ideas, then no-one offers a new thing... the kind of place that would not tolerate people like myself!
As I said yesterday, doctrine can have only one definition. No Christian may have his own definition, and this is what scripture tells us (for example, 2 Peter 1:20). So, when many try to tell us they do not share the common interpretation, we know there is a problem. The same doctrine can be expressed in a number of ways, but the core definition must always be the same. In this there can be no freedom to pick and choose. But, the rest of life can be expressed in a variety of ways.
Sadly, I can identify people, very often, from the way they speak, think or act. This is because they have adopted a communal spirit that has robbed them of their individuality. This is a great loss to the Church owned by God. Whole churches and denominations have, in effect, told God He can direct their beliefs, but THEY can change the wallpaper as they wish! So, they make sure Christians comply with their earthly demands.
Perhaps many think this is okay. What is wrong with complying? What is wrong is why Luther complained in his 95 Theses! Small acts of compliance with human demands, unspoken or not, make sure everyone looks, speaks and acts the same. God has given us individual personalities and so long as they are not warped by sin, they are how God made us to be. Those who accept being cloned are usually types who like to be told what to do; they hate being outside the accepted circle; they do not dare even thinking maybe a pastor is wrong, or doctrinal statements might possibly need examination. I know all this because I was in such atmospheres for a very long time and know that not to comply is to finally be shunned by those who once were your friends.
All believers are compelled to be led by their elders in the Lord, and pastors are there to guide the flock, who should listen to careful counsel. Yet, outside all that is freedom in Christ... something few believers know anything about.
The more a person is taught by scripture and the Holy Spirit, the less tolerant he will be of what amounts to dictatorship, and the less he likes the fact that his pastor, perhaps, is put on a pedestal by members.
When I became a Christian, the church I was already attending openly treated me as a great prize! I had long hair, I made my own clothes or wore different kinds of things, I played rock music and sang on stage, I painted even on all the walls of our house (my mother loved it!). That is, they prized me because I was so very different. Almost immediately I was asked to speak!! Sure enough, what I said was also different. Only much later did I see their folly. I was not mentored at all. However, I managed to learn very fast! And the more I learned the less I was acceptable
to my local church! This was because I retained my individuality and they saw this as a liability. I spoke my mind, and discovered amazing things in scripture. But, it differed from what I was being taught, almost by rote.
After ten years of trying to comply (badly) I finally submitted to the Spirit, Who showed me in no uncertain terms, that I was wrong. After preaching for all those years in many churches, even up to middle England, every week, I could no longer justify trying to marry my individuality and growing knowledge to the cloning process of the churches.
That’s when churches I once preached in stopped asking me to speak!! On the other hand, in my final engagements the Holy Spirit did mighty deeds when I was speaking! But congregations only wanted novelty, such as I gave them before. They didn’t want truth or tough Bible facts. All I need to do was comply with the ways of all the other speakers!
But, I couldn’t. This eventually led to shunning, but by that time I had been toughened by the Lord!
So, friends, think carefully, if your desire to belong means you lose yourself in a common personality and cloning.
Those who follow the herd do not fly high like eagles, nor do they have fresh insights. Nor do they speak honestly or with care for real knowledge. Instead of flying towards the glorious sun they stay in the shadows of the valley, becoming slow and unresponsive to the dynamic life given to them by God in Christ.
There is much more to say... but I have given you the gist.
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