Falling in Love with the Church

After being in a Christian cult it was very difficult to find a place to call home. There were some good parts to the cult (if not, it would not have been quite so appealing), such as a sense of community. Believers talking freely about God and the bible without pastors egos or laymen titles, just us, the teachers, and the taught ,on equal footing, all loving God’s word and discussing it openly.

We didn’t just go to church, we did church.

From Sunday afternoon dinners with the whole group. to singles, couples, and families joining hands around a meal to pray, we spent time together. When we left the cult, wounded, broken, and scared to go anywhere, we started a home church. In the safety of our home we learned about God in a new light as we grew together in New Testament principles.

Just like us, others found a place in our home where the wounds inflicted upon God’s people, by God’s people, could find a place of common healing – a bond of brokenness. Our Saturday night fellowship became a place to propagate many of the wrong teachings we had all embraced, as well as truth seekers sharing differing doctrines and ideologies, as God opened our eyes piece by piece, to who He really is. We continued to explore our limited formal church options in rural Vermont, but we were lost in the culture and customs of  a Christianity we didn’t recognize.

Coming from a place where grace was lacking and works was a way of breathing, main stream churches felt much too liberal for us.

Hello dear ones, I am right here. Jesus kept beckoning us to follow Him through the brokenness to the place of wonder.

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Wounded people, wound people, and we were a long way from becoming wounded healers. 

We tried – oh we really tried, and throughout most of our endeavors our home was known as a place of great peace; a place where people gathered to safely discuss theology and a life of discipleship. Somehow, in the midst of the mess of healing, breaking, and healing again, God’s spirit continued to guide us to Love.

Where sin abounds – where the law tries to steal, kill, and destroy –  grace abounds even more.

We were parched, lost in a desert of gospel barrenness, but the refreshing waters came in the hands of those who knew how to love us in our messy parts. It came through the types and kinds of Christians I would have run away from before – liberal, “love gospel” types, who spoke about Jesus in ways that made me question my beliefs. They were tormenting questions. The enemy of my soul whispered that I could lose my salvation by even thinking them.

Come.

It was the voice of Jesus speaking Good News in a wilderness of dead works.

Chaplains, psychologist, counselors – friends – as I began to pursue my education in psychology, I found others who professed Christ living in great joy and peace daily on a journey, not just concerned with arriving at a destination. They were the fragrance of Christ; I could breathe in grace and breathe out freedom. They were the church. 

I read books by authors who wrote about a different Jesus – one who could free me from my performance anxiety to live fully loved. Fully engaged.

I began to enjoy the journey and find peace in the questions.

“Good Morning Jamie, I love you.” I began to understand what it means to be deeply, unconditionally, recklessly loved with a Perfect Love.

My cup of English Breakfast Tea in the morning is sipped with Jesus sitting beside me, encouraging my questions, revealing the answers, or pointing ahead to the path where they may be discovered.

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I began to see that performance based Christianity was a vicious cycle of attempt to change, fail, pray more, fast more, try more, fail more.

Grace says, “I love you in your messy, nakedness and I have clothed you in beauty.”

Grace says, “Only when you love, accept, and forgive yourself will you love, accept, and forgive others.”   

I stopped trying to defend myself as a female chaplain by explaining that I wasn’t a pastor, and embrace the God gifts I have to teach and encourage. I could hear the voice of Jesus and the feel the presence of God when a heart was touched, set free, healed, or embraced by the power of God’s love.

I learned to pray, “Forgive them Father they know what they do” when they unknowingly ripped the scabs of spiritual abuse off our hearts and made it bleed again.

I began to see the church as the family of God – broken, bleeding, messy, incorrigible, and in desperate need of repair.

Just like me.

The more intimately we get to know people, the more we see their flaws. We have a chance to choose to love in spite of their messy lives and filthy hearts. We get to choose to deliberately walk through the mess with them, instead of bailing.

Just like Jesus.

Each person with a story, begging to be told, released into the freedom of forever. Each person is yearning for the Lover of our souls in the dark places and begging Him come – fill the burning passion of holy love.

It was scary leaving the desert where only those who knew how to love wounded people like me came and went. It was scary leaving the safety of my wilderness room where only the Sacred and I met together. It made me vulnerable to opening up the wounds of abuse again, and again, and again.

To grow in grace requires others. It requires the church. They are the water that feeds us, the storms that break us, and God fixes, and then we break again, and are fed again, in the jumbled up journey.

We need each other to be conformed Him – to learn to love who He loves, serve who He serves, and be who He is.

To love the unlovable.  Like us.

The accepted ones. The redeemed ones. The forgiven ones. The beautiful ones.

The journeying ones.

The Message of the Cross in the Face of a Child

“I don’t want anything else from this world. Everything I was dreaming of is gone. I want to bury my children and sit beside them until I die.”
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Compassion has a face. Love has a voice. Action has a motive. Christ. 

We are all strangers in a strange land, pilgrims passing through.                   (Full story here:  News )

He only wanted a life for his family, fleeing from a country where over 11 million people have been displaced since 2011 and a hundreds of thousands have died. Surrounding countries such as Iraq, are facing their own civil wars and terrorism.

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Where would you go? He tried to go to Canada to join his sister through legal immigration means, and they were denied.

What would you do to save your littles?

It is so easy for us to miss the living, breathing, brokenness of real life, amidst the abundant sterility of our well-kept lives. The faces of refugees are not sterile, or well-kept, but desperate and stricken.

They were just little boys, the same ages as some of my grandsons.

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In the face of Galip, I see my four year old Hector, who just started Kindergarten last week. I bought him a backpack with the image of a shark on it.  It is an,  “I love you, work hard in school,” gift of my love. I’ve never had to think about keeping his head above water as we struggled to stay alive. I don’t have to worry about a bombs exploding overhead.

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Galip should be picking out a backpack and jumping with excitement over the big yellow buses that go by. He should be grinning from ear to ear as he picks up his new box of crayons and shows them to papa with pride. He should be looking forward to Christmas and the shiny light shows that North America displays. His aunt should be able to see the snowflakes reflected in his eyes as he gazes in rapture at his first downy sight. He should be visiting museums and learning about Pirates, U.S. History, and tasting freedom and safety. 

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In the image of tiny two year old Alyan, I see our little grandson David Grubb.

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I can’t look at the image of Alyan’s lifeless body, lying face down on the beach, without weeping. He should be smelling flowers, and growing up to the  questions of “why?” “Why do they have so many cars mama?” “Why is it so green?” He should be swinging on a swing saying, “higher!” or playing in a sandbox with his mother hovering nearby, her eyes full of the wonder of raising a toddler. Instead her eyes are closed, forever, and her husband holds the images of pain for a lifetime as they were buried in the very place he tried to flee from.

I would have taken them all into my home so they would not be a “burden” to society. David would have housed them, and clothed them, fed them, loved them, and helped them to find a new life. He would have held their toddler so mama and papa could explore an evening in their glorious new beginnings. In doing so, maybe they would find their life in Christ. (The sad implication of our financial changes as result of David’s former loss of career with IBM, isn’t in our own lack of need, but in our inability to help and house the hurting.)

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In helping others, we are helped. In loving others, we are loved. In teaching others, we learn the many things education can’t provide. In giving, we receive gifts that no amount of money can purchase. The things that the Donald Trumps’ of the world are lacking in – a Kingdom vision.

People are often shouting about the sins of America in terms of external issues of morality, and what we need to do become a great nation again. Maybe the wicked ways we need humble ourselves and pray about (2 Chron. 7:14), are not the things that America is doing, as much as what we are not doing, caring for widows, orphans, strangers, and the poor, and revealing a nation full of compassion towards all of God’s image bearers. (Duet. 24:17, Exodus 23:9, Duet. 27:19, I John 3:17, Is. 58:7-10 to name a few.)

Jesus was moved with compassion towards all people, at all times; outraged only at those who were more interested in the preservation of themselves and their historic religious identities. Acts 10:38 says it clearly,

“You know the story of what happened in Judea. It began in Galilee after John preached a total life-change. Then Jesus arrived from Nazareth, anointed by God with the Holy Spirit, ready for action. He went through the country helping people and healing everyone who was beaten down by the Devil. He was able to do all this because God was with him.   (The MSG)

We are all refugees in a foreign land seeking a safe place to rest our heads, be free from struggling, and find peace in this fleeting moment of time.

For we are strangers before you and sojourners, as all our fathers were. Our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no abiding. I Chron. 29:15 (ESV)

With issues of sovereignty, it’s crucial that we remember we are all just passing through the place we temporally call home. We are here to glorify God and to grow His Kingdom, with disciples who are relentlessly pursuing Him. We should be radically altered in that pursuit so we are transformed to reflect the character and nature of Jesus!

 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,   Phil 3:20 (ESV)

Maybe our “passions” as American citizens of heaven, need to be re-aligned.

 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.  Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.  I pet 2:11 (ESV)

Let us all be people of grace to the Alyans’ and Galips’ of the world. Let’s not appear before God as a nation whose sin was to stand by and idly watch the suffering of others, engorged by our own gluttony, as we turn our eyes from suffering.

Maybe that is the message of the cross.

A Letter to the Pastors, Priests, & Churches: Six Ways You Can Love on Mother’s Day

Dear Pastors and Churches,

Mother’s Day is here, and with it social media is filled with happy slogans revealing flowery images. Mothers are amazing, sacrificial women, who deserved to be honored for their contributions to the advancement of society, and to God’s Kingdom; but there is also a lack of sensitivity to women who will not be recognized on Sunday. Women whose emotions vary from happy, to bittersweet, to deep feelings of sadness.

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I would like to encourage God’s people to be aware of, and to recognize, SIX groups of women who may be sitting in your pews on Sunday and feeling grieved, or left out: as well as to provide you with several ways to include them in your celebration. 

  1. Mothers of children who have died. I have eight beautiful children and eleven grandchildren who fill my life with love, but every Mother’s Day is a stark reminder of my son who is missing. It has been twenty five years since Michaiah died, but every Mother’s Day there is one less place setting, one less piece of dessert, and one less hug to warm my heart.

In my work as an international disaster chaplain, I have met people who have lost several children – sometimes their entire family. For them, Mother’s Day is stricken with memories of loss. 

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(It doesn’t matter how long it has been – the death of our child goes against everything that is good and right in our world. Depending upon when or how the child died, Mother’s Day will often bring about increased feelings of loss, and symptoms of grief and depression.

  1. Women without children. About 10 percent of women (6.1 million) in the United States ages 15-44 have difficulty getting pregnant or staying pregnant. I have spoken to women who stay home from church on Mother’s Day rather than be exposed to “feelings of inadequacy.” The flowers, plants, or trinkets that are given out, as well as the recognition and applause, is a stab in the heart to those who are left out of the celebration for reasons beyond their control. Words of “encouragement” such as “God will give you a baby,” or “Relax and it will happen” are awkward reminders of how ill equipped people are to respond in a helpful manner.
  2. Iphone 279Women who have miscarried. This is one of the most unrecognized groups of women in the church. Well-meaning people again make ill-placed statements such as, “You can have another baby,” or “You have two children already,” undermining the loss of the baby. Mother’s Day is not only a reminder of their babies that died, but also of their unrecognized grief, and the lack of support that has been offered to them.
  3. Women who have given up children for adoption. As the mother of an adopted child, I thank my son’s birth mother for the wonderful gift of life she gave Samuel (Pictured below, on the day we arrived home from Kazakhstan). I don’t know if she grieves on Mother’s Day or not, but I have counseled mothers who do. I also know that Sam’s mom chose to carry him, birth him, and do what was in his best interest with hope for a brighter future. For many mothers who have given up their children to adoption, it is the ultimate sacrifice, and one in which they will feel the pain of the choice for a lifetime.
  4. SAM First home

    Post-abortive women. I am a post-abortive woman. You may think why should we acknowledge mothers who took the lives or our own children?  We have children with the Lord. We are forgiven. Many churches and church goers still hold in contempt the choice to terminate a pregnancy, while the women who had abortions live with post-abortion trauma, guilt, regrets, and an inability to accept God’s forgiveness, and forgive themselves. Mother’s Day is the perfect day to reach out to these hurting women and encourage them of God’s love, grace, and forgiveness. Remind them that their babies are with God, and they will see them again.

  5. Women (and men) whose moms, have died. My mother died thirteen years ago and I miss her, as countless of others do as well. Whether we had a good relationship or one begging for improvement, Mother’s Day is reminder of what was lost, or never gained. For those who are experiencing the recent loss of a mother, it can be a particularly difficult time.  (There are also men who are mourning the loss of their wives – mothers of their young children who they are now forced to raise alone.) 

What you can do:

  1. If your church has mothers come to the front or stand up for recognition, considering having them stay where they are. When a childless woman is left sitting with the men or children, it reinforces their loss and makes them stand apart from the other mothers and women.
  2. When you give our flowers, plants or other trinkets, considering giving them to all of the women in your church, and not just those you know to have given birth, or adopted.
  3. Acknowledge the loss of children to accidents, illness, miscarriages, stillbirth or abortion. Offer a prayer of support for the mothers who are hurting. A moment of silent memory for those who have gone before us gives everyone a chance to feel included, and affirmed in our grief.
  4. Consider planting a tree, flowers, or dedicate a mother appropriate wall-hanging for those who have lost children, or are childless.
  5. Have a memory jar, cross, or other location, where notes can be placed inside or tacked up, to remember a loved one, offer up words of love, or give to God the pain of loss, or childlessness.
  6. Educate the church. This begins by simply acknowledging these losses as I have suggested here. You can also supply resources for the church to become better educated in grief and loss, or by training as provided by organizations such as mine. ( http://www.compassionatereach.org )

A heart is given to all women who “mother.” They willingly and repeatedly sacrifice themselves to care for their children, even when those children may only attend their church, be their students, neighbors, or friends. Mothers give up their food when their children are hungry, their sleep when their children are sick, and their physical comforts when their children may be better served.

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Mothers lay down their lives.

Let’s not forget all women whose hearts are given in love this Mother’s Day, and honor them with our actions.

In Genuine Love,

Jamie Grubb – A Mother

Letters to Jesus (You Know My Name)

Dear Jesus,

You may not remember me. I met you a few years ago at a “charismatic coffee house.” I thought it was pretty cool watching men, women, children, and even nuns all raising their hands to praise you. They all got along and seemed to really like each other. You may already know that I went outside to get high while they were singing. Even though I was high, I felt something there. It was something real. Something good. There was that one night when I prayed with two other teenagers to follow you. I liked those kids – I mean they were really square but seemed to be happy about being so uncool. I felt like they genuinely liked me. Me! Not for the drugs I could provide, or the parties, or an act I put on to be accepted – but just for me. I can’t really explain it, but for the first time in my life I felt kind of clean. Maybe even good. I felt like my life mattered. 

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The coffee house was pretty far away from home though and I didn’t have anyone to take me there. When I went back to school I was called a “Jesus freak” and mocked out. I was known for being a fun person, a party person. I didn’t have anyone who would accept me. I couldn’t stand being alone. I hope you can understand that. I mean you created Eve because you said it wasn’t good for Adam to be alone. I was all alone and it just wasn’t good. My old life drew me back because that’s where my friends were. I don’t know how to be alone. I guess I am kind of like Adam in that way.

I never stopped looking for you. I went to a church one time, but the people were really cold. I don’t think they liked me. Maybe it was the smell of cigarettes, my ripped jeans or Sarah on my hip that turned them off. I didn’t know there was a special way I had to dress or act to go to church. I really didn’t like living with David, but that’s where we were at. I wasn’t sure if you liked it either, but it seemed to matter more to the people in the church, than introducing me to you. Besides, the pastors I called refused to marry us anyway. Ben had been raised going to church and he told me I shouldn’t expect anything different. There it was again. Where are you? I kept reading my bible and trying to find where you hung out, but the people I asked scared me. Actually, the truly kind people were everywhere BUT the churches. I was very confused. What I was reading about you in the bible was really different from the people who said they knew you. I would have liked that coffee house again.

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I met an old lady who said she knew you. She was really kind and brought us cookies and meals after Katie was born. She used to talk all the time about what you “did” for her, and how much she loved you. I had no idea what she was talking about, I didn’t understand what “saved” or “born again” meant.  It was all sweet, but it didn’t make any sense to me. I wanted her to introduce me to you, but I was afraid to ask. I figured because of my drugs, cigarettes, jeans, and unholy lifestyle you wouldn’t want to meet me. Maybe, I don’t really want to you meet you if these are the people you like to hang out with now. Come on, I am nicer than most of the people who say they know you! I may not dress all that great, smoke cigarettes or swear, but at least I am kind to strangers. They are all so “better than thou.” Didn’t you write the story about the man who was hurt on the side of the road?

I began to understand that I couldn’t possibly have really met you because if I had, I would have said a “sinner’s prayer” and given up my “old ways.”  At the least I would have “known” I was “saved.” That’s what they told me. I guess there would be some kind of lingo I spoke to show I had met you. I wasn’t really sure about all the things they said I had to give up either. I didn’t understand what they meant by “sin.” It didn’t seem like I was doing anything wrong or hurting anyone. I am still trying to find someone who likes me the same way those kids in the coffee house did. I am still trying to find someone who is willing to be my friend, and show me where you live or hang out. I think I’d still like to get to know you Jesus, at least the Jesus who hung out with people like me. But the “Christians” who tell me that they know you make me question if you are even real.  Or worth it.

Maybe those nice people at the coffee house who said you loved me just for me, were were just my imagination.

Sincerely,

You Know My Name

Lent as Unifying

When I saw them standing upfront in their robes, placing the sign of the cross with ashes upon the foreheads of those kneeling before them, I was transported back thirty-five years to my last Ash Wednesday service as a practicing Catholic. Evangelicals aren’t known for celebrating the season of Lent, yet in recent years there has been an increase in Lenten practices. There seems to be a few reasons for this, but many people attest to finding the need for some tradition in a country that is global, instant, and quickly losing touch with the past.

lent-purpleLent is meant to mirror the season of Passover and the 40 days are representative of the time that Jesus spent in the Wilderness, and Moses in the desert. It expands 46 days with Sundays padded in as feast days, when individuals can rest from their weekly fast.

At this past Wednesday’s service I was accompanied by Dave, who having been raised in a Baptist home had never experienced an Ash Wednesday service.  The service we attended was a uniting of the local Ecumenical clergy, as well as my own faith tradition and some other “evangelicals” all part of this pastors group I have embraced.

Some noted theologians are against the idea of evangelicals embracing aspects of Catholicism, stating that it is a smorgasbord of pick and choose  liberality, i.e. celebrate Lent, throw out infant baptism, celebrate Ash Wednesday, throw out transubstantiation. With a critical eye, I can understand this kind of thinking and yet, I believe this is more as a point of commonality rather than opposition. I believe this can enhance the evangelicals thinking about what they are picking and choosing and open up the possibilities of different doctrines as just that – doctrines – not the identifying basis for a fellowship under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

For David, his first Ash Wednesday was both “educational” and put him in touch with “church history.” He felt connected to the Universal Church in knowing that roughly a minimum of 1.5 billion worldwide would also take the sign of the cross on their foreheads to be reminded that it is from dust we have come, and to dust we will return. As for me, I was put back in touch with the God of my youth, who was not so different from the God I now worship – except now I have a richness of history and a deeper relationship based on knowledge and understanding that was lacking in my past.

I for one am very glad that I am being reunited with a theological, liturgical, and historical depth to my Christian faith in unity with others who are revering Jesus as Lord of Lord and King of Kings.

This seems like another opportunity to remember the words of Christ in Mark 9:39-41,

“But Jesus said, “Do not hinder him, for there is no one who will perform a miracle in My name, and be able soon afterward to speak evil of Me. For he who is not against us is for us. “For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because of your name as followers of Christ, truly I say to you, he will not lose his reward.”

They will know us by our love. David and I are both looking forward to this Wednesday’s Lenten service with anticipation.
 

When the “Church” Wounds

Dave and I talked deeply today, as we always do during our Saturday morning devotions. The word – devotions feels almost trite – so other worldly, religious at times – held as a scepter for the truly spiritual to hold up. We are far from super-spiritual. Just us – no more, no less, but everything to God and to each other.

when the 6Yet, “devotions” is exactly what they have become for David and I – a time of deep commitment, to each other, and to God. We are totally devoted to our time – the three of us. Five if you want to view it from a Trinitarian perspective. We are learning who God is at the core of our being, and by doing so we are learning who we are. We have learned how much he truly likes us, for exactly who we are. It makes it so much easier not to be offended by the actions of others when you know how much God likes you. It no longer matters as much what a frail human thinks about us, or does to us, when we know God thinks we are awesome.

Broken, but more than OK.

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God thinks I am remarkably OK. Actually, He completely delights in me, even if you don’t. Even as a lady “pastor.” A missionary. A chaplain. Even as none of those, but just his daughter and friend. Just Jamie. He is smiling at me- right at me. 

Right now.

Very few people have gotten to know Dave and I. At fifty-six years old, we are both very aware of how rare it is to meet people who are willing to take the time to go deep – to know our story – or to remove their masks enough that we might try to enter into their story. Especially not the tale that is told with words, but the one that is reflected in the emotion or our lives and the fabric of our humanity. The place where wounds are caused and then healed. The place where love is given, taking back, and then given again – empowered by the One who gave us His love.

That kind of love involves risks. It involves pain. It is a torn and repaired tapestry, wrought with a history of short redemption tales. Most people don’t want a tapestry with holes, they would rather throw it out and replace it with something new. A new friend, a new relationship, a new ministry partner, a new church, a new pastor.  Even a new marriage. Out with the old, in with the new.

when the 4It is even more difficult to develop relationships when you have been forced to move as many times as we have. Start over, start over, and start over again. Relationships take time, and time is not easy to find for many in our rushed society. There is no history in new relationships, and our history is deep. Our history points to our gifts and our gifts speak of who we are.

For all of us frail humans to tell our story means we are going to breathe deeply of the spirit of God, and admit that many things we believe about other people, we may be wrongly interpreting through the grid of our past experiences. It means we perceive rejection when there is none. We unknowingly try to control outcomes and behaviors out of fear. We hurt each other, apologize, get hurt, get over it, and hurt again.

To live with redemption stories means the church has to be the church; not just a place where you gather on Sundays to listen to a preacher, or the building that is dependent upon tithes to pay the bills, or classrooms of Sunday school teachers trying to get the Word of God, into hungry people.

It has to be a place where Jesus is found in the loving relationships that happen in the everyday fabric of our stories.

A place where people go out and serve others who have stories waiting to be told, so they can be received, and also redeemed. A listening place. A healing place.

A Jesus place.

A place where everyone who enters has at some point sat down with others in the “church” and broken the bread of communion which extends far beyond the cracker or wafer we celebrate in remembrance of the “ordinance.” Beyond the pot-luck suppers, or fellowship dinners to our homes.

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There is a vulnerability in welcoming people into our homes, and into our lives. It is the place where wounds are made and healed. It is the place where love is given and received.

It is the place where Christ dwelt when he walked upon this earth.

The church cannot grow beyond the relationships it develops. We have for too long made the church the building where we gather on a Sunday, or for a mid-week small group. We too often think in terms of inviting someone to church, instead of being the church to people.

If we were to ask Paul if he would like to “come to church” with us he would most likely wonder what strange doctrine we were referring to. We are the ekklesia, from the greek word kaleo (to call) with the prefix ek (out) added on. We are the called out. The English word for “church” however is derived from the kuriakon, which more commonly referred to a building or temple. At the time when the bible was being translated into Latin, the word most commonly refer to the building, as opposed to the people assembling in it. Sadly, the word has often translated into the attitude.

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We are the called out, and we assemble together. We need a place to assemble and the “church” building has become that place. I am incredibly thankful for the “churches” that are showing great love in developing relationship both with the “church,” and with other “churches”  (assemblies), for the sake of ekklesia growth – Kingdom growth, and not just individual growth. But it should never replace the intimate relationships developed within community, and outside the building.

Sometimes that happens within the building as well, but if it does not extend to the outside, if it remains the Sunday only, I only see you wearing your finery – your Sunday masks, and your spiritual attitude, then we are not living as the ekklesia – the called out. Instead, we are living no differently than the Pharisees did in keeping to the commandments, doctrines, routines, and rituals of men.

We will be known for our love.

I am so thankful for the few who have reached out from within the walls of the “church” to get to know Dave and me. With our cult background of spiritual abuse, an invitation to “church” was never really going to get us there. We’d lived through the writing on the wall. I am even more thankful for few in leadership who reached out in love, revealing to us not all pastors, teachers, or leaders are manipulative, abusive, or control freaks. Some, even reflected how we saw Jesus to be. In love with all His people, regardless of where they “assemble.”

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Some even loved us for exactly who we were, and love gave us the courage to could step through the doors to “assemble.”

So for those pastors, leaders, clergy, laypeople, churchgoers, humans – let me encourage you to look a little deeper – just like Jesus did. Stay a moment at the well and ask for the story of a women; actually listen to the “publican” with a faith perspective you don’t understand; help the young man you find appalling in his words and actions.

You may learn something about them. You may learn more about yourself. Most importantly, commune with the ones who God puts in your path, both inside and outside the “church.” You may just be an instrument of healing in their lives. At least you won’t wound them any further.