A New Dietary Discipline for Sojourners

January 5, 2015

There are lots of reasons why Christian believers stop going to church. Sin may be at the root of some migration out of fellowship, but people may simply feel they no longer belong or they have sustained an injury of spirit that makes it impossible to stay. My goal here is not to cast blame or to be judgmental, but to find out what is true and see if there is anything we together can do to help.

It does not seem a stretch to assert that most people want to feel at home somewhere. A sense of belonging is a primary responsibility of families, to be sure, but in our broken world families can often be the source of deepest rejection. The same can be said of church families, when someone in the fellowship becomes a bully or doctrinal shifts occur or covenant is broken by sin. For some, a sense of alienation occurs when cultural changes make them feel uncomfortable or unwelcome. For others, circumstances beyond their control make a church unlivable for them, such as a leadership change, a move to a different site, or a denominational realignment. It is safe to say that we are living in a dynamic environment right now, in the church realm, and changes are causing many to opt out of church, perhaps until the dust settles.

If the church, or any congregation within it, were perfect, this displacement would be non-existent. But the church is blemished because its people are flawed human beings who cannot—without God’s help and the Body’s nurture—conquer greed, ambition, addiction, narcissism, or stubbornness. We are not the spotless Bride of Christ in our present condition. What is a person to do?

One of the gentle principles of my tribe in the Christian family, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is found in a helpful footnote in our Book of Order: “When any matter is determined by a majority vote, every member shall either actively concur with or passively submit to such determination; or if his conscience permit him to do neither, he shall, after sufficient liberty modestly to reason and remonstrate, peaceably withdraw from our communion . . .” We are talking here about those who have chosen to peaceably withdraw, not to start a fight or a schism, but just simply to walk out.

These folks are sojourners wandering outside of fellowship looking for a place of safety and healing. I am hoping that Bringing the Word to Life might be a place where you can find both in the company of fellow travellers.

For the next few months I intend to use this space to lead a Bible study on the book of Colossians. Since you and I can’t meet face to face, I am hoping that by virtual means we can walk the journey together until you find a spiritual home in face-to-face fellowship with other Christians. We are going to take care of some of the spiritual housekeeping required to prepare for church re-entry (because, yes, some day I hope you will end up back in “church” fellowship in some way). Together, we are going to maintain our focus on the Lord Jesus Christ and his Kingdom.

In the spirit of New Year’s Resolutions, I want to encourage a few steps toward spiritual health and wholeness. These may take awhile, under serious Holy Spirit scrutiny, but I am hoping the spiritual dietary restrictions will help. We are going to talk about cutting out of our diet the following:

• Anything bitter tasting
• Anything green with envy
• Anything “dark”
• Anything too much or too heavy for the digestion

And we are going to encourage one another to consume more:

• Bread of Life (The Word of God)
• Living Water (welcome of the Holy Spirit’s movement in our lives)
• Fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control)

In order to enjoy a new feast, we are going to take steps to clean the cobwebs from the dining room by confessing our own sin, acknowledging responsibility for our choices, and welcoming accountability. Around the table, we are not going to talk about what we have left, but where we are going and what it will take for us to get there.

Because this is a blog you can read at your leisure, this may be a private exercise toward healing for you. I would see this as a temporary state, though, and do not want you to lose sight of the goal, which is authentic Christian fellowship. Eat alone when you must, but share a spiritual meal with other sojourners when you can.

“Come, all you who are thirsty,
            come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
            come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
            without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
            and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.          
Give ear and come to me;
            hear me, that your soul may live. (Isaiah 55:1-3)

 

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One Response to “A New Dietary Discipline for Sojourners”

  1. believer Says:

    thank you for this, I am also walking (slowly) through “Life Together” by Bonhoeffer as a discussion partner in my ponderings re: church in these times and the pressures that distract us from Christ, the Word.

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