Thursday, July 25 2024 - 12:16 PM
Graphic by Judi Paliungas

The Invitation: A Way Forward

Once we understand the importance of being connected with a community of like-minded people, it is important to find a way to make it happen. Below are some suggestions for how to find a faith community that we can identify with, and then how to connect with them. But before we go there, consider where we are in the stream of time.

The Tale of Two Churches

There are two forms of Christianity (or two churches) in the world today. One promotes a “power over” agenda that wants to dominate the political world for God’s sake, and the other promotes the establishment of an almost incognito community where individual believers embody the principles of God’s kingdom with transforming power.

The First Church

The goal of the first church is to support a government that enforces God’s values through coercive power. Because they view the church as the final authority and believe that whatever the church mandates should be enforced by civil law, they are focused on gaining political power and dominance. Their goal is to create a conservative leaning government—but without conserving the historic institutions of America, which is profoundly anti-democratic, and autocratic. Of course, a large obstacle to their success is the historical tenet that church and state ought to be kept separate, which they believe misrepresents the intentions of our founding fathers. There is no evidence (without dubious reasoning) to support their case. Yet, through the writings of several revisionist authors, this sentiment is embraced by a large segment of Evangelicals today.

The Second Church

The second church consists of those who view God’s kingdom as a universal consortium of people from every tribe and nation who have embraced the Gospel of Christ as the only thing that can save them from themselves. Their view of the kingdom is not temporal or political in any way. Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world,” and they accept His words at face value. Their core belief is that God’s love is the only thing that can overcome the power of sin. Politics is a smokescreen and a distraction. Regardless of one’s political or religious views, they believe God’s kingdom is about treating everyone with grace—even if they don’t deserve it. Jesus described this emphasis in Matthew 7:12 where He said kindness is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.

Revelation 12-13 predicts that before Jesus returns to rescue those who embrace His ideals, there will be a showdown between these two churches. A showdown between coercion and love.

It’s Your Choice

To be part of the first church, all one needs to do is become political and dogmatic about the role religion should play in culture. This includes voting that Christian prayers be recited in public schools, putting Christian symbols and statutes in public spaces, and requiring all elected officials to embrace the tenets of fundamental Christianity.

The first church puts its emphasis on outward change and conformity, which has very little staying power.

To be a part of the second church, one only needs to spend time with God each day through meditation and prayer, and to live as Jesus lived—which includes loving people unconditionally, regardless of their nationality, gender, or race. The second church doesn’t expect the world to ever accept God’s values—which is why Christ eventually comes to rescue those who have been changed from the inside out. Legislative enactments and laws are a weak substitute for the change that Christ is able to initiate within people’s hearts.

The second church refuses to accept the idea that political power can be successfully used to advance God’s cause. Historically, when religious people look to political entities to help them advance their cause, it invariably leads to corrupting the church and triggering persecution and suffering.

How to Connect With a Community

Look for a group of people with a biblical worldview who believe Jesus meant what He said when He stated that His kingdom was not of this world. If you resonate with the first church and want to see America embrace a coercive approach to politics and religion, then you won’t feel comfortable in the second church. There are plenty of faith communities out there who want to put “God” in the White House. You shouldn’t have any problem finding one.

Here are seven suggestions to help you identify the second church:

1. Look for a faith community that believes in the separation of church and state. Subscribe to journals like Liberty Magazine and attend presentations that promote religious freedom for all. Look for a church that refuses to be political. Instead its members are focused on the central work of the gospel—which is to share the story of Jesus and His message of forgiveness and grace.

2. Look for a spiritual community that cares about all people, including the “least of these,” such as migrant workers, homeless people, families in poverty, asylum seekers, and those who generally exist on the margins of society.

3. Look for a faith group who resists using divisive rhetoric, shuns nationalism, hate speech and populism. Some churches build themselves up by tearing others down. The second church has no interest in doing that.

4. Find a faith community that makes truth-telling and honesty a top priority. There are scores of different denominations and churches all over the world. Many overlap each other with their doctrines and beliefs. The key is to focus on understanding the truth about God, His character and life. Religious traditions have their place, but they should never be allowed to take the place of how God asks us to live.

5. A good way to evaluate a church is to compare their teachings with the words of Jesus and scripture. In addition, check out their website and look for opportunities to talk with individual members.

6. When you are ready to visit a faith community, notice how the people treat each other. Your interactions with them should help you discover if they truly love people or are just focused on espousing their theological beliefs. You will know if they are people-centric by the way they treat you. Info-centric people tend to put more of their emphasis on having right information—to the point that they may neglect some of the common courtesies of everyday life.

The thing to look for is a people-centric community that makes compassion their first priority, yet who equally value truth-telling and being responsive to God’s will!

7. Watch out for toxic people and churches. C.S. Lewis once said, “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

Just as some people are more healthy than others, so churches can manifest varying degrees of health and well-being. Beware of religious toxicity. For more on this visit, Toxic Churches.

Once you find a church that you believe God has led you to,  be friendly, open and engaged. Pray for God to guide your steps and look for opportunities to use your gifts and talents to bring good to life.

If you liked this you may enjoy Bigotry In the Church | The Perfect Church | Who Needs Church? | What is an Adventist? | Come Together

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About Rich DuBose

Rich DuBose

writes from Northern California.

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