Non-Institutionalized Christianity

JeremyHenson
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Non-Institutionalized Christianity

By request from this thread, I'm starting a new thread to discuss Christianity without institution.

Balkoth wrote:
How do you have non-institutionalized Christianity, exactly?

Non-institutionalized Christianity has no human authority structure or hierarchy. So there's no modern pastor in an individual church, no denomination, nothing like that. There's rarely a building.

Instead, a group of Christians meet (usually in a house) and share Christ collectively with each other. A meeting is ideally led by Christ directly, supernaturally if you will through the Holy Spirit. People will spontaneously, by guidance from the Spirit, share a song, a prayer, a story, a prophecy, a teaching from scripture, or whatever else they're led to do. It doesn't always work out smoothly - people aren't perfect - but it's a powerful experience when it happens.

There are workers, people who carry on the tradition of the apostles. They help establish churches, help people come together and learn to follow the Spirit. They're often available to answer questions or give advice to resolve conflicts, but as a rule workers are hands-off so Christians can grow to maturity by resolving their own differences and not relying on human leaders. Workers don't have authority over churches; they're respected for their experience and call from God.

Churches should judge a worker by their character and teaching instead of blithely following, because there are false ones, and even legitimately called ones aren't perfect.

The goal is to let Christ be manifest among the church. The church is called the "Body of Christ" for a reason. From my experience, most institutional forms are really about keeping people safe from Christ, letting them stay immature because becoming mature is a painful process. So few believers function, instead sitting passively, and only a small fraction "do ministry."

I still consider institutional Christians my spiritual brothers and sisters, despite my disagreement with their practices.


Tapey
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So basically church without

So basically church without having to give money? With no leadeship?


jcgadfly
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Tying to the former

Tying to the former thread...

So it's a bunch of like-minded folks sharing their experiences of God and telling how they came to their experiences but no one told you how to experience God?

Do you all have different versions of God?

"I do this real moron thing, and it's called thinking. And apparently I'm not a very good American because I like to form my own opinions."
— George Carlin


JeremyHenson
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Tapey wrote:So basically

Tapey wrote:
So basically church without having to give money? With no leadeship?

Those are big parts, yeah. With no building overhead or staff salaries there's no need to give to an organization (there wouldn't be one to give to anyway!). I still set 10% of my income aside in a second checking account to give to poor or needy people, or to donate to causes I believe in. I'd give more if I saw opportunity, it just keeps me honest that I'm giving at least 10%.

No leadership means everyone participates, and everyone's responsible. New people or unbelievers can come without being pressed into participating, but if they decide to stay with us we'd help them learn how to pull their weight. If they don't want to participate, odds are they'll move on to a more traditional church.

We spend a lot more time than once a week with each other, too. Christ's church involves community, and real community means living like a family. Some folks might actually move in together, but mostly we just try to live in the same neighborhood. We'll eat together a lot though, and help with each other's needs and chores. We help our neighbors just the same when we can. The participation in regular meetings bleeds over to participating in each other's lives.

 


JeremyHenson
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jcgadfly wrote:So it's a

jcgadfly wrote:
So it's a bunch of like-minded folks sharing their experiences of God and telling how they came to their experiences but no one told you how to experience God?

Do you all have different versions of God?

Those are good questions. It's sort of "like-minded folks," but also different. We seek to live on the life of Christ instead of our own. That might sound like spiritualized nonsense. Without a common frame of reference it's hard to explain. "Sharing experiences of God" is probably a good enough way to put it for discussion.

We all see God differently, but it's the same God. Part of the church's job is to judge and discern what believers bring to meetings. We judge using scripture, using our own experiences, and listening to the Spirit of God in us. If we can't resolve a conflict we might contact one of the workers I mentioned for guidance, but this is rare and discouraged to avoid giving them de facto authority.

We believe fairly traditional, orthodox things theologically. We use the same bible mainstream Christians use, and tend to interpret it the same. The beliefs are usually secondary to the life of Christ though. Scripture testifies to him, so instead of idolizing the book or the teachings we follow the Person.

Edit: I keep re-reading your question and feeling like I'm not quite answering you.

jcgadfly wrote:
...no one told you how to experience God?

My experience is, nobody can tell you how to experience God, it happens on its own. Someone else can help you understand it after the fact. It's like telling a blind person to see - you can't instruct them into seeing, but should they ever do it one day you can help explain what they're looking at.

Some churches do pressure believers into "having experiences." They can do this because of the larger social structure, because there's benefits to belonging. Church like I'm describing is too small to exert pressure or have benefits, and all the church is responsible for watching out for that kind of thing. You live too close to folks like this to fake it.