Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Polarization... Finally

It's been a long time coming. A division that is. It may not be often... maybe never... that you hear of one talking about 'division' in the church as being positive. But that's what we're doing now.

Since God's word first began to move through the people here in Mibu and other nearby groups, the church meetings, at least here at ground zero, have always consisted of a mixed group. There have always been a number of folks who wanted to remain identified with the former religious system at the same time as being identified with the truth of Jesus as seen in God's word. This former religious system is very legalistic, teaching folks all the stuff they had to do to please God. Get baptized - go to heaven. Give offerings to pay the 'pastor' (who is nowhere around until he comes to collect, by the way) - go to heaven. Do communion just right, with a special person to officiate and only the special wine and bread - go to heaven. Follow God's 10 laws of the bible - go to heaven. And if you have 2 wives, you might as well not even try cause you're going to hell... but we'll take your offerings anyway. This is a system that masks itself as Christian, but is very anti-christian, going against everything that Jesus stands for. In fact, for those in Mibu who have tried to follow God's word for what it says, much of the persecution they've experienced has come from this supposedly Christian group.

Those who identify with this group are typically found sitting on the sidelines, listening but not hearing, following what's going on but never 'in', always commentators, but never experiencers. To them, meeting with the church is just a religious thing that you do. It's tradition. Nevermind that God is actually speaking to us through his word and is interested in a real, loving relationship. Just give us a list of things to do. These people invariably complain and cause doubt and division when the church wants to follow God's lead. A fair number of these sideliners are still involved in the talk and the fear of sorcery and such.

Over the years, a couple things have become clear. One is that there is a distinct fundamental difference between them and the church. The other is that, small as this group is, they have a detrimental effect on the church's ability to grow and mature in who they really are because of Jesus.

We've always been hesitant to push separation too hard, not ignoring the need, but not forcing it to happen either. When it happened, we wanted it to be something that arose out of the conviction of the local church... not just something they were told they need to do. Well the time for that seems to have come! Recent events have polarized the two groups in such a way that after several meetings with the leaders of the church, and a little encouragement from us, it was decided that the church needs to make a decisive separation from this other religious group. They met together with and communicated to those of the other group that they're seeing the other religious system does not accord with what the Bible communicates to us, and that the two groups meeting together is harmful. Those who aren't interested in following God's word, but some other system, should meet separately and not intermingle in the church meeting. The church leaders even stood strong in this decision when recently some big-wigs of this other religious system came in on a whim and just started doing their thing. The church, kind of taken aback by the distinct difference of these peoples' teaching and by the force with which they were trying to impose it, met with their leaders and flat out told them that they were not interested in having that kind of teaching here. Standing up to the big-wigs was something the church had always been hesitant to do in the past. But it clearly was time and they stood their ground, despite being ridiculed by the religious leaders of the other group.

This is a good move and a big step for the church here. It shows a growing sense of their identity in Jesus and an awareness of the things around them that blur that identity. We would ask for your prayers that this separation would remain relatively peaceful. The church leaders have been very graceful in how they've handled discussions with these other folks, and both sides are in relative agreement that it should happen. The church leaders haven't been angry or spiteful in the discussions. Just coming from a heart of wanting what's best for everyone and maintaining the peace. Our prayer is that with the church more clearly distinguished, they'd be able to move forward in their relationship with God without quite so much of the murkiness that that other legalistic system brings. The plan is that some time in the future here foundational gospel lessons would be taught by the church especially for those from this other religious group who might begin to show an interest.

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