Sharing with Others

Introduction
Recently I was talking with a brother who is a good friend. Nancy and I have come to know him and his wife because they have both become fellow-travelers on the spiritual intimacy journey. The two of them have been on this new faith-journey for a couple of years now and there has been a huge change in their lives. But … that change has ushered in a still existing problem. At this juncture, they are frequently being confronted with a number of difficult questions about their lack of church involvement.

The back ground
This couple has been very active in up-front leadership roles for many years. But in recent months they have all but disappeared from the church scene. And as one might expect, this disappearance has given rise to a number of questions from long time church friends.  
 
In one form or another, these pensive questions have been similar to the basic “Why have you guys left the church?” question. Obviously those questions are not surprising, but concerns regarding these inquiries have become quite distressing.
 
Because of this barrage of confrontational inquiries come from well-meaning, long-time Christian friends …. knowing how to respond has become increasingly difficult. And, our fellow-traveler friends are struggling with how to respond honestly, without offending those they love.  
 
We’re posting this Crossroads article in order to share some recent insights resulting from conversations that Nancy and I have had with these people.
 
Our conclusions from recent conversations
The more we have talked with them, the more we realized that there are several other legitimate questions that naturally follow the question, “Why have you left the church?  
 
In reflecting on those lengthy conversations, I have decided to document some of the more helpful parts of our dialogue. I have tried to identify particular points that frequently loom large for many of us and in doing so capture the essence of them for discussion. Five of these questions form the framework for discussion .
 
The first, most basic question: “Why have you guys left the church?”  
            We have concluded that the best response to this question is to state
            emphatically, that we have NOT LEFT anything or anybody. Rather,
            we’ve COME to something brand new and exciting. That is, and this
            bears repeating, it is not what we’ve left, but what we’ve come to
            that is significant,.
 
            What we have come to is a NEW, intimate relationship with Jesus:
            a faith-relationship that we’ve never experienced before.
 
            Indeed we’ve not left the CHURCH, the Body of Christ, but our
            new journey 
has wonderfully impacted every aspect of our daily lives.  
           
            In all honesty, there really are not enough hours in the day to
            accomplish 
all that we want to do in just learning how to live
            this new life. I’ll elaborate:
           
            This new, faith-relationship with Jesus has become an experiential
            reality of 
which we want more and more evryday. Our faith is no longer
            just a Sunday experience or for that matter .. nor has it become the kind
            of experience that is programmatic or scheduled .. or even predictable.
 
            For the first time in our lives, we are now learning how to enjoy a day by
            day, moment by moment faith-relationship with Jesus which puts Him
            at the very center of our everyday lives. He has become so much more
            than just our Savior, or even our Lord; He has become a Friend who is a
            vital part of every aspect of our everyday lives.
 
            I repeat! We have not left anything; instead, we’ve begun to enjoy
            an entirely 
new way of living. It is a huge understatement to say
            that this intimate lifestyle
is merely exciting. The more we learn of
            and experience Jesus, the more we want of Him and His indwelling
            Presence.
.
 
The second question: “What is so new that you are learning?”  
            We have embarked on what many writers are calling a new experiential
            lifestyle paradigm. We are discovering that we must learn how to let
            Jesus live in us and through us… or better said, to allow Jesus to literally
            become our very life. Because this new approach to life has become so
            engaging AND so “counter” to anything we experienced before, we have
            become extremely enthusiastic about developing an ever-expanding,
            life-long 
learning experience, called “Christ in You”.
 
            Although this “Christ in you” life must be enabled by the Holy Spirit,
            there is much that can be learned in how to make ourselves more open
            to the Spirit’s work.  
 
            We’ve learned that there are many other fellow-travelers already
            traveling 
this same path who are delightfully willing to share what
            they are
learning. It is through a study of the Word and small group
            life-sharing 
that most intimacy seekers learn the how to’s of
            enjoying this new
experiential faith
            venture..                                                         
 
A third question: “What do you mean by experiential life style?”
            What’s new for anyone who embraces this “Christ in you” paradigm
            is the realization that the Word is replete with teaching concerning
            this practical experiential sense of the Presence of Jesus in our
            everyday lives.
 
            In contrast to what has been the norm for us in the past, our faith is
            now
no longer experienced as simply a propositional set of truths;
            it is now a 
life of adventure in which we are learning how to allow
            Jesus to actually 
hold the reins of our lives.
 
            Our group here in the Raymond area is prayerfully seeking what
            the Word has to say about this abiding/yoked, intimate lifestyle.
            Once anyone has enjoyed even a small faith encounter with
            Jesus in this experiential manner, he never again wants
any
            other type of faith practice.
 
A fourth question: “Are you convinced that this paradigm is really biblical?”
            This is perhaps the most important question any inquirer can
            ask. We
shout from the house tops a resounding “YES!” to this
            critical question.
What one learns almost immediately after they
            relinquish the control
of their lives to Jesus is that the truths
            embodying this paradigm are found
throughout the entire New
            Testament.
 
            What is shocking for most of us is all that we missed ….e. all that we are
            given in terms of instruction pertaining to this “Christ in you” life.
            Indeed! It’s all there. But having said that, I would quickly point out
            that it is the Creator’s intent that we only, really, come to embrace
            this intimate relationship through a Spirit wrought revelation.
 
            We learn early on that this dependent-on-Jesus-relationship with Jesus
            as our Life has been our Heavenly Father’s objective from the beginning
            of time.
 
            It may well help to mention that once we begin this journey, we
            discover that there are many down through the centuries who have
            traveled this road. There is a gold mine of readily available material
            for anyone who seeks it           
  
A fifth question: “Where do you guys go from here?”
            Another good question. What we are learning is how much we
            really have to learn! But the joy that we’ve experienced since
            starting this journey motivates us to want to have more and more
            of it every day. No few words can do justice in explaining the genuine
            reality of His Presence that has come into our lives.
 
            So, to answer your question: we will continue to walk by faith, learning
            the ropes of the intimacy journey. We don’t know precisely what that
            means, but we encourage one another to: “Enjoy the trip”, an
            innocuous little phrase, that carries a huge whallop of needed truth.
 
            We are coming to realize that when we are called to live such a life of
            trust, we can face both the big mountains and the little valleys with
            confidence in the One Who is running our lives.
 
Concluding comments        
            I recognize in drawing this essay to a close that I have fabricated a
            fictitious conversation. But it was what came out of our time with
            this couple I mentioned at the start of this article that has prompted
            this writing. In closing I would add that when these difficult probings
            occur, what is needed more than anything else is a real sense that
            Jesus is involved in the diaglogue.
 
            Apart from the work of the Spirit, any attempt to explain the wonder
            and awesome nature of the “Christ in you” life is futile. It only takes
            one disastrous interaction with somebody you really care about to
            learn how helpless we are in trying to tell anybody what happens as
            we start learning how to surrender our lives to Jesus.    
 
            Lastly, I would add that we learn very quickly as we try to share our
            lives with loved ones, that we are becoming increasingly conscious
            of the power of the flesh. It is the dying to Self that is big struggle
            for all of us. And we learn equally quick that even that dying is some-
            thing we can’t do. The bottom line is always the same: it is Jesus
            and Him alone Who can run our lives.