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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.