J. from Singapore: I'm a Chinese Christian (and) I know it isn't the will of the Lord that a Christian should live individually but rather to grow in a Christ-centered community. But what happens to one who has left the institution and cannot find a like-minded member? Won't he or she be deprived of community living, even though he could be maintaining interpersonal fellowship on a one-to-one basis?
Wayne responds: While I agree with you that Father wants us all healthfully linked to his family, I don't think that happens in the programs of most institutions. It may happen in spite of them or alongside them as people walk in love with each other, but the priorities of institutions and the priorities of family are at odds with each other.
I've noticed when God makes his people hungry for real relationships, he may call them to some time apart from others so that they can get the first relationship right-their life in Him. I am convinced that real community flows out of right relationship with Father and not that right relationship with Father flows out of right community. That's why I'm not bothered if people seem to be alone for a time. (Of course some do this out of hurt and rebellion, but I still think God has a better chance to work with them as they are real about that, too.)
Often as God begins to set his followers into his body it begins with one-on-one fellowship. Then, as God links them to others something more visible or more intentional may arise. I think this is his process because He is the only one who can build his church. Unfortunately, many of us are trying to build the church in his name and it doesn't work that way.
The church is growing into the fullest measure of the Son of God, but that is a relational reality. I see it all the time, even when I show up among a group of strangers and we discover how much we have in common because of his work in us. We don't have to organize it or police it. I, too, tried to cram Scriptural priorities into institutional environments and found it only hurtful to people rather than helpful. But now that I've learned to apply them relationally, I find them far more effective. All we have to do is give up control, and realize the body is in Christ's hands not ours and our institutions rarely reflect that reality since they often end up fragmenting the body that Father wants to bring together. But giving up control is the hardest thing to do.
J responds: I understand what you say. In fact, (as I have moved out of) the institutional church I feel I lack Christian fellowship. I do know that Christ is sufficient for me but it does bother me that He has given us the new commandment which clearly presupposes the interaction of life in the Body. In the past month, I came across a small community which seems to be institutional but it also seems there is a sense of genuineness about them. Now, I am not so sure if I should join them, so I'm proceeding cautiously. I do know, as you say, body life is possible even in the midst of an institution.
Wayne responds: You are right to proceed cautiously regarding this new group. That they seem genuine is a great thing. If Jesus leads you to do so, why don't you hang out a bit with them and see how things develop? Of course, they will want you to 'join' and 'get involved', but you don't have to. I think you're in a great spot, though I know it may not feel that way to you. Here is where we really learn to trust Jesus--to keep us in his will and purpose even when we feel alone.
It is also a good time to learn to listen to him and let him teach you how he wants to join you to his body. Even though you may not know others yet who share your hunger, Jesus has some amazing ways to connect his body. Just listen as you walk down the street, ride mass transit or stand in line at stores. You might hear people near you talking about their faith in a way that draws you. Open a conversation with them and see how God leads. Jesus is building his church and you only need to stay with him as he connects you with it. I know it can be lonely at times, but use that time to be with him. He may want that now--more of you before he gives you away to more of his body.
J responds: Thank you, brother. Your sharing confirms my perspective. It remains for me a matter of walking by faith according to this perspective of the gospel. It doesn't appear easy to apply it. There is a tight balance to maintain, especially because you do not want (people to misunderstand).
Wayne responds: Don't worry about keeping a 'tight balance.' Instead just follow Jesus. Some will understand, some will not. He did not make it our responsibility to appeal to everyone, only to treat everyone with honesty in love mingled with a dose of gentleness and respect. God has far more options than you see yet. I think you might be trying so hard to solve your 'church problem', that you're forgetting to enjoy your relationship with Father and whatever fellowship he provides for you. Yes, I enjoy gathering in a regular way with folks that want to share his life together, but I wouldn't fill that void with people who are caught up in religion. It's not the same. Don't force an answer before his time.
J responds: Brother Wayne, you're right! I felt this way shortly after I wrote you. I was made to realize that the Lord is building His church and I cannot build it for Him. I just have to learn to wait for God's time.