Beliefs vs. Experience

Every church, every denomination has a set of beliefs about God and Jesus Christ that informs its worship and practices. What is amazing about the variety and breadth of these beliefs is that they all are so different, yet they all come from one source, the Holy Bible. Together all the churches are the body of Christ, whose believers in Jesus Christ are Christ’s hands and feet in this world.

There is the church, the body of Christ, on the one hand and the individual’s relationship with God, Jesus Christ, or Holy Spirit[depending on the person’s beliefs] on the other hand. Here is where, I believe, many denominations go wrong. They command loyalty to the church and its beliefs ahead of the individual’s relationship to God. They demand an adherence to that church’s beliefs no matter what.

To my mind when someone turns his life over to God, becomes “born again” or surrenders his life to God, the first and primary loyalty is to God, be it through Jesus Christ or the Holy Spirit, not through a church or a spokesperson for that church. This is where the dynamism in the relationship with God lies, where the transformation in the individual takes place, where the purpose of one’s life is revealed. God is not contained in one denomination’s or the other’s beliefs. The Spirit of God does not look to any church for any boundaries of its action in the world.

Once a person belongs to God, she must go where God leads, and must not limit God’s action in her life by staying within the boundaries of her denomination’s beliefs. As he is transformed by the Spirit, his beliefs must evolve and change. His beliefs must reflect his own individual experience of God, which may not be the same as what the denomination believes.

There is a tension between beliefs and the action of the Spirit. For me the beliefs provide a container in which the leadings of God may happen, a grounding for the person, a security in which we learn to trust God’s actions in our lives. But sometimes they need to be left behind as the Spirit leads us where God wants us to go. A person may then need to find another church whose beliefs comes closer to fitting her experience of God.

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4 Comments

  1. Posted August 8, 2011 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

    I appreciate your comments, and I am aware of the view that there is no need to be part of any church to be a strong Christian. Ultimately that would be correct, as in simple terms, a church is a “guide” and it matters far more ‘who and what’ we are as a person, than where we go on a Sunday (or Saturday for that matter).

    However, I’m a church person, and I strongly believe that we ought to attend church as opposed to not conforming to ‘organised religion’. Attending church both edifies ourself through the teachings we hear and learn, and by the positive habit it provides us. A key reminder to how we ought to live our lives. In addition, we are also able to strengthen others by being with them, encouraging them and touching them through our example and service.

    I feel that church is more than that though.. my own view is that Jesus expects us to be at church.

    I believe he organised a church on the earth during his lifetime – his own. I believe that were he to be here today, and heading up that church again, he would expect us to attend and worship with him.

    On that basis I wonder, if Jesus were to have his church on the earth today, and invited you to it, would you attend?

    • Posted August 8, 2011 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

      Sure, I would be attending church Sundays just like I do now. I think that we need each other to reinforce our beliefs and practices, to provide support for each other and to inspire each other to work on behalf of others who are hungry, thirsty, need clothing,need in prison or sick, etc. I believe Jesus when he said that when two or more are gathered in his name, he would be there also.
      I was suggesting that as we evolve and mature over our lifetime, so are beliefs can evolve and change. And that our loyalty first belongs to a deep relationship with Jesus, to his teachings and then to the church.

      • Posted August 9, 2011 at 8:04 am | Permalink

        Then I misunderstood you – my fault.

        I agree with that you have been saying about the importance of personal relationship as the key – with more importance than a church per se. Obviously I believe in the importance of attending and being a baptised member of a church, but personal relationship is most important and ought to come first in any event.

        I also like the reminder that where ‘two or three are gathered’ he is in their midst, and that should be a strength and encouragement to us. He can always be with us – even in small gatherings e.g. prayer meetings.

        Thank you for allowing me to contribute to your thoughts.

  2. Posted August 9, 2011 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    I appreciate your comments, it is fun to dialogue with a reader. Thanks for taking the time to write. Pat


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