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Practicing Church, Revisited

What may be perceived by some as down-playing the importance of church in the article "Practicing Church" was not my intent as I expressed my Personal Thoughts. What I have learned and experienced is that God desires to teach each individual. It makes sense to me that if individuals learn from God and listen to Him, it will eliminate the incorrect information that occurs when individuals teach other individuals, no matter how sincere the effort and no matter how much theological training one may have achieved. I like how John records Jesus' words in chapter 6:45 - "they all will be taught by God." (see also Isaiah 54:13). In my own mind, these are important verses that emphasize my point.

For me personally, what I needed to do was set aside everything I had previously experienced, and allow God through the Holy Spirit to teach me what I needed to know. I believe what may be important for one individual to learn may not be what another individual may need to know, so I trust God to reveal Himself in the way He wants to be revealed to individuals who are willing to listen.

I regard church attendance and/or membership as everyone's personal choice. I do not believe either to be a requirement for being Jesus' friend or for being a part of his kingdom. I believe everyone is at liberty to make that choice and not be considered to be any more or any less a Christian for what he/she chooses. For me personally, I find as many Christians "outside" the church as I do "inside" the church.

Worshipping God is more than spending two or three hours, one day per week in a church building setting, even though such time can be an uplifting and wonderful experience. For me, worshipping God is found in Romans 12, verses 1 & 2:

"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to present your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will."

Church membership is no guarantee of a good standing with God. I believe a false security could exist when individuals do believe such actions are some sort of requirement in order to attain heaven or to be accepted by God, or that it is a weekly duty that everyone should perform. Listening and learning from God are more important than cosmetic behavior changes. Changes that occur from the inside out are the ones that have meaning, because the real battle is fought in the mind where decisions are made, not in the outward appearance where external judgments are formed.

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