Joyce is a dear sister who has found a vibrant relationship with her Lord outside the walls of Institutional Christianity (IC). She shares her experience here through the interview I had with her(My persistence has finally bore fruit). I have maintained her responses verbatim so that I do not dilute her passion – you’d want to meet her in person. Read on…
: Q1: What does living life beyond the walls mean to you?
Joyce: It means freedom. It means living life the way God intended even before the foundations of the earth. It means living in a relationship where God is my Father, Christ is my Firstborn brother, Holy Spirit being my Guide and I being the Son.
Actually it is living as a family together with brothers and sisters. It means being a follower of Christ and not being defined by what IC you are attending.
Q2: What would you describe it as, a process or an event and why?
Joyce: I consider it a process. I remember how it all began. I started by feeling a great hunger for something which I didn’t know what it was. I used to feel discontentment with how things were being done in the IC. I could question the programmes; I could question lack of love among the brethrens and so many other things. I knew in my heart that I won’t be there for long although I didn’t know where I will be going. I felt confused, uncertain of the future and unsure of what was happening to me. This went on for long.
That time I didn’t know that Father was calling me to Himself I thought something was definitely wrong with me. Now I know the hunger I had was for Christ who I thought I knew but I didn’t. I decided to remain in the house until God directs me to another ‘’Church’’ I thought it was the IC that I was had a problem.
The next Sunday I went to another ‘’Church’’ and I started feeling the same way again. This time I was not ready to go looking for another ‘’Church’’ I had had enough because I would leave worse than I came in. I decided to remain in the house until something happen. That is when I met you Patrick. We used to work for the same Company and attend fellowship but we had not had time to interact one on one. I believe God made us interact at a personal level and that is when I learnt even you had begun the same journey and was no longer attending ‘’Church’’. That was very consoling coz I knew I was not alone and nothing was wrong with me. You gave me Pagan Christianity and then re-imagining church by Frank Viola.
That is when Father started revealing Himself to me and also His son Jesus Christ who they are to me. When I look back I see a process and this is not over yet because Father is so (I don’t
if this is the word to use complex) and you can’t understand him completely in this lifetime so He keeps on revealing Himself daily and also His son and that is why this is a daily walk. Actually it is a lifestyle. I live it, I walk it.
Q3: Would you mind sharing your specific experience in departing from confines of the walls to experience life beyond them?
Joyce: In 2011, I lost my baby after birth. Just like a normal person I would expect the church to stand by me during this time of grief which they didn’t. It was God, me and my family. During this time I grew closer to God because He was my only help in that
time of need. I could cry to God telling Him how I feel and I believe the healing process was faster because there were things He was doing in me that even today I cannot explain but this was the precious moment of my life despite the fact that I didn’t know Father well the way I do today.
When I look back I know deep down that something good came out of this bad experience infact I have no regrets whatsoever. I believe even the brethrens leaving me at that time was God’s way to make me lean on Him and grow closer to Him. That time I was full of bitterness but today I am happy because despite losing my child I gained something so precious that I cannot compare to the grief that I went through.
I remember one day I was seated in my sitting room and the scripture that came to mind was where Jesus after multiplying the fish and the bread, the crowd went on looking for Him. Jesus seeing them told the crowd that He knew they were not looking for Him because of the signs but because He had multiplied the food the previous day. And then it hit me that the IC I used to attend didn’t love me because I belong to the body of Christ but because of what I could offer in terms of finances, leadership etc.
This was very painful for me and this made me not to attend the IC for quite some time until I decided to go back because of the children growth spiritually. When I went back the hunger for something real and great was still there than what was being offered in the IC.
The reckoning moment came when the Pastor started talking about things that really hurt me and since that day I decided I had had enough and I decided to stay in the house and believe you me this is the best decision I ever made in my life.
That is when this journey began.
Q4: Are there specific areas in which wall constrained you in and would you mind sharing?
Joyce: Actually yes in so many areas than you would ever imagine. When I was born again I thought Christianity life was supposed to be enjoyed but it was not so. God was portrayed not as a Father but a Judge who was always demanding perfection from us. You had to work to please Him. He was always waiting for me to do something wrong for Him to punish me.
I was taught to rely on my works and my righteousness to be right before God which was very hard and very frustrating because I was
always failing. I had to earn a place before God by praying, fasting, reading the bible, attending church, planting seeds, and tithing. And these things seemed to qualify me as a good Christian and to receive blessings from God.
There is no one time God was portrayed as a Loving Father but demanding God who was looking for Perfectionists. It was really tiring thinking that you are doing every right thing but things were still going wrong. Jesus was portrayed as a sacrifice; He died to forgive our sins. We were to make sure we pray in His name believing that things would happen according to our prayer, not realizing He is everything. My Shepherd, My Mediator, My Advocate,
My Bridegroom, My Conqueror, My Manna, My Jubilee, My Healer, My Friend, My Firstborn brother, My Joy, My Power, My Priest, My Sight, My Way, My Truth, My Life, My Shield and the list is endless.
I was taught that I had to tithe for the windows of heaven to open and God to shower me with His blessing and not that I am a Son and God is my Father and just like biological father provides for his children so is my Father supposed to provide for me. My status before God was measured by what good or bad I was doing. Was I committing the obvious sins adultery, murder, fornication and if not I was o.k. before God. Mark you the ‘’small sins’’ like lies, hate, gossip, slunder, were not emphasized. I was actually feeding from the tree of good and evil.
When I was struggling with some sins/weaknesses I was told to fast and the bad thing would go which was not the case. It was really frustrating. All these acts of righteousness didn’t qualify me before my Father because they were filthy rags (dog dung) before my Father and only Christ who is my righteousness qualifies me. Holy Spirit was only required when people were to speak in tongues other times His help was not required and we tried to make things run our own way and the way we saw it fit. Not knowing He is our Helper. We need Him in our day to day Living. These and many more are areas in which walls constrained me.
Q5: In the context of your departure from weekly Sunday Service gatherings, how do you understand and apply the scripture, ‘’not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another-and all the more as you see the Day approaching.’’ (Heb 10:25)?
Joyce: This is a common verse cited by Christians who believe that if you are not attending Sunday services, a weekly gathering or plugged in a church organization that you are a rebel, backslidden, walking wounded or out of sync with the scriptures. But if we ask ourselves was ‘’Attending Church’’ really what the author of Hebrews meant.
Actually the word Church has been misinterpreted since time immemorial to mean religious structures and form rather than organic spiritual life. In 2 Cor 6:16-18 The bible says: And what union can there be between God’s temple and idols? For WE are the temple of the Living God. As God said ‘’I will Live IN THEM and walk AMONG THEM. I will be their God and they will be my people. Therefore, come out from them and separate yourselves from them says the Lord. Truly God has called us out of the world unto Himself, into His Assembly. This is the Church which is the ecclesia referring to believers.
There are not many brides of Christ; there are not many bodies of Christ. There is only one. Church is always a direct reference to the people of God, born into His Kingdom through Jesus Christ. Church is not a denomination for even the very word denomination means division and there is no division in the true Church of Jesus Christ (1 Cor 1:10).
The word Church as it is used in scripture has nothing to do with a place, a building or an organization. It only and always has reference to People. Observe the following passages concerning the ‘’Oneness of the Body’’ (the Church) Eph 4:1-6, Eph 5:29-30; Coll 1:18; Rom 12:4-5; Eph 1:21-23; Eph 4:15-16. I think we can read Eph 4:15-16 together: Instead, we will hold to the truth in love, becoming more and more in every way like Christ, Who is the Head of His body, the Church. Under His direction, the whole body is fitted together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love”.
The biblical fact is that once a person is joined to Christ, he is full participating member of the Church (the Ecclesia of God) which is the body of Christ. There is nothing else he needs to join. There is nothing else he can join. There are ‘’Parts’’ but only one Church and organizations are not those parts, People are the Parts. It is a fact that the early Christians knew nothing of
the Church the way we know it today. They were a community of believers and they interact with each other as a family not as members of some religious organization.
They didn’t build institutions of worship and Christian education. They didn’t congregate to hear one guy preach at them for an hour. There were no ceremonies in their gatherings. Their meetings were informal and everyone participated. Their lives centered on Christ not around their meetings. They were a body who built up one another, person to person on the faith of Jesus Christ.
I thank God that He did not say any of the things that most folks suggest in that verse. He did NOT say to make sure I attend a good Church organization every Sunday. But He did say, however not to forsake the assembling of ourselves. What I understand by this scripture is to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds and not to neglect our meeting together as some people do but encourage and warn each other especially now that the day of His coming back again is drawing near.
Jesus said that when as few as two or three come together He would be there with them (Matt 18:20). Many people have twisted this verse and changed the word ‘’three’’ to ‘’more’’ to justify their massive meetings. The text however, speaks in very intimate terms.
This encouraging one another could transpire through letters, telephone conversations or in person. Though it may be comfortable, I feel I must reiterate that the religious organization that people today refer to as ‘’the Church’’ is merely an establishment of man, built by human hands, maintained by human effort and employed by human agendas and schedules and difficult as it might be to swallow, human authority structures.
Therefore it is wrong to judge a brother or sister in Christ who is not a ‘’member’’ of a ‘’church’’. That does not in the least
nullify their standing with God and their validity as a member of the Lord’s true Church.
We had all better start regarding God’s people as the precious jewels they are regardless of what organization they may or may not belong to. There is much more I could write in this regard but this is already too long.
Q6: Comparing your life then and now, how would you advice someone struggling with the fear of not having a ‘’covering’’?
Joyce: When I was still in the IC we used to be told that we have to be under Pastor or a certain leader. This had to do with authority and was based on the assumption that if you resigned your membership of the ‘’church’’ and were simply meeting with other believers casually, you would no longer be ‘’under authority’’. You would thus constitute an ‘’illegal’’ meeting and you would be unprotected, possibly in rebellion against God, and vulnerable to attack by the enemy. I think this is a tactic that is used to instil fear in people in case they think of leaving the IC.
This is also another way of retaining people in their congregation because they feel their authority is being challenged and also loss of financial support. Covering may also mean ‘’To what person are you accountable’’. The bible never commits accountability to human beings. It commits exclusively to God (Rom 3:19, 14:12; I Cor 4:5; Heb 4:13, I Peter 4:5). The biblically sound answer to this question is (‘’Iam accountable to the same person you are – God’’).
When people push the covering question I submit that what they are actually asking is ‘’who controls you’’. The common (mis) teaching about ‘’covering’’ really boils down to questions about who controls whom. The modern IC is built upon this idea of control. The covering doctrine is rooted in a hierarchy style of leadership where those in higher positions have a tenuous hold on those under them.
And it is in such control that believers are said to be protected from error i.e. covered. This means the congregation or the lay people must answer to a pastor who is in higher position. Likewise the pastor must answer to a person who has more authority.
What I believe is that God is the covering for all people and pastors cannot assume themselves as the covering as they are also accountable to God as any other brother or sister in Christ. Christ being the Head of His body the Church and I am connected directly to the head I don’t need any man’s covering. So if you are out there and you are wondering about who will cover you God will cover you and not a Pastor or Bishop because they are all accountable to the same God we are accountable to and when you realise this you will be liberated beyond anybody’s comprehension.
Q7: Your parting shot: that one thing you’d tell someone reading this if you had only one chance to talk to them.
Joyce: Jesus said ‘’I am the Way, I am the Truth and I am Life’’. We cannot discover who Christ is or walk in freedom if we don’t allow Him to reveal Himself to us. When we discover who Christ is and our true identity in Him, we start walking in His indwelling life and we become free and free indeed. God is our Father and we are His sons and daughters. Our business is to pursue a close relationship with Him without works but Faith in Him and just like a father He will provide for us, He loves us unconditionally and we don’t have to toil to earn His Love or even please Him.
He is already pleased with us because of His son Jesus Christ. It is only Christ who can make you free John 8:36 and not observing religion or traditions.
God bless you.
Thank You Joyce for your time and agreeing to share these things with us.