March 25, 2009 by

Remembering that This Is a Journey


Categories: food for thought, link love, Meanderings (look it up)

Mark over at Pragmatic-Eclectic has written a couple of great posts using Elijah’s time at the brook Cherith (1 Kings 17) as an analogy for the respite many of us feel after migrating out of the institutional church settings. I couldn’t possibly improve on what he’s said, so go read them here and here.

His posts have got me thinking, not only about where I am personally, but about our tendency to want to stay in places of rest. In particular this sentence stood out to me today:

“Over and over you will want to build a tabernacle and just stay in one place.”

That one hit home in particular, because a few years ago, “The Tabernacle” was the name we chose when we launched a short-lived ministry attempting to establish 24-7 worship in our area.

Looking back at that effort, I think God was pleased enough with our desire for Him, our desire to create a space where He was at home within the worship of people who love Him. But I can also look back and see the subtle way in which our effort was misguided. Nothing inherently wrong with 24-7 worship…but the way we were doing it focused on a destination, rather than the journey.

How often do we do this in our discipleship? How often do we experience some good thing from God, and want to camp there? Quite often, it seems. There are more “camps” in my town than I can count, formed by well-intended Christians who experienced some aspect or revelation of God and decided, “This is ‘it’; we have ‘arrived.'” It seems that not even Simon Peter of the Bible was immune to temptation; on the mount of Transfiguration, when Jesus manifested His glory, the first thing Peter wanted to do was build three tabernacles to commemorate it–that is, until the voice of God interrupted him and set his focus back on Jesus.

How easily we forget that the whole essence of discipleship is following Jesus. And following Jesus means Jesus is on the move. He may have us make camp and rest from time to time, but eventually we will move on. But so many times, we like the camp so much that we want to turn it into the destination. Build a tabernacle. Package it. Institutionalize it. It’s all the same stuff–it’s about turning a journey into a destination, and taking control.

When I talk about journeys versus destinations, I’m not really talking specifically about where we live, or what church community we happen to belong to. That pattern differs from person to person, and I’m not suggesting people should just float around for the heck of it. Our journey might include changes in those areas, or not…but I think/hope you know what I mean. Whether it be in a ministry endeavor, or a revelation, or a manifestation of God…we always seem to be trying to arrive. To stop. To stay. To get God to stay.

It misses the whole point of Jesus coming to us, doesn’t it? God makes it clear that He doesn’t dwell in houses made by human hands; and because of Jesus’ great sacrifice, God’s dwelling place is now with us. The tabernacle moves with us along the journey because we are the tabernacle. Any attempt we make at building a tabernacle is for man’s benefit, not God’s. That was the fatal flaw in our plan–as it is in so many other plans we humans make to build God’s house instead of be God’s house.

As Mark suggested…many of us have found a place of rest, a “Cherith”, in a place lovingly known as “outside the institutions.” But we must also realize that “away” is not a destination, either. Some of us left because we got hurt, and that woke us up to the frailties and flaws of the institutions. But deep down, I think most of us left because we were honestly looking for something more, something that couldn’t be found where we were. So we broke camp and started on a journey, and that’s a good thing. We started to seek God in earnest for ourselves again, and began to grow as we followed after Jesus. But it is a serious mistake to begin believing that leaving institutional Christianity caused us to grow on our journey. Following Jesus is what causes the growth. Nothing else.

If we forget this critical truth, then we will become just as stagnant outside the walls as we were within them. We will once again build a tabernacle in the wilderness, say we’ve arrived, and tell everyone we know that “non-institutional Christianity” is the only way to find the real Jesus. And we will be just as wrong as before–because this isn’t about destinations, or arriving. It’s about following.

The destination is for the next life. We need to remember that this one is a journey. We should not be seeking to arrive, but to follow Jesus, and reveal His kingdom as much as we can along the way. We are the tabernacle, and the tabernacle goes where He goes. I guess what I am saying is that what is most important is not whether we are in the institutions or out of them–but whether we are following Jesus along the way.

Musician. Composer. Recovering perfectionist. Minister-in-transition. Lover of puns. Hijacker of rock song references. Questioner of the status quo. I'm not really a rebel. Just a sincere Christ-follower with a thirst for significance that gets me into trouble. My quest has taken me over the fence of institutional Christianity. Here are some of my random thoughts along the way. Read along, join in the conversation. Just be nice.

9 Responses to Remembering that This Is a Journey

  1. Amy

    Excellent post! Indeed, I read Mork’s posts and they have reminded me, along with yours here, that just leaving the institution wasn’t “The Destination.” Ha! That was only one (albeit, big) stepping stone along my Journey.

    Thank you for this excellent reminder to remember that it is in my day-to-day following in/with Christ where the growth and action in me, with God and with others occurs. This is a good reminder so that I do not pitch tents or make camp along the route, except perhaps only to rest if that’s what Papa asks. Yet, I have found that those “resting” points, when inspired by Papa, are never idle. He usually has me doing something…most often internally. True Living as Christ’s disciple, as I am discovering, is always a flowing river.

    I don’t want to camp. I am happily looking forward to the Home that awaits me and all of us brothers and sisters of Christ’s Body.

    Thanks for this post, Jeff.

    ~Amy 🙂

  2. Jeff McQ

    I’ve been in a resting place for about three years, and the nest is now being stirred. I already realized this, but Mark’s posts lent some great perspective.

    Us too. 🙂 Thanks!

    Those “camping” spots can be very special, for sure, and we need them; I think they just need to be kept in perspective. Good to hear from you.

  3. Rodger

    Wow, Jeff; some great thoughts. I need to post a link on our site – you’re saying exactly the same things I’ve been trying to say all Lent!



  4. Milly

    A few months ago I was ready to make a change from the church that I attend then God sent some folks to me to tell me how much I’m loved there. When God says no, He means NO. One thing I’ve learned in my journey is that even in the same place you can keep moving. He is moving me more and more in some awesome ways.

  5. Gary Delaney


    This is an awesome word. One cannot remind themselves even too much that it’s all about following Him.

    As long as we’re alive on planet earth, it’s about a journey and not a distination. Thanks for the reminder!!


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