I’d like to offer some encouragement to folks who have left church, or who are thinking about leaving church.
It goes like this: You are not crazy! And you are not alone!
Whether you are in the wilderness, or you are growing more uncomfortable and restless attending church, know that there are tons of other folks out there feeling the same way.
I know. I escaped. 😉
10 Things I’ve Learned About Leaving Church
1. What I mean by church is the traditional, institutional form of church in the western world. Typically, this is a pastor in the front giving teachings, sermons, etc to a passive audience (congregation). This is the most prevalent association our culture has with the word church, because there are church buildings everywhere using this format. There is often a focus on the physical building as being the church (as in, “let’s go to church”). The sad fact is that this is not a representation of a New Testament church.
2. There are tons of other people who have left church in search of something that seems closer to what the New Testament envisions. However, these folks are often driven to re-invent church (myself included at one point in time). In reality, the church does not need to be invented or re-invented. It needs to be watered because she is a living organism. The true church cannot be manufactured; rather it is something (or more accurately Someone) to be discovered.
3. Those who try to re-invent church often have not looked very deeply at Christian history and they often end up reproducing something similar to what they left behind (and they often become the center of it).
4. There has always been a remnant who seek only to know Jesus Christ deeply. Look for those that want to know Christ in a deeper way and hold on to them for dear life. Seriously. When I talk about knowing Christ, I mean wanting to know Him intimately and personally, just as you would know your closest friend or your spouse. The Apostle Paul considered everything garbage compared to knowing Christ intimately (Phil 3:8). You will have found a very special thing if you can come together just to know Him and each other better. Beautiful things typically grow from these relationships. You may come from very different backgrounds, but if you can lay that aside you will find fertile ground.
5. If you do leave the church, most people will not follow you. Many of them will think you are crazy and “witness” to you as though you are a pagan. It’s part of the path. Don’t let it discourage you.
6. You may experience bitterness and pain and anger. This is normal. But it’s also normal to heal from this over time. Don’t get stuck in the bitterness. Take time to grieve, but then move on.
7. Don’t rush to have “meetings”. Don’t push to have something formal. Part of moving into the wildness of freedom in Christ is letting go of religious tradition for tradition’s sake. I believe God is concerned about us knowing Him rather than our church attendance record. So take a break. Enjoy your family. Grow together with friends. Focus on serving others. And in all of this, trust Jesus to fit the puzzle pieces together. I’ve learned that He is not in a hurry, and we don’t need to be either. Let meetings come in the right season after you have grown together in relationship with other believers.
8. Don’t throw out the Baby with the bathwater. I know it’s cliche. But seriously, hang tightly onto Jesus. He is your life preserver. Unfortunately, many people who walk away from church because they haven’t found Jesus there end up walking away from Jesus, too. Don’t lose your faith in God because some people are behaving badly.
9. Just meeting in a living room instead of a formal church building will not solve your church woes. There are many dangerous so-called believers inside and outside of the institutionalized church. Look for those that are learning to express the life and nature of Christ. (Hint: These won’t be folks that are trying to build a kingdom around themselves. They will always point to Christ.)
10. Growing deeper in Christ means growing deeper in freedom. Let the chains of religion fall off. After all, it was for freedom that Christ set us free (Gal 5:1). (The freedom I’m talking about is described here.)
Brothers and sisters, the real church is a woman, and She is stunning to behold!
“She” is a people who are enraptured with Her Groomsman, our Lord Jesus.
“She” is a people who reflect Him throughout the earth.
And you are not crazy for wanting to find Her…
Follow the Life!
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