For those of us who have left organized religion, it seems most of us go through similar steps in the process.
There are the months or, in our case, years of dissatisfaction and questioning. My wife and I knew for a long time something wasn’t right, but kept thinking it was just us or the church we were attending. We would try different churches and find our feelings were the same.
Once we got to the point that the option to stop attending church is very much part of our thinking, the next step was to really question ourselves. Thoughts like, are we really Christians, are we backsliding, are we losing our religion (losing your religion is a good thing). We began to feel something was wrong with us and wondered what others were going to think.
Next was the decision to stop attending something we felt was way off base from what true Church should be. Then there were feelings of keeping this to ourselves. Don’t tell anyone, just stop attending and keep it to yourself. In our case that was easy. We had been a part of an organized fellowship for a few years, but never got involved in other activities. It was a larger group of people and we didn’t do anything outside the normal Sunday morning show….service. This made it much easier not having to explain our actions to anyone else. To those of you who have made this decision and were active members, even pastors or so-called leaders in the church, we applaud you for making such a stand.
Next came the ‘us vs. them’ mentality. We wanted to look at the organized church almost as an enemy. We wanted to point out where they were wrong and why they were wrong. We wanted to associate only with those who felt the same as we did and didn’t want to hang around with those still stuck in the religious game. Obviously this isn’t the way to feel or treat people.
The next step was realizing God loves all people. Not just those outside the walls of the organized church. He loves us all, no matter what line of thought, doctrine, religion or lifestyle we choose. Jesus came to love people and show each of us the love of God. Finally we came to love and accept everyone. We no longer care what people think of our decision, we just want to love and accept each of them.
We are sure this isn’t a complete list of steps, but it is as far as we are for now. We are thankful for the years we had in the church as we learned a lot and made a lot of friends. We are equally thankful for the decision we made to leave the church with walls and focus more on the Church (ecclesia) made not by hands, but by God. A group of people who are saved by grace, following Christ, equally a part of the body and equally important to the body, and touching others day by day with the love of God.
We are all on different steps in life and fellowship, but we know that God is with us and leading us each step of the way. Keep the faith, keep your eyes on Jesus and be the Church each day of your life.