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Archive for July, 2021

by Jim Gordon

This is the final part of my church history. Remember, I have been part of the traditional church organization for 40 some years at this point. Although it is the final part of my institutional church history, it is not the end of my story of being part of the Church and following Jesus.

After our last pastor moved out of state and that church faded into history, we found a church that had interested us and excited us for a year or two. A friend of mine had told me about it and it sounded great to us. It was a non-denominational church and since our last church was gone we decided to give it a try.

This church was a little larger than what we were used to but was not a mega-church. The people were very friendly and there were so many activities in which to participate. We really liked that they gave food to the homeless and the poor in the area, they handed out water at parades and did several community related activities. After some time we noticed that very few people tried to get to know us or spend time talking with us because they were so busy staying in groups with people they already knew. My wife actually called two different home group leaders and tried to find out information on joining the group but was met with resistance from leaders who did not seem to want ‘new’ people in their group.

More Dissatisfaction

It was at this time I was feeling a real dissatisfaction with the church system. I felt there must be something more, this did not seem to be what Jesus meant when he said he would build his church. There was so much division and separation, no one was allowed to talk or discuss anything and only a select few had control of the service yet what I saw in the bible said we should all have a word, or a song, or a prayer. I read that Jesus was the head and each of us are equally important parts of his body. And what about the verse telling us we are the temple of the Holy Spirit and he dwells within us. I kept thinking about this and wondering why so many said the building was the church and they kept saying come to our church because the Spirit is going to fall and God is going to show up at this particular meeting. Yet the bible said the Spirit fell a couple thousand years ago upon the Church which was the people not a building. The Kingdom of God is within us and God is always with us, he is not going to show up at a special service when He is already within us.

It took us ten years at this particular church of going through the motions of getting up on Sunday morning, going to a service where we sat quietly looking at the back of someone’s head, going through the typical three songs, prayer, offering and listening to one person tell us their view of God, then getting up and walking out the door not seeing or hearing from anyone until the next Sunday. After several years of questioning and much dissatisfaction with the way the organized church seemed to be, we made the decision to leave the system and look to God for guidance. We began seeking the Holy Spirit to teach us because the bible says with the Spirit we do not need anyone else to teach us.

Forsake not the assembling

Of course we were told by several people that we should not forsake the assembling of ourselves with other christians, yet I could not find in the bible where that meant we had to do so in a building on a specific day at a set time. I feel believers need one another for support, fellowship and encouragement, but I believe this is done on a daily basis outside the walls of a church building. How much real support, fellowship and encouragement do we get sitting in a scheduled service once a week looking at the back of the heads of the people in front of you and listening to a select few talk? My wife and I started asking God to lead us to people who we could encourage and who would encourage us. It was not long until we started having chance encounters with people, most of who were going through or had gone through the same thoughts and feelings we were having.

accept-differences

We have found we have been more open to meet and accept people who were outside our style of worship, belief or lifestyle. We read in the bible where Jesus loved people and he did not separate himself by denominations or beliefs. Jesus was God in human form and God is love. We certainly did not always see a lot of love within the system because many seemed to think they were better than others or they had to stay away from certain people. So many felt they needed to point out the sins and mistakes of others or they were denying God.

We feel the Holy Spirit will convict the world of sin and it is not our job do point out where others may be wrong, if they are wrong at all. The Spirit will do the job of pointing out what needs to be changed and dealt with, we as followers of Christ are only called to love.

Out of the system

Since being out of the system for about two years now, neither of us have any reason to return. We have put our dependence on God and the Spirit for guidance and we are finding more and more believers to have fellowship with outside the walls of the traditional church. We would certainly not tell anyone not to go to church if that is what they want to do. For myself I had many years within the system that were good and meaningful. I learned many things and had many good experiences in the system. My wife and I were not abused or hurt by the church but we felt a real unrest with the system and after being out of it we have found more meaningful fellowship and a closer walk with God than we ever did in the past.

Will we ever return to the church system? I do not know. Right now I would say no because we have found a freedom and a dependence upon God that we never knew within the system. Yet we want to follow God and do what he leads us to, so if that would be where he wanted us sometime in the future then we would return.

I personally feel the system is wrong, not the people. There are many people within the organization that truly love God and are seeking to do what pleases him. There are many pastors and church workers who feel they are doing what they were called to do and I will not fault them for that. I think the organization is the problem. The organization is dependent on human leadership and human interpretation which causes division. I do not believe the church system is what Jesus was talking about when he said he would build his church. The Church is the people, not a building, not an organization.

church-people-or-building

If you are satisfied within the church system then stay where you are until you feel God leading you to something else. If you feel the same unrest in your soul that we did for many years and are thinking of leaving the organization then do so without any guilt. The Kingdom of God is within us. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit. We can have fellowship any day, any place, any time when God brings us together for a meal or a time of talking or praying with another person or two. We want to live each day of our lives in fellowship with the Spirit, listening for his guidance and showing the love of God to any he brings along our path.

So this brings us to the end of my church history as I knew it growing up. Yet it is not the end of my Church history because I am, along with every believer, part of the Church. It is not a building, it is not a system, not a man-run organization but it is each and every one of us equally functioning as parts of the body and following Jesus who is head of his Church.

Jim Gordon and his wife left the institutional church after spending over fifty years within the system. Jim wanted a way to express his thoughts and concerns about the religious system and why he and his wife decided to leave the institution but not their faith in God. Jim can be contacted by email at: jimgordon731@gmail.com

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by Mike Edwards

It isn’t easy leaving the institutional church when you are still into God and church has been a part of your life for years. Leaving can be almost an impossible choice. Where else can you share your beliefs and love for God? Not all outside relationships share the same interests in God. If you voice differing opinions about God in the church building, you often face rejection or doubt from those who love the same Creator. You don’t want to be divisive, but you are sick of pretending. 

I got tired of being told to “not major on the minor”

What the hell is so minor about believing a loving God tortures those who don’t believe in God while a short time here on earth? What is minor of denying women use of their gifts who clearly can preach and teach better than some men? Not my damn wife and daughters! It’s a big deal to condemn gays in God’s name though they have no choice who they are attracted too. 

I got tired of being told to believe in the Bible or else

Sorry. I am not convinced all what the writers claims about God is true. It can’t be proven writers got God right or wrong. Interpretations are debatable though extremists never admit they could be wrong. But that’s not the point. One writer claims God supposedly ordered the murder of women, children, and infants in war (I Sam. 15:3). God supposedly approved a wife’s hand being cut off when grabbing another man’s genitals (Deut. 25:12). Not questioning if writers always portrayed God accurately has led to killing infidels in God’s name and justifying wars throughout history. 

I got tired of a lot more things 

I got tired of the lack of open dialogue. If I opened my mouth about disagreements about leadership’s views of what a loving God is like, I felt I was being divisive and pulling others down. I don’t mind disagreeing. That is my nature. But I am not looking to force my views on others.

I got tired of being preached to where I couldn’t ask questions directly to leadership. Church morning fellowship works for some. Not me. It didn’t deepen my relationship with God. I need more discussion with those whose opinions everyone else is buying into.

I didn’t mind being challenged to help the less fortunate, but I got tired of the majority of the budget going for salaries, facilities, and great children’ programs. It is my responsibility to guide my children in their relationship with God.

I got tired of having a hidden agenda with those outside the church. Sinners, believe or go to Hell!

Okay, I love not having obligations on Sunday and not having to dress up 

Why shouldn’t I give up certain Sunday obligations when I am miserable? I rather cut the grass, play tennis, or whatever. I can try to find fellowship in others places. My relationship with God isn’t about an institution or day of the week. It’s a daily, hourly relationship. 

The last straw!

At the last church I attended, which was a megachurch with respectable leadership, I begin helping with a group involving newcomers that had questions about God. Perfect for me! I am a pretty open-minded guy. I enjoyed having open discussions about God but that wasn’t always comfortable for leadership. My co-leader believed exactly what church leadership did. I was treated nicely, but they didn’t think best I continue to help lead such groups. The truth was I was more qualified because of my readings and background leading groups than other leaders. But newcomers were attracted to the church because of the beliefs of the pastor and church leadership. I don’t feel called to create dissension for those seeking to have a relationship with their Creator for the first time often.

MikeEdwardsprofilepic125

Mike Edwards has been writing for Done with Religion for some time and has been a great addition to the site. Mike also has his own site where he writes that can be found at What God May Really Be Like  He can be contacted by email at: medwar2@gmail.com

 

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Where I found connection after I left the church

by Jim Gordon
As published at Backyard Church

Photo by Suzanne Emily O’Connor on Unsplash

The word ‘fellowship’ is just another one of those Christian buzzwords that you almost never heard outside of the church. We hear the word fellowship often and we all have our ideas about what it actually means to fellowship with others.

For me, growing up in the church world taught me about the need for fellowship with other believers. Of course, this fellowship was reserved for the weekly gathering inside a building on Sunday. I remember thinking that real Christian fellowship was sitting there each week, listening and watching others perform for God, then shaking hands with someone while on the way out the door.

For many years while within the institutional church, I never thought about fellowship in any other way than what I had been taught. Fellowship was with people who believed just like me. I always felt it may be dangerous to associate with people who believed differently or did not believe at all. After all, they may cause me to fall or backslide in my faith.

Now That We’ve Left The Church, Where Do We Go?

After many years of an uneasy feeling and not being satisfied with our church life, my wife and I decided to leave the organization and live outside the walls of religion. After leaving the church, my wife and I wondered where would we go for friends and ‘fellowship’

I found an answer in an article my friend, Rocky Glenn wrote entitled ‘Fellowship and Community’ in which he talked about fellowship within the church and leaving that church fellowship. He says:

“Two of the most common questions asked when others learn you have made the conscious decision to live the Christian life outside the walls and confines of a traditional church building are “Who do you fellowship with?” or “Where do you find community?”

These questions show how conditioned we have become in the institutional church to speaking our own language and seeing the world through the lenses of our stained-glass windows. The two terms — fellowship and community — are rarely heard outside the context of church. For example, have you ever invited a coworker to dinner or for a drink by asking them if they wanted to fellowship? When you are sitting in the stands at the high school football game, do you often lean over to the guy sitting next to you and explain how happy you are the two of you can experience community together? While each of these examples, by definition, constitutes the term used, we do not speak in such a manner on a normal basis and to do so would actually be quite silly. To fellowship with another is to have a friendly association over shared interests.

Rocky’s statement shows that fellowship can and does happen outside the church walls. It can happen in a restaurant, a bar, a football game, or on a street corner.

Photo by Kevin Curtis on Unsplash

Once my wife and I began to realize that fellowship happens anywhere, it did not take long for God to bring people across our paths in places and at times we never expected.

We were sitting in a local café one morning relaxing and drinking our morning coffee when we noticed two men at the next table. One was a young long-haired hippy-looking guy talking with an older gentleman. We could not help but hear their conversation at times and we kept noticing that they were talking about God and life in Christ.

After some time of listening, we decided to politely ask about their conversation and found that the younger guy was in a Christian heavy metal band. He had left the traditional church a few years ago and was living outside the walls of religion like us. This was an encouragement to us because it showed us that God can provide people for fellowship at any time and in any place. We just need to be alert and ready.

What Is Fellowship?

Fellowship, according to Merriam-Webster is a company of equals or friends; the quality or state of being in a comradery. Over the years of sitting in a church service, I never saw fellowship take place that matched up to this definition.

For the usually meaningless talk that goes on at a Sunday morning church service, there is no way that meaningful fellowship will happen.

Fellowship is more than listening, more than having similar beliefs or doctrinal views. It is getting to know people for who they are, even if it means they see things differently. It is being yourself and having people accept you for you. It is caring and responding in meaningful, respectful ways.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 states, ‘Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up, just as you also are doing’. As this verse tells us, fellowship is to encourage each other and build one another up. It is not totally agreeing or seeing things the same way. We are to be a positive help to our fellow human beings.

In our world today, people seem to want to stay separated into like-minded groups. We see it in all the various denominations in church, we see it in all the various interest groups and social groups. Everyone wants to fellowship only with people who are like them.

Finding Fellowship In The Wrong Places

Looking back on it now, I can see that I had more fellowship with my non-Christian friends in the backyard or at school than I did sitting in a religious service each week. I passed up many opportunities in the past to meet with people and in places that had nothing to do with church or any religious activity. Due to my religious upbringing and understanding that fellowship took place in church, I felt a little guilty about enjoying fellowship with others outside of church and with people who were not always so like-minded.

Fortunately, I have found that fellowship can happen anywhere and anytime. It does not have to be within the confines of an organized service in a church. In fact, it normally does not happen there. God brings opportunities each day to talk to people and share love and acceptance. What we need to do is erase the concept that fellowship only happens in a church service. We need to be alert to the leading of the Spirit and ready to greet people with the love of God.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

It seems that people just want to be heard and accepted. Even those who are quiet or a little introverted will open up and talk when they find someone who is genuine, caring, and truly listens. Often, one person listening can bring about the most meaningful times of fellowship.

A Religious Man, A Morman and A Truck Driver

(and no, they did not walk into a bar)

Just the other day, my wife and I heard about a young man who was returning to his military base after leave. Unfortunately, he was involved in a serious car accident and died due to his injuries. Our local town was honoring this young soldier by having residents line the streets as his hearse and small motorcade passed by.

While we were standing on the street corner waiting, we met a few people we never thought about running into. First, there was a man who was obviously religious. It was interesting talking to him knowing we had some commonalities in our faith. Yet at times it was obvious he had some beliefs that were very traditional and strictly religious. The good thing was we were outside the walls of a church and were able to talk and express ourselves without getting into a big debate over doctrine or denominational beliefs.

While we were talking with this gentleman, two young men came walking up and stopped to talk a minute. They were both dressed in white shirts with ties and the same style of pants. It was very obvious they were Mormon missionaries. It would have been easy to ignore them or tell them we were not interested and get them to move on.

Fortunately, we did not do that. We were nice and accepting to them and talked about a variety of topics. I think they were a little surprised that someone would actually carry on a conversation with them without debating or arguing over their beliefs. We actually had a very nice talk for about fifteen minutes and learned a little bit about each other apart from our differences in doctrine.

Not long after the missionaries moved on, an older gentleman walked up and asked what was going on with all the people lining the streets. We told him what was happening and he decided to wait and pay his respects also. He started talking a little about himself and told us he used to be a truck driver. Once he noticed that my wife and I were really listening and paying attention, he suddenly opened up about several personal issues and the pain of losing a child when he was younger. We ended up talking another twenty minutes about his family and his history and hopefully made his day a little brighter.

What Does Real Fellowship Look Like?

The purpose of talking about these encounters is to show that God can bring people into our lives for the purpose of fellowship when we least expect it. Who knew when we stood on the street corner to pay respects to a person we did not know, we would have personal encounters with three separate people and enjoy times of real fellowship with each of them?

Fellowship is no more than listening, responding with kindness, caring, and showing the love of God. We all can do it if we take the time to pay attention to the needs of others and show them we are interested in what they have to say.

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Fellowship really is not hard to do. Be yourself and allow other people to do the same. Be respectful, kind, and share the love of God in a way that makes people feel they matter.

The Last Word

Fellowship can happen anytime, anywhere, and more often than not, it does not happen within the confines of a religious service. Fellowship is not just a Christian happening; It is for all people.

There are so many people in our world who are hurting or confused and just need someone to listen to them. Be ready, be alert and follow the leading of the Spirit to show love and accept people for just being themselves. Something so simple can mean so much to someone who needs a little fellowship.

Jim Gordon and his wife left the institutional church after spending over fifty years within the system. Jim wanted a way to express his thoughts and concerns about the religious system and why he and his wife decided to leave the institution but not their faith in God. Jim can be contacted by email at: jimgordon731@gmail.com

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by Jim Gordon

As a young adult I continued on with the weekly attendance at the same local church, although the particular place would be changing over time.

At my ‘home’ church my parents were always active and well known. My dad was Sunday school superintendent and Lay leader. My mom helped in Junior church, Vacation bible school and worked in the office on Sunday.

Popularity in the church

As a young adult I have to say I enjoyed the popularity of being known by about everyone in the congregation. I even had my own key to the church building so I could go in anytime I wanted and pray or play the piano or just talk with a friend or two.

churchkey

I think it was around this stage that things began to change for me. I began having questions about things I was reading in the bible but I knew that it was best to keep these questions to myself. I figured there were logical explanations that I would figure out as time went by, or it was a matter of not completely understanding the bible yet I knew they were not questions I should bring up openly or people would begin to question my faith.

A friend of mine invited me to his church for a special service. After the service he introduced me to his pastor and we talked a little bit. The pastor was very friendly and seemed interested in having me there. He kept talking about getting together with me to play checkers and talk a bit, but when I told him I had a home church he all of a sudden lost interest, thanked me for coming and took off to talk to someone else.

Becoming Dissatisfied

After twenty years or so in my home church I felt it was time to move on. I thought I had come to a point where I was not learning or growing and a new church would be the answer. Little did I know that this was just the beginning of a long drawn out process of eventually leaving the system.

As I began to venture out and look at other churches I first went to a church of the same denomination, thinking new people and a different pastor was what I needed. It did not take long to realize I was not satisfied anymore than I was at my previous church. So off I went looking to a different denomination to try out.

A friend of mine at work suggested visiting his church because it was friendly and exciting and had a pastor that preached the ‘full gospel’. I thought I would give it a try and after a couple visits thought I had found the most spiritual people in town. I also found a woman there who later became my wife. It was a non-denominational church and openly participated in the gifts of the Holy Spirit. I was on cloud nine for a while thinking I had found what I was looking for, a place where the Spirit was falling on the congregation and God would show up for each service.

It took ten years but as I got to know people on a more personal level I found out they were not as spiritual as I had first thought. It turned out that many of them only used different spiritual words and terms but were no different than any other christian I knew. The church service, although more lively and exciting was still pretty much the same format and way of doing things.

So what did I do? Yep, my wife and I headed off for another church. This time we landed at a different style church than I had never been in before….a mega-church. Wow, talk about exciting. They had a full band and the service was televised so there were lights, sound systems and performers in make-up. Again I thought I had found the most spiritual people I had ever known.

megachurch

After about three years it all kind of lost its excitement. I again noticed the same underlying system was in place. It was a little different in the fact that the pastor, if seen anytime off stage was escorted by body guards. When I wanted to walk around the large church complex and take a look at things ushers stopped me and told me I was not allowed in that particular area. Now to someone who used to have a key to the church building this was a big blow. I just could not get used to the tight security and the TV professionalism the pastor and musicians carried out each week.

End of a marriage

About this time my marriage of thirteen years fell apart. Things just did not work out and we went our separate ways. It was a blow to me because I was always taught in church how much God hated divorce. I had seen many pastors and church workers in the past be told they could no longer participate in leadership roles at church due to being divorced. So I ended up dropping out of church due to guilt. I figured I would no longer be accepted there and actually thought God might be mad at me. This went on for about three years.

Now the best thing for me happened when I met my current wife. Yes, we ended up getting married even though I was taught divorce was wrong but remarriage was even worse. We both felt very much in love and believed that the love we felt could not be wrong and we believed God brought us together to live a happy life for him.

A new beginning in church

I felt good when we agreed we needed to get back in church. Fortunately things began to change when we found our new church. This time we ended up back at a denominational church but much smaller and more like the church I grew up in. The pastor was different. He seemed to have an enthusiasm and preached with excitement that neither of us had seen before. It was a friendly church, yet as time went on we realized it was a church that was pretty much run by two different families. As we got to know the pastor more we found that he was frustrated from the pressure put on him by these families who wanted things done their way. We also found out that the pastor recently had an encounter with the Holy Spirit and he was preaching with new power and enthusiasm, something we really enjoyed but this particular denominational church wanted nothing to do with it. The pastor was a great help to my wife and I telling us about grace, forgiveness and the love of God like we had never heard before.

Unfortunately this did not last but for a few years. The pastor moved out of state and the church kind of fell apart. So again, off we went looking for something else. What we found next was the beginning of the end of our time in the organization. This will be talked about in the next article.

Jim Gordon and his wife left the institutional church after spending over fifty years within the system. Jim wanted a way to express his thoughts and concerns about the religious system and why he and his wife decided to leave the institution but not their faith in God. Jim can be contacted by email at: jimgordon731@gmail.com

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by Mike Edwards

We know the conventional God often taught. God is all knowing, but then why doesn’t God warn of future decisions that have negative consequences? God is all powerful, but then why doesn’t God stop more evil? God can’t feel sad because that would show weakness, but then why can God get so pissed to create Hell and tortures unbelievers forever after life on earth?

God is exactly like you imagine!

A Creator surely loves in ways God’s creations sense they were created to love one another. Is it natural to be bias against women priests or preachers? Is it natural to condemn gays who can no more choose who they are attracted to than straight people can? Would we create a place such as Hell to torture our enemies after their death? God wouldn’t either. See here. See here.  See here.

The enemy may be our interpretation of an inspired Book and not our common moral sense. Biblical scholars who respect the Bible disagree God is bias toward women, that God condemns gays, or that God created such a place for Hell. Only a hypocritical God wouldn’t love in a way we know that we ought to love others. God is who you imagine a loving God is.

God can’t control evil

Atheists and believers agree. The only God worth believing in and following is a perfect God. Can God manipulate others? We would say no because love doesn’t manipulate. We hate when we see friends try to control others for their own reasons or gain. Obviously, God’s love must be uncontrolling. God can’t control evil because granting freedom requires not denying freedom. Or we could say God can’t control evil because God’s very nature is love and true love is uncontrolling.

God doesn’t arbitrarily answer others’ prayers and not yours 

Let’s be honest. More prayers are unanswered than answered. God can’t wave a magic wand without accounting for freedom. We can talk to God for self-examination, for sharing our concerns, and not feeling along in a chaotic world. We tell others seeking influence from the right people leads to making wiser choices. It isn’t that you didn’t beg enough or have the right attitude. It isn’t that God had the power to do something about it, but chose not to; it’s that God can’t. Divine love limits divine power. Simply put, God’s love is uncontrolling.

God suffers with us 

Conventional thinkers don’t like to suggest God has feelings of vulnerability, but they don’t mind talking about God’s wrath. If a God can be angry, a God can be sad. God hates when we are suffering. If God truly loves, God like a friend hurts when you hurt. We may wish God would just intervene but there may be legitimate reasons why God’s can’t. But God is with you each step of the way as we reach out to others for help. 

God can’t know the future 

To say God knows the future suggests a predetermined future which makes freedom nonsensical. God’s plan is not a detailed blueprint but a general one to set us free to love. God wants what you desire for your future, unless you want to be an extremist or terrorist. God isn’t keeping secrets as if God knows your marriage will end in divorce. God deals as much with uncertainty as we do, as not even an all-powerful God can know a free, undetermined future. God seeks to help us in any way possible to achieve our dreams.

Imagine the perfect friend. That is God! 

God loves like you want to be loved and how you wished you loved others. God hates when prayers can’t be answered. God feels the same pain you are experiencing. God shares the dreams you have for your future.

See Thomas Oord’s book Open And Relational Theology for life changing ideas

MikeEdwardsprofilepic125

Mike Edwards has been writing for Done with Religion for some time and has been a great addition to the site. Mike also has his own site where he writes that can be found at What God May Really Be Like  He can be contacted by email at: medwar2@gmail.com

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by Jim Gordon

My next three articles will be flashback articles from 2016 about my history in organized religion and institutional church. I hope it gives you a little peek into my religious background.

The Beginning

I think I have been involved in church for nearly 60 years. I know my parents took me to church the first Sunday I was home from the hospital and ready to be out.

I have so many good memories over the years of growing up in church. When I say church I am talking about the building, the organization, the traditional religious system that we all think of when we say church.

I remember all the usual parts of church like going to Sunday school, Vacation Bible school, Children’s church, Junior church and Youth group. I liked going to these activities and I never asked to stay home or miss them. Actually I was disappointed if I was sick and could not go.

cookies

In the first church I was part of I remember during Sunday school the main thing I was taught (at least in my eyes) was how to eat a cooking with my finger through the hole in the middle. I do not think my parents were to happy with that and it was not long afterward that my parents moved to another church where I stayed for another 20 years.

There we were taught all the traditional bible stories and were rewarded with pins for good attendance. I enjoyed learning and was presented a bible for doing so well with quizzes and attendance. I enjoyed meeting new kids my age and getting to know them although it took a long time to do since I only saw them for an hour one day each week.

Vacation Bible School

I was always part of Vacation bible school each summer. My mom helped as an assistant or a teacher and I enjoyed hearing the bible stories and making crafts. I remember at the age of ten I accepted Christ at Vacation bible school. I can remember listening to a nice older lady talk about how God loved us and sent his son to die for us. I remember raising my hand when she asked if anyone wanted to accept Christ as savior, then I walked up front and was led in a prayer. Even at the age of ten I realized that just because my parents were Christians I needed to make a decision for myself. It was the best decision I ever made.

As the years went by I moved up to the Youth Group and the various activities young teenagers get to do. I can remember one time I was on the phone with our Youth Leader for well over an hour as he tried to talk me into going on a youth camping trip that I wanted nothing to do with. He was sure he was going to talk me into going but in the end, I won out and did not go. I wondered why he spent so much time trying to convince me to go when he could have talked with three or four other kids who may have really enjoyed it.

Teenager in church

Of course as a teenager we would always find the best seat in the Sunday morning worship service, which was the back row. I think the pastor was just happy we were even in the service at all. I also was on the church basketball team and met more new people. I thought it a little weird that many of the kids on the church team were hot-tempered and foul mouthed. I knew that most were not regular church attendees and they only came to church during basketball season. I also knew they were required to be at church as often as possible if they wanted to play. Once basketball was over I never saw them again until the next season.

piano

Once people found out I could play the drums and the piano they quickly enlisted me to play for special services and the children’s church. I did not want to do it since I was extremely nervous about being in front of people, but I felt I would be wrong to turn down using my ‘talents’ for the Lord.

Once I said yes to something the ball really started rolling. Next I was helping with Junior church, going on youth conference trips out of state, doing visitation with the pastor and then added to the Administrative Board. Wow, that was an eye opener.

Welcome to the Administrative Board

I had always had a high regard for the church board members who were the ‘backbone’ of the church. I thought what spiritual people they must be to be entrusted with the plans and happenings of the church.

It did not take long to see that what went on in the monthly meeting was certainly not very spiritual. I had never seen so much arguing and disagreement in my life up to that point. Needless to say I did not stay part of the board very long. I decided to leave that to the much older and wiser people (who knew how to argue much better than I).

Well, so much for the early years of my church attendance. It was pretty typical and non-eventful, but I really enjoyed the experiences. I learned a lot and met many people who I enjoyed being around, although most of them I never saw outside of the church building or church planned events. This pretty much brings us up to my church history as a young adult which will be discussed in the next article. Can any of you relate to similar experiences?

Jim Gordon and his wife left the institutional church after spending over fifty years within the system. Jim wanted a way to express his thoughts and concerns about the religious system and why he and his wife decided to leave the institution but not their faith in God. Jim can be contacted by email at: jimgordon731@gmail.com

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by Mike Edwards

The short answer to what belief God requires is none. We can only compare a loving God to what a loving parent may require. Such a parent requires nothing. They love their child unconditionally in hopes the child will choose to return their love. As a child gets older, love doesn’t interfere as we often only learn through the consequences of our actions. God created freedom so God is required to be uncontrolling.

Doesn’t God in the Bible require belief to get into Heaven?

Many claim that the Bible was written to instruct people what beliefs avoid God’s wrath and Hell. Many scholars now recognize that the Bible’s main message is expressing God’s desire to have a relationship with each and every individual in this world to face inevitable challenges. See here.

Jesus didn’t talk about escaping torture after death. Jesus replied to simply love God and your neighbor (Lk.10:25-37) when asked how to have eternal life. Jesus’ focus wasn’t on quantity of life after death but about a life worth living here on earth. Jesus’ message wasn’t about requiring certain beliefs but avoiding making destructive choices. This is the message of any loving parent!

Doesn’t God at least require belief in God?

God isn’t a God of chance! The majority of people born into this world never had a Bible? The truth is the majority of people accept or rebel against a certain religion based on the family born into whether it be Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, etc. A child who was sexually abuse by their father may struggle to accept a God who is most often betrayed as our Father in Heaven. Do you really think a loving God is going to judge all based on their beliefs during a short time here on earth influenced by so many random factors?

Surely you have to believe in the mother of all beliefs?

Don’t you have to believe at least Jesus resurrected from the dead? I know even asking this question is offensive to many, but I care more about those who want to believe in a God but struggle with certain requirements as opposed to those who are already convinced a loving God is real. Jesus told followers He was coming back from the dead and they didn’t believe Him. And they supposedly witnessed miracles beforehand to have less doubts such a claim was possible.

I would like to think more of us if we witness a man or woman coming back from the grave after being killed that we would be convinced of their message. But none of us lived during biblical times, so we will not have such an opportunity. I happen to believe the historical evidence is credible that Jesus rose from the grave, but God can handle doubts or skepticism.

God only hopes for what every loving parent desires

I am convinced God only wishes for all to consider the possibility of a loving God who desires to help you in your journey of becoming the person deep down you want to become. Loving, human parents don’t require certain beliefs from their children before hoping they will consider if they love them. Are we better lovers than God?

Do you want to believe more in God? I am not sure there is anything to lose in beginning a journey of faith if the desire is to live life with fewer regrets. Personally, the biggest reason for being a God-follower is the inspiration and encouragement I sense in striving to be a better human being. If God is real, they should be able to make their case with each individual.

MikeEdwardsprofilepic125

Mike Edwards has been writing for Done with Religion for some time and has been a great addition to the site. Mike also has his own site where he writes that can be found at What God May Really Be Like  He can be contacted by email at: medwar2@gmail.com

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The Spirit of God Lives in Us

by Jim Gordon

1 Corinthians 3:16,17 – Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.

The Old Covenant days of the temple are over. According to the New Covenant, we are now God’s house the Spirit of God lives within us. So many people say the organized church is where God lives, but this verse tells us that God is more personal than that. God can no longer be contained within a building. We are His dwelling place.

The church is not God’s temple

Each one of us who are saved by grace are now the temple of God. It is so hard to get away from the thought that God is up there somewhere, or that we have to go to church and wait for God to show up. This kind of thinking is now obsolete.

These verses point out that the temple of God is holy, and that is what we are. We are His temple, and that makes us holy. Not by any works we have done or can do, but by the work that Christ has done. It is hard for us to accept the fact that in Christ, we are holy and righteous. We are kings and priests. We were sinners, but the old sin nature was crucified with Christ on the cross. It is now dead and we are new creatures in Him.

We are Holy and Righteous

We need to stop being so negative and depressed because we feel like we have let God down and unable to live a holy life. Actually, we cannot live a holy life, but God, through the grace of Christ, makes us holy. We are the righteousness of God. It is Him, Jesus our all in all, living in us.

Our spirit is now holy and righteous. Our mind is still being transformed and our body is still a work in progress, but thanks be to God, our spirit has been made perfect.

Let’s start focusing on the fact that God is right here within us through His Spirit. We do not have to go somewhere looking for Him, we do not have to wait for Him to show up. Right now, we are in His presence. He is the vine, we are the branches. Rest in Him and allow the Spirit to love those around you each day.

Jim Gordon and his wife left the institutional church after spending over fifty years within the system. Jim wanted a way to express his thoughts and concerns about the religious system and why he and his wife decided to leave the institution but not their faith in God. Jim can be contacted by email at: jimgordon731@gmail.com

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by Mike Edwards

It can’t be proven God is real or not. If God is who believers claims, God should be capable of speaking to the hearts of either believers or skeptics. Billions that are convinced there is a loving God cannot be declared definitively irrational or delusional. It is not irrational either to ask if God is real, why doesn’t God clinch the argument by making their Presence obvious?

Claims of certainty is suspect 

Just to be certain, total certainty is an illusion because even if God is Truth, we still have to discern what is Truth. For example, there is disagreement if God of the Bible desires preachers or priests be women or gay. Literature requires interpretation. I am convinced so many people are leaving the institutional church, but not God, because of lack of open dialogue. It’s hard to be relational when you are so damn certain!

Is it God’s fault the Bible isn’t clearer?

Even if God dictated the Bible, interpretation is still required. It is often said we best know God according to “biblical truths.” The truth is contrary biblical interpretations exist for many moral issues. See here.   What we do with the communication we have, then lack of communication, may be the bigger challenge. Open discussions can steer us away from demanding “supposed truths.”

Uncertainty doesn’t have to lead to chaos or lawlessness 

I don’t know any reasonable God or non-God person that doesn’t respect the golden rule in relationships. Certain laws are just common, moral sense. Who doesn’t believe physical or sexual abuse is wrong? Ask a terrorist if you can rape their partner. Immigration laws can be discussed as which are the most caring for the greater good. Different opinions, expressed without physical or verbal aggression, can stand side by side as we continually evaluate the most loving approach.

In God’s defense – intuitions and an open future 

God may not get enough credit for communicating through our moral intuitions. Criminals often don’t defend their actions; instead, they deny committing such crimes. Only a perfect or good God is worth believing in! The best way to talk about such a God is comparing to perfect human love. A Creator surely loves in ways God’s creations sense they ought to love others. Problems begin when we stray from common moral sense and insist on our understanding from an inspired Book.

It is natural to think an all-knowing, powerful God has special insights into future outcomes to avoid problems. To say God knows the future suggests a predetermined future which makes freedom nonsensical. God’s plan is not a detailed blueprint but a general one to set us free to love. God can’t tell you if the person you want to marry won’t end up betraying you or the job you take won’t end up being phased out. God joins us in an open future. God deals as much with uncertainty as we do, as not even an all-powerful God can know a free, undetermined future. 

God’s directness didn’t always inspire belief

God dropped manna from the sky and separated the Red Sea to escape one’s enemy, but the Israelites still did not believe or at least put their total trust in God. God even came in person but Jesus’ miracles did not obtain the results some may suggest if God would stop hiding.

Where has certainty gotten us?

It is logical to suggest we can’t be totally certain what an invisible, inaudibly God thinks, but supposed certainty according to a Book has led to justifying slavery and other atrocities. Certainty has led to condemning gays though scholars, who accept Scriptures as authoritative, don’t agree the Bible disapproves of same-gender loving, monogamous, consensual relationships. Women, though gifted, are denied entrance into the priesthood or pastorate in God’s name. Uncertainty not certainty about God, unless talking about obvious evil such as beheading infidels, protects against imposing beliefs on others in God’s name. Honest, open dialogues allow continually evaluating what a loving God is like.

Uncertainty about God may be out of love

God’s awing or overpowering presence may only lead to fearful obligations to obey. Relationships that require more faith and trust due to the unknown may reach greater heights. Is our love in human relationships greater when we have to trust than know for certain what the future holds together? When parents push their agendas, even if in their child’s best interest, they may resent or rebel against coercion and never turn back. If God communicates in less demonstrative ways, this may allow for heartfelt choices. The road traveled of learning, reflecting, and non-coerced choices may best lead to lasting convictions. Moral knowledge isn’t hidden. Amoral decisions are open. Maybe God speaks to us in non-dramatic ways out of love!

MikeEdwardsprofilepic125

Mike Edwards has been writing for Done with Religion for some time and has been a great addition to the site. Mike also has his own site where he writes that can be found at What God May Really Be Like  He can be contacted by email at: medwar2@gmail.com

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