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Archive for October, 2022

By Mike Edwards

It is not simple to decide what to believe about God. Afterall, an invisible, inaudible God doesn’t speak to most of us. It is argued we should believe what the Bible says about God. But scholars and laypeople who respect the Bible as authoritative don’t always agree what the Bible claims about God. At least non-Bible folks understand no Book can be proven that the writers’ thoughts or words were supernaturally controlled, much less be perfectly interpreted. We must use our moral intuitions when deciding what views best described a loving God.

Where has depending on a Book lead us?

Supposed certainty has led to condemning gays, though biblical scholars don’t agree the Bible condemns same-gender loving relationships. See here. Some religions defend killing homosexuals because of their unprovable assumption that every word in a Book was inspired by God. They of course don’t question if their interpretation is inspired. Many claim the Bible says that women can’t fulfill the same roles as men in the worship or home setting. Yet, it can be interpreted that Paul, a main writer of the New Testament, thought roles should be based on one’s gifts not gender.  See here.  We cannot rely solely on a Book to understand God.

Even the Bible implies to trust your moral intuitions

Only a perfectly good or loving God is worth believing in. Such a statement is nonsensical if we are clueless about perfect love. Even the Bible implies we can understand God’s love because perfect human love and God’s love are the same: “Be perfect, therefore as your heavenly Parent is perfect” (Mt. 5:48). Christians often say God’s spirit (aka Holy Spirit) does or can reside within you. Unless the Spirit talks to you audibly or visibly, we can’t avoid examining out intuitions when discerning the Spirit’s voice. We can’t always be certain how to best love, but unless you are a totally self-centered human being, believe about God what makes perfect loving sense to you!

Whose intuitions should we trust? 

It is often claimed there can be no absolute truths about God, if we can’t rely on the Bible. No reasonable God or non-God person doesn’t respect the golden rule in relationships. We can’t understand perfectly, but it seems our understandings must lead to loving others as we want to be loved. Certain laws are just common, moral sense. Who doesn’t believe sexual abuse is absolutely wrong? Not even terrorists would accept their wives and children being beheaded for different beliefs from another group claiming a Book is direct God-speak. All want to be treated with loving kindness.

What would a loving God be like? 

Believing God exists or doesn’t exist requires faith, but surely a loving Creator would love the way we were created to love. Is love controlling or manipulative? Then, God can’t be controlling or manipulate. It matters what you think God is like. If God really created Hell, we may think we should emulate God in our attempts to judge and punish. If God condemns gays, we will condemn gays out of devotion to God. If we believe God thinks men have authority over women in some positions, that will filter down to your wives, daughters, and friends and stifle their gifts. Choose biblical interpretations and understandings of God that don’t contradict your moral sense of a loving God. You may be right!

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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 Mike Edwards

It is popular in religious circles to insist God is all-powerful and all-controlling. I suppose this is to protect God’s reputation or one’s understanding of biblical claims. But if God’s power can be all-controlling, this seems to make God responsible for evils such as rape, sexual abuse, starvation, etc. by doing nothing to intervene. There are certain things even an all-loving God can’t do. 

Is everything that happens really a part of God’s plan? 

It is said “everything that happens is part of God’s plan” to supposedly protect God’s almightiness. But love cannot insist on its own way. (I Cor 13:5) A perfect God’s love must be uncontrolling. Perfect power is uncontrolling. Ask older kids about their parents! A God who supposedly can prevent evil but doesn’t is no different than a parent who stands by and watches their child suffer. Evil and suffering in the world may be because God cannot intervene single-handedly. It isn’t that God has the power to do something and doesn’t. God can’t change people or circumstances without individual or plural human cooperation.

Is lack of healing really due to lack of faith or bad behavior? 

Lots of prayers asking for healing are obviously not answered. If God can control disease and other evils, we are left to assume God’s love is infrequent. Miracles don’t happen because some people are less sinful or beg better at the feet of an arbitrary God. Conditions in our body may not always be right. Various biological and environmental factors are involved such as cells, organs, etc. If God doesn’t deny human freedom, it may not be a stretch to say God has to account for natural freedom as well. Miracles can happen when God’s uncontrolling love aligns with countless factors known and not known. God surely intervenes by all means when circumstances will allow.

Can we make sense why God allows freedom? 

It is not logically possible for God to create freedom without the possibility of moral evil. God clearly values ongoing freedom because of all the suffering allowed in the world. I don’t know of any human parent who brings children into the world not desiring their children freely reciprocate their love as opposed to being forced. Without freedom we could accuse God of not creating the very best world where only true, authentic relationships can develop. Freedom allows human to develop qualities of moral character that cannot be created initially. The guarantee of a pain free universe cannot involve freedom.

Is God interfering the most compassionate?

God not interfering in suffering on earth may be compassionate. If I force my rebellious son somehow to do right presently, he may further rebel or stay away forever. If I am patience and allow time for possible moral development (time on earth), then he may freely choose to trust I have his best interest in mind. God didn’t create suffering to foster dependency; God created freedom in the beginning because they love us. Controlling love may have consequences.  

I do not wish to suggest physical evils such as disasters of nature, diseases, or accidents can always be traced directly to a human’s freedom to inflict pain upon themselves or others. It does seem human accumulated mismanagement of the earth over thousands of years has brought some destruction through hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, droughts, and earthquakes. Does our current divide among our political leaders keep solutions from developing that allows the most human flourishing? Human mismanagement hardly explains all the causes of natural disasters. Claiming natural disasters are always God’s judgment is nonsense.

What good is God then?

God seeks to influence us to do all the good we can, in all the places we can, at all the times we can, to all the people we can, as long as we can. It matters what you believe a loving God is like (see here), but God’s influence in our lives can lead to making wiser choices by having a moral compass in life. God is tireless in working through individual lives to change the world. It isn’t that you didn’t beg enough or behave enough. God through their influence has made me a better man, husband, father, and friend or at least better than if on my own. All we have to lose is selfishness and a lousy legacy.

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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

Romans 12:18 – If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. That almost sounds like an impossibility in our world today. To be at peace with all men, including believers and non-believers, those who accept God and those who do not accept that there is a God. Live at peace with those who believe in a similar way we do and those who believe in a variety of different ways than us.

With all the different thoughts and ideas, the different denominations, interpretations and beliefs, all the different religions, how could it be possible to be at peace with everyone?

The dictionary says of peace: freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions; harmony in personal relations.

I think this is what God is saying, that we are to live in harmony with our fellow human beings, not allowing any oppressive thoughts or emotions to take control of our feelings towards others. In other words, we live in love. Just because someone does not interpret the Bible the same way we do, or go to the same church we do, or does not go to church at all, we should realize that as believers we are all wanting to please God and do what we feel led to do out of love. We should respect the fact that God is working in different ways in people. Just because people see things differently does not mean it is not of God.

In regard to non-believers, we should not be condemning them or forcing our beliefs on them. We need to let them see the love of God, yet they do not need someone beating them down or twisting their arms to get them to believe like us. We are to love them as they are and allow them the freedom to make their own choices in spiritual matters.

If we believers could just understand that we are responsible for ourselves in the way we live for God. We are not responsible to force our beliefs on others. We are to allow God to work in our lives and follow God on the path the Spirit has for us. Our responsibility is to love God and love everyone we come in contact with, accept them for who they are and let the Holy Spirit work in all our lives. Living in this manner would accomplished much more in showing the love of Christ to those we have contact with 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

Polls suggest a majority of people believe there is a God or Higher Power, but we should be careful in our words assuming all have such a belief. Besides, many believe in a God but don’t agree what rights a God may bestow such as for gays. I cringe when those in the public arena claim our inalienable rights come from God. I find such a statement disrespectable to those who aren’t convinced there is a God. Even God respects one right to believe or not.

Not even the God of the Bible demands belief

If we didn’t have a Bible, we wouldn’t expect a loving God to force beliefs on others. Parents bring children into the world hoping their children freely reciprocate their love for authentic relationships. Evil clearly exists today but God doesn’t annihilate immediately those who oppose God. God doesn’t demand belief but desires a relationship. And scholars don’t agree the Bible teaches a literal Hell as an eventual consequence for unbelief. Some biblical scholars believe the Bible reveals all when meeting God, if God exists, will be convinced their Creator is loving and desire to live for eternity with God. Circumstances here on earth may prevent such belief.

Do our rights come from man or government? 

I am opposed to politicians not being more careful in their language that implies or assumes all must believe in God to be on the straight and narrow. It is said we need to get back to biblical values but not all agree what those values are. Similarly, those who claim man or government give us our rights is just another version of required religion. We do not need to proclaim to all that our rights are given by God or Government.

Where do our rights come from? 

We all should have the freedom to establish our own beliefs. But there are universal self-evident truths. Even terrorists believe in the golden rule in relationships for themselves. They can deny your rights due to your beliefs but don’t dare deny their rights to their own beliefs. Self-evident rights may be discovered in a Book or natural law, as we all have an inborn sense of good and evil. No rational being argues for the right to sexually abuse or murder others. We can though debate what climate or immigration policies are for the greater good. A democratic society best allows making policy decisions that impact more than the individual.

How do we communicate our rights? 

We can share our personal beliefs in God and other matters in the public arena without imposing them on others. I am convinced that is how politicians must communicate who choose to represent all their constituents. They may share their personal beliefs but not communicate to imply God commanded a new world order. Don’t assume all believe in God. Determine what are self-evident truths and those that aren’t such as climate control or immigration policy. Fortunately, in a democratic society non-self-evident, beliefs are determined by vote. In other societies, those in power determine policy.

Can We Stop Saying “Everything Happens For A Reason”!

Can We Stop Saying “Love The Sinner, Hate The Sin”!

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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

Many of us who went to church have been told about the Kingdom of God. Mostly, we think it is a place somewhere in the sky, far, far away from us at this point. We think that one day, after we die, we will go to live with God in the Kingdom.

This way of thinking not only teaches the Kingdom of God is far away, but also God is far away. I remember the pastor saying that we needed to be at a certain service because God is going to show up and we do not want to miss it, or the Spirit is going to fall and we need to be there. The Spirit was given and fell many years ago after Jesus ascended back to the Spirit world. The Spirit, or the spiritual presence of God within us, was given so we would not be left comfortless or without a guide.

I personally think the church has greatly missed a very important aspect about God and the Kingdom. Most churches do not emphasize that God and the Kingdom are here right now. Jesus said in John 14:23 “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them”. To me, if God has made his home with us, then we are certainly living in the Kingdom of God.

We are the temple of the Holy Spirit. The Kingdom of God is within us. That means right now, God’s Spirit lives within us and we are living in the Kingdom of God. We are still also living in the kingdom of the world and in an earthly body, so we are not living in a perfect, spiritual state yet. I have come to believe more and more that the Kingdom of God is not necessarily a coming heavenly kingdom, but it is our life with God right here and now. Our old, earthly man was renewed through Christ and a new man was raised up with Christ. Jesus is our king, and we are currently living with him in his Kingdom every 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

The U.S.  is obviously divided as a nation politically – immigration, climate control, economics, energy policy, vaccine mandates, abortion. In the Christian church you have those “done” with the Institution (building) but not God. I suggested previously the main reason for such division is the fear of uncertainty which leads to claiming certainty. See here. In politics we don’t have disagreements but conspiracists. In religion we don’t have disagreements but heretics.

Why might we fear uncertainty?

Certainty rather than uncertainty comforts individuals psychologically. One may believe the seemingly certain narrative – vaccine benefits outweigh the risks – because unknowing can create anxiety. Disagreeing with the popular science narrative can lead to being ostracized. Disagreeing with church leadership can lead to isolation and loneliness. It doesn’t matter if those who proclaim certainty have good intentions or believe their ideas are best for society. They may be wrong! When universal agreement doesn’t exist – such as the evil of sexual abuse – it should be inherently obvious that one must be allowed to form their own opinions since uncertainty exists.

What are the consequences of avoiding uncertainty?

We can’t read the hearts of those who proclaim certainty and thwart disagreement. But when only one side is presented, control and power grow intentionally or unintentionally. It should be intuitive denying diverse opinions is unloving and controlling. Most don’t except such behaviors in their personal relationships. As mentioned, believing you are right for the whole doesn’t matter when certainty isn’t obvious. A refusal to openly discuss or defend one’s views, even to avoid anxiety, is a denial of personal choice and suggests an unhealthy dependency on “certainty.”

What principles can guide us during uncertainty?

We must be guided by core principles such as freedom and love. You want your views accepted? Accept the views of others. You want to be supported to make your own decisions freely when there is uncertainty? Respect the rights of others to do the same. Taking the vaccine or not is one’s own health decision. Stop labeling opposing political views as anti-science. Stop labeling those who disagree with your biblical interpretations as heretics. Can you imagine how different our nation would be if religious and political folks were open to discussions for the common goal of pursing the greater good? When policy must be made for a whole, a voting democratic society surely is more humane and less dangerous than an authoritarian government style.

Why Can’t We Disagree As A Nation And People?

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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 Mike Edwards

One may expect since I am writing a blog with a spiritual slant, that I might suggest our greatest problem is lack of belief in God. I am not convinced. Belief in God didn’t keep many from endorsing slavery and other evils. Belief or lack of belief in God is no excuse for violating the inborn rights of others. I am convinced claiming “certainty” is what divides us as a people.

Certainty is comforting but an illusion 

The truth that humans can’t be all-knowing is under-appreciated. Universal immoralities are obvious (murder, sexual abuse), but some truth can be found in opposing views concerning climate concerns, immigration, pandemic responses, etc. Some argue for climate control measures without consideration how human flourishing and livability in the world as a whole may decline. Only one supposed certain interpretation of the Bible would suggest women cannot serve as priests or pastors. Diverse opinions in the pursuit of truth may lead to the most caring for the greater good.

Why might we fear uncertainty? 

Certainty rather than uncertainty comforts individuals psychologically. One may believe the seemingly certain narrative – vaccine benefits outweigh the risks – because unknowing can create anxiety. Disagreeing with the popular narrative may also lead to being ostracized. Disagreeing with church leadership can lead to isolation and loneliness. It doesn’t matter if those who proclaim certainty have good intentions or believe their ideas for best for society. They may be wrong! It should be inherently obvious that one must be allowed to form their own opinions when not harming others.

We must learn to disagree in pursing the most caring decision for all involved 

I left the institutional church, but not God, because others wouldn’t engage in non-dogmatic conversations. Certainty – we can’t even know if God exist – led to divisions. Few will engage in political discussions as a way to understand one another. It may not be due to close-mindedness but to avoid anxiety. We must be able to debate climate, immigration laws, and what a loving God would truly think about gays, women roles, and other matters that impact millions of lives. Let’s:

  • Have open discussions and avoid demanding “supposed truths”
  • Learn to respond not react over our differences
  • Seek areas to agree first
  • First understand before being understood
  • Stop demonizing by moralizing
  • Stop canceling others’ opinions when it comes to pursuing best decisions

What Is Destroying Us As A People?

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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Does it Sound Familiar?

(Photo by Timothy Eberly on Unsplash)

by Jim Gordon

When I think back over my life within the church, I realized that I have been involved in church for nearly sixty years. I know my parents took me to church on the first Sunday I was home from the hospital and ready to be out in public.

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.

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

At that church 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.

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.

Moving Up to the Youth Group

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.

Of course, as teenagers 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 was also 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.

(Photo by Jordan Whitfield on Unsplash)

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.

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. Up to that point, I had never seen so much arguing and disagreement in my life. 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 many 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 events. This pretty much brings us up to my church history as a young adult.

The Young Adult Years

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 the Sunday school superintendent and lay leader. My mom helped in junior church, vacation bible school and worked in the office on Sunday. 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.

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 maybe 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 one evening 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.

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 any more than I was at my previous church. So off I went looking for 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 livelier and more exciting, was still pretty much the same format and normal way of doing things.

(Photo by Rachel Coyne on Unsplash)

So, what did I do? Yep, my wife and I headed off to another church. This time we landed at a different style church than I had ever 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.

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.

One Marriage Ends, Another Begins

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 heard that many pastors and church workers in the past were told they could no longer participate in leadership roles at church due to being divorced. I decided, due to guilt mainly, the best thing to do was to drop out of church. 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 a new woman who would eventually become 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. I also felt good when we agreed we needed to get back to 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 and began my final part of church history. Remember I have been part of the traditional church organization for some forty years at this point.

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.

(Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash)

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.

Dissatisfaction with the church

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 finally 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 to teach us.

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. 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 before we started having chance encounters with people, most of whom were going through or had gone through the same thoughts and feelings we were having.

Outside the Walls of Religion

We have found being outside of the organized church, we have been more open to meeting and accepting people who were different in their beliefs 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 to 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.

(Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash)

Since being out of the system for about seven years now, neither of us have any desire 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. 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 nor an organization.

Final Thoughts

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 who love God. Each of us are equally functioning parts of the body following Jesus who is head of the Church.

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