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After many years of growing up in the traditional institutional church many things have changed over the past few years.

Of course, while in the religious system I was ‘set apart’ from the supposedly wrong kind of people. We had our friends within our particular brand of religion and tried to stay away from people who saw things differently.

We were told it was best to associate with like-minded people and fellow believers who agreed with our doctrines and interpretations, but beware of people who have different beliefs or who came from difference faiths or, worse yet, no faith at all.

After over fifty years in organized religion my wife and I came to a point where we felt it best to leave the system and follow a life with God outside of organized religion.

I would not tell anyone to do this or try to draw anyone out of church if that is where they are happy and satisfied. I personally believe the system is flawed and for those who choose to do so, it is better outside the walls than in. But that is a decision I would leave to each person to make under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

I can say for us, after leaving we have been happy with the life we have found. We have freedom to follow the Spirit as he guides us. We rely on him rather than putting our faith and trust in a pastor or some spiritual leader. We have found more meaningful fellowship as God brings people into our lives to actually talk rather than sitting quietly in a service looking at the back of the head of the person in front of us.

After going through the process of leaving and starting to write on Done with Religion, I have had the opportunity to meet many new people from various walks of life, various faiths and religious beliefs. I have met many nice people that are LGBT and atheists as well and I am so glad to have done so.

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It seems to me being open to being friends with all people is so much better and interesting than feeling we are some kind of holy people who should stay away from others. It does not take long to realize that the labels that are placed on others do not completely described the person behind it.

Obviously, we are not going to agree on many subjects yet we can look past those differences and find many things we do share in common. We all want to have a meaningful, purposeful life. We all want love and friendship. We all want to get our bills paid, enjoy life and be happy. We all have causes and interests we want to promote and be successful at doing.

So rather than thinking you have to stand your ground on certain topics and separate yourself from others, look past those things and see the fellow human being in each person you meet. It seems much better to enjoy the friendships of all kinds of people in this life rather than let the differences separate us.

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As someone who has grown up in organized religion, I can honestly say that the institutional church has fallen way off course. What we call church today many times seems more like a large corporation run by a CEO and executive board.

We seem to be more focused on our programs, building bigger buildings, having a bigger and better worship band, getting on radio or TV and being a step ahead of the church down the street.

Variousbeliefs

Our churches today are so divided by denominations, doctrines and biblical interpretations that it seems we fight among ourselves more than anything. Many places there is literally a church building every mile or two from each other yet we cannot come together and our world continues to get worse and worse.

It amazes me how upset and defensive people can get when you mention that going to church is not a requirement. They seem to forget that the church is not a building and is not a place we go to, but the Church is the body of believers. Usually the first verse that is quoted when we talk about not going to church is Hebrews 10:25 – not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

Nowhere does this verse say that we have to assemble in a building on a certain day at a certain time. Nowhere does it say we have to have a pastor to teach us, or a worship band to lead us in praise and worship.

I feel that sometimes we Christians want to be entertained and told what to believe, then go home feeling satisfied that we have fulfilled our duty until next Sunday. We have become lazy and do not want to spend the time with God, reading His words and letting the Holy Spirit teach us. As 1 John 2:23 states – as for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you (the Holy Spirit), and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.

Jesus said where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them. That can be in a restaurant, in a home, in a park or any place believers join together. Many people put more emphasis on where we meet and not enough emphasis on spending time with the one we love. Why is it we feel the need to go to a building anyway, God said we are the temple of the Holy Spirit. God told us that He is always with us so why is it people say they are going to the house of God to meet with Him. We are the house of God and He is always with us.

Going to an organized religious building is not wrong, but we should call it what it is. The church building that people go to once a week is a place where the members of the Church get together. The Church are those of us who are saved through faith in Christ.

TheLoveofGod

So often we Christians can get more involved with the things about Christ, the services, the meetings, the up-keep of a building and the money to keep the bills paid that we lose sight of our first love. Jesus is the head, He is to have the preeminence. We should be putting our focus on Christ, loving Him with all our heart, soul, strength and mind and loving others with the love of God.

Stop the arguing over different interpretations and denominational doctrines and start loving others no matter what. It is then that the world will know we are His disciples and see a difference in the way we live as Christians.

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For those of us who have left the traditional church system, there can be times of discouragement, questioning and just plain not knowing what to do. Do not feel guilty for having such feelings.

I know that my wife and myself became fed up with the religious church system after spending over fifty years in it. Week after week we went to a pre-planned service, sat and watched only a few select people participate and listened to one person talk and tell us about God.

If was obvious there was a divide, a group of people who participated and a group of people who sat and listened. I remember thinking how spiritual the leaders of the church must be and how knowledgeable they were to hold positions in the church. I always thought I had nothing to say that would be important or helpful and I was so thankful for the pastor and the elders who seemed to have it all together.

As time went on I began wondering about certain verses in the bible that talked about each person having a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation.

Or what about verses talking about us as living stones being built up into a spiritual house, a holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. To me this says that all Christians are a holy priesthood and can offer spiritual sacrifices to God. All have the right to go directly to God through Jesus Christ our High Priest.

We are told that we are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people that we may proclaim the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.

All these verses and many others sure sounded to me that we were all capable, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit who lives within us, to be equals with all others who followed Christ. All can serve and fulfill a purpose in the Kingdom of God.

My wife and I came to believe that the divide we see in the Christian church was really very unbiblical. There are no first and second-class citizens of the Kingdom. There should not be a clergy-laity divide within the true Church that God is building through Christ.

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We were always taught that the church, the brick and mortar building people attend once a week, was the house of God. Yet the bible says that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit and the Kingdom of God is within us.

Finally making the choice to leave the church system, we decided to walk with God outside the walls of religion. This of course is a very unpopular decision in the Christian world. People have lost friends and fellowship with other believers because of this choice because those who are in the system feel leaving it is wrong.

I have heard of many people after leaving became known as back-sliders, people fallen from their faith and who have lost their relationship with God. When people find out we no longer attend a church they do their best to reason with us and try to get us back in line and back in the church system.

After three years being out of the institutional church, neither of us want to go back. We have found a freedom to live with God apart from the denominational requirements, various doctrines, the many man-made ways of following God and the thousands of interpretations of the bible that differ from church to church.

Over time God has brought people into our lives in ways we never expected. We are finding many new relationships online with people who have also left the church system. Fellowship is needed among us followers of Christ but that does not have to be done in a building on a set day and being face to face. In fact, we have had more meaningful relationships being outside of church then we did in it including online and face-to-face fellowship.

MindofChrist

If we believe the Holy Spirit lives within us, that we have the mind of Christ, and that the kingdom of God is within us then we need no man to teach us. The Spirit will guide each of us in the way he has for us to go. We are not going to all agree and walk in perfect agreement, but God leads each of us on separate paths yet leads us all into a close fellowship with Him.

For those with young kids it can be even more troubling because you are not sure what to do with the kids. Yet I believe that God will guide you and bring ways of showing the love of God to your kids whether it be in a group or in your family at home. I do not want to give out ideas for you to try because I believe the Spirit of God will guide and direct you in the way you are to go in teaching your children.

I do believe that God is big enough and personal enough to guide us outside the traditional church and the clergy system we have all know all our lives. It is a difficult road to go but it certainly seems to me a much better way to follow God and live for Him.

What decision you make in regard to attending church or walking outside the walls, remember both groups are children of God and trying to follow Him the way they feel is best. In church or out of church we all make up The Church, each of us equally important and equally able to let God love through us.

Focus of following God in the way he leads you, love others equally, do not think more highly of yourself than of others. Be open to let God lead you on the path he has for you whether it is in traditional religious ways or the unpopular way of living outside the walls of church and religion. Love and accept others as they are and let the love of God touch everyone you meet along the way.

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In a day when tempers seem to flare more often and people seem to be less kind to others, it does not take much to make a difference in the day of someone you meet.

We hear on the news and social media the acts of rage, discrimination, meanness, lack of respect and overall disregard for other human beings.

We have racial discrimination, gay people are made to feel like they are hated, religious people are made fun of, atheist are made to feel like an enemy of Christianity and on and on it goes. Yet underneath all the labels are human beings who are loved by God and are to be loved by us.

My feeling is no matter what you think is right or wrong, whichever way you choose to live your life there is no reason to treat others with judgment and condemnation.

BeKind

Being respectful, kind and accepting of others does not mean we always agree. We can treat others with kindness and as equals and still stick with our individual beliefs. We do not have to force our views on others and try to make them see things our way.

Being nice to people can change their attitude and outlook for the day. Giving others a smile, respect, doing a simple act of kindness can touch someone who is frustrated, depressed or just losing hope in the whole human race.

Rather than always being against someone or trying to force your views and way of life on others, put aside your personal beliefs and treat others with kindness and respect. To me that is following the example of Jesus and a way of encouraging a fellow human being who can then pass it along to others.

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What would you tell someone who asked you what a Christian must do to be pleasing to God?

A lot of people would start out by saying we must go to church, we must tithe, we must obey the ten commandments. They would probably say we have to witness to others and give our money to the poor and probably even some in the USA would say we must vote republican.

Seems like we Christians are hung up on good works and doing things in our own effort to be pleasing to God. If we are not attending church we are backsliding or if we do not tithe to the church we are robbing God. We have all these things we feel we should be doing to be pleasing to God.

OldandNew

I think many Christian’s forget that Jesus died on the cross to fulfill the Old Covenant. He said “it is finished” meaning the old covenant had come to an end. We could not live up to the requirements of the law so Jesus did it for us.

I think the real answer to the question what must a Christian do to be pleasing to God is…..nothing! We do not have to do anything because God provided Grace through Christ. We have become the righteousness of God because after salvation, our fellowship with God has been restored. It is not based on what we have done, it is all on what He has done.

We no longer have to try to keep the ten commandments. Those were a guide, or tutor to lead us to Christ. We no longer have to go to church because through Christ we are the Church. We can assemble together with other believers any day and anywhere. Christ lives in us and the Holy Spirit is our teacher and guide. We do not need to look to others for guidance and knowledge. We do not have to tithe our money because the old covenant has been fulfilled. We can now give our money out of love and to who and where God is leading us to give. We do not have to force every encounter with someone to witness to them because the Holy Spirit is the one who draws all men to the Father and since He lives in us, we can be open to allow Him to work in us how He pleases.

So many Christians today do not realize the freedom we have in Christ. They do not understand Grace and the fact that we are no longer under condemnation. We do not have to do things to be pleasing to God. We now live under the guidance of the Spirit and we do things out of love not out of obligation and trying to keep rules and commands.

Jesus said to love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself. We will still do good works but they are no longer done out of obligation, rule keeping or to earn our salvation. Good works will be a result of our love for God and for one another.

So many of us live day to day under condemnation because we feel we have not done enough for God. We feel we do not measure up because we cannot do something someone else does, or we cannot preach like someone else can. The fact is, God made us the way we are for a reason. The Church is the people who make up the body of Christ and we are all equal and have equally important qualities that God can use. No one is on a higher level than anyone else. We are all brothers and sisters and we are all under one leader, Jesus Christ.

Stop feeling like you are not pleasing to God because of something you do or something you do not do. Christ has provided Grace for all of us and there is nothing we can do to earn it or pay for it.

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We can rest in God’s love. We can enjoy daily fellowship with Him because He loves us. We can be assured that we are now in the Kingdom for eternity because of what Christ has done for us. We can stop depending on others who we think are on a higher level than us or who we think are closer to God. God loves each of His children equally. We are all capable of hearing and learning from the Holy Spirit who is within us. We do not have to wait until Sunday to hear from Him, worship Him or serve Him because we are the Church and every day is the Lord’s day.

Stop condemning yourself and trust God. Let Him teach you, guide you and live through you day by day. We are new creatures in Him. We now live in His Kingdom. Forget the worldly ways and the rules and regulations of religion. Love God, love others and follow Him each and every day.

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We know when the word church is used most of the time we are talking about the modern-day, organized religious organization that people attend on Saturday or Sunday. The traditional organized church with its many programs, leaders, pastors, rules and regulations.

We forget that the Church is not a building or an institution but a community of people who love God and love one another. Whether in church or out we are all one body with Christ as the head.

OneBody

I think an issue today among those of us who have left the organized church is to feel those who are still involved in church and those who think differently than us are our enemies. This is not the correct way of thinking.

People attend church for various reasons such as out of obligation, guilt, social purposes or because they have always gone to church. Yet there are many people attending church that truly love God and want to follow Him and show his love to others.

Many outside of church start thinking they are more righteous or further along in their walk with God than those who still attend church. This is a bad attitude to have and we should be loving and accepting of those who are our brothers and sisters in Christ no matter if they attend church or not. Just as those who faithfully attend church should not look down on those who have left the organized system looking at them as if they are backsliders or have lost their faith. Our Father will lead each of us in the way he has for us in his timing.

The important thing is our love for God and for one another. No matter what we do on Sunday mornings, whether we attend a church building or love God from outside the walls, our goal is to decrease to self, our desires and plans and allow Him to increase and love others through us.

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Romans 12:18 – If possible, so far as it depends on you be at peace with all men.

This sounds like an impossibility in our world today, to be at peace with all men including non-believers and believers. Sometimes it seems harder to be at peace with other christians due to the various differences in beliefs and interpretations.

denominations

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

The dictionary says of peace: a state of mutual harmony between people or groups, especially in personal relations: cessation of or freedom from any strife or dissension.

I think this is what God is saying, that we are to live in harmony with our brothers and sisters in Christ, 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 still have the common bond of being one in Christ. We are to accept one another in love and respect the fact that God works differently in each of us.

loveandpeaceIn regard to non-believers, we do not need to condemn them or force our beliefs on them. They do not need someone judging and condemning them or trying to force them to believe like us. We are to love them and let the Holy Spirit do the work that needs to be done in their lives.

If we believers could just understand that God speaks to each of us in his own special way. We do not have to live the way others live or based on what others think. We do not have to force our beliefs on others or argue with people who see things differently. We are to allow our Father to work in our lives and follow Him on the path He has for us.

Our responsibility is to love God and love everyone we come in contact with, accept them for who they are and pray that the Holy Spirit will work in their lives. Living in this manner would accomplished much more in showing the love of Christ to all of those we meet.

 

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