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by PK LANGLEY, Guest Blogger
https://www.patheos.com/blogs/frustratedgrace/2019/07/quit-church/

I Would Quit Again

I’m not going to church anymore, I quit. God told me I don’t have to go and I listened. If you think God told you to go, then I suggest you go. I’m pretty happy about the fact that God released me. My life has been a lot less complicated since I stopped going. What happened to me after I stopped going to church was part of my deconstruction. It has been a wild ride, but one that I would take again gladly if given the opportunity.

I Was Afraid

The first thing that happened to me when I quit church was fear. My heart was afraid that God would be mad at me. I was afraid of falling back into sin like those who stayed behind told me I would. There was a fear of losing community. My loneliness from not being in active church life cemented those fears. Part of me was terrified I had made a mistake. I had taken a bite out of the un-churched apple. I had left, and had sealed my fate.

Where The New Covenant Lead

I quit the church initially because my eyes were opened to the New Covenant. Picture a step like that of Indiana Jones in “The Last Crusade” move, when he took a “leap of faith” across a great chasm, to find his aim; the cup of Christ. He stood there overlooking a plunge to certain death and put his foot out, leg straight and true, fully intending to take a step when he could not see where his foot would land. When his foot was stopped by a bridge he had not seen, he sighed with relief at finding his footing.

In the same way, leaving the church felt like that fearful step into the unknown. My family of forty years would not go with me. In fact, they would all turn their back on me with the “left foot of fellowship”. I was alone, but the spirit of God would show me that I could depend on our union.

I Tried To Find A Church

At first, after I quit my “home church”, I looked for a church that believed as I did. It’s no different than someone who chooses Baptist over non-denominational. When your eyes are open to the fact that tithing is complete bullshit, you can’t sit and listen as someone fleeces the sheep. There were other doctrinal issues that had pushed me out to try to find someone, anyone, who was walking in truth.

The further I went out, the more pillars began to crumble in the institutional church building. While hoping to find a body of believers that knew the truth and were walking in it, there were understandings breaking through my heart every day. Every church I tried to connect with was a complete disappointment. I couldn’t eat what they were serving anymore, my appetite had totally changed for the better. I felt like I had unplugged from the matrix and there was no turning back.

Church Came To Me

God was with me, and even though I had quit going to church, church started coming to me. I was living in an apartment and the smoke detector went off, leading me to call maintenance. A man showed up with his son to take care of fixing the smoke detector and the son noticed my guitar. One thing led to another and the young man ended up weeping and crying as I witnessed the love of God to him. We had experienced marvelous encounters, and none of them were inside a building.

The Wind In My Sails

A week later after the smoke detector surprise, three gay men who did not live at our complex, came in late at night to use the swimming pool. We went down for an evening swim, and we started talking with them. The love of God poured out between us, and there were tears. Every time I looked for God outside of the confines of a church relationship, I was not let down.

When I would start missing the fellowship that I had become so accustomed to inside the building, there would be a beautiful spontaneous expression that would be like a wind catching my faith sails. Whenever I was weary, God moments breathed upon my soul and I kept going.

The Ties That Bound, Loosed

Every time I had another epiphany about God outside of the church, I would become stronger. At times, it felt like learning to walk all over again. I always felt God with me, in me and through me. No longer did I need a pastor to show me how to live, I was spirit led all by myself and thriving. I began to find others that had left the church and were doing fine. Some of them were like me, trying to find their footing after thirty years of service. My life lost its co-dependencies and I started really walking in a spirit led life. My life was evidence of a spirit led life outside of the church building.

Demanding God?

That’s what’s scary for people. When you go to church, it pacifies some guilt that is embedded systematically by religion. It’s those twisted scriptures that really don’t mean what they say they do that twist the proverbial guilt blade. The, “Don’t forsake the fellowship of the brethren” verse is a good one. Other verses are used by the modern church as tools to keep people coming. If you told people they didn’t have to go to church, would they stay home? Today, where we battle for every second of time we can get, who wouldn’t stay home if they realized God wasn’t demanding their attendance?

They Did “Church” Different

When we go back to the beginning, you know that place around the time when Jesus rounded up a bunch of misfits; there was no building. At that time, there were no pastor’s in pulpits or apostles claiming they were more important than the seated pastors. There were no congregations, no tithe demands backed up by promises that God blesses the cheerful giver. Believers came together, loving God and each other in simplicity. People were going “from house to house” in spontaneous fellowship. That was what Jesus asked them to do, wasn’t it? Today, we have complicated and mechanized that beautiful relationship that Jesus perpetuated while he walked the earth. Puppeteers tell parishioners that “their reasonable sacrifice” is to attend church, and they not only believe it, they promote it defiantly as well.

I Was A True Building Disciple(r)

I promoted the institutional church agenda for thirty years and I know how we convince ourselves that “it’s true”. We parrot the same verbiage that we have swallowed. When someone refuses to listen, it becomes pointless to try to convince them of anything other than their truth. My life in ministry demanded that I was hard-nosed and defiant to anything that “threatened MY truth”. Now that I am on the other side of having my ears washed out with the soap of reality beyond religion, I look at those I have left behind with sadness and a desire to ask them to listen. It is for my brother’s and sister’s still in captivity that I write about life outside of institutionalism. Those who want to quit but are afraid.

Ask Yourself Ask yourself if you have ever wanted to sleep in. Have you ever heard the alarm go off on a Sunday morning and wished you could stay in bed another hour? Was there a time when you felt God nudge you in a direction, one that you excitedly shared with “leadership”, to find that they wouldn’t support you? Have you ever allowed yourself to question whether we are doing church right? Have you wanted to change church the way it is currently done? Did you want to quit? Questions lead to answers, if we allow ourselves to explore them. Religion is afraid of those who will ask questions, and are brave enough to discover the answers. My answer was to leave the institution and it was the right answer, for me. Can you be brave and admit that you have questions like I did?

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by Jim Gordon

The institution of marriage is such a great comparison to life with God. I think a lot of the time we miss some good points about marriage that directly relates to life with God. To many times we do not associate marriage with Kingdom meanings.

Actually, marriage is a shadow of spiritual things. Ephesians 5:31 and 32 state for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. The church being mentioned here is not a building or an organization. The Church are the people who Jesus brings together. It is not a weekly meeting but a living organism made up of those of us saved by grace. And though the verse mentions man and wife, I believe marriage is the union of two people who commit to each other in love.

One of the things I have been thinking about recently is how we are one with God. It is hard to imagine that our God lives within us. Jesus said when he left the earth, he would send us another comforter. Through his Spirit, he came to make his home within us and he is constantly with us.

We always think of God sitting on a big throne, way off in heaven somewhere and that one of these days we will go to meet and live with God forever.

The thing is, that is not what the written word tells us. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit, God’s physical dwelling place on earth. The Spirit dwells within us and will never leave us nor forsake us.

Now it is not saying we are God but we are one with God. The best way I have found to make sense of this is to think of marriage. When two individual people fall in love, make a commitment to love each other and live together the bible says the two shall become one.

Does that mean that the spouse becomes their partner, that they somehow become the same person? No, both people remain individuals yet they live as one. Same with us and God, we are still the person that was created yet because God loves us, God’s home is now within us and the Spirit of God lives within us. We are one with God.

In John 17:21 Jesus is talking with the Father and asks that they may all be one, even as You Father are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us so that the world may believe that You sent Me. Seems to me it is truly a marriage made in heaven.

We do not have to wait to a future time when we live with God in some far-away place. We are now living as one with God right now. We are the temple, the dwelling place of God and each of us are equally important parts of the body of Christ.

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by Susan Adams
https://blog.gracepodcast.cafe/surveying-the-carnage/
https://gracepodcast.cafe/about-us/

I’ve been thinking a lot about the carnage that has come out of evangelicalism. More specifically, Reformed theology, Calvinism, the homeschooling movement, the purity culture, and complimentarianism.

Who has suffered the most?  I believe without hesitation, that the children raised in these systems have been and continue to be, its greatest casualties.  We continue to receive emails from parents who have been broken by the system and who have grown children who have walked away from the faith and sometimes into atheism or agnosticism. Some of these children cut their parents off for a season.  Some, permanently. It’s painful, but I think necessary for the child to figure out who they are apart from how they were raised.  Some feel as though they have been brain washed their whole lives.  And maybe so.  Did we present one set of beliefs and hold them hostage to those beliefs, living in fear that they would somehow be corrupted by the world or even worse, another church with different theology?

I’m thinking too of the many who homeschooled like we did.  Many believed they were raising up little warriors for God.  Girls were taught that their value before God hinged on their presenting themselves as virgins to a man.  And if they weren’t virgins on their wedding day, they were damaged goods, considered less than.  They were also taught that their entire identity as women was gauged by their constant submission to a man, regardless of how abusive the relationship might become. They were compelled to follow that man, helping him to achieve all of his hopes and dreams while she stayed home and had babies.  I’m not saying that staying home and having babies is bad, I’m thankful I was able to stay home with my children.  But what if I had a choice to pursue my dreams too?

So not only were they held hostage to our theology, but to our worldview and political agendas as well.  We presented a life and a God that fit neatly in a box. Our children lost their identity, if they had ever known it to begin with.  I see one of the biggest results of being raised like this is anxiety and sometimes depression along with it.  They don’t know who they are.  They don’t know what it’s like to be belong to something, only how to fit in so they can be accepted.

So they leave.  Leave the church and sometimes their families.  And many leave their faith and sometimes stop believing there’s a God.

I came from a broken home.  Deserted by my dad.  Raised by an abusive alcoholic.  I was a shattered human when I met Jesus.  So why was I able to have an adult relationship with my parents and care for them when they died?  What’s the difference?  Why are kids who were raised in homes where divorce didn’t happen, where mom stayed home to cook and clean for them and sometimes homeschooled them, walking away from it all?

So I think for me, even though I was abused as a child, often told I was worthless and would amount to nothing, when I met Jesus  He was presented to me as a Savior, not a judge.  Loving, not critical.  And so I experienced real healing and I understood real forgiveness.  I was not a disappointment to God.  So I had someone to go to after my abuse – Jesus. 

I think the difference is their perception of who God is.  From an early age these kids have had it drilled into their heads that God is a legalistic God who is easily offended, usually angry, disappointed, and vindictive.  And our children are taught to conform.  They are taught to drink the Kool-Aid  and if they don’t they are labeled as the rebellious ones.  The outsiders. The outcasts.  That’s a lot for children to grow up under.  That’s a lot of expectations put on the small shoulders of children.  They aren’t encouraged to find out who they are but instead told to be like those we want them to be like.

And let’s not forget that each child in our families is different,  unique in their temperaments and personalities.  That while some kids seemingly make it through and carry on the traditions, their siblings may have been crushed and broken under the weight of it all.  But when we say our children have walked away I believe you can never leave Jesus.  Nothing separates us from him.  He’s with them.  He’s got them.

When this generation of kids hit rock bottom, who do they run too?  The God they’ve been told about isn’t loving.  He’s disappointed in them. So they leave.  Leave it all.  You may be thinking this isn’t true.  This isn’t what was taught!  Until we’re willing to admit that this was the message caught nothing will change.  At some point we need to examine why this is happening in such large numbers.  I think we need to admit our culpability in this.

So what do we do now? How do we handle what’s happened to our children?  We love them.  We support them.  We give them space when they ask.  We respect their boundaries.  We be there for them when they come back.  We don’t expect this to happen fast. It may takes years but we love.  We pray they can see how kind and sweet Jesus is.  We don’t judge.  We don’t try and fix.  We just be there.  Accepting them as they are.  Just like Jesus did with me back when I first met him.  He continues to accept me just as I am.  No matter where they are, we love, we support and we respect their journey.

I regret ever having raised my children in religion.  I wish I would have looked at each one as the unique person they were created to be and encouraged them to live their lives.  I wish I would have never picked up a Christian parenting book or program where the only goal was to tame and train children to live in a box.  A box created by a religion of morality. 

When I was at my darkest  and I thought I had lost everything, a very wise friend said to me – “Just because its like this now, doesn’t mean this is what it will be like five years from now or even a year from now.” She was right.  So I encourage you to rest in the One who loves your children far more than you ever will or could.

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by Jordan Hathcock

“When our institutions lack movement to propel them forward, the Spirit, I believe, simply moves around them, like a current flowing around a rock in a stream…without that soul work that teaches us to open our deepest selves to God and ground our souls in love, no movement will succeed and no institution will stand.”-Brian McLaren

It looks like we have come to the undeniable crosswords between the institutional church and the movements that have shifted forward. Ever since Jesus started a movement within the Jewish institution in Jerusalem 2,000 plus years ago, this “odd couples” relationship seemed doomed from the start. Both sides of the spectrum will have their reasons why one cannot work attached to the other. Do we have to let go of one to allow the other to flourish?

Without letting my bias opinion get in the way here, I would like to propose that both the institutional church and the movements that come out of it, can work together to bring about the shalom Christ attended all along. Unfortunately, when I hear some type of sympathy for the *Western* (just to get a little more specific) institutional church, I cringe! The numerous stories and historical proof of the pain and horrible damage the institutional church in the past two thousand plus years has done, it’s hard not to throw the baby out with the bath water.

Here are just some reminders of what I am referring to:

– Religious wars

– Slavery

– Colonization

– Witch Trials/Burnings

– Racism

– Inquisitions

– Antisemitism

– LGBTQ+ inequality

– Nationalism

– Consumerism

– Environmental Destruction

This is just some of the systemic issues the institutional church has produced. How this has negatively affected groups, communities and individuals is catastrophic when comparing it to the Spirit of love and wholeness that the movement Jesus produced and represented. It’s more like we are participating in damage control instead of producing new ways to bring about healing and liberation.

What are we to do with this? Can we really see a healthy “marriage” between the institution and the movement? I believe we can. Here are some amazing examples of when the institution and movement worked together to bring about the kin-dom—God’s liberated, the liberation of God at work among people, the good news for those who suffer at the hands of kings–of love:

– Abolishment of Slavery– Although many Enlightenment philosophers opposed slavery, it was Christian activists, attracted by strong religious elements, who initiated and organized an abolitionist movement. [1]

– Civil Right Movement– Spearheaded by a Baptist minister, Martin Luther King Jr. proclaimed that “any religion which professes to be concerned about the souls of men and is not concerned about the social and economic conditions that scar the soul, is a spirituality moribund religion.” [2]

– Hospitals and Hospice Movements- The second great sweep of medical history begins at the end of the fourth century, with the founding of the first Christian hospital at Caesarea in Cappadocia, and concludes at the end of the fourteenth century, with medicine well ensconced in the universities and in the public life of the emerging nations of Europe The first hospice was set up by Christian nuns in 1900 Ireland. [3]

These are just a few of the examples when people within the institutional church decide to take a stand and move toward compassion in action to ignite a shift towards peace and love. It has and can work. We are seeing several Christian Denominations (brick and mortar institutions) coming together to welcome and affirm the LGBTQ+ community into the church. We are seeing Christian clergy standing by the Black Lives Matter movement. Look, I know this relationship has a long way to go. But we cannot deny that by working together, we are seeing this partnership make a difference for the better.

In conclusion, let me just point out two verses from the Christian scriptures that Jesus, at first, seems to totally contradict himself:

“Believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

Vs.

“And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

Not to get to long winded here but let me just point out that both statements from Jesus are true. Yes, it doesn’t matter if you worship (to adore) here or there (building or beach) because the church is not a building or a beach: it’s us! We are living stones building up the New Jerusalem that is coming down to our reality in the here and now.

We have resources that we all need to make this kingdom reality happen. This comes in all types of “institutional/movements” shapes and sizes. It comes in building funds so we can produce possible food shelters for the homeless. It comes sometimes just from those individuals own time and effort when standing with activists for social justice causes.

In the end, we are all human looking to bring about what we believe the True Human started over two millennials’ ago. We will always have the more conservative or liberal approach to the Christ-vision. Let’s trust that we will ALL listen to the call of honesty and authenticity in discovering the fruit of our vision in action…

“The movement we need is not like a wave whose incoming is inevitable and we just need to catch it. It’s more like a ship that can be built from available materials: if we catch the desire for adventure, get organized, and collect and fashion the materials, we can soon set sail.” [4]

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by Jim Gordon

Does done with religion suggest that we are done with God? For those of you who have followed our postings for some time, you know better. Yet when people hear done with religion they often times think that means done with God.

So many people associate religion, Christianity, church and God all as the same thing. Christianity is a religion and going to church and participating in the religious activities are part of people trying to follow rules and commands to be a better person.

For us here at Done with Religion we see things differently. Religion and the things people normally think of when they hear the word is a man-made way of trying to know God and earn his love. They are still trying to obey rules and follow the old covenant commands that were part of the covenant that Jesus fulfilled.

We are done with religion. We are done mixing old and new covenant teachings. We are done trying to do things to be good enough to earn God’s love or to pay him back for what he has done for us. The new covenant or agreement that went into effect at the resurrection is one of grace. Jesus restored our fellowship directly with God and there is nothing we can do to earn it or pay him back.

We believe the Church is made up of the people, a community of believers who walk daily under the headship of Jesus. It is not a building people meet in once or twice a week. We believe the Holy Spirit of Christ lives within us and guides us. There is no longer a reason to look to religion as a means to get closer to God. We no longer need a middle man or pastor as a mediator. We no longer choose to sit in an organized meeting being quiet and listening to a chosen few talk. We are all priests, we all have something to say and something to do. We no longer do anything out of obligation but out of love for God and our fellow mankind.

We also know there are many within the traditional church system who are there because of their love for God. The church is all we have known and many still feel that is where they need to be. For them they need to stay within the system and worship God there, but still understand what church is and is not.

Yes those of us who have come to see the system as a flawed way to God, we are happy to be outside the walls of religion. To be clear, if you are within the church system, love God and are serving him out of love and grace that is good. If you have left the organized church and you look to the Spirit for guidance and teaching and you understand that you are the Church, do not feel guilty. Do not let anyone tell you that you are wrong, or fallen from grace or backslidden. You are an important and necessary part of the body of Christ (the Church) just as much as those who attend a church building.

Whether in an organized church or outside the walls of religion, it is important to realize the difference between the old and new covenant. Many church systems teach a mixture of these and this should not be. A good book to read that explains the difference is Clash of the Covenants by Michael Kapler. If you are within the church system check out the differences so you will know if your pastor is teaching correctly about who you are in Christ.

Yes, we are done with religion. We have made a choice to leave the church system and walk outside the walls of religion. No, we have not left God. We love him and depend on him daily. We realize we are now his Church. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit. We no longer depend on rules and commandments to guide us since we have the Spirit living within. It is now a life of loving God and loving our fellow human beings and living in unconditional love (not always agreement) with all people.

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by Jim Gordon

If you have spent anytime in the institutional church system you know something about tithing. Tithing is talked about in every church whether it is every week, every month or only a certain time during the year. We need to remember there is a difference between tithing, giving and financial support.

I remember feeling guilty because I felt I could not afford to tithe. You know, the real tithe, ten percent of your income and that was not take-home pay that was ten percent of all you made.

I can remember one church we used to attend the pastor would have the ushers count the money after the offering and if there was not enough in it he would tell them to pass the plates again. Another church we went to the pastor told the congregation they needed to give one month’s salary to support a special building project they had going.

Now I know not all churches go to that extreme, but all churches will talk about the tithe. What bothers me about all this is that the tithe is an old covenant teaching. I believe that tithing is no longer something we need to worry about. We no longer have a storehouse to bring the tithe into. Many teach that the church is the storehouse but that is certainly not the case. If you read more about what tithing was and what the purpose was back in the old testament you will see it is no longer for us.

The church is not a building or storehouse. God does not live in buildings made by hands. We are the temple of God and he lives within us. The Church that God is building is not a religion or institution or organization. The Church is made up of the community of believers who live for God each and every day by the guidance of the Spirit that is within us.

I have no problem with giving. In fact, we are to give but we are not to tithe. Giving is done out of love, it is done out of caring. It has no set amount and is not an obligation for us to fulfill.

cheerfulgiving

If people decide to attend a church building and be part of the religious institution that is OK as long as they know that it is not God’s house and tithing is no longer required. If the pastor would just be honest and tell the people that they are part of an organization that meets in a building and it needs their support. They have bills to pay, salaries to meet, utilities to pay and expenses that have to be paid if they are going to run the organization.

What upsets me is when the pastor tries to guilt the members into giving their money because they are giving to God, or they are told they are robbing God by not giving their ten percent. They are told to bring the tithe into the storehouse so that others can be helped, then most of the money goes to pay the expenses of the organization. Just be honest and tell them there are expenses that need to be paid and if you are part of this group you need to help pay the bills.

I could go along with that much better. I could go along with being told we need to financially support the organization to pay the bills. Beyond that we are free to give what we feel is right and directly to people who need it without going through the organization who takes its cut.

So, for those who are still in the institutional church give your money as financial support of the organization. There is nothing wrong with that, but do not think you are giving to God. Do not let the pastor guilt you into giving because you are robbing from God. The old covenant has been fulfilled and we now live by grace in the new covenant where tithing is no longer needed.

Follow your heart and give to others out of love and as you feel led. If you attend a religious organization then give your money to financially support it, but do not feel guilty or be guilted into giving money out of any obligation. You are free to give as you see fit.

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by Jim Gordon

Since doing the article on abuse in the church I have come across several people who have left the church system but not because of abuse. Unfortunately, abuse does happen and it is terrible especially within a place that should be known for its love.

Yet, even more than stories of abuse the one comment that seems to keep being said is that ‘I left because something just did not seem to be right. I felt there had to be more’.

I think this is a common feeling among those of us who have attended church for some time and have seen some things that just do not make sense. Sitting in a service once a week looking at the back of someone’s head does not make a lot of sense when in the bible we are told when we come together each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. Yet that does not happen. We all sit quietly listening to one person participate.

BetheChurch

God said he is building his Church from living stones, or in other words from us. Church is people. It is not a building nor an organization. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit and if the Spirit of Christ lives within us, why are we just sitting letting only a few participate?

Many people are coming to the realization that the organization we know as church is flawed and not what God intended. We seem to be putting our focus on the pastor and the organization rather than emphasizing the Spirit of Christ who lives within us. We are to allow him to love others through us as we go about our daily lives. People are getting tired of just sitting along the sidelines when we can walk daily with the Spirit of Christ walking with us.

The Church that God is building is a living organism, many people making up one body under the headship of Christ. The church that many attend is an organization made of brick and mortar, doctrines and denominations and led by human beings. Many good things happen in the church building but the body of Christ is an active, living body where everyone has an equal part to play. Rather than attend a pre-planned service once a week we are to be living daily under the guidance of the Spirit. It is by his power from within that we can show the love of God to everyone we meet.

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