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Posts Tagged ‘church’

by Michael Donahoe

Have you noticed how many people seem to only include their preferred group? They only include people who think like them, have similar interests and likes. If you think differently or have different views and opinions, people feel you should stay in your own group with like-minded people, but leave the other group alone.

We seem to find this attitude in every walk of life, but within organized religion or institutional church it seems even worse. We all should be accepting of people in general in our daily lives. Yet, we see this so often within Christianity with the wide variety of denominations and interpretations of the Bible.

When it comes to including people who we see as completely different from us, African-American, Native-American, White, LGBTQ, Atheist, Muslim, Jew and so on, we tend to want to keep each group separate. We think as believers in God we need to separate ourselves and not associate with those who see things differently. Why is it the word inclusion seems to make so many Christian people cringe?

Really, behind all the labels we put on people we are all basically the same, so why not associate and get to know people who we feel are different from us? We can learn from one another, get to know one another and find that we really are not all that different.

We see Jesus do this all the time when reading the gospels in the Bible. He did not differentiate people based on their religion, belief, lifestyle, sexuality or nationality. He did not separate himself from those who thought, believed and lived differently. He loved and accepted all people and showed them the love of God.

Obviously loving and accepting people does not mean total agreement, nor are we going to always get along in life and live happily ever after. Yet I believe it does mean treating others the same, with respect, kindness, acceptance and with the love of God through the power of the Spirit within.

Inclusion is not a bad word. It is not a bad or unholy way to live. Inclusion is about ALL of us. Inclusion is about living full lives – about learning to live together. It makes the world our classroom for a full life. Inclusion treasures diversity and builds community. It is about our abilities – our gifts and how to share them. Inclusion is the way of God and the way of showing the love of God to all we meet.

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Michael Donahoe was added as a writer as his views fit perfectly with those of Done with Religion. He also writes on Substack at https://myopinionblog.substack.com/

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By Mike Edwards

I wrote the below for my children a couple of years ago. It is much longer than my usual Posts. I am sharing here in case you can relate and maybe be encouraged that changing your views of God can be a wonderful and worthwhile journey.

What I remember growing up was being made to go to church all dressed up. We often as a family went to church three times a week – Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday. (My kids would have killed me). I hated going to church so much! Though I wasn’t close to my Dad and Mom, I do give them credit for introducing me to my Creator. They were very much traditionalists or old-fashioned and not easy to get close to.

Looking back, it is surprising I was into God as much as I was after I left home and headed to college. I am still into God to this day for whatever reason. It certainly isn’t because I am more moral than others. I just think each has their own journey with God – it is neither a sign of strength or weakness. I still haven’t figured out why some are inclined to believe there is a Creator and what some aren’t. If inclined to believe there is a Creator, I don’t know why some pursue a closer relationship with God and others don’t.

I wore my beliefs on my sleeves beginning in college. I am sure I offended a few. I felt compelled to inspire them to have a relationship with God. I assume that was partly because of what I was taught about heaven and hell growing up. It didn’t take me long to no longer believe in a literal Hell. Jesus didn’t come to earth to save us from being tortured forever. 

I graduated from college in 1980 and got married in 1982. I was born in 1957 in case wondering. The best thing that happened to me going to college, though my parents made me go or live on the streets, was meeting my wife. One reason we married was because we shared the importance of having a relationship with God. We still have that connection, though my beliefs about God have changed a lot. I can’t stop the questions in my head about what God is really like. My wife accepts more what she has been taught and I must confess – she is more like Jesus than I probably am. Okay, maybe 60-40!

We took our children to a church on Sundays when they were young. We encouraged them to attend smaller meetings within the building with people their own age, but they mostly chose to hang with their parents in the big room where adult sang and listen to preaching. We let our children when older decide whether to go to church on Sunday.

I am not sure if I went to church out of guilt all those years, but not going to church didn’t feel like a choice. The institution of church worked for me for years and continues to work for many, but people need to feel free than obligated to pursue God on their own terms. Obligatory relationships are seldom life transforming. I am convinced the Bible doesn’t mandate followers must go to a church building once a week. The “church” in the New Testament actually refers to those individuals who choose to follow Jesus. The church (individual) doesn’t go to a church. The church seeks to encourage one another. In the NT this tended to happen in homes of followers. 

We attended Church until I was around fifty or maybe sooner. My views about God begin changing shortly after graduating from college in 1980 and getting married in 1982. Attending Seminary for a year in 1981 was an important year in my life. I became exposed to different beliefs about God than what I had been taught growing up going to church. I was so impacted that professors were open to teaching and admitting different opinions existed. I will never forget being impressed that three professors at Trinity wrote a book together on the end-times. They all had different views and that was okay. In my early years I was never introduced to the possibility of different views than what being taught. I had to learn that on my own.

I can remember a pastor I respected greatly telling me a sign of leadership was being certain about what one believes and teach that to others. I know though they went to seminary and surely read biblical scholars that didn’t always agree what the Bible teaches about God. I think leadership is letting others know there are many possible views according to the Bible on a matter. One must be allowed their own journey in deciding what they believe about God, unless their God encourages beheading due to unbelief.   

The reason I eventually decided to stop going to church was because when I opened my mouth, I would offend leadership.  There was not a lot of open dialogue in the building when it came to discussing different views of God. I am not one to keep quiet when I don’t agree, but I knew it wasn’t healthy to always be divisive. I simply got tired of trying to fit in. I couldn’t pretend my beliefs weren’t changing. I couldn’t pretend that I didn’t think certain beliefs being taught actually lead people away from God than toward God.

I doubt I will go back to church. I haven’t found a church that allows honest, open dialogue different from their own beliefs. They seem to assume unity requires agreement. My wife would like to find a church we both could attend, but I doubt such a church exist that we could co-exist. I still dig the woman though! I believe God simply encourages us to find others to encourage us in our spiritual journey. That doesn’t have to be on Sundays in a building.

I begin writing about my changing views about God in my twenties. That seem bizarre to me looking back because I am not a good writer and had not written much before. But I loved sitting and writing down my thoughts of what I thought God was really like contrary to what I had been taught. I suppose it was a form of communication about God that I couldn’t have with others.  Church buildings are uncomfortable talking about beliefs different than theirs. I hated that people may be tuning out God for the wrong reasons. Blogging my thoughts became my outlet.

I begin to question if Hell was real, if God condemned gays though that question came later, whether God really favored men over women for leadership roles, if the Bible really was somehow magically infallible or inspired by God though not dictated. I doubted Jesus died because God was pissed at us for sinning and we were going to Hell if not believing in Jesus as our Savior. See here for my main beliefs about God  http://what-god-may-really-be-like.com/what-i-believe/

In my twenties I weirdly wrote a 100-page paper opposing Calvinism (God chooses who goes to heaven) and no one was requiring such a paper. I wrote a lot about God’s views of women and that I didn’t believe God thought women should be submission to men any different than men should be submissive to women. It probably had something to do that I was married to a strong woman and I had two daughters that I didn’t want to be at a disadvantage to men. I sure as hell knew men weren’t smarter than women.

Eventually, a friend Tim helped me to create a website/blog around 2008. I called it https://what-god-may-really-be-like.com/ I also begin blogging at  https://donewithreligion.com/  in 2018. I named my blog as such because I wasn’t claiming I was right about God, though I feel strongly about my beliefs, but I wanted to encourage open dialogue that I never experienced being in church and still don’t to this day with friends who are into God. They grew up with beliefs about God that I have left but they haven’t. 

I am not sure why I am not lonelier concerning my spiritual journey. I am very much isolated from family and friends in my beliefs about God. Family and friends who are into God have beliefs that I felt compelled to leave beginning in my twenties. I don’t bring up God much with them because I have experienced discussing my beliefs are discouraging to them. I just don’t feel a freedom or openness to believe as I do as opposed to what they have been taught growing in the institutional church. I don’t sense the institutional church encourages individuals to develop their own beliefs as I try to encourage others to do.

Then, I have friends who simply aren’t into God all that much. They aren’t looking to have spiritual conversations, and I don’t wish to push such an agenda if they aren’t interested. I would definitely attend a group who desired having open dialogues about God, but I have not found such a group at this time. I am also open to leading such a group should such an opportunity present itself. Most those who want to have spiritual conversations attend institutional churches, and when I share my beliefs I find myself being more divisive than encouraging.

This is my spiritual journey. I am now retired for 6 years and still love reading, talking, and writing about God. I try to write a Post on both above blogs once a week. I used to write more often but once a week seems right for now. I can’t stop the questions about God popping in my head. I can only hope the questions I ask online are others’ questions and it may help them in their journey.

My Spiritual Journey These Past Six Decades

MikeEdwardsprofilepic125

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

 

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by Jim Gordon

If you grew up in church, have you ever thought about the idea that maybe we were told some wrong things and taught some wrong interpretations? Maybe some of the doctrines we have followed were incorrect?

Most of us who have been in the church for any length of time know how the system works and it is really all we know. We listen to a pastor and figure they know what they are talking about because they were “called by God”. They went to college to be taught by another human everything about God.

For myself and my wife, the longer we were in the institution the more we felt uncomfortable and began questioning some things that just did not seem to fit together. I remember having several questions over time about doctrines and various interpretations that no longer made sense to me. I knew if I asked the pastor or others in the church, they would think I was wrong for questioning and would say I was falling away from my faith.

As we spend more time outside the walls of religion, we have come to find that some of what we were taught all those years just might not be the way God intended. Spiritual leaders might have taught some wrong doctrines all based on human interpretation apart from the Spirit.

We have found that asking questions usually leads to more questions. I think it is time we stop relying on a pastor or spiritual leader to tell us all about God and start thinking for ourselves. We have the Holy Spirit within us who was sent to teach us. We have the mind of Christ, so why do we still think we need another human being to tell us all about God.

There is nothing wrong with discussing thoughts and ideas with other people. It is not wrong to hear different views and interpretations. We can certainly learn from others and they can give us other views to consider. Yet, we should follow the guidance of the Spirit and do not totally rely on the teachings of others.

I have found that being certain usually means we think we have it all figured out and there is nothing more to learn. This could not be further from the truth. A book I read on certainty, which was a big help in understanding and accepting questions and doubt was The Sin of Certainty by Peter Enns.

We will never know all there is to know about God and we will never figure everything out. But we can continue to learn and be drawn to the truth by asking questions, talking about our doubt and by our reliance upon the Spirit.

Ask the Spirit to lead you into His truth. Do not be afraid to ask questions. Do not be ashamed of your doubts. God is big enough to handle them all. Remember, we are all equally functioning parts of the body with Christ as the head. We do not need to rely on another human being to teach us about God. Listen for the quiet and calm voice of the Spirit and seek His guidance.

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

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by Jim Gordon

We are nearing another election season here in the USA. Each time election time comes around, I get aggravated seeing churches endorse candidates and allow politicians to come to their service and talk or be recognized. This is just another sign to me that the modern-day Christian church is off base and involved in things they should not be. There is separation of church and state for a reason.

I am not saying we as individuals should not be informed and that we should not vote. Each person should take the time to know what the candidates stand for, and then get out and vote for the ones they feel will do the best job. Yet, that does not mean churches need to be the ones to endorse candidates and issues.

The Church (“Church” meaning each individual believer) is here to love one another and show the love of God to all we come in contact with. The church (“church” meaning organized religion/building) is just another big business today. It is time the church stops allowing politicians to come in and be recognized as another way to get their name in front of voters. The “church” needs to stop being just another big corporation in America, and be there to encourage the “Church” to start being what God intended, a people sharing the love of God with everyone.

Another reason the church should not be involved with politics is, unfortunately, politics in general is a major divider between people. Most people who are Republican think the other party is a danger to our country, while those who are Democrat feel the same about the other party.

Rather than work together for the good of the country, there is more time spent on overcoming the power of the opposite party. I see more fights and arguments over political views. I see friends and even families separated because of their differing political ideas. Sadly, politics is certainly something that divides and brings out the worst in people.

Obviously, no specific politician or political party will be the answer to all our problems. It will take politicians and political parties working together for the common good of the people of this country. Finding such politicians will be up to the people who will get out and vote for politicians who are willing to do what is necessary for the good of us all, and not just a specific political party.

In all of this, I feel the job of the church is to focus on spreading the love of God to all people and not get bogged down in the game of politics which can cause further division among the people.

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?

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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by Jim Gordon

Those of us who are living outside the walls of religion and institutional church have found a freedom we sometimes cannot explain. At least we cannot explain it in a way that people who still attend a church building seem to understand.

The problem is those who still attend the traditional church do not accept the fact that everyone is different and sees things in various ways. They usually want to stay away from us or talk about how we have backslidden and fallen away from God because we do not do what we have traditionally been taught was godly.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. We are worshipping and loving God just as much as before, only in a different way. We have not left the Church (Ekklesia) but we have left the building (church). Jesus is building His Church out of ‘living stones’ and not with brick and mortar.

My wife and I left the church because we felt the system was not the way God intended and we became unsatisfied with the way things were going. Yet, we never left the true Church which is made up of all of those who are believers.

Each of us has an equally important part to play in the body, yet no one is the head over anyone else. Each of us are functioning parts of the body and we are all needed and important. Of course, only Jesus is the head of his Church, not a pastor.

Those of us who have left the traditional church are often told we need to attend because we should not forsake the assembling of ourselves together. Yet this verse does not mean we have to be in an organized, pre-planned service led by a pastor and a worship leader. It is saying we need our brothers and sisters in Christ. Whether we meet on a Monday at a café, Tuesday in a home, Thursday at a bar or Friday in a park makes no difference. Jesus said for where two or three gather together in my name there I am in their midst.

For us true and meaningful fellowship happens each and every day when God brings us together with a brother or sister, or when we meet up with another couple for dinner. It also may be a time of one-on-one fellowship online with a brother or sister hundreds of miles away yet bonded closely through the Spirit.

We are so conditioned to think of the church building and its scheduled events as the main way of fellowship and learning. We are told in the Bible that when we come together each of us should have a word, or a song, or a praise, but how often does that actually happen within the institutional church? Being outside the walls, my wife and I have found this to be the norm. We all talk, we encourage one another, learn about each other, pray for one another and we support and care for each other. Fellowship is everyone having a part to play and everyone being open and talking about who God is to them. It seems that sitting quietly in a church service does not fulfill what God intended fellowship to be among his children.

A vitally important thing to remember for those of us who have left the church organization is that we should not have a feeling of ‘us vs them’. We need to keep in mind that those who attend church are doing so because they love God and feel they are doing the right thing. We are all children of God, whether we are in the institutional church or out of it. We are all various parts of the Church that Jesus is building and we each need to follow the leading of the Spirit for ourselves.

As people of God, we are to love God and love others. We cannot do that in our own strength but by the power of the Spirit within us. Sadly, it often seems we have a problem loving our brothers and sisters in Christ and an even greater problem loving those who see things differently.

I pray that all of us can keep in mind that we are children of God, saved by grace and living in His kingdom now. Whether we are ‘in church’ or outside the walls, let us focus on our love of God and for one another. The world needs to see the love of God in action among those who follow God. They do not need to see arguing, fighting and the disrespect that is sadly, so familiar among Christians today.

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

Do you not give a damn how others feel or how your actions impact others? Color me God then. You are a wretched soul and your behaviors disgust me. I doubt though that is you because you wouldn’t be reading a spiritual blog. Church folks are familiar with hymns that describes us humans as “filthy rags” in the eyes of God. Does God really view us as evil from birth and has to put on Jesus-colored glasses to even look at us?

Does the Bible really claim God is pissed and views you as scum?

Some of us were taught at church that a loving God thinks we are sinners from the day we were born (Doctrine of Original Sin). See here.  Such a view could only come from a book such as the Bible. Anyone can point to verses to defend their view of God. Google to find verses that describes God a wrathful and revengeful God. But I could point to Isaiah 54:10: “…my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed, says the Lord, who has compassion on you.” Jesus says He judges no one. (Jn. 8:15). This doesn’t sound like a “pissed” Jesus. I am convinced a loving God can only love how an earthly parent ought to love their child.

Did God create us to be better lovers than God? 

It is only intuitive a Creator loves how their creations ought to love one another. Even the Bible implies perfect human love and God’s love are the same: “Be perfect, therefore as your heavenly Parent is perfect” (Mt. 5:48). “Follow God’s example…” (Eph. 5:1). If I discover my child is bullying someone at school, I detest the behavior not them. If we find out our kid is using drugs, do we hate them or what the drugs are doing to them? I don’t sense the Bible as a whole describes God as loving us but we don’t really deserve it. God, like human parents hates unloving actions.

Views of God shape our attitudes toward God toward others 

If we think God is hard to please and pissed off about sin rather than what sin is doing to us, we may stop going to God when failing. God desires perfection for our own sake but surely celebrates our victories along the way. Our image of God can dictate our actions. If God can do Hell, we may think we should emulate God in our attempts to judge and punish. If God punishes us forever (Hell) for sins briefly while here on earth, aren’t we teaching others to fear God rather than experience God relationally like they would a human parent?  I am not convinced such a Hell is biblical. See here. Imagine what you believe a perfect God is like in your life and the lives of others. You may be right!

Is God Pissed At You For Being A Sinner?

MikeEdwardsprofilepic125

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

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by Michael Donahoe

Growing up in church and the Christian world, I always felt I had some fairly important facts figured out about God. I always thought that what I was taught in church was the absolute truth and complete facts because, after all, the pastor was called by God and the pastor should know everything. Where God lived. Where I would go when I die.

Yet, as time goes by and I become more open to actually questioning some of what I was told in church, I have come to think of some of these things a little differently.

We are taught that the house of God was the church where we went to worship and learn about God. We were told that God was a man sitting on a throne somewhere out there in what we call heaven. We were told when we die, we would go to heaven to live with God forever.

I think we are missing some important truths in regard to these matters. We as Christians often take what we were told in church and think it is fact. We will fight and defend our views when people disagree, yet we really have no actual proof of some of the things we so quickly defend.

As I read more and think about things, it is clear we are missing some very important topics Jesus talked about. He said the Kingdom of God is within us, he said he was sending another comforter who would teach us and guide us. He said that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit and we have the mind of Christ. We tend to skip over these statements and continue to look to outward expressions of where God lives and what life after death will be like.

I think we are missing the fact that God is not somewhere out there, sitting on a throne. God does not show up now and then in a building that we call church. God is spirit and God is not a man or woman with a physical body. Although God does have male and female attributes, God is neither. We need to remember the customs and ways of life during the time the bible was being written. Men were in charge and women were usually considered property. The writers would naturally use male terminology for the God they were writing about.

As spirit, God does not live in a specific physical place. We are the closest thing because we are the dwelling place of the Spirit, yet God is everywhere. Physically speaking, we are God’s body, hands and feet on this earth. We know God is with us because God said we would never be left alone or forsaken by God.

Again, we seem to be so sure of the things we know about God and the afterlife, yet we really have no proof. It is all by faith, and many of it is our personal interpretations of bible verses or which pastor we listened to and followed. Rather than take a stand and argue with people about things we really do not know for sure, accept the fact that others have different views and opinions and there is no need to fight and argue over things we really do not know as facts.

There is nothing wrong with saying we do not know, there is nothing wrong with uncertainty. There is nothing wrong with questions and doubts. God is able to handle them all. We take by faith that God has what is best for us planned. We take by faith that there is a spirit world and we will be with God once we leave this earth. Take comfort in those thoughts, but also do not force your beliefs on others. Allow them the freedom to make up their own mind and follow what they believe.

God has given us free will to choose for ourselves who we will serve and what we will believe. Let us remember to do the same for our fellow human beings. The only thing Jesus told us to do was to love God and love one another.

Let me close with a few words by my friend, Chris Kratzer on the matter:

“If we search for God’s heart in the Scriptures, we open up a world of personal opinion, conjecture, and unresolvable debate.

If we search for God’s heart in the annals of Christianity history, we open up a trail of inconsistency, human fallibility, and religious conquest.

If we search for God’s heart in church, we open up a door into unending interpretations, conditional relationships, and spiritual franchising.

Yet, if we search for God within us, we find Her mind, we find our rest, we find ourselves, and we find our purpose.

We cannot know God outside of ourselves until we discover Her within ourselves”.

https://myopinionblog.substack.com/

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by Jim Gordon

The institution of marriage is such a great comparison to life with God. I think we often 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. In Ephesians 5 it relates marriage to the church when it reads, this mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. The church here is not a building nor an organization. The Church that is mentioned are the people who follows Jesus. It is not a weekly meeting; it is a living organism made up of those of us saved by grace.

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

We always think of God as sitting on a big throne, way off in heaven somewhere and that one of these days we will go 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. God’s 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, whether straight or gay, 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 God created, yet because God loves us and we love God, the Spirit lives within us and we become one with God.

In John 17:21 Jesus is talking with God and says, ‘that they may all be one, even as You 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 living as one with God in the Kingdom right now. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit, we are the dwelling place of God, and each of us are equally important parts of the body of Christ.

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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