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Posts Tagged ‘Ekklesia’

So often when we talk about leaving church, people usually misunderstand why we made such a decision.

Far to often christian people who remain in the traditional church system automatically think we have left our faith, gave up on God or are in a back-slidden condition spiritually.

Rather than listen to our reasons and trying to understand, many are more interested in proving why our decision to leave was wrong. They try their best to encourage us to come back to God by going to church. Unfortunately many just write us off as someone to avoid and forget.

If they would only watch and listen a while they would see that we have not left God. We have only left a system that we feel is flawed and not what God intended. We have left the man-made system to follow God in what we feel is a more natural way by putting our dependence on the guidance of the Spirit alone without the middle-man known as a pastor.

We feel we no longer get much out of the weekly organized service with one person doing all the talking. A building where only a select few have anything to do with the pre-planned service.

Churchislifestyle

We feel that when we gather with others each of us should have a voice, some word of teaching or encouragement.

For those who are followers of Jesus, most of us grew up in the church system. That is all most of us have known. Yet it seems the Spirit is drawing many out of the system and into a more organic way of gathering. Church no longer is seen as a building or an organization based on traditions and doctrines of men.

Church is community, it is people living daily under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the love of God. It is coming along-side other believers for fellowship, encouragement and building one another up in Christ. This can happen anywhere and any day, in homes, restaurants, parks, pubs……even in buildings when all can participate and be used by the Spirit to encourage others.

For those still in the traditional system, please do not worry about those of us who have left. We have not left God. There is no reason why we cannot all accept one another and the choices we make in regard to attending a religious organization or following Jesus outside the walls of religion and traditional ways of gathering. Whether in or out of the institutional church, each of us in our own way are trying to follow Jesus in the way we feel he is leading us.

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Recently my wife and I were talking about some of our past church experiences. We also talked about some of our friends and some of the articles we have read online and the experiences others have had in the organized church.

We talked about how it seems many people mentioned being hurt or abused in the system. It is so sad that this happens in an organization that is supposed to represent the love of God. Yet many times people are abused and hurt and taken advantage of in the church.

church attendance

For myself and my wife our experience was pretty basic. We grew up attending a traditional denominational church every Sunday thinking that was the way God intended. We went to Sunday School and Junior church when we were young, then to regular service as we got older. We had friends we looked forward to seeing and we attended activities outside the Sunday morning service.

Through all the years we were involved neither of us were ever abused or hurt. We know things were not perfect yet there was never a reason for us to leave the church due to someone treating us bad or some event happening that made us mad.

That is why at this point in our lives we feel our choice to leave the organized church two years ago was because the Spirit has guided us along this path. We have come to feel the organized church is not what God intended when he said he would build his Church.

We were not chased away, we did not get hurt, abused or feel the need to get away. We were not over worked in the system or told to leave for any reason.

We came to a point where we were so unsatisfied with the same planned out service every week. We were seeing so much division within Christianity with all the denominations and interpretations. We saw judgment and condemnation placed on people rather than love and acceptance.

We know that christians are to be known for their love for one another, yet we saw so much arguing, fighting and disagreeing.

We read that when you come together each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up. Yet each week one person got up and did all the talking while all the rest of us sat quietly looking at the back of the head of the person in front of us.

We read that we are now the temple of the Holy Spirit who lives within us, so why did people call a building the house of God? The Spirit was given on the day of Pentecost when the Spirit fell upon those gathered together. So why do people tell us to come to church because God was going to show up and the Spirit was going to fall upon the place.

We finally came to the conclusion that the organized church, even though many good things happen there and there are many people there who truly love God, was not what God intended.

people are the church

God now lives within us. The Holy Spirit has come upon us and we are his temple. We go about each and every day with the Spirit of God within us and we do not have to wait for a specific day in a specific building with one person doing all the talking.

Church is a people who show the love of God to all people, all nationalities, all faiths, all religions, atheists, gay, straight, black, white and any other label we can think of to put on people.

Church is us. It is a community of people living in the love and power of the Spirit serving one another and encouraging one another.

In the eyes of God there is no denominations, no buildings, no office of spiritual leader, there is neither jew nor gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

No, we were not hurt or abused. We were not upset or mad at the pastor or anyone in the church system. We just came to the conclusion that there is a better way. God is building his Church and it is us, not a building or an organization. It is a living organism made up of his people with the Spirit living within them.

We decided that going to a building once a week was no longer for us. The idea of separating ourselves from other denominations and from those who do not attend a church or those who do not accept God was not the way we wanted to continue.

Living each day as part of the body of Christ with the Spirit leading and teaching us, accepting all people and letting the love of God flow out to others makes more sense to us rather than sitting in a building with like-minded people and then going our separate ways until the next week.

We certainly do not tell others to do as we do. Each of us has to follow the leading of the Spirit and do what we feel is right. There are many people within the organized church who love God and seek to do what is right. Yet for us we are happy to be outside the walls of religion living each and every day as equally functioning parts of the body with Jesus as the head.

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Originally Posted on February 1, 2011

As I become more inclined to follow my feeling that the church of today is way off base of what God intended, the organized, man-made denomination, the ‘religious’ church, I continue to come across books and websites that confirm my thoughts.

Take for instance the teaching of the church on tithing. We are constantly told we need to give our 10% to the church or we are robbing God. Wait a minute, that was in the Old Testament. Jesus came to fulfill the law and provide grace for us. Follow the following links and read a different thought on tithing:
http://freebelievers.com/article/tithing-is-not-a-christian-doctrine
and
http://freebelievers.com/article/rethinking-the-tithe

Tithing

Am I saying it is wrong to tithe? No. If you attend an organized church and you feel they are doing what God wants for them, yes, support it. But do not feel you ‘have’ to tithe. Do not let a pastor guilt you into giving because he uses some Old Testament verse to tell you that you are robbing from God. Give because you love God and want to give. Give 1%, 5%, 10%, 50%, whatever you determine in your heart to give. We are free to give the amount we determine and are no longer under law and required to tithe.

Why get so caught up on being in a building each week listening to one man (or woman) telling us what God is saying or what the bible says. Is it not written in the bible that we now have the Holy Spirit to teach us?

Am I saying it is wrong to go to church? Of course not. I do believe the modern-day organized church is not in line with what God intended, and I do believe we do not have to attend any organized church. Some will say the bible says do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together. That is true but it does not say you have to assemble together anywhere in particular. Meet up with other believers in a restaurant, or invite them to your home for a meal and a time of fellowship. That is what I feel the bible is talking about. Check this article to see what I mean:
http://freebelievers.com/article/the-flabby-body-of-christ-why-is-church-so-dull

In our day and age it is time to get over man-made religion and the church building being the center of our Christian life and realize there is more. Most churches today are more of a social meeting place or a big business than anything. We should focus on Jesus and build our relationship with him and realize that WE are the Church and the Holy Spirit lives within us, making us the dwelling place of God. We are the temple of God. We need to build our fellowship with God and with one another. This does not need to be done in a building with an organized service, but in spending time with our brothers and sisters in Christ, helping one another and talking about God and His love for us. Others should be able to know that we are Christians because of the love we have for one another.

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After over fifty years in the organized religious church system my wife and I decided we had enough. Let me make clear what I am talking about when I say church (lower c). I am talking about a building, a religious organization with a pastor and board of elders in charge, a place for people to gather who are somewhat like-minded in their doctrine and beliefs.

There are many reasons why people leave the church system. People are hurt, abused, burned out and frustrated with the whole system.

People get hurt by being misunderstood or treated wrong by another church member. Something was said or done that made someone mad and the hurt feelings got the better of them and they decided to leave. Maybe a church leader did or said something that was misunderstood and hurt the feelings of another.

SpiritualAbuse

Many abuses can happen within the religious organization. Leaders of the church can manipulate people and take advantage due to their position and how the congregation places their pastor on a pedestal. Other members can say or do something that hurts the feelings of others. We have all heard of various cases of abuse among church leaders and congregants over the years. Fortunately this does not happen everywhere, but it does happen more than we want to admit.

People get burned out because they are so willing to work for the church and they are asked to do everything. Sometimes every night of the week they are busy with the work of the church, many times not getting to do anything they want to do and even at times neglecting their loved ones. Once they finally say no they are treated like someone fallen from grace.

Others get frustrated with the church politics, the cliques among members, the pastor’s sermon style, the worship music or some other specific reason they are no longer interested in attending a particular church. Most times they leave and go to another church thinking they will find what they are looking for at a different building yet under the same setup.

Sometimes we just get tired of the same thing week after week so we leave looking for a different church style, seeking a different preaching style and wanting to meet new people.

There are so many various reasons why we christians leave a particular church and move on. Yet for my wife and me none of the above reasons where why we left.

We were not hurt, abused or burned out. We were not mad or frustrated with any person or teaching. After church hopping for a while we found we were just as dissatisfied no matter where we attended.

For us we had a deep feeling of dissatisfaction with the basic concept of the modern-day church. We felt the organized system was not what God intended when He said He would build His Church. His Church (capital C) is not built with hands, brick, mortar, denominations or doctrines. His Church is made up of each of us who are followers of Christ. Each of us are kings and priests in the Kingdom of God and we each can have something to say and do that will be an encouragement to others.

Jesusandmanasone

To us Church is a community of believers living each day outside the walls of the religious systems and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The Church is a community of people daily loving God and loving others as Jesus did while on earth. Jesus loved, cared for and respected people no matter what label they had attached to them.

The church organization is not a bad thing. Many people learn about God’s love there, many find fellowship and purpose there. It is a choice each of us has to make for ourselves.

For my wife and me, we had no more interest in attending a weekly meeting listening to one person do all the talking. We had no more interest in being stereotyped according to the doctrine of the church to which we belonged. We feel so much more freedom living for God each day outside the walls of religion, free to love people of all backgrounds and beliefs without being judged or condemned because we do so.

This is our decision. We do not say we are right and everyone else is wrong. It is a decision you have to make for yourself. The thing we all need to remember is whether we go to church or not, we as followers of Christ are all members of his Church. We need to stop condemning those who see things differently. Whether in church or out of church we are to love all people the way they are and even more so those who are brothers and sisters in Christ. We are to be known as followers of Christ by the love we have for one another.

If you go to church and are satisfied there, if you are learning about the love of our Father and serving others with your talents, do not seek to leave. If you are in church but are feeling dissatisfied and unhappy with the ways of the traditional church, leave and do not feel guilty about it. Either way let us not get into an ‘us versus them’ attitude because we see things differently.

We are each walking with God on the path He has for us. Not everyone will be on the same path. Keep seeking the guidance of the Spirit, love God and love others as you walk along your path each day.

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Ephesians 1:22,23 — And He put all things in subjection under His feet and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.

What stands out most to me is the description of what true church is, which is His body. It is not a building. It is not a place we go on a certain day. Christ is the head of all of us who are saved by grace. We are the church.

I do not see separation in this statement. I do not see denominations, buildings, programs and formal services trying to get people to come to us. I do not see separated groups based on doctrine.

I see a living, active group of people going out into the world day by day in the love and strength of the Spirit. I see a united effort seeking to show the love of God to all we meet each day.

Body of Christ

I see people looking to Jesus through the Holy Spirit for truth and guidance. No more looking to a man, woman or a group of elders for teaching and guidance. Christ is our head and the Spirit is our teacher. Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers, bishops, elders and any such leader mentioned are not positions of authority but are fellow believers who help encourage and build up their brothers and sisters through servant-hood example.

This leads me to think it is time to stop arguing over doctrines and interpretations. It is time to stop looking to other brothers and sisters whom we elevate into a higher position. We need to realize we are all kings and priests and able to teach and give a word to uplift one another. We need to allow God to live through us daily as we go out into the world and show His love to people who are hurting, who are outcasts and who need to be uplifted and encouraged. It is time to look past the labels we put on one another and see human beings who were created in the image of God and who need love, acceptance and fellowship with the Spirit and with one another just as much as the rest of us.

We are the Church, we are the people of God who are filled with the power and love of the Holy Spirit going out into our world showing that God loves them.

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For those of us who have left organized religion, I am finding a lot of us go through similar steps in the process.

There are months, or in our case, years of dissatisfaction and questioning. My wife and I knew for a long time something was not right within the church but kept thinking it was just us or the church we were attending. We would try different churches and find our feelings were the same.

Once we got to the point that we considered leaving church was very much a possibility, the next step was to really question ourselves. Thoughts like are we really Christians, are we backsliding, are we losing our religion? We began to feel something was wrong with us and wondered what others were going to think.

churchleftbuilding

Leaving church

Next was the decision to stop attending something we felt was way off base from what true Church should be. There were feelings to keep this to ourselves, do not tell anyone, just stop attending and keep quiet. In our case that was easy. We had been a part of a large fellowship for several few years but never got involved in other activities. We went to the Sunday morning service but did not attend small groups or any other activity. This made it much easier not having to explain our actions to anyone else because no one ever missed us. To those of you who have made this decision and were very much involved in all the activities, even pastors or leaders in the church, we applaud you for making such a decision.

Next came the ‘us vs. them’ mentality. We wanted to look at the organized church almost as an enemy. We would point out where they were wrong and why they were wrong. We wanted to associate only with those who felt the same as we did and did not want to associate with those still in the religious game. Obviously this is not the way to feel or treat people.

Acceptance of all People

The next step was realizing God loves all people not just those who attend a religious service every time the doors are open. God actually loves those outside the walls of the organized church no matter what line of thought, doctrine, religion or lifestyle they choose. Jesus came to love people and show each of us the love of God. We came to realize that we are called to love and accept everyone no matter what their beliefs just as God loves us. We no longer cared what people thought of our decision, we just wanted to love and accept each of them whether they are in church, outside the walls, or even if they are not believers at all. So many times while in religion we felt we were to love those who were believers, especially those in our own church. We now realize that God’s love is for everyone, not just Christians. We are to love and accept others just as they are, looking past the labels others put on them and seeing them as human beings.

We are sure this is not a complete list of steps, but it is as far as we are for now. We are thankful for the years we had in the church as we learned a lot and made a lot of friends. We are equally thankful for the decision we made to leave the church and focus more on the Church (ecclesia). That Church is made up of people who are saved by grace, following Christ, equally functioning parts of the body, and who touch others day by day with the love of God.

We are all on different paths in life, but we know that God is with us and leading us each step of the way. We continue to keep the faith, keep our eyes on Jesus, love others and be the Church each and every day.

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I remember when I was young, I was in a church service just about any time the doors were open. My whole spiritual life depended on whether I was at church or not. If I did not go, I felt guilty and made sure I was there the next time.

Churchattendance

I was always active and participated in many church activities. I felt it was my duty and responsibility to do all I could for the church. I felt that was the only way I could serve God and do what pleased Him.

After many years of being in the organized church system, my wife and I became disillusioned with the religious organization and became a part of ‘The Dones’. We no longer attend a traditional or organized church, and no longer put any hope or trust in religion.

Does this mean we no longer think it is right to be part of a church? Not at all, yet for us, we no longer are a part of it and we are very satisfied with the decision we made to leave. But that does not mean we expect everyone else to think the same way. We have several friends who feel the same way we do about organized religion, yet they want to continue to attend services.

Leaving the Organization

In our case, after leaving the organized church I have noticed a feeling of separation between church goers and non-church goers. After all the years we spent in the organization and all the friends we made, once we left it has been a struggle to overcome a feeling of us and them. Obviously we are all brothers and sisters in Christ and there should be love and acceptance between us no matter if we attend church or not.

If you still feel drawn to the weekly organized meeting, I do not see anything wrong with it. Although we do not believe the church system is designed as God intended, there were very many good things that came out of our time being involved. If you are going to be a part of a local church, keep in mind some important facts.

When going to church, you are not going to God’s house. God does not live in buildings made by human hands, but He builds His Church from living stones, which is us.

The pastor is not God’s mouthpiece. He or she is only a brother or sister in Christ, and their message is only their opinion. We have the Holy Spirit within us and He is our teacher and guide. We need no one else. It is good to hear other opinions and ideas, yet it is the Spirit that is to be our teacher and guide.

Bringing the tithe into the storehouse is not giving money to the church, and is no longer a requirement. We give out of love as we determine in our heart to give. If you give at the church you attend, you are not giving to God, but to support the organization and pay the bills.

Sunday is not the “Lord’s day”. Every day is the day the Lord has made, and no one day is more important than another.

The Word of God

The Bible is not to be held in the same regard as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The written word is inspired by God but written by men. All the translating men have done over the years, and men deciding which books are inspired and which are not, make it pretty clear that the bible is going to be flawed.  It is clearly stated that Jesus is the living, inerrant Word of God. The written word is a guide to lead us to Christ, but as Jesus told the Pharisees in John 5:39, You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me. They put the scriptures (written word) above the Living Word (Jesus).

When we are told not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together, it is not talking about an organized church meeting. It is talking about loving and accepting one another, and depending on one another. We do this in many different ways each and every day, not just on one particular day.

When you go to church, do not fall for someone telling you God is going to show up and the Spirit is going to fall on this place. God is everywhere and the Spirit fell upon mankind 2000 years ago. The Spirit of God is within us and with us all the time. He is not sitting on a throne up in the sky waiting for us. He goes with us each and every day, everywhere we go.

Realize that worship is not singing a few songs, raising your hands when the worship leader tells you to and reading a few scripture verses together. Worship is daily praising God, trusting God and letting Him be Lord of your life. To worship God in spirit and truth involves loving Him with all your heart, soul, strength and mind.

And do not give way to a prideful spirit, thinking you are more spiritual or a “better” Christian because you went to church. Going to a service is a choice, not a requirement and you are no better if you go, and no worse off if you do not go.

We are the Church

Remember, each of us are living stones and equal parts of the body. We are the Church and Jesus is the head of his body. As his Church we are to show God’s love every day to everyone we meet. If you want to attend a local group of believers there is nothing wrong with that. Enjoy meeting with other believers, enjoy the atmosphere but remember you are the Church, you have the mind of Christ and the Spirit of God lives within you. We are to go about our daily lives under the leading of the Spirit, loving God and loving others.

LovelikeJesus

So, rather than looking down upon one another: those who attend church thinking we who have left the organization are backsliding from our faith or have walked away from God. Those of us who have left church think those who still attend are stuck in a man-made institution and following doctrines and interpretations of man. Rather, we should realize that we are brothers and sisters in Christ and each of us are loving God and doing what we feel is right and best at this point. We should be loving and accepting of one another and let the world see the love we have for one another. John 13:35..by this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

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