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Posts Tagged ‘fellowship’

by Jim Gordon

Most of us have heard or read the bible verse found in Hebrews 10:25, which reads, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the day approaching. This verse gets quoted a lot when it comes to church attendance.

Once someone hears that my wife and I stopped attending an organized service each week, the first thing we usually hear is this verse quoted.

Truth of the matter is, I do not think this verse is even talking about what we call church.

As I have stated before, church is not a building or a place. Church is the people of God, those of us born into His kingdom by grace. Church is not an organization; it is an organism. Church is not a one-day event, it is a daily lifestyle of people loving God and loving others.

When reading the verses preceding Hebrews 10:25, you find it is talking about grace and how we are now granted permission to enter into the Holy place, not a building, but the very presence of God. This happened when Jesus died and the veil was torn from top to bottom.

To me, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together is saying that we need our brothers and sisters in Christ for encouragement and to stimulate one another to love and good deeds. It has nothing to do with an organized religious service in a building. It has everything to do with loving, communicating and encouraging other Christians as a daily norm.

Photo courtesy of Priscilla Du Preez
on unspash.com

When you think of countries where Christianity is against the law and churches are closed down, do we think the Christian people are wrong for not attending an organized service every week? They get together in small groups in houses or where-ever they feel they can meet safely. It may not be more than two or three people.

Jesus said where two or three gather together in my name, there I am in their midst. We do not need buildings or large groups of people to fulfill this verse about assembling. We do need each other, no matter if it is meeting at home, meeting for dinner at a restaurant, or getting together in a park. The important thing is to love God and love one another and be available to our brothers and sisters in Christ to encourage and build them up.

Let me make clear, I am not against church or those who attend. My wife and I were part of the weekly service for years, but over the past few years, we have found that for us, it makes more sense to be outside the walls of religion and seek meaningful fellowship each day with our brothers and sisters in Christ rather than to continue sitting in a pew listening to a select few participate. We believe in the priesthood of all believers, and that it is a daily lifestyle, not a weekly event. Every one of us are equally important parts of the body and we are to be ready each day to support, encourage and love our brothers and sisters in 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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by Mike Edwards

It isn’t easy leaving the institutional church when you are still into God and church has been a part of your life for years. Leaving can be almost an impossible choice. Where else can you share your beliefs and love for God? Not all outside relationships share the same interests in God. If you voice differing opinions about God in the church building, you often face rejection or doubt from those who love the same Creator. You don’t want to be divisive, but you are sick of pretending. 

I got tired of being told to “not major on the minor”

What the hell is so minor about believing a loving God tortures those who don’t believe in God while a short time here on earth? What is minor of denying women use of their gifts who clearly can preach and teach better than some men? Not my damn wife and daughters! It’s a big deal to condemn gays in God’s name though they have no choice who they are attracted too. 

I got tired of being told to believe in the Bible or else

Sorry. I am not convinced all what the writers claims about God is true. It can’t be proven writers got God right or wrong. Interpretations are debatable though extremists never admit they could be wrong. But that’s not the point. One writer claims God supposedly ordered the murder of women, children, and infants in war (I Sam. 15:3). God supposedly approved a wife’s hand being cut off when grabbing another man’s genitals (Deut. 25:12). Not questioning if writers always portrayed God accurately has led to killing infidels in God’s name and justifying wars throughout history. 

I got tired of a lot more things 

I got tired of the lack of open dialogue. If I opened my mouth about disagreements about leadership’s views of what a loving God is like, I felt I was being divisive and pulling others down. I don’t mind disagreeing. That is my nature. But I am not looking to force my views on others.

I got tired of being preached to where I couldn’t ask questions directly to leadership. Church morning fellowship works for some. Not me. It didn’t deepen my relationship with God. I need more discussion with those whose opinions everyone else is buying into.

I didn’t mind being challenged to help the less fortunate, but I got tired of the majority of the budget going for salaries, facilities, and great children’ programs. It is my responsibility to guide my children in their relationship with God.

I got tired of having a hidden agenda with those outside the church. Sinners, believe or go to Hell!

Okay, I love not having obligations on Sunday and not having to dress up 

Why shouldn’t I give up certain Sunday obligations when I am miserable? I rather cut the grass, play tennis, or whatever. I can try to find fellowship in others places. My relationship with God isn’t about an institution or day of the week. It’s a daily, hourly relationship. 

The last straw!

At the last church I attended, which was a megachurch with respectable leadership, I begin helping with a group involving newcomers that had questions about God. Perfect for me! I am a pretty open-minded guy. I enjoyed having open discussions about God but that wasn’t always comfortable for leadership. My co-leader believed exactly what church leadership did. I was treated nicely, but they didn’t think best I continue to help lead such groups. The truth was I was more qualified because of my readings and background leading groups than other leaders. But newcomers were attracted to the church because of the beliefs of the pastor and church leadership. I don’t feel called to create dissension for those seeking to have a relationship with their Creator for the first time often.

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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Where I found connection after I left the church

by Jim Gordon
As published at Backyard Church

Photo by Suzanne Emily O’Connor on Unsplash

The word ‘fellowship’ is just another one of those Christian buzzwords that you almost never heard outside of the church. We hear the word fellowship often and we all have our ideas about what it actually means to fellowship with others.

For me, growing up in the church world taught me about the need for fellowship with other believers. Of course, this fellowship was reserved for the weekly gathering inside a building on Sunday. I remember thinking that real Christian fellowship was sitting there each week, listening and watching others perform for God, then shaking hands with someone while on the way out the door.

For many years while within the institutional church, I never thought about fellowship in any other way than what I had been taught. Fellowship was with people who believed just like me. I always felt it may be dangerous to associate with people who believed differently or did not believe at all. After all, they may cause me to fall or backslide in my faith.

Now That We’ve Left The Church, Where Do We Go?

After many years of an uneasy feeling and not being satisfied with our church life, my wife and I decided to leave the organization and live outside the walls of religion. After leaving the church, my wife and I wondered where would we go for friends and ‘fellowship’

I found an answer in an article my friend, Rocky Glenn wrote entitled ‘Fellowship and Community’ in which he talked about fellowship within the church and leaving that church fellowship. He says:

“Two of the most common questions asked when others learn you have made the conscious decision to live the Christian life outside the walls and confines of a traditional church building are “Who do you fellowship with?” or “Where do you find community?”

These questions show how conditioned we have become in the institutional church to speaking our own language and seeing the world through the lenses of our stained-glass windows. The two terms — fellowship and community — are rarely heard outside the context of church. For example, have you ever invited a coworker to dinner or for a drink by asking them if they wanted to fellowship? When you are sitting in the stands at the high school football game, do you often lean over to the guy sitting next to you and explain how happy you are the two of you can experience community together? While each of these examples, by definition, constitutes the term used, we do not speak in such a manner on a normal basis and to do so would actually be quite silly. To fellowship with another is to have a friendly association over shared interests.

Rocky’s statement shows that fellowship can and does happen outside the church walls. It can happen in a restaurant, a bar, a football game, or on a street corner.

Photo by Kevin Curtis on Unsplash

Once my wife and I began to realize that fellowship happens anywhere, it did not take long for God to bring people across our paths in places and at times we never expected.

We were sitting in a local café one morning relaxing and drinking our morning coffee when we noticed two men at the next table. One was a young long-haired hippy-looking guy talking with an older gentleman. We could not help but hear their conversation at times and we kept noticing that they were talking about God and life in Christ.

After some time of listening, we decided to politely ask about their conversation and found that the younger guy was in a Christian heavy metal band. He had left the traditional church a few years ago and was living outside the walls of religion like us. This was an encouragement to us because it showed us that God can provide people for fellowship at any time and in any place. We just need to be alert and ready.

What Is Fellowship?

Fellowship, according to Merriam-Webster is a company of equals or friends; the quality or state of being in a comradery. Over the years of sitting in a church service, I never saw fellowship take place that matched up to this definition.

For the usually meaningless talk that goes on at a Sunday morning church service, there is no way that meaningful fellowship will happen.

Fellowship is more than listening, more than having similar beliefs or doctrinal views. It is getting to know people for who they are, even if it means they see things differently. It is being yourself and having people accept you for you. It is caring and responding in meaningful, respectful ways.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 states, ‘Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up, just as you also are doing’. As this verse tells us, fellowship is to encourage each other and build one another up. It is not totally agreeing or seeing things the same way. We are to be a positive help to our fellow human beings.

In our world today, people seem to want to stay separated into like-minded groups. We see it in all the various denominations in church, we see it in all the various interest groups and social groups. Everyone wants to fellowship only with people who are like them.

Finding Fellowship In The Wrong Places

Looking back on it now, I can see that I had more fellowship with my non-Christian friends in the backyard or at school than I did sitting in a religious service each week. I passed up many opportunities in the past to meet with people and in places that had nothing to do with church or any religious activity. Due to my religious upbringing and understanding that fellowship took place in church, I felt a little guilty about enjoying fellowship with others outside of church and with people who were not always so like-minded.

Fortunately, I have found that fellowship can happen anywhere and anytime. It does not have to be within the confines of an organized service in a church. In fact, it normally does not happen there. God brings opportunities each day to talk to people and share love and acceptance. What we need to do is erase the concept that fellowship only happens in a church service. We need to be alert to the leading of the Spirit and ready to greet people with the love of God.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

It seems that people just want to be heard and accepted. Even those who are quiet or a little introverted will open up and talk when they find someone who is genuine, caring, and truly listens. Often, one person listening can bring about the most meaningful times of fellowship.

A Religious Man, A Morman and A Truck Driver

(and no, they did not walk into a bar)

Just the other day, my wife and I heard about a young man who was returning to his military base after leave. Unfortunately, he was involved in a serious car accident and died due to his injuries. Our local town was honoring this young soldier by having residents line the streets as his hearse and small motorcade passed by.

While we were standing on the street corner waiting, we met a few people we never thought about running into. First, there was a man who was obviously religious. It was interesting talking to him knowing we had some commonalities in our faith. Yet at times it was obvious he had some beliefs that were very traditional and strictly religious. The good thing was we were outside the walls of a church and were able to talk and express ourselves without getting into a big debate over doctrine or denominational beliefs.

While we were talking with this gentleman, two young men came walking up and stopped to talk a minute. They were both dressed in white shirts with ties and the same style of pants. It was very obvious they were Mormon missionaries. It would have been easy to ignore them or tell them we were not interested and get them to move on.

Fortunately, we did not do that. We were nice and accepting to them and talked about a variety of topics. I think they were a little surprised that someone would actually carry on a conversation with them without debating or arguing over their beliefs. We actually had a very nice talk for about fifteen minutes and learned a little bit about each other apart from our differences in doctrine.

Not long after the missionaries moved on, an older gentleman walked up and asked what was going on with all the people lining the streets. We told him what was happening and he decided to wait and pay his respects also. He started talking a little about himself and told us he used to be a truck driver. Once he noticed that my wife and I were really listening and paying attention, he suddenly opened up about several personal issues and the pain of losing a child when he was younger. We ended up talking another twenty minutes about his family and his history and hopefully made his day a little brighter.

What Does Real Fellowship Look Like?

The purpose of talking about these encounters is to show that God can bring people into our lives for the purpose of fellowship when we least expect it. Who knew when we stood on the street corner to pay respects to a person we did not know, we would have personal encounters with three separate people and enjoy times of real fellowship with each of them?

Fellowship is no more than listening, responding with kindness, caring, and showing the love of God. We all can do it if we take the time to pay attention to the needs of others and show them we are interested in what they have to say.

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Fellowship really is not hard to do. Be yourself and allow other people to do the same. Be respectful, kind, and share the love of God in a way that makes people feel they matter.

The Last Word

Fellowship can happen anytime, anywhere, and more often than not, it does not happen within the confines of a religious service. Fellowship is not just a Christian happening; It is for all people.

There are so many people in our world who are hurting or confused and just need someone to listen to them. Be ready, be alert and follow the leading of the Spirit to show love and accept people for just being themselves. Something so simple can mean so much to someone who needs a little fellowship.

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

If you have grown up in the organized church system and later change your views, what do you do with all your all friends who are still in the system?

Sometimes the first thought is to separate from them. They no longer understand you so why be a part of them?

To this I say that the bible says to forsake not the assembling of yourselves together. I do not believe that means we need to stay a part of an organized church and attend their meetings. I feel it means we still need our brothers and sisters in Christ. This is not done through a Christian organization on a certain day of the week. How much fellowship can we really have sitting in an organized service listening to one person do all the talking?

We need a daily interaction with believers for encouragement, strength, prayer support, helping others and sharing the love of God to lift one another up. We need communion with other believers, and not necessarily always about spiritual things. Just good old fellowship and communication on a number of topics: spiritual, our various concerns and needs, funny things and basic conversation.

I honestly feel we should not separate ourselves from those who think differently from us, but sometimes it cannot be helped because they will cut us off. They tend to think we have lost our faith or have fallen under the lies of the devil.

When my wife and I left the organized church, we did not leave God. We still believe in Jesus, in loving God and loving others. We love our brothers and sisters who are still in the organization and believe we still need each other.

We do need to get past the us versus them mentality and accept one another whether we attend a religious organization or not.

If they feel we have lost our faith or walked away from God, it does not mean they are our enemy. We are still to love them and do our best to get along and support them. If they choose to stay away from us, there is nothing we can do about that, but we cannot write them off and forget them. We still love them, pray for them, and go on with our lives sharing the love of God with them any everyone we meet.

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by Jim Gordon

So many followers of Christ today live like they are under the old covenant. Most traditional churches seem to place more emphasis on the old covenant and rule following.

We have been brought up in the religious system that seems more like a corporation rather than a community where the priesthood of all believers should be the norm. The church has a pastor, elders and deacons just like a corporation has a CEO, board of directors and operating committee.

We still have the mind-set that we are living in the old way of doing things. A lot of us still think the church is a building we gather in and listen to a ‘chosen few’ tell us what God is saying.

We tell each other to ‘have a good Lord’s day’, thinking Sunday is the chosen day to set aside to worship God and to rest.

We look to the bible like it is part of the trinity and we worship it and use it for all kinds of rule keeping, judging and condemning others.

We tithe ten percent to the church, thinking God requires it from us and if we do not give the tithe we are robbing God.

Jesus completed the old covenant and brought it to an end. He made a new covenant with his creation, which we are now living under.

Jesus is building his Church, which is made up of people not brick and mortar. It is a community of believers with Christ as the head and each of us are equal, participating members. Now that may happen anywhere and anytime, in a building, in a house, in a park, a restaurant and so on. The fact is that Church is not an organized meeting in a set place at a set time, but it is a fellowship and relationship among fellow believers, no matter if there are only two or three.

Each and every day is the day the Lord has made. Every day is holy and for resting in the work God has already done. The idea that the seventh day is holy is just not true in the New Covenant.

The bible is the inspired by God. Although God inspired men to write, it is still a book written by men. It is the Spirit that gives life and meaning to those words. If the Spirit is not enlightening us and teaching us the words do not have life.  Jesus is the living, all powerful, inerrant Word of God and he lives within us by his Spirit.

Tithing was a law given to the Jews in the old covenant. It is no longer part of the new covenant. Giving out of love as the Spirit leads is the way we now live. God does not need our money, but giving to those who do, out of love is a way that is pleasing to God and a help to others.

It is disappointing that many continue to teach the old covenant way to believers today, although it is understandable. All of us alive today do not know anything different since this has been taught for hundreds of years. Not until the Spirit opens our eyes and leads us in His truth do we see this new way of living by his grace.

Seek God’s truth, ask the Spirit for guidance. Do not be condemning and argumentative towards fellow believers who see things differently, but be open to what God shows you. Do not be close-minded and continue to do things just because that is the way we have always done them.

The Spirit is within us and he is our guide into all truth. Be open to hear his voice and follow in the way he leads you. Do not be condemning towards your brothers and sisters in Christ who follow a different path. It is the same spirit that leads us, and we are all called to love one another.

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by Jim Gordon

I grew up in the traditional church environment and followed the religious teachings and doctrines over the years. I have seen a lot of things that I now question and wonder why things were done that way.

Over the years many of us have come to see God as a big super human person sitting up in heaven just waiting to punish us for our mistakes. We see him as being impersonal, judgmental and many times as someone to fear.

Yet when we think about the life of Christ and know he was sent from God to show us what God is really like we come to see God in a different way. When we read about how Jesus lived and treated people we see him as loving, compassionate, kind and accepting. Jesus came to show us that God is the same way.

After Jesus left this life on earth God sent the Holy Spirit to live within us. Think about it, God in Spirit form lives within us and among us right now. He is not a super human person way up there somewhere but He is Spirit and is right here within us.

God is not out to get us and punish us every time we mess up. I think God gets a bad reputation from some of the writings in the bible. I believe men, although they were inspired by God threw in some of their personal views. Obviously if you were inspired by someone to write a book you would still write it from your perspective. Anything man has a hand in is going to be flawed. The bible is inspired by God and when combined with the leading of the Holy Spirit it is purposeful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness, and in guiding us to the living Word of God who is Jesus.

Rather than running around being afraid of God and waiting for the judgment of God to fall, look to Jesus and see that God is love. Whenever punishment is needed it is only for our good and it is done in love. Just as a loving parent sometimes punishes their child it is done in love and for correction that is for the child’s own good. We are not waiting to be destroyed by a God who loves judgment and condemnation. We are living with a God who is love, who created us and who wants the best for us during our time on earth.

Stop being afraid of God and seek fellowship. If you hear a pastor telling you that God is out to get you and that you had better shape up or else, get away from there and find brothers and sisters in Christ who will be encouragers and who will help build you up rather than condemn and scare you. Fear of judgment will not lead you into a loving relationship with God. Only true, godly love will be what draws us into fellowship with God.

God is love. For those of us who are followers of Jesus we should also be known for our love. As Jesus said in Matthew 22:37-39, And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Live a godly life by loving people. Rather than being known for judgment, condemnation, hatred and what you are against, show the love of God. Be kind to all people and be known for your love of your fellow human beings.

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by Jordan Hathcock

“That’s the thing about friendship, it’s a lot rarer than love because there’s nothing in it for anybody.”

It’s hard to imagine not experiencing the amazing journey of friendship. We all can become a little oblivious when it comes to the incredible gift of what relationship truly is. Let’s not forget, many individuals don’t even get to experience genuine friendship throughout their lives. As study shows, more and more people are not developing meaningful friendships and thus, not able to create healthy communities that are able to thrive.

From the American Christian context, we can see this type of loneliness is also causing an abandonment of healthy church experiences. People become isolated due to the abundant number of rules and regulations pressed upon congregates. When it becomes more of an exclusive club instead of an inclusive party, things can get desolate pretty fast.

Here are some examples of how church communities create loneliness and isolation:

  • People don’t feel safe enough to connect (LGBTQ people for example)
  • Churches make groups with walls and the walls need to come down
  • People with unseen illnesses cannot always attend church services, which makes it hard to connect with others
  • People who have less feel like they are the only ones
  • Some people are not extroverts. But they still need connection.

These are just few on the many issues that the church at large is producing when it comes to isolation and loneliness. What gives? What can we do to counter this onslaught? Well, many have left these churches and have found freedom and friendship outside the religious walls. Out of these groups, you still have Christ participants and others not so much. I get it. When people have been burned by the religious institution, what we call church, it’s hard to come back to some type of faith.

The nones and dones are finding healthy friendships and that’s awesome. But, some are not. On top of that, some are still wanting that communal community to embrace. I think for those disenfranchised, the Body of Christ (i.e., a loving community) can still play a role in bringing about healthy friendships that in turn create healthy communities. It really boils down to effort and time. Let’s look at this verse from the Christian scriptures:

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.”

A lot of directions we can go with this. Like did Jesus really consider his disciples slaves (more accurate translation of servant)? Or, did he truly make known everything about God to them? But the direction I want to go with this is the whole context of this verse is showing that the thing that lasts is LOVE (no greater than by laying down one’s life for a friend). Yes, love is always the default message throughout Jesus’ teachings: “This is my command, love one another as I have loved you”.

To become a people of true friendships, we must come to the realization that love is the only action to bring us into this reality. Duh, right? Yes, love is getting the final word nowadays and that’s good! But, agape love is different then a love that is a two-way street transaction. It is unconditional. People have a hard time grasping that, I know I do. It’s no easy task! It’s fucken hard! The question is: do we want to take it there to a systemic level? Hard to say. But isolated loneliness is a very difficult place to find oneself in and to claw out of.

There are many avenues and connections that need to be accomplished to combat this issue. From Jesus’ perspective, friendship is the place he seems to trust in to find the reality of the call: Earth as it is in Heaven. We cannot see the New Creation come into full reality unless we heed to this call of authentic camaraderie…

“Friendship is unnecessary like Philosophy, like Art it has no survival value rather it is one of those things that give value to survival”- C.S. Lewis

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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 Rocky Glenn

Two of the most common questions asked when others learn you’ve made the conscious decision to live the Christian life outside the walls and confines of a traditional church building are “Who do you fellowship with?” or “Where do you find community?”  The problem is the questions themselves are indicative of how conditioned we’ve become in the institutional church to speaking our own language and see the world through the lenses of our stained glass windows.    The two terms are rarely heard outside the context of church.  For example, have you ever invited a coworker to dinner or for a drink by asking them if they wanted to fellowship?  When you’re sitting in the stands at the high school football game do you often lean over to the guy sitting next to you and explain how happy you are the two of you can experience community together?  While each of these examples, by definition, constitute the term used, we don’t speak in such a manner on a normal basis and to do so would actually be quite silly.  To fellowship with another is to have a friendly association over shared interests.  Community is defined as a group of people having a particular characteristic in common.

Recently Jim Gordon and I had the opportunity to speak with Mike Adams on The UnSunday Show to discuss our journeys outside the traditional church and exactly how community looks now.  For the three of us simply recording the podcast together was an example of both fellowship and community.  This post is simply a small introduction to our conversation and to share the opportunity for that conversation to be heard.

I hope you enjoy!

Leaving Religion, Finding Ekklesia: A Conversation with Rocky Glenn and Jim Gordon

Rocky

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by Jim Gordon

I recently listened to a YouTube video by Richard Jacobson and in it he mentioned veal crates. I had never heard of that before so I checked it out a little. It was interesting reading about veal crates and it got me to thinking about another type of box.

What I found was that veal crates are a close-confinement system of raising veal calves. Veal crates are designed to limit movement of the animal because meat turns redder and tougher if the animals are allowed to exercise. In some veal crate systems, the calves are kept in the dark without bedding and fed nothing but milk.

Veal crates seem to limit the calf from being able to move about and roam in much larger areas thus getting exercise which would cause the animal to strengthen. It also keeps them from contact with other calves and under the control of the person raising the calf.

VealCrate

Personally, this makes me think of the institutional church. Before we go any further, I want to point out that I am not an enemy of the church. I was part of the institution for over fifty years and very involved, so I can speak as an insider rather than someone who knows nothing of what I am saying. I do believe the institution confines us and limits the freedom God intended us to have.

I also realize that people cannot just up and leave because someone else says they should. It is a choice between the person and the Spirit. I believe there is specific timing as to when and if someone leaves the religious institution. I know for me it took fifteen years or so of being dissatisfied and thinking there had to be more. As Barbara Symons mentioned in her book ‘Escaping Christianity: Finding Christ’, “There is a need for all of us to experience restriction until Christ is formed within—like a pearl within an oyster, closed tightly until the time of harvesting. Before I understood this principle, I tried to convince others to leave the system as I did and in retrospect, it was before their time. I felt like a cage fighter; only my opponent was the cage itself. I was battered and beaten by trying to dismantle the religious system from the inside out as I tried to liberate those still within its grasp. I now understand that people will remain within restraint as long as they need to”.

People are brought into the box of religion and kept there to support and grow the institution. Once inside the box they are taught what that particular denomination believes or how that specific pastor thinks. Sometimes they are kept in the dark and only fed the milk of the word rather than the meat that gives them strength, knowledge and the ability to hear the Spirit for themselves.

Many times, people are restrained from being free to serve and use the gifts they have been given. Therefore, due to lack of exercise of using their talents they become weak and have no confidence to do anything other than what the institution says.

Most of the time they are only having fellowship with those within the box and usually encouraged to avoid fellowship with people who see things differently or do not go along with their way of thinking.

Outofthebox

Rather than enjoying the freedom God has provided outside the box and a life of accepting others and loving others, they are kept inside. By doing so they learn to exclude people, avoid certain people and are only fed the knowledge the institution and pastor wants them to know, all with the purpose to keep them from leaving.

It seems to me that breaking out of the box and being free to follow God without the rules, regulations and expectations of religion would be a much better way of showing the love of God to others. Being free to fellowship with all people, accept and love others with the love of God no matter who they are or what they believe.

We are not meant to be confined within the walls of institutional religion. God has set us free to follow Jesus wherever he leads. We are free from the rules that religion puts upon us for the purpose of making us better Christians. We are the Church that Jesus is building, a people who love and follow him not a building or organization.

Rather than live within the confines of the box religion puts us in, break free and live in the world God has created. Love people, accept others and show the unconditional love of God to everyone.

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