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Posts Tagged ‘institutional church’

By Mike Edwards

Many are inclined to believe there is a Creator, but it’s understandable why many find it hard to believe in an invisible, inaudible God or Spirit. A major obstacle may be claims made about God, often according to one’s understanding or interpretation of the Bible. It is claimed God condemns gays, God is bias against women in roles in the institutional church or other settings, and that God has created a place such as Hell where unbelievers will suffer forever after their death here on earth. It is a hard sell to suggest God’s character is contrary to our deepest moral intuitions.

The Bible can’t be the authoritative guide about God

Biblical scholars with a deep respect for Scriptures don’t interpret the Bible as opposing women priests or preachers or that God condemns gays. See here. See here.  Scholars don’t agree that a literal Hell is a reality in the Bible. And we can’t prove God inspired thus controlled the thoughts of the writers to always portray God accurately. It is just as likely that the Bible is uncontrolled writings that encourage contemplating what a loving God is really like. See Rethinking The Bible

So how can we know what God is like? 

It is only intuitive that a Creator loves the ways their creations ought to love one another. Beliefs about God’s love that don’t match how we know we ought to love our neighbor may be amiss. Even the Bible implies perfect human love and God’s love are one and the same: “Be perfect, therefore as your heavenly Parent is perfect” (Mt. 5:48). “Follow God’s example…” (Eph. 5:1). It isn’t too presumptuous to imagine what a loving God is like through our moral consciences. Don’t believe everything you hear about God! See here.

Why would a relational God be a total mystery? 

The universal compulsion to treat others like we want to be treated hints of a Creator’s influence through our moral intuitions. Even those who claim God is a mystery judge God according to moral human intuitions. They claim God is a mystery because their interpretation of Scriptures suggest God appears evil from a human perspective. (Crazy talk to suggest God can do bad but then call it good). Christians speak of the Holy Spirit guiding them. Unless the Spirit talks to us audibly or visibly, we must discern the Spirit’s guidance by examining our intuitions.

How can we have a relationship with God if we can’t be certain?

God’s plan isn’t a detailed blueprint, to let us in on future secrets, but a general one to set us free to love. A free future can’t be known. God doesn’t have to speak directly about moral decisions. Some decisions are clearly immoral – murder, stealing, adultery. Many decisions aren’t clearly moral. God joins us in an unknown future to take risks to change the world.

So what? Our mental images of God can make a difference in our relationship with God and how we treat others. The more you respect your earthly parents or God, the greater their influence. God’s influence is the only way I know to explain my constant desires to be a better husband, father, and friend. I don’t fail as often as I think I might on my own. Why is God so hidden? God may communicate in less demonstrative ways to allow for non-coerced decisions that lead to lasting convictions. God may speak to us in non-dramatic ways out of love!

How Can We Know What God Is Really Like? So What?

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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 Chris Kratzer Guest Blogger
www.chriskratzer.com/

That’s right, you don’t need it. At all.

You can live and do everything Jesus commanded and modeled without “church.”

In fact, often better.

With a steeple on nearly every corner, if churches are making such a positive difference in the world for Jesus, why do we see an increasingly far less positive world and why do we see increasingly far less of Jesus?

“Church” doesn’t work, that’s why. Not with a “gospel” of belief-dependent salvation from a torturous god-designed hell. Not to mention, sin-management, conditional love, a codependent god, reaching the so-called “lost,” and converting and colonizing the so-called “world.” That’s a gospel that is no Gospel at all. It makes people worse, not better; more fearful, not at peace; more self-centered, not humanity-serving. In fact, it’s evil. Anti-Christ to the core.

95 percent of Christianity… anti-Christ.

There, I said it.

Church was never the invention of Jesus, you are the invention of Jesus. You are the church. Each one of us, individually. The mind of Christ is within you. Enough Love to change the planet is within you. Everything of the Universe is within you. Yet, so often, “church” blinds, poisons, restricts, distorts, and kills this Light that is within all humanity. A blackhole to all that is good, holy, and right. It exchanges individual, spiritual freedom for communal conformity; divine affirmation for organizational condemnation; and hope and peace for tribal shame, fear, control, and human abuse. More often than not, “church” is the disease, not the cure. And we wonder why the world doesn’t get any better, especially Christians.

You don’t need “church” to find “like-minded” people.

You don’t need “church” to validate or authenticate your faith.

You don’t need “church” for spiritual growth and maturity.

You don’t need “church” to maximize your impact through a “team.”

You don’t need “church” for accountability or support.

You don’t need “church” to find and live your life with joy, significance, and purpose.

If church is a place you go, a service you attend, a creed you follow, or a people you gather with, you’ll never get there, you’ll never find it, and you’ll never have it.

Instead, church is you; you loving neighbor, selflessly serving the world, feeding the hungry, freeing the captive, welcoming the stranger, mending the brokenhearted, defending the least-of-these, and proclaiming the unconditional divine favor, affirmation, equality, and inclusion of all into All.

It’s you taking care of the needs in front of you. It’s you resisting and undoing systems of injustice, violence, greed, and oppression. It’s you being you in ways that honor Love and authenticity. It’s you disconnecting from a self-esteem that’s shackled to personal performance and production. It’s you closing the Bible searching for a perfect thread, answer, defense, meaning, truth, or justification and, instead, opening the Light within you revealing the perfect One, Mind, Spirit, and Universe.

That’s the Church we need.

It’s you. You, and only you.

You are the renewal God is bringing to the earth.

The church we need can’t be contained in a building.

The church we need can’t be confined to a creed.

The church we need can’t be conformed by fear.

The church we need can’t be caged into the Bible.

The church we need can’t be compromised by racism, greed, power, and hate.

The church we need can’t be coerced into judgment, pride, supremacy, and ignorance.

The church we need can’t be controlled by leaders.

The church we need can’t be chaperoned by patriarchy.

The church we need can’t be converted through guilt.

The church we need can’t be calculated in numbers.

The church we need can’t be commissioned by vision.

It needs no defense.

It needs no pastor.

It needs no committee.

It needs no membership covenant.

It needs no budget.

It needs no conferences, books, or celebrity.

It needs no light systems, branding, or worship choruses.

It needs no gathering of the like-minded.

It needs no team-work to make the dream-work.

The church we need is… you.

Everything else is the “church” we don’t need. Everything else is the “church” that isn’t Church at all.

In fact, for far too many, “church” is the crutch and disguise that keeps them from actually following Jesus. It’s the spiritual pacifier of the spiritually restricted and resistant.

For what does most every church and church leader hate and fear the most?

The revelation and reality that you don’t need “church” at all. That you can live and do everything Jesus commanded and modeled without “church.” In fact, often better. And very likely, not until you’ve walked away from all of it.

It’s true. You don’t need “church,” and God doesn’t either.

Your move.

Grace is brave. Be brave.

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by Jim Gordon

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.

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 are satisfied no longer being part of it and we are happy with the decision we made to leave. Yet, that does not mean we expect everyone else to think the same way. We have several friends who are satisfied with the church system and want to continue to attend services.

In our case, after leaving the organized church we 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, we noticed the struggle many people have 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 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 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).

The pastor is not God’s mouthpiece. He or she is only a brother or sister in Christ who is to walk alongside us to encourage and build one another up. We have the Holy Spirit within us who 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 from 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 particular day is more important than another.

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. It is supporting and encouraging one another on our daily walk with God and 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 heaven 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.

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.

So, do not look down upon those who have left the organization as backsliders or who have walked away from God. Do not look at those who still attend church as stuck in a man-made institution and following doctrines and interpretations of man. Remember 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. As it reads in John 13:35 by this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

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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and Everyone Else is Confused

by Jim Gordon

For those of us who attended church for any amount of time, we find that there are often people who are acting and responding in ways that are very judgmental and condemning.

Especially when it comes to the gay community, atheists and those of various religious groups and denominations that differ in doctrine from what we think is right. Many of us Christians have a hard time accepting people who think differently.

We would rather fight and defend our interpretation and doctrine and prove our Christian moral way of living rather than show the love of Christ and accept people the way they were made.

I do not understand why we feel the need to try to prove our point and why we have to make sure everyone knows that the way we follow God is the only right way.

One Another: Accept One Another” Romans 15:5-7 – 8:00 and 11:00 Services –  Hanover First Church of God

A lot of us cannot even accept and associate with other believers from a different denomination. So many people say their version of the bible is the only true version or their type of church is the only true church.

I get so fed up with the pride and arrogance of some (not all) groups of Christians who think they have it all figured out and their way is right. They seem to think that you had better believe like they do or they want nothing to do with you.

Even some Christians in the same church, those who have been good friends for years will turn on you if you leave their church. How many times have you been involved in a church you really enjoy and the people are loving and kind only to find once you leave the group you never hear from any of them again?

Though no longer within the institutional church, I had been in the system for well over 50 years so I know what I am talking about. I am not out to bash the church but it does aggravate me to see people who are supposed to show the love of God to all people, yet act so unloving and judgmental to people who think differently. Fortunately, not every church or Christian group is like this but certainly it is the norm for a lot of them.

Why is it that so many Christian people are so mean and condemning to gay people? Why is it we see atheist as our mortal enemy? Why do we reject the interpretations and beliefs of other Christians who attend a different denomination, or, God forbid, who do not go to church at all? Jesus, who is our example, was not like that yet many people did not grow up in church and did not read the bible. Due to this they do not know what Jesus was like. They only know that we who claim to follow Jesus act in such a mean, unaccepting and unloving way.

We need to remember that behind every label we put on people there is a human being. No matter who we are, what we believe, no matter what our lifestyle or our feelings about God, we all are deserving of love and acceptance. Just like each of us who are now Christians were loved and accepted by God even before we knew anything about Him, we should be loving and accepting to everyone we meet because we may be the only Jesus they see.

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 term Gospel is the translation of the Greek word “good news.” It seems only natural to look to the four Gospels in the Bible to see what is proclaimed as the good news or God’s main message. We could also point to our relational experience with God as to what is the main thing.  Many born never had a Bible. What have you heard is the Good News according to the Bible?

The Good News isn’t . . .

Many of us who grew up and attended the institutional church heard that God mainly wanted to save us from hell so we could go to heaven after death here on earth. All we had to do was say a prayer and mean it: “Thank you Jesus for dying on the cross for my sins. Please forgive me. I receive You as my Lord and Savior. Help me to live for you.”  You may think that is a bible verse. I can find no place in the Bible where Jesus advised followers of such a prayer or declared this the Good News. Jesus didn’t require confessions initially but simply asked people to follow Him.

Also, the Good News couldn’t be about escaping a fiery, torturous God if such a hell isn’t biblical. See here.

What do the Gospels claim the Good News about God is?

Mark 1:14,15 says “Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. The time has come, he said. The kingdom of God has come near. Repent, and believe the good news.” Repent refers to a changing of your mind, not dropping to your knees and never sinning again, or we are all screwed! The Good News throughout the Gospels refers to a Kingdom here on earth now. The kingdom of God “has come upon you” (Mt 12:28) and “is in your midst” (Lk 17:21).  God’s Spirit is available now, as it was back in the first century, to influence godly living here on earth.

But what about Jesus dying on the Cross for our sins 

It is said that the Apostle Paul claimed the Good News is to “believe in your heart God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Rm 10:9) Paul recognized Jesus’ death and resurrection, but Jesus’ sacrifice was to draw attention to the Good News already proclaimed – God’s desire to empower unselfish living. Paul also preached about the Kingdom of God being here (Acts). The disciples were skeptical of any resurrection until witnessing Jesus alive again. The disciples aren’t going to preach as Good News what they didn’t believe in initially.   

When Jesus was asked by a religious expert how to have eternal life, He simply said to love God and your neighbor (Lk.10:25-37). Jesus’ focus wasn’t on quantity of life after death but about a life worth living here on earth. God seeks to empower such a life. Myers says it best: “When Scripture teaches about being saved from sin, it is not referring to escaping hell and going to heaven when we die, but to the deliverance from the devastating and destructive consequences of sin in this life.”  See here. Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as in heaven.” (Mt 6:10) 

Challenge God to become real in your life

God seeks to encourage us to pursue heavenly than worldly ways here on earth. God seeks to empower us to be the unselfish people we deep down desire to be. This was the good news Jesus was willing to die for, rather than save Himself, to inspire us to seek God’s help in loving others. Jesus sought changes of the heart, with God’s help, for the good of the world. If I am right, then God should be able to make God real to you.

*See Podcast: Second Cup with Keith. November 15, 2021

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

After being in the organized church for well over 50 years, and seeing all the different denominations, beliefs, interpretations and opinions, there is one thing that makes me sad. That is to see so many followers of Christ fight and argue over the different paths we take in our Christian walk.

I am not saying all-roads lead to God, but while trusting in God and following Christ we are going to take many different paths during our life here on earth. They are going to be different from other followers of Christ, but we are following the same Christ.

Those of us outside the institutional church should not divide and separate ourselves into the ‘in church’ and ‘out of church’ groups. In the same manner, those who are part of the modern-day church should not look down on and separate from those outside the institution. We need to accept that we both love God and are following Christ along the path he has for us.

I think this is what working out our salvation means. Not that we have to work to earn our salvation, but we continually learn as we follow Christ in our salvation. We, as Christ followers, will take different paths in our walk with God. We should not expect everyone to walk the same path. By using the term Christ follower, I mean that Christ is living within us, and we walk with him and let him live through us. We are following him and the example he set that we read about in the gospels.

As brothers and sisters in Christ, we are to love one another, encourage and build up one another. We are not to be continually expecting everyone to act like us and walk in the same way we do. We are to be accepting, loving and kind to all we have contact with each day, and especially to those who are fellow believers.

It seems we are more concerned about every Christian believing and acting the exact same way and when they act differently, we want to fight, argue and separate ourselves rather than accept that God works in each of us in different ways. He made each of us differently, and he leads us along different paths as we walk toward a common destination.

Rather than expect everyone to be just like us, we are to love one another the way Christ loved people while he walked the earth. Different interpretations and ways of walking with God should not be a stumbling block to a loving fellowship with one another.

Besides, we are not going to lead anyone to Christ when all they see is arguing and disagreements among brothers. We are not going to draw people insisting they conform to our way of thinking and following our rules and interpretations. The only way people will know we have something worth checking out is when they see brothers and sisters in Christ caring for one another and building one another other up in love.

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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by Jim Gordon

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 Sunday school superintendent and Lay leader. My mom helped in Junior church, Vacation bible school and worked in the office on Sunday.

Popularity in the church

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.

churchkey

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 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 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.

Becoming Dissatisfied

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 anymore than I was at my previous church. So off I went looking to 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 more lively and exciting was still pretty much the same format and way of doing things.

So what did I do? Yep, my wife and I headed off for another church. This time we landed at a different style church than I had never 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.

megachurch

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.

End of a marriage

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 seen many pastors and church workers in the past be told they could no longer participate in leadership roles at church due to being divorced. So I ended up dropping out of church due to guilt. 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 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.

A new beginning in church

I felt good when we agreed we needed to get back in 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. This will be talked about in the next article.

Part 3: https://donewithreligion.com/2021/07/28/my-church-history-part-3-2/

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

My next three articles will be flashback articles from 2016 about my history in organized religion and institutional church. I hope it gives you a little peek into my religious background.

The Beginning

I think I have been involved in church for nearly 60 years. I know my parents took me to church the first Sunday I was home from the hospital and ready to be out.

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.

cookies

In the first church I was part of I remember during Sunday school the main thing I was taught (at least in my eyes) was how to eat a cooking with my finger through the hole in the middle. I do not think my parents were to happy with that and it was not long afterward that my parents moved to another church where I stayed for another 20 years.

There 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.

Vacation Bible School

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.

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.

Teenager in church

Of course as a teenager 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 also was 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.

piano

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.

Welcome to the Administrative Board

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. I had never seen so much arguing and disagreement in my life up to that point. 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 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 planned events. This pretty much brings us up to my church history as a young adult which will be discussed in the next article. Can any of you relate to similar experiences?

Part 2: https://donewithreligion.com/2021/07/21/my-church-history-part-2-2/

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

It is disappointing that Christianity is divided into so many different groups. We all have a little different interpretation of the bible and a little different understanding on doctrine. Obviously, we are not going to agree on everything, but we certainly should be able to love one another and accept each other even when we differ on such things.

There are many that do not attend a church. There are those who attend a church every time the doors are open. Some attend a mega church and others a very small church, some meet with fellow believers at cafe’s, parks and restaurants, and others meet in their homes over dinner. We should accept these differences and love one another rather than argue over who is right and who is wrong.

There really is not a right or wrong way to assemble together and we need to stop expecting everyone to do things exactly the same way. We should respect others viewpoints and focus on loving them rather than arguing and expecting them to see things our way.

It is hard to understand why this is when God tells us we are to be one, as Jesus and the Father are one. Yet, we understand that we are human and it is easy to lose sight of our first love. If we could only stay focused on loving God, listening for the voice and guidance of the Spirit within us and loving others, we could look past our differences.

Things will not change until we start focusing on what is common in our lives rather than the differences. The common focus should be on Christ, the head of the body. After that, we should focus on loving others rather than arguing about the differences in interpretation.

We also need to keep in mind that we are all constantly changing as God brings new truth to us. We are all learning and changing as we are ready to accept new truths. The views and opinions I had five years ago are completely different from some of the views and opinions I have now. I am sure in another five years they will change again as God leads me into more truth.

When we realize that each of us are necessary and equally important functioning parts of the body and Christ is the head, we can start to change how we feel about those who do not see things exactly the way we do. We can begin to accept our brothers and sisters in Christ as they are, as we come to realize we actually are one with God.

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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