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For those of us who have left the institutional church, have you ever wondered why people get upset with us for our move?

We have grown up in the system and have friends whom we enjoy and have common faith, but when we leave one church to go to another they disappear. Seems as long as there is common belief we are good, but when we see things differently things change.

father son and holy bible

Even more so when we decide to leave the church system because we believe it is wrong. We have grown up in a system that at one time seemed like everything about God revolved around. We went to God’s house on Sunday the sabbath day. We gave God ten percent of our income to help with his work. We listened to God’s man or woman who was the pastor tell us what God was saying in the book God wrote personally. Really, sometimes I got to thinking the trinity was God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Bible.

I know since leaving the institution many people get upset and worried about us. “What? You do not go to church? Did someone make you mad or did you lose your faith”? Usually it is a matter of them trying to convince us where we are wrong and why we need to get back in church. So much for following the Spirit as our teacher and guide. So much for being the Church each and every day. According to most, we need to be in a church and under the authority of a pastor or we are not the christian we should be.

For some reason it is hard for people to understand our decision to leave the system. Even though we tell them we have not left God and we are enjoying life outside the walls of religion, they just do not get it.

In one way I can understand because I used to be the same way. Being in church was the most important part of my christian life. I always thought if we were not in church each week our commitment to God was pretty low. It is funny how we can base our relationship to God on how many times we go to church or read our bibles or witness. Within the system it is always a works-based mentality.

church has left building

Jesus set us free from works and law-based living. The good works we do now are a result of loving God and doing things out of that love rather than trying to earn our way by what we do.

If people would only give us a chance, listen to why we left the church system and what our thoughts are on living with God on a daily basis as the Church, they may see things a little differently. They may actually still want to be friends and hang out with us. I do not expect every christian to see things my way, yet I would expect others to still be friends and accept me even though we see things differently. We are still following the same Jesus and are to show his love to all people.

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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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I grew up in the traditional, organized church. I was always taught that the pastor was head of the church and he had all the answers and so much more knowledge than anyone else in the church. I mention the pastor as a ‘he’ because when I was young and growing up in the church it was unheard of to have a woman pastor.

I remember scheduling meetings with the pastor so I could ask him questions and find out all the answers to Christian living. It almost floored me one time when I asked the pastor a question and he actually said he did not know the answer.

Looking back, I can see that I certainly looked to the pastor rather than looking to the Spirit. I was putting my hope in a man who I thought could tell me everything about God, yet I was not seeking to know God himself.

Next in line were the board of elders. Each of them were so much more holy than I or anyone else in the church, or else they would not be in that position of authority. At least that is what I thought at the time. I have a friend who thinks prayers have more authority when she goes to the board of elders and has them pray.

Questioning Christian Leadership

The longer I was in the church, the more I began to wonder about things. Of course I did not dare ask the questions I had, since people would be questioning my faith or think I was questioning the pastor.

When I read that Christ was the head of His church, I wondered why the pastor seemed to get credit for that position.

I read that we should call no one father (or pastor) other than God, and I again wondered why people in position of leadership and authority in the church wanted to be called pastor or apostle or elder.

We are told that the Holy Spirit is our guide and teacher, and we do not need anyone other than him. Yet, we look to the pastor or an elder, or some big name evangelist to find all the answers to our questions.

I began getting dissatisfied with having these questions and not letting them surface enough to come out and be asked. I began to realize I had more and more questions, and less and less answers.

I finally started coming across books and websites of people who seemed to be in the same boat. They were wondering and questioning and being open with their questions. Some of them seemed to actually come up with some answers that made sense to me.

The more I thought, questioned and read the more I began to realize that our traditional church system is really not what God intended for the church. I also realized that questioning is not a lack of faith. God can handle our questioning, in fact, most of the time Jesus taught more with questions than answers. He wanted people to question and reason over things.

True Christian Leadership

The true Church that Jesus is building is not a brick and mortar place. The head of the Church that Jesus is building is not a pastor, pope, elder or apostle. In fact, the head is not a man or woman at all.

Leadership in the Church of Jesus is not what we have always thought of either. When we realize Christ is the head and leader of his Church, we begin to realize that man has no business demanding or expecting people to follow them and put them in the place of Christ.

Body of Christ

True Christian leadership is not an office of authority. It is not a place for only a few who are specially trained at a man-made Bible school. True Christian leadership is for all of us who are members of the Church of Christ. We are all kings and priests, we are all holy and righteous because of Christ. To be clear, when I say Church of Christ I’m not talking about any denomination or physical building. The true Church is a community of people who are following Christ, and He is our head. All the rest of us, men and women alike, are equally functioning body parts of his Church.

No person has a place of authority over another. That is the world’s way of doing things. That is the business way of doing things. Needless to say, there are a lot of churches and religious organizations that are acting like big business with their presidents and CEO’s, but that is not how it should be.

Christian Leadership as God intended is the Spirit working through the different body parts, leading by example. Leaders are those who encourage and teach from a place of love and experience, not a place of authority and power. Each of us are leaders at one time or another in the sense of leading by example, experience and love. We come in contact with those who need encouragement or a little guidance, not from someone who thinks they know it all, but from someone who has been there. A person who, out of love, wants to see the best for everyone.

True Christian leaders will not demand your loyalty. They will not want your allegiance to them. They will not rule over you with authority and expect you to follow them no matter what. True leaders will want to lead you to the head and true leader of the Church, Jesus. It is time we stop looking to men and women as our main guides and leaders, and look to Jesus. We need to listen for the leading, guidance and teaching of the Holy Spirit who is actually God within us, rather than seeking the knowledge and wisdom of mere men.

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Matthew 23:10 – Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ….

Do you notice how we christians get so caught up on which pastor, evangelist or leader becomes our focal point? We listen to this one, or that one, read books from this guy, or listen to tapes by that woman. We attend a fellowship because we like the pastor, or we will drive miles to listen to a popular TV or radio evangelist. But wait a minute, doesn’t God’s word say that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ, all fellow-servants. We are not to be called leaders, no one is higher up than anyone else. We don’t need anyone to teach us because we have the Spirit of Christ within us, the true living Word lives in each of us (1 John 2:27). In Christ, we are all His servants, no one should be looked up to or revered more than anyone else. True, we can learn from one another by the way Christ works in each of our lives, but we should stop putting our hope in other people and start listening to the Holy Spirit that is within us for truth and guidance.

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To those of us who have grown up in ‘church’, have you ever felt that you needed to know all the answers?

When a non-believer questions your faith, or asks something about the bible, do you feel you have to know the answer and be able to explain it to them?

I know I have always felt that way. Although the more I think about it, and the more I run into people who have all sorts of questions, I have come to realize that I don’t have all the answers.

Even my wife and I talk and have questions we can’t answer. We’ve come to realize that God is too big for us to have Him all figured out. If we don’t have all the answers for ourselves, how could we have all the answers for everyone else?

Basically, questioning is not wrong. I think we’ve been taught that we shouldn’t question the pastor, the bible, our faith, even God, but God isn’t afraid of our questions. What is wrong with us saying ‘I don’t know’?

Do not know

Admitting that you don’t know does not mean you aren’t a good ‘christian’. Admitting that you don’t know doesn’t mean your faith is shallow or we don’t believe God.

If we knew everything, what kind of a God would we be serving anyway? The Spirit will be teaching us during our entire life here on earth, and we still won’t begin to know it all.

While Jesus was on earth, he basically told stories and parables. A lot of the time, he did not give a direct answer. He usually asked another question rather than give a direct, set answer. I suppose if he gave a direct answer, we would have made it a basic doctrine by now anyway.

Don’t be afraid to question. That is the best way to learn. God is perfectly capable of guiding us to the truth in His timing.

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Hebrews 11:1 – Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen…..

A pastor friend of mine talked about this verse once and I liked what he said. The word Now isn’t just to start a sentence but to mean ‘Now faith’. Our faith is always in the now. The past is done, the future isn’t promised. We are to live our faith in the now, in the present.

NowFaith

Our faith is in our God and we are assured that He has our best in mind and will provide what we need when we need it. It is not always easy in our world today, but we know that God will come through and take care of us, provide our needs and walk with us daily in the now.

Are you feeling guilty over past mistakes? Are you fearful of the future? The past is gone, the future is not here. God is with us….now. He will provide and bring to reality what He knows is best for us.

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