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After many years of growing up in the traditional institutional church many things have changed over the past few years.

Of course, while in the religious system I was ‘set apart’ from the supposedly wrong kind of people. We had our friends within our particular brand of religion and tried to stay away from people who saw things differently.

We were told it was best to associate with like-minded people and fellow believers who agreed with our doctrines and interpretations, but beware of people who have different beliefs or who came from difference faiths or, worse yet, no faith at all.

After over fifty years in organized religion my wife and I came to a point where we felt it best to leave the system and follow a life with God outside of organized religion.

I would not tell anyone to do this or try to draw anyone out of church if that is where they are happy and satisfied. I personally believe the system is flawed and for those who choose to do so, it is better outside the walls than in. But that is a decision I would leave to each person to make under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

I can say for us, after leaving we have been happy with the life we have found. We have freedom to follow the Spirit as he guides us. We rely on him rather than putting our faith and trust in a pastor or some spiritual leader. We have found more meaningful fellowship as God brings people into our lives to actually talk rather than sitting quietly in a service looking at the back of the head of the person in front of us.

After going through the process of leaving and starting to write on Done with Religion, I have had the opportunity to meet many new people from various walks of life, various faiths and religious beliefs. I have met many nice people that are LGBT and atheists as well and I am so glad to have done so.

Equals2

It seems to me being open to being friends with all people is so much better and interesting than feeling we are some kind of holy people who should stay away from others. It does not take long to realize that the labels that are placed on others do not completely described the person behind it.

Obviously, we are not going to agree on many subjects yet we can look past those differences and find many things we do share in common. We all want to have a meaningful, purposeful life. We all want love and friendship. We all want to get our bills paid, enjoy life and be happy. We all have causes and interests we want to promote and be successful at doing.

So rather than thinking you have to stand your ground on certain topics and separate yourself from others, look past those things and see the fellow human being in each person you meet. It seems much better to enjoy the friendships of all kinds of people in this life rather than let the differences separate us.

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For those of us who have left the traditional church system, there can be times of discouragement, questioning and just plain not knowing what to do. Do not feel guilty for having such feelings.

I know that my wife and myself became fed up with the religious church system after spending over fifty years in it. Week after week we went to a pre-planned service, sat and watched only a few select people participate and listened to one person talk and tell us about God.

If was obvious there was a divide, a group of people who participated and a group of people who sat and listened. I remember thinking how spiritual the leaders of the church must be and how knowledgeable they were to hold positions in the church. I always thought I had nothing to say that would be important or helpful and I was so thankful for the pastor and the elders who seemed to have it all together.

As time went on I began wondering about certain verses in the bible that talked about each person having a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation.

Or what about verses talking about us as living stones being built up into a spiritual house, a holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. To me this says that all Christians are a holy priesthood and can offer spiritual sacrifices to God. All have the right to go directly to God through Jesus Christ our High Priest.

We are told that we are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people that we may proclaim the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.

All these verses and many others sure sounded to me that we were all capable, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit who lives within us, to be equals with all others who followed Christ. All can serve and fulfill a purpose in the Kingdom of God.

My wife and I came to believe that the divide we see in the Christian church was really very unbiblical. There are no first and second-class citizens of the Kingdom. There should not be a clergy-laity divide within the true Church that God is building through Christ.

church-people-or-building

We were always taught that the church, the brick and mortar building people attend once a week, was the house of God. Yet the bible says that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit and the Kingdom of God is within us.

Finally making the choice to leave the church system, we decided to walk with God outside the walls of religion. This of course is a very unpopular decision in the Christian world. People have lost friends and fellowship with other believers because of this choice because those who are in the system feel leaving it is wrong.

I have heard of many people after leaving became known as back-sliders, people fallen from their faith and who have lost their relationship with God. When people find out we no longer attend a church they do their best to reason with us and try to get us back in line and back in the church system.

After three years being out of the institutional church, neither of us want to go back. We have found a freedom to live with God apart from the denominational requirements, various doctrines, the many man-made ways of following God and the thousands of interpretations of the bible that differ from church to church.

Over time God has brought people into our lives in ways we never expected. We are finding many new relationships online with people who have also left the church system. Fellowship is needed among us followers of Christ but that does not have to be done in a building on a set day and being face to face. In fact, we have had more meaningful relationships being outside of church then we did in it including online and face-to-face fellowship.

MindofChrist

If we believe the Holy Spirit lives within us, that we have the mind of Christ, and that the kingdom of God is within us then we need no man to teach us. The Spirit will guide each of us in the way he has for us to go. We are not going to all agree and walk in perfect agreement, but God leads each of us on separate paths yet leads us all into a close fellowship with Him.

For those with young kids it can be even more troubling because you are not sure what to do with the kids. Yet I believe that God will guide you and bring ways of showing the love of God to your kids whether it be in a group or in your family at home. I do not want to give out ideas for you to try because I believe the Spirit of God will guide and direct you in the way you are to go in teaching your children.

I do believe that God is big enough and personal enough to guide us outside the traditional church and the clergy system we have all know all our lives. It is a difficult road to go but it certainly seems to me a much better way to follow God and live for Him.

What decision you make in regard to attending church or walking outside the walls, remember both groups are children of God and trying to follow Him the way they feel is best. In church or out of church we all make up The Church, each of us equally important and equally able to let God love through us.

Focus of following God in the way he leads you, love others equally, do not think more highly of yourself than of others. Be open to let God lead you on the path he has for you whether it is in traditional religious ways or the unpopular way of living outside the walls of church and religion. Love and accept others as they are and let the love of God touch everyone you meet along the way.

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We know when the word church is used most of the time we are talking about the modern-day, organized religious organization that people attend on Saturday or Sunday. The traditional organized church with its many programs, leaders, pastors, rules and regulations.

We forget that the Church is not a building or an institution but a community of people who love God and love one another. Whether in church or out we are all one body with Christ as the head.

OneBody

I think an issue today among those of us who have left the organized church is to feel those who are still involved in church and those who think differently than us are our enemies. This is not the correct way of thinking.

People attend church for various reasons such as out of obligation, guilt, social purposes or because they have always gone to church. Yet there are many people attending church that truly love God and want to follow Him and show his love to others.

Many outside of church start thinking they are more righteous or further along in their walk with God than those who still attend church. This is a bad attitude to have and we should be loving and accepting of those who are our brothers and sisters in Christ no matter if they attend church or not. Just as those who faithfully attend church should not look down on those who have left the organized system looking at them as if they are backsliders or have lost their faith. Our Father will lead each of us in the way he has for us in his timing.

The important thing is our love for God and for one another. No matter what we do on Sunday mornings, whether we attend a church building or love God from outside the walls, our goal is to decrease to self, our desires and plans and allow Him to increase and love others through us.

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Romans 12:18 – If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.

This sounds like an impossibility in our world today. To be at peace with all men, including believers and non-believers, those who accept God and those who do not accept that there is a God. We are to live at peace with those who believe in a similar way as us and those who believe in a variety of different ways than us.

With all the different thoughts and ideas, the different denominations, interpretations and beliefs, different religions and ways of life how could it be possible to be at peace with everyone?

The dictionary says of peace: freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions; harmony in personal relations.

I think this is what God is saying, that we are to live in harmony with our fellow humans not allowing any oppressive thoughts or emotions to take control of our feelings towards others. In other words, we live in love.

Just because someone does not interpret the Bible the same way we do, or go to the same church we do, or does not go to church at all, we as believers are all wanting to please our Father and do what He wants us to do out of love. We should respect the fact that God is working in different ways in people. Just because people see things differently does not mean it is not of God.

In regard to non-believers, we should not be condemning toward them or force our beliefs on them. We need to let them see the love of God yet they do not need someone beating them down, calling them names or being mean to them until they come to see things our way. We are to love them as they are and let the Holy Spirit work in their lives.

If we believers could just understand that we are responsible for ourselves in the way we live for God. We are not responsible to live the way others do or think we should. We are to allow our Father to work in our lives the way He wants and follow Him on the path He has for us.

Our responsibility is to love God and love everyone we come in contact with, accept them for who they are and let the Holy Spirit work in their lives. Living in this manner would accomplished much more in showing the love of Christ to those we have contact with each day.

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Growing up in the organized church, I was taught over time that we actually had enemies within the religious world and that certain groups of people were to be avoided.

I do not think this was done openly but very subliminally, it was just something that you picked up over the years in the christian religion.

I can say this because I spent well over fifty years in the organized christian church and I know how I used to feel. Fortunately, not everyone in the church system feels this way but it does seem to be a pretty normal way of thought for those of us who grew up in it.

acceptoneanother2

Let me be clear, I no longer think this way. I believe Jesus came to show the love of God to all people and he accepted and respected everyone.

Yet in the church system I found that things such as, if you attend a certain denomination all the other denominations do not quite measure up.

If you are a christian then those outside of christianity are to be avoided. Of course acting like a friend so you can witness to them and try to convert them to christianity was OK. I know for a fact that friendship with ulterior motives can be very disheartening.

I found that inside the christian religion atheists are considered to be our enemy. They deny that God exists and it is best for us to stay far away from them so that doubt does not creep into our own way of thinking.

Inside the church system the gay community is to be condemned and shunned. Anyone openly admitting they are gay is an abomination to God and thus to us also. After all, people choose to be gay and that means they are choosing to go against God. Wait, I do not remember choosing to be straight, it is just the way I am. Is that not the case with people who are gay?

People of other religions such as hinduism, buddhism. confucianism, gnosticism, judaism, islam or a host of other religions were considered to be confused and wrong in their beliefs. Nothing measured up except christianity. Still, christianity is a religion created by men. Jesus did not come to start a religion and he is not the head of the christian religion.

Being outside the walls of religion, I have come to see people as people. I have come to know several people of all beliefs and ways of life and have found them to be good friends. We all have our different backgrounds and beliefs but we are all basically the same.

equals

No matter what label the world or religion puts on people, that does not completely describe who they are. Each of us is a person who basically wants the same things and same goals in life. We all want to be happy, to be loved and accepted and to live a good life. We all go about it in different ways but the basics are the same.

Rather than judge and condemn others who do not see things the way we do, it is time we do what Jesus said to do. Love God and love others. We are not here to judge, condemn and try to force people into accepting things the way we see them. The Holy Spirit will draw, convict and change people if that is what is needed. We are only called to be loving and kind to all we meet. Being loving does not mean we always agree, but we can show the love of God and be respectful even in our differences.

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

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

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

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

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

Churchislifestyle

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

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

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

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

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Originally Posted on February 1, 2011

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

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

Tithing

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

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

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

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

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