I am afraid to leave Church. I look and look and cannot find almost any correlation between what exists and the community that Jesus describes, I have tried, believe me. But, even though I have come to the point where I am only attending worship a couple of times a month, there is something in me that makes me want it. Like a drug, that I know is not really good for me, isn't even giving me the high it used to, but I still have a need for it.
I tell myself that it is about wanting a community, that I would miss the fellowship, but to tell the truth, much of the “church fellowship” I have experienced in the last ten years has been anything but beneficial and much of it has ended poorly. I would like to say through no fault of my own, but I am prone to insist on certain Biblical standards, and when people are abused by an administration under one set of verses, while completely ignoring another set that they are violating, I have a tendency to speak up.
That is really not what I am trying to talk about with this post, however, so, let me see if I can get this started properly. While today's modern church, with its larger than life real-estate portfolio and 501c3 non-profit status, is not found in scripture, many of us were raised to believe that it was the Kingdom of God. That is a problem.
A friend shared an article last night that spoke of a group of believers who are fully committed to Jesus, but are leaving the church because it is not giving the opportunity they desire to minister to lost and hurting souls in the ways they feel called to minister. The article was aimed at telling pastors how to re-engage these people before they are lost forever. But, I don't think they need to re-engage, I think they need to get away and explore God! If this is you, don't let them lure you back in!
They are sick of authoritarian leadership built on seminary degrees, or right of succession, “plugging people in” where they think is best, while reserving major decisions about direction, funds and other resources to themselves. And I, for one, agree, but, even if it is only once a month, I can't seem to shake the habit,and (Again, for me) I have noticed there is a good bit of fear involved in that hesitancy. So, what are we afraid of?
We are Afraid of Abandoning our Faith
If you ask any American, mainstream, evangelical Christian, what makes you a Christian? Their answer is sure to include a few words about their “personal” relationship with Jesus. But, although we have an understanding that our door to conversation and relationship with God is an individual one, that we must walk through alone, we still feel that we need to the Church to help us maintain it.
Here are some teachings that I have been going through to sort out good from bad, that pertain to this.
- I need to be under “authority”, although 1st Samuel ch 8 kinda puts a big dent in this
- We should not foresake the assembly, although, I think that meant something different then
- I need a frame of reference for my “wroldview”
These things, although I believe much of what I was taught was false, are still lingering in my psyche.
We are Afraid of Being Judged
This is a huge one for many of us. It is something I have dealt with my whole life, the idea that I should live to avoid the “disapproval” particularly of my elders, and church leadership. But the truth is that:
- Each man makes account for his own life (yeah, I know that one verse says they make account for us, but there's much more in there about personal responsibility)
- I am accountable only to God for how I spend my time
- I believe that there is no condemnation for me, as I am in Christ
This one probably less now than in the past for me personally.
We are Afraid of Being Shunned, or Worse Yet, “Evangelized”
We have all seen it, the person who “refuses to repent” and continues to “live in their sin” is turned away from, quoting a verse from Paul that no one really understands about handing them over to the Devil. Or, they put you on the “back-slidden” list and bug the crap out of you to come back, after all, the only reason to leave is because you're a prodigal, right?
The worst part of modern shunning is it is silent. There is no agreement between parties, they don't tell you you're out, they just stop calling, and fill in any place you took with someone else. This is probably the hardest part for many of us.
- Can I still be right with God, and not in “fellowship” with a local congregation of believers?
- Is it really worth losing all of my friends? (were they friends anyway, if you can lose them?)
- Will I be able to relate to people outside of the Church setting?
I believe all three of these are clearly answered with a yes. It may take time but you will find you have extra time to do things you have always wanted, and as you think back, how much of what you spend time on in church settings is really about God anyway?
We are Afraid to Trust Our Own Heart to Hear God!
Scripture teaches that the Holy Spirit indwells each believer, and that He is our teacher. We know that God has talked to His followers down through the ages, in the still small voice of the heart, and Jesus told us we know His voice, and yet.....
We have been raised to believe that, although it was stated otherwise, we need professional guidance to find, interpret, and follow the will of God.
- We worry that it is our own pride, or laziness, or whatever, and not God calling us
- We worry that we will fall into sin if walk out the door
- We worry that we will miss some blessing which can only be received in a “corporate” setting
These may all be legitimate concerns for some, but for most, these are deceptions too. This is the drug talking, telling you that you need it to live!
It's Scary Hearing God for Yourself
Now it's time for us to grow up and do something we should have been doing all along, actually hear God for our own lives! He will speak, He does speak, He is speaking and He will continue to Speak, whenever we listen, we hear it.
It will take some practice but you probably already noticed that church leaders have been making up crap as they went along for a long time now anyway, so don't sweat it.
- God's promise is to never leave or forsake us
- We can begin to truly see the Kingdom, maybe for the first time
- We are free to act on what God is prompting, without waiting for human guidance, or permission.
Of course you should have relationships with others that you share this life with. Of course, you should ask God to be clear, and even wait for specific leading. That only makes sense, but you don't need anyone else to tell you that, or do it for you!
As with so many of my posts, I find that I am speaking to myself as much as I am to anyone else. Here is my encouragement, if you feel God calling you out, go! Go joyfully and freely, and do what He is showing you. Don't be afraid of associating with churches, or church members, they love Jesus too, but don't feel compelled, unless God is compelling you. Be at liberty to serve when, where, who, how and in what way He shows you with no apologies to anyone else, regardless of job title or number of followers.