A View From the Inside

I got this email yesterday and it offers a perfect counterpoint to my previous blog posting. It’s important that we not ‘choose sides’ in whether everyone should attend a local congregation or whether everyone should not. There are lots of ways for God to connect his people in our day and I celebrate all that are focused on Him and help others truly discover how to live in the joy of his life.

Wayne, I enjoy your books and perspective of “church.” (However), as I read your blog and comments from others who have found the freedom in God outside of the institution, they make it sound like they were dying on the inside.

I am on the inside as a pastor and the intimacy with the Lord I feel is tremendous. I don’t chase programs I love the Lord and let Him love me. The people are encouraged in this same manner. They know to look to Jesus not a pastor. The institution is not killing me and it NEVER will. It CAN’T because Christ gives me life not the institution and it wouldn’t kill others if their focus would be on Him and not the church. They find freedom outside of the church because for the first time they connect with Father on a personal basis.

If they are dying in the church I feel it is their fault not the institution. The Holy Spirit is continually speaking to their spirits we know this to be truth. They will not stand before God and be able to blame an institution for their lack of intimacy with Father their own hearts will bear that out. It is really not that hard to love Father or let Him love you whether a person is inside or outside the institution.

Here’s how I responded:

This is the other side of the story isn’t it? I agree with much of what you wrote here, but it all has to do with context doesn’t it? I know there are congregations like you describe that keep the priorities clear and encourage people to an incredible life in Jesus. But how many do you think do this well? When I ask most pastors or congregants who are excited about their fellowship, how many other churches in their community have a healthy life together, I rarely hear a figure above 5%. While they may be thrilled with what theirs is experiencing, they also realize it is not always the norm. There are also very harmful congregational dynamics that can be hurtful to people.

I hear from both and not surprisingly most are from people who felt crushed or overwhelmed by the demands, politics and performance/guilt messages of the fellowship they attended. And that really isn’t always their fault. I know of many groups that operate like a machine that easily slide into messages of your not good enough or not trying hard enough to be a successful Christian that are incredibly harmful to people who don’t get this journey. Could believers thrive in the life of Jesus even in a hostile climate? If they knew Jesus well enough, of course they could. But if they don’t, they are not probably going to discover his life and grow in maturity in that environment.

So I try to make room for both. There are healthy expressions of church life among traditional congregations. I applaud them whenever I hear of them. And there are not-so-healthy expressions that prove destructive to people. That’s why we’ve got to not make rules but let people have their own journey—both those who leave an abusive or innocuous system to secure their faith, and those who participate in one to share theirs.

I hope for a better day when there are far more healthy expressions of vibrant community among believers in local settings rather than so many ones that may even unintentionally be more of a distraction to the journey than a help. Let’s keep doing what we see Jesus asking us to do to help the Body of Christ reach greater healthy all over the place.

What else is there except to simply live in the fullness of his affection and follow him wherever he leads us?

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22 Comments
  1. todd October 10, 2008 at 3:46 pm

    “If they are dying in the church I feel it is their fault not the institution. The Holy Spirit is continually speaking to their spirits we know this to be truth. They will not stand before God and be able to blame an institution for their lack of intimacy with Father their own hearts will bear that out. It is really not that hard to love Father or let Him love you whether a person is inside or outside the institution.”

    Again, that’s great if this person’s experience is otherwise, but I think what you and other’s are speaking about is important and needful (simpler and fuller life in the Father apart from some of the “stuff” we get wrapped up in….even in the IC).

    “It is really not that hard to love Father or let Him love you whether a person is inside or outside the institution.”

    sure, and sometimes the layered garbage that goes on in more rigid forms of fellowship is the “impetus” for getting out or more loosely affiliated with what most see as “church” for the purpose of being truly loved……

    thanks Wayne,

    Todd

  2. Pamela October 10, 2008 at 6:05 pm

    I think I understand what the pastor was trying to say. HOWEVER I feel the blanket statement is a bit accusatory. He assumes that every club is like his. I am very fortunate to be in such a club myself. It is a rare thing where I live. To say that the institution has nothing to do with it I feel is very unfair. People expect to learn about God through the five-fold ministries as mentioned in Eph 4. It says that they train us for works of service. Most people are not skilled the first few minutes after receiving Christ into their lives. We need training and understanding about what has happened to them. I doubt if there are many people that are able on their own to have an intimate relationship on their own without going berserk in doctrine at least in the beginning of their walk. When they go to a club and hear garbage sincerely thinking that this is an accurate presentation of God I humbly feel that the institution is partly responsible. In fact the Bible clearly says they are responsible for how they lead.

    When I was out of the system for a time I had learned a lot about the Lord somewhat on my own. I was fortunate to have a prayer life and had learned how to hear from the Holy Spirit myself. I was able to function outside of the system for a time. I eventually ended up in a club that was tailor made for someone like myself that hates religion.

    Many people are not in such situations where they were able to learn about the Holy Spirit’s guidance along the way. If they did they were probably also told from these leaders that there was still a connection through them in their walk with the Lord. It takes a strong person to buck that nonsense and keep stepping. It’s hard to have true intimacy with the Lord with all the religious rules that are not in God’s word.

    Be led in whatever you do. Trust the Holy Spirit’s voice. Check the word of God. He will teach you right from wrong. I learned the hard way. This is the only sensible starting point. Filter everything you hear through the word of God. Regardless of who is speaking if it does not line up with the Bible and what the Holy Spirit teaches you throw it out and keep stepping. It was the best decision I made a few years ago.

    If led I would not hesitate to slide out of the club and live outside the system. When I did that before it was the best decision I made for my walk with the Lord. Where I attend the main focus is spiritual maturity and building a close relationship with the Lord for yourself. No mentoring madness and the like. I’m grateful.

  3. todd October 10, 2008 at 6:46 pm

    “If they are dying in the church I feel it is their fault not the institution. The Holy Spirit is continually speaking to their spirits we know this to be truth. They will not stand before God and be able to blame an institution for their lack of intimacy with Father their own hearts will bear that out. It is really not that hard to love Father or let Him love you whether a person is inside or outside the institution.”

    Again, that’s great if this person’s experience is otherwise, but I think what you and other’s are speaking about is important and needful (simpler and fuller life in the Father apart from some of the “stuff” we get wrapped up in….even in the IC).

    “It is really not that hard to love Father or let Him love you whether a person is inside or outside the institution.”

    sure, and sometimes the layered garbage that goes on in more rigid forms of fellowship is the “impetus” for getting out or more loosely affiliated with what most see as “church” for the purpose of being truly loved……

    thanks Wayne,

    Todd

  4. Pamela October 10, 2008 at 9:05 pm

    I think I understand what the pastor was trying to say. HOWEVER I feel the blanket statement is a bit accusatory. He assumes that every club is like his. I am very fortunate to be in such a club myself. It is a rare thing where I live. To say that the institution has nothing to do with it I feel is very unfair. People expect to learn about God through the five-fold ministries as mentioned in Eph 4. It says that they train us for works of service. Most people are not skilled the first few minutes after receiving Christ into their lives. We need training and understanding about what has happened to them. I doubt if there are many people that are able on their own to have an intimate relationship on their own without going berserk in doctrine at least in the beginning of their walk. When they go to a club and hear garbage sincerely thinking that this is an accurate presentation of God I humbly feel that the institution is partly responsible. In fact the Bible clearly says they are responsible for how they lead.

    When I was out of the system for a time I had learned a lot about the Lord somewhat on my own. I was fortunate to have a prayer life and had learned how to hear from the Holy Spirit myself. I was able to function outside of the system for a time. I eventually ended up in a club that was tailor made for someone like myself that hates religion.

    Many people are not in such situations where they were able to learn about the Holy Spirit’s guidance along the way. If they did they were probably also told from these leaders that there was still a connection through them in their walk with the Lord. It takes a strong person to buck that nonsense and keep stepping. It’s hard to have true intimacy with the Lord with all the religious rules that are not in God’s word.

    Be led in whatever you do. Trust the Holy Spirit’s voice. Check the word of God. He will teach you right from wrong. I learned the hard way. This is the only sensible starting point. Filter everything you hear through the word of God. Regardless of who is speaking if it does not line up with the Bible and what the Holy Spirit teaches you throw it out and keep stepping. It was the best decision I made a few years ago.

    If led I would not hesitate to slide out of the club and live outside the system. When I did that before it was the best decision I made for my walk with the Lord. Where I attend the main focus is spiritual maturity and building a close relationship with the Lord for yourself. No mentoring madness and the like. I’m grateful.

  5. Adam October 11, 2008 at 4:40 am

    Whenever a person allows themselves to be seen as a “pastor”, whether they know it or not, or like it or not, they are putting themselves between God and the individual who sees them as necessary to their relationship with God. Therefor they are anti-christ, in the sense of “vicar” or “in place of”.

    The english New Testament was translated with a view to maintaining the clergy/laity (nicolatian?) heresy that was already extant and explains why Ephesians 4:11 has been twisted to appear to support the so-called 5 fold ministry or offices instead of showing that it is the indwelling Christ that empowers each and every believer with just the right measure of the 5 attributes of His Nature that is sufficient for them to grow to maturity as they build each other up.

    It is interesting to note that this “pastor” claims on the one hand to let the people look to Jesus but then blames them for looking to him/ the institution for fulfillment! Perhaps a question to ask is, why does he need the institution? What felt needs of his does it meet? He allows that the reason that freedom is found outside the institution is because they now connect with Father on a personal basis – what more is needed?

    He says, “The Holy Spirit is continually speaking to their spirits we know this to be truth.” – how does he judge this? If the Holy Spirit is continually speaking to them why do they need a “pastor” or is he saying that the God who favors no man above another is continually speaking thru’ him?

    While I agree that it is as easy for the individual to love God inside or outside the institution, this by no means justifies the institution. It is amazing how God speaks to people in the most perculiar of places and circumstances but it is also amazing how people refuse to be obedient to that voice.

    “when I come again will I find faith on Earth?”

    Let he who has ears, hear.

    a brother

  6. Adam October 11, 2008 at 7:40 am

    Whenever a person allows themselves to be seen as a “pastor”, whether they know it or not, or like it or not, they are putting themselves between God and the individual who sees them as necessary to their relationship with God. Therefor they are anti-christ, in the sense of “vicar” or “in place of”.

    The english New Testament was translated with a view to maintaining the clergy/laity (nicolatian?) heresy that was already extant and explains why Ephesians 4:11 has been twisted to appear to support the so-called 5 fold ministry or offices instead of showing that it is the indwelling Christ that empowers each and every believer with just the right measure of the 5 attributes of His Nature that is sufficient for them to grow to maturity as they build each other up.

    It is interesting to note that this “pastor” claims on the one hand to let the people look to Jesus but then blames them for looking to him/ the institution for fulfillment! Perhaps a question to ask is, why does he need the institution? What felt needs of his does it meet? He allows that the reason that freedom is found outside the institution is because they now connect with Father on a personal basis – what more is needed?

    He says, “The Holy Spirit is continually speaking to their spirits we know this to be truth.” – how does he judge this? If the Holy Spirit is continually speaking to them why do they need a “pastor” or is he saying that the God who favors no man above another is continually speaking thru’ him?

    While I agree that it is as easy for the individual to love God inside or outside the institution, this by no means justifies the institution. It is amazing how God speaks to people in the most perculiar of places and circumstances but it is also amazing how people refuse to be obedient to that voice.

    “when I come again will I find faith on Earth?”

    Let he who has ears, hear.

    a brother

  7. j October 11, 2008 at 9:03 pm

    I was driving in my car a few days ago with my young daughter and I was flipping through the radio and heard a program that sounded promising. The speaker was preaching and stating ie “God knows and loves you and there isn’t anything you can do that can take that away” ah this might actually be good I thought…but then his tone changed. I could see him through the airwaves waving his finger and yelling “….but some of you aren’t walking in step with him…you aren’t joining the church…you aren’t doing blah, blah, blah.” *click* I turned it off and turned back to my daughter to tell her, God just loves you.

    I am just beginning this “journey” and that is about as much as I do know now, God just loves me. I am trying to let him work out the rest of it. Just felt the need to share.

  8. j October 12, 2008 at 12:03 am

    I was driving in my car a few days ago with my young daughter and I was flipping through the radio and heard a program that sounded promising. The speaker was preaching and stating ie “God knows and loves you and there isn’t anything you can do that can take that away” ah this might actually be good I thought…but then his tone changed. I could see him through the airwaves waving his finger and yelling “….but some of you aren’t walking in step with him…you aren’t joining the church…you aren’t doing blah, blah, blah.” *click* I turned it off and turned back to my daughter to tell her, God just loves you.

    I am just beginning this “journey” and that is about as much as I do know now, God just loves me. I am trying to let him work out the rest of it. Just felt the need to share.

  9. Bill October 12, 2008 at 8:43 am

    “If they are dying in the church I feel it is their fault not the institution.”

    I think that’s not entirely true. In my own experience, the many institutions I’ve been a part of over the years have promoted and taught things that worked against my having an intimate relationship with the Loving Father. Often, it would take me a day or two to “recover” from some of the bad teaching I had heard on Sunday morning. (Yes, this was in main-stream evangelical churches, not some corner cult). I finally came to the conclusion that my walk with the Father would be easier without the distractions of the Sunday morning doses of “religious behavior training”, and after 6 months I believe I’m now on a better path. If you find that the Holy Spirit is showing you that any particular “religious activity” is interfering with your relationship with God, then better to cut the “religious activity” from your life.

  10. Bill October 12, 2008 at 11:43 am

    “If they are dying in the church I feel it is their fault not the institution.”

    I think that’s not entirely true. In my own experience, the many institutions I’ve been a part of over the years have promoted and taught things that worked against my having an intimate relationship with the Loving Father. Often, it would take me a day or two to “recover” from some of the bad teaching I had heard on Sunday morning. (Yes, this was in main-stream evangelical churches, not some corner cult). I finally came to the conclusion that my walk with the Father would be easier without the distractions of the Sunday morning doses of “religious behavior training”, and after 6 months I believe I’m now on a better path. If you find that the Holy Spirit is showing you that any particular “religious activity” is interfering with your relationship with God, then better to cut the “religious activity” from your life.

  11. Joel B October 12, 2008 at 1:08 pm

    Along with what others have said here, I think that even in the most loving body of believers that talks the talk of it being all about Jesus, it’s very possible that at the same time the preaching and teaching is more along the lines of “look what Jesus can do in and through you to perform well.” It’s a focus on “Jesus” and “performance” at the same time, and I’ve found that I, even after having been growing in grace since the mid 90’s, still have troubles when the leaven gets mixed in – even a little – with the pure message of Grace/Jesus.

    I won’t even use the word “fault,” as if to blame anyone, because oftentimes it’s not as if a pastor or ‘church leader’ is intentionally leading people down a wrong path (although in many cases it’s different), but the truth is that even when people “know to look to Jesus not a pastor,” the subtlety of the mixed message in the preaching still has a way of messing a person up when that’s not what was intended.

    And indeed as others are saying, very often, again even in a mostly loving environment, the focus really does become the institution, or the pastor, or the programs, or the finances, or the building, and so on, and a combination of some of those things, rather than Jesus. Even with the best of intentions, these things become what church is about instead of Jesus.

    The institution can never truly kill the spirit – the true identity of the believer – but in many ways it can replace Jesus, even unintentionally, and in doing so keeps the person from experiencing the fullness of all they have in Christ.

  12. Joel B October 12, 2008 at 4:08 pm

    Along with what others have said here, I think that even in the most loving body of believers that talks the talk of it being all about Jesus, it’s very possible that at the same time the preaching and teaching is more along the lines of “look what Jesus can do in and through you to perform well.” It’s a focus on “Jesus” and “performance” at the same time, and I’ve found that I, even after having been growing in grace since the mid 90’s, still have troubles when the leaven gets mixed in – even a little – with the pure message of Grace/Jesus.

    I won’t even use the word “fault,” as if to blame anyone, because oftentimes it’s not as if a pastor or ‘church leader’ is intentionally leading people down a wrong path (although in many cases it’s different), but the truth is that even when people “know to look to Jesus not a pastor,” the subtlety of the mixed message in the preaching still has a way of messing a person up when that’s not what was intended.

    And indeed as others are saying, very often, again even in a mostly loving environment, the focus really does become the institution, or the pastor, or the programs, or the finances, or the building, and so on, and a combination of some of those things, rather than Jesus. Even with the best of intentions, these things become what church is about instead of Jesus.

    The institution can never truly kill the spirit – the true identity of the believer – but in many ways it can replace Jesus, even unintentionally, and in doing so keeps the person from experiencing the fullness of all they have in Christ.

  13. Kelly October 13, 2008 at 5:39 am

    We just visited a church yesterday where the Spirit had room to move.

    It was amazing.

    It doesn’t matter if we’re in a small non-organized group of friends or in an IC, if we spend as much time heeding Paul’s warning about quenching the Spirit as we do on being “right”, we might actually have room to walk in Him and allow others to do the same.

    Wayne, thanks for sharing your love for His people “inside” and “out.” You constantly challenge my perspective. You were right in a previous email to me, though I didn’t want to admit it at the time – God has a way of connecting His kids wherever we are.

  14. Kelly October 13, 2008 at 8:39 am

    We just visited a church yesterday where the Spirit had room to move.

    It was amazing.

    It doesn’t matter if we’re in a small non-organized group of friends or in an IC, if we spend as much time heeding Paul’s warning about quenching the Spirit as we do on being “right”, we might actually have room to walk in Him and allow others to do the same.

    Wayne, thanks for sharing your love for His people “inside” and “out.” You constantly challenge my perspective. You were right in a previous email to me, though I didn’t want to admit it at the time – God has a way of connecting His kids wherever we are.

  15. Danny October 13, 2008 at 4:25 pm

    Haha. I love the term “institutional” when referring to church. I prefer the term “industry”, but “institutional” sums it up pretty well.

  16. fiona October 13, 2008 at 6:35 pm

    Thank you Wayne for your teaching, books and mp3’s, which have been enormously helpful to me in my journey over the last year. The change in my journey began before I found your teaching, but in the light of that teaching, I can see why Father really blessed certain choices we made as a family which were very relational, even before our transition to a new paradigm.

    My family has now left organised church for the time being. I can understand what the pastor says in his letter, as grappling with the question of why can we not just have this more intimate relationship with God where we are (in ‘church’), took a while to resolve, in our situation. We just found that in our environment, we’d return from a service with a lot of negativity, which seemed unhelpful to our walk – apart from feeling as though we’d be judged when we shared the truth of where we were in our faith.

    We stayed for a year, being very open to God-led relationships and also helping people if we could (often in ways we didn’t imagine, as it turned out), after we knew already that we were likely to move on at some point. It was the right decision to stay and then go. We prayed over it. We met people within the congregation in a similar place to ourselves, through ‘chance’ comments. Some of these people have become close friends. More in that last year when we took a more relational approach to our faith than for a very long time. Now that we have left, we still get together with these people regularly, for fellowship in Him, and it is rich. They are all still in church, as they have not been led to leave. We don’t try to push them in any direction and are learning to live with no agenda. It’s very freeing.

    We wondered what we’d do about the kids – 2 under 5 years – when we left church. It’s not been a problem. Father blessed us with other friends who know Him who have young kids, and even if we travel a bit from time to time, our kids are having a great time when we fellowship as families. We wondered what we would do on Sundays, but we’ve been fellowshipping in a growing way with various unconnected families, more than we knew was possible, still being open to God-led relationships. We are learning more and growing more in fellowship with others than we did in church – we had less time then for this kind of thing.

    We feel that Father has led us out of church for now, and we’d never say its not possible to find a great organised church – in Him all things are possible – but it has been very good to listen to His voice and where He was leading us. So far, better relationships with more than one deeply committed group of fellow believers are emerging from this, even though did not ‘start’ anything to replace what we left.

    Thanks again. Your website is very encouraging!

  17. Danny October 13, 2008 at 7:25 pm

    Haha. I love the term “institutional” when referring to church. I prefer the term “industry”, but “institutional” sums it up pretty well.

  18. fiona October 13, 2008 at 9:35 pm

    Thank you Wayne for your teaching, books and mp3’s, which have been enormously helpful to me in my journey over the last year. The change in my journey began before I found your teaching, but in the light of that teaching, I can see why Father really blessed certain choices we made as a family which were very relational, even before our transition to a new paradigm.

    My family has now left organised church for the time being. I can understand what the pastor says in his letter, as grappling with the question of why can we not just have this more intimate relationship with God where we are (in ‘church’), took a while to resolve, in our situation. We just found that in our environment, we’d return from a service with a lot of negativity, which seemed unhelpful to our walk – apart from feeling as though we’d be judged when we shared the truth of where we were in our faith.

    We stayed for a year, being very open to God-led relationships and also helping people if we could (often in ways we didn’t imagine, as it turned out), after we knew already that we were likely to move on at some point. It was the right decision to stay and then go. We prayed over it. We met people within the congregation in a similar place to ourselves, through ‘chance’ comments. Some of these people have become close friends. More in that last year when we took a more relational approach to our faith than for a very long time. Now that we have left, we still get together with these people regularly, for fellowship in Him, and it is rich. They are all still in church, as they have not been led to leave. We don’t try to push them in any direction and are learning to live with no agenda. It’s very freeing.

    We wondered what we’d do about the kids – 2 under 5 years – when we left church. It’s not been a problem. Father blessed us with other friends who know Him who have young kids, and even if we travel a bit from time to time, our kids are having a great time when we fellowship as families. We wondered what we would do on Sundays, but we’ve been fellowshipping in a growing way with various unconnected families, more than we knew was possible, still being open to God-led relationships. We are learning more and growing more in fellowship with others than we did in church – we had less time then for this kind of thing.

    We feel that Father has led us out of church for now, and we’d never say its not possible to find a great organised church – in Him all things are possible – but it has been very good to listen to His voice and where He was leading us. So far, better relationships with more than one deeply committed group of fellow believers are emerging from this, even though did not ‘start’ anything to replace what we left.

    Thanks again. Your website is very encouraging!

  19. L.W. October 14, 2008 at 5:55 am

    I agree the Spirit is inside and outside of the institution. However, the pastors assumption that “it’s thier own fault” is amazing to me. There are alot of hurting people in the world, who have a difficult time integrating in church due to trust issues etc. with other people. When you add the obligations of programs and regulations on how or what you are supposed to act, think or feel then, the church congregation is the last place you want to be. Remember Jesus came to the ones needing a doctor,- the ones who were sick and hurting. That is my condition, and not by any direct fault of my own, but because it is a fallen world and I am a fallen man. It seems like, to me, that since the pastor is nice in cozy in the congregation he is far from understanding those who are not.

  20. L.W. October 14, 2008 at 8:55 am

    I agree the Spirit is inside and outside of the institution. However, the pastors assumption that “it’s thier own fault” is amazing to me. There are alot of hurting people in the world, who have a difficult time integrating in church due to trust issues etc. with other people. When you add the obligations of programs and regulations on how or what you are supposed to act, think or feel then, the church congregation is the last place you want to be. Remember Jesus came to the ones needing a doctor,- the ones who were sick and hurting. That is my condition, and not by any direct fault of my own, but because it is a fallen world and I am a fallen man. It seems like, to me, that since the pastor is nice in cozy in the congregation he is far from understanding those who are not.

  21. Brad October 14, 2008 at 6:11 pm

    If its a top down leader centric system its not the best. If the pastor type thinks hes got to have the message from god for the week its not the best. If you have guilt about not going this week you may be in a cult. Lots of denial and excuses evrywhere. Everyone wants to feel good about there spiritual paradigm but few are willing to really look at what they are doing in light of real relationship with the creator and with one another.

  22. Brad October 14, 2008 at 9:11 pm

    If its a top down leader centric system its not the best. If the pastor type thinks hes got to have the message from god for the week its not the best. If you have guilt about not going this week you may be in a cult. Lots of denial and excuses evrywhere. Everyone wants to feel good about there spiritual paradigm but few are willing to really look at what they are doing in light of real relationship with the creator and with one another.

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