Leaving the Institution…

In the last two months, the two major Christian magazines in America (Christianity Today and Charisma) have run three major articles about people who no longer fit into our Sunday (or Saturday) morning congregations. Each of these articles speak negatively of those who have left and advance the notion that it is the duty of every Christian to belong to one of the institutions that call themselves church to be part of the body of Christ. One even points that out while admitting that the structures itself are dead. Here are the articles in case you missed them:

Interesting… Three articles in two months? It sounds like someone is worried about something. I wonder why that is? Wouldn’t it be helpful to discuss the pros and cons of these articles? That’s exactly what Brad and I plan to do in our next edition of The God Journey, to be taped on Wednesday, May 4. We hope to shed some light on the growing conflict between those who are in the institutions and those who are not and for that we would love some of you to help us out with your thoughts, questions and insights.

  • Do you agree or disagree with these articles?

  • Are you no longer part of an organized congregation? Why? Have you found your experience with church has increased or decreased by this choice?

  • Are you part of a congregation and miss those who have left and wish they’d come back?

If you would, we’d love to include many different voices, and you can record your comments or questions by calling our comment line in the U.S. at (805) 626-4212. You can also contribute by commenting on this blog by clicking on the ‘feedback’ button below.

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40 Comments
  1. sister on the journey April 29, 2005 at 7:13 pm

    We are not the same… My relationship with my 5 kids is not the same relationship 5 times over…it is 5 different relationships. Do we think that everyone should experience God and know God the way we do it? Maybe we are just following a formula, because that formula is really all we know …if not, then don’t we trust God to lead an open heart that wants Him?

    I actually believe that people can be led away from God at church…taught to hear men’s voices, and follow the pattern of some person rather than God.

    Is it easier for a person to follow another’s idea (right or wrong) of what a relationship with God should look like, and just keep telling others they should ‘go to church’, or to actually experience a relationship with God based on trusting Him and His Love for us? And is the first one even a relationship with God?

    I’m on the "buildingless church" journey. Some things God has spoken to my heart (which I think apply to me and also to the church) have been:

    Holy Spirit come, bring healing. (God has been cleaning out the corners of my heart, dealing with loss in my life, dealing with why there is pain and suffering in the world, and giving me understanding…and He is doing it when it did not happen in a church)

    Purge the dross. (I think that dross is devotion to anything over pure devotion to Him)

    And I’ve seen a vision of a small pitcher being poured into me, which could never fill me. Then I saw a huge pitcher of living water being poured into me by God. I want the living water.

    Around the time I stopped going to church, God gave me a message, which brought me great comfort. The message was, “Like a leaf blown on the wind, I will pick you up again, till it pleases me to find a place for you to rest awhile again. No striving on your part, just open up your heart. For it pleases me to gently take you where my Love is moving (where He is moving). Don’t resist. On the wind of me you are free. Don’t resist. My Love carries you.”

    Don’t resist. Don’t strive.

    Best as I am able, I am following the voice of my Father. And that is the message we are supposed to be giving people…follow the voice and leading of your Father God. He is enough. He is all you need.

  2. sister on the journey April 29, 2005 at 10:13 pm

    We are not the same… My relationship with my 5 kids is not the same relationship 5 times over…it is 5 different relationships. Do we think that everyone should experience God and know God the way we do it? Maybe we are just following a formula, because that formula is really all we know …if not, then don’t we trust God to lead an open heart that wants Him?

    I actually believe that people can be led away from God at church…taught to hear men’s voices, and follow the pattern of some person rather than God.

    Is it easier for a person to follow another’s idea (right or wrong) of what a relationship with God should look like, and just keep telling others they should ‘go to church’, or to actually experience a relationship with God based on trusting Him and His Love for us? And is the first one even a relationship with God?

    I’m on the "buildingless church" journey. Some things God has spoken to my heart (which I think apply to me and also to the church) have been:

    Holy Spirit come, bring healing. (God has been cleaning out the corners of my heart, dealing with loss in my life, dealing with why there is pain and suffering in the world, and giving me understanding…and He is doing it when it did not happen in a church)

    Purge the dross. (I think that dross is devotion to anything over pure devotion to Him)

    And I’ve seen a vision of a small pitcher being poured into me, which could never fill me. Then I saw a huge pitcher of living water being poured into me by God. I want the living water.

    Around the time I stopped going to church, God gave me a message, which brought me great comfort. The message was, “Like a leaf blown on the wind, I will pick you up again, till it pleases me to find a place for you to rest awhile again. No striving on your part, just open up your heart. For it pleases me to gently take you where my Love is moving (where He is moving). Don’t resist. On the wind of me you are free. Don’t resist. My Love carries you.”

    Don’t resist. Don’t strive.

    Best as I am able, I am following the voice of my Father. And that is the message we are supposed to be giving people…follow the voice and leading of your Father God. He is enough. He is all you need.

  3. geo April 30, 2005 at 5:25 am

    Ted Haggard says:

    "So we lose the united prayer support, the financial strength, the missionary efforts," he warns.

    In that statement is buried why they are scared!

    i.e. the loss of finances!

    You know it’s funny even the people who call themselves the "emerging church" or "housechurch" are starting to show the same attitudes and mindsets. I am reminded of Paul when he said "you started out with the Spirit why now are you reverting to those old weak and miserable principles that once enslaved you"?

    Peace

    Geo

  4. geo April 30, 2005 at 8:25 am

    Ted Haggard says:

    "So we lose the united prayer support, the financial strength, the missionary efforts," he warns.

    In that statement is buried why they are scared!

    i.e. the loss of finances!

    You know it’s funny even the people who call themselves the "emerging church" or "housechurch" are starting to show the same attitudes and mindsets. I am reminded of Paul when he said "you started out with the Spirit why now are you reverting to those old weak and miserable principles that once enslaved you"?

    Peace

    Geo

  5. Dave April 30, 2005 at 6:07 pm

    The problem I have with what so many of these experts talk about is the definition of "church". I am perplexed by the unscriptural definition that such well-educated men hold on to. Although I agree we should not forsake the assembly, the assembly isn’t a building, a denomination, or a system. The church is simply us. Our clarion call should be to "Restore the priesthood!" of all believers.

    Treasures on earth can look like cathedrals, sanctuaries, and large groups of people.

    Where is the house you will build for me? – God

    My last pastor is now an actor!

    Only God the giver of life can make a meeting “life-giving”. Some seem to rely on their own talent and hard work.

    It cracks me up that one of those interviewed said, "How can we communicate this to unchurched Christians? The only way I know is to preach it." If they’re "unchurched" where will he do that?

    Dave

    NAS Keflavik, Iceland

    carderd@earthlink.net

  6. Roger April 30, 2005 at 8:23 pm

    I’m looking forward to the conversation! For the time being, we have decided to attend the organized church in the town where we live. We have lost all illusions of being able to change the church, but we do have some relationships with people that are also on a “different” journey and we meet with them outside of scheduled times of interaction. We remain to encourage them, knowing that in Father’s time we will leave the organized structure for the unknown. . .(insert scary music here)

    After reading these articles here are some of the questions and thoughts that come to my mind:

    There is a significant difference in the definition of “Church/church”. How do we define it? What is the Church’s/church’s purpose? Why does she exist?

    I have been very honest with the current pastor at the church we attend about our journey and that we would eventually leave organized religion. His reaction is typical: “How do you know you won’t be led into doctrinal error?” Underlying this comment is the presupposition that it takes seminary training to rightly understand and apply the Bible.

    However, reading some of the blogs, including my own, spiritual elitism could be a problem, but probably not to any greater extent than exists in traditional forms of church.

    What does Heb. 10:25 mean, and what can it look like? Is it limited to formal gatherings?

    How many of these misunderstandings can be attributed to ignorance? I would venture to bet that most of the people criticizing these “alternative” forms of church have never attended one, nor experienced life outside of organized religion.

    How much of a role does “vested interest” play in these criticism? Many pastors have income, medical benefits and retirement to think about, not to mention denominational measure of “success” to live up to.

    “The 20 percent of U.S. churches that are growing have "efficient church government," he contends. The rest are "bogged down in old-fashioned systems that are a waste of time, making mountains out of molehills."

    Is the problem merely systemic?

    What role does individualism play in forms of “alternativerelationalhouse church, and are their negative consequences?

    Stafford asks, “Can you imagine Paul arriving in a city, finding the local congregation not to his taste and simply staying away?” Quite honestly, can you imagine Paul walking into a local congregation in just about any city in North American and even recognizing it as his idea of “church”?

    Stafford seems to believe that the church is nothing more than a place for Christians to suffer and “die”. We should sit in the pew and take whatever beating comes our way because it will build character in us and that is what God has called us to….?

    I respect Peterson. What he has “right” is dead on, but what he has “wrong” is way off base in my opinion.

    Roger

    Southern Illinois

  7. Dave April 30, 2005 at 9:07 pm

    The problem I have with what so many of these experts talk about is the definition of "church". I am perplexed by the unscriptural definition that such well-educated men hold on to. Although I agree we should not forsake the assembly, the assembly isn’t a building, a denomination, or a system. The church is simply us. Our clarion call should be to "Restore the priesthood!" of all believers.

    Treasures on earth can look like cathedrals, sanctuaries, and large groups of people.

    Where is the house you will build for me? – God

    My last pastor is now an actor!

    Only God the giver of life can make a meeting “life-giving”. Some seem to rely on their own talent and hard work.

    It cracks me up that one of those interviewed said, "How can we communicate this to unchurched Christians? The only way I know is to preach it." If they’re "unchurched" where will he do that?

    Dave

    NAS Keflavik, Iceland

    carderd@earthlink.net

  8. Roger April 30, 2005 at 11:23 pm

    I’m looking forward to the conversation! For the time being, we have decided to attend the organized church in the town where we live. We have lost all illusions of being able to change the church, but we do have some relationships with people that are also on a “different” journey and we meet with them outside of scheduled times of interaction. We remain to encourage them, knowing that in Father’s time we will leave the organized structure for the unknown. . .(insert scary music here)

    After reading these articles here are some of the questions and thoughts that come to my mind:

    There is a significant difference in the definition of “Church/church”. How do we define it? What is the Church’s/church’s purpose? Why does she exist?

    I have been very honest with the current pastor at the church we attend about our journey and that we would eventually leave organized religion. His reaction is typical: “How do you know you won’t be led into doctrinal error?” Underlying this comment is the presupposition that it takes seminary training to rightly understand and apply the Bible.

    However, reading some of the blogs, including my own, spiritual elitism could be a problem, but probably not to any greater extent than exists in traditional forms of church.

    What does Heb. 10:25 mean, and what can it look like? Is it limited to formal gatherings?

    How many of these misunderstandings can be attributed to ignorance? I would venture to bet that most of the people criticizing these “alternative” forms of church have never attended one, nor experienced life outside of organized religion.

    How much of a role does “vested interest” play in these criticism? Many pastors have income, medical benefits and retirement to think about, not to mention denominational measure of “success” to live up to.

    “The 20 percent of U.S. churches that are growing have "efficient church government," he contends. The rest are "bogged down in old-fashioned systems that are a waste of time, making mountains out of molehills."

    Is the problem merely systemic?

    What role does individualism play in forms of “alternativerelationalhouse church, and are their negative consequences?

    Stafford asks, “Can you imagine Paul arriving in a city, finding the local congregation not to his taste and simply staying away?” Quite honestly, can you imagine Paul walking into a local congregation in just about any city in North American and even recognizing it as his idea of “church”?

    Stafford seems to believe that the church is nothing more than a place for Christians to suffer and “die”. We should sit in the pew and take whatever beating comes our way because it will build character in us and that is what God has called us to….?

    I respect Peterson. What he has “right” is dead on, but what he has “wrong” is way off base in my opinion.

    Roger

    Southern Illinois

  9. Allen May 1, 2005 at 7:36 am

    As with most disputes between people who are really trying to pull in the same but end up arguing, the devil is in the definitions and the unstated. unexamined assumptions.

    These authors seem unable to grasp the fact that "the body of Christ" does not equate to a human organization with its incorporation papers duly filed in the office of the Secratary of State. They seem to assume that non attendance at a scheduled formal service called by a corporation means there is no connection to the body of Christ. They seem to think outreach and missions cannot occur except through a formally established and organized group or corporation. They need to examine these assumptions and definitions.

  10. katie May 1, 2005 at 9:43 am

    I disagree the most with the first article. I found it to be very presumptuous and condescending in its tone.

    For example:

    “A living, breathing congregation is the only place to live in a healthy relationship to God.”

    “That is because it is the only place on earth where Jesus has chosen to dwell.”

    “How can you enjoy the benefits of Christ if you detach yourself from the living Christ?”

    I agree with others who have said that in Stafford’s definition of church there is an unstated assumption that this can only be a traditional congregation. I would be curious to know what the minimum requirements to qualify as a church would be according to this author.

    Although for me, leaving the institutional church was due to a difficult and hurtful situation, I find the implication that I am too bitter and afraid to commit again offensive. I don’t believe my eyes would have been open to the things the Lord has taught me while I was engrossed in the programs of my church. Could it be that God would use those circumstances to set me on a different path? Would God actually lead someone out of the traditional church?

    From the second article:

    "It’s a biblical fallacy to say we don’t need church," Rainer comments. "The New Testament pattern is very clear–that there was some type of formal gathering of believers on a regular basis who had accountability to one another. I quite frankly don’t buy that church can be anywhere."

    Again the question seems to be what qualifies a gathering to be considered legitimate as “church.”

    I agree with Roger that it is “vested interest” that will keep this conflict alive. The role of the pastor, the need for covering, and the threat of slipping into doctrinal error are ideas that are necessary to maintain the existing structures.

    If you eliminate the need for “priesthood” and the denominations or networks, what would happen to all the jobs and buildings? What would we do with our tithe?

    This sounds like church to me:

    For the last seventeen years, I have been gathering with Christians outside the organized church. Without exception, all of the groups that I have gathered with or have worked with personally have known the pains and joys of community life in bed-rock reality, they have all had consistent meetings under the Lord’s Headship without a leader or facilitator, they have made decisions together, and they have solved their own problems . . . all without a pastor, or a group of selected men to rule them, and without a song leader or worship team.” — Frank Viola

  11. Allen May 1, 2005 at 10:36 am

    As with most disputes between people who are really trying to pull in the same but end up arguing, the devil is in the definitions and the unstated. unexamined assumptions.

    These authors seem unable to grasp the fact that "the body of Christ" does not equate to a human organization with its incorporation papers duly filed in the office of the Secratary of State. They seem to assume that non attendance at a scheduled formal service called by a corporation means there is no connection to the body of Christ. They seem to think outreach and missions cannot occur except through a formally established and organized group or corporation. They need to examine these assumptions and definitions.

  12. katie May 1, 2005 at 12:43 pm

    I disagree the most with the first article. I found it to be very presumptuous and condescending in its tone.

    For example:

    “A living, breathing congregation is the only place to live in a healthy relationship to God.”

    “That is because it is the only place on earth where Jesus has chosen to dwell.”

    “How can you enjoy the benefits of Christ if you detach yourself from the living Christ?”

    I agree with others who have said that in Stafford’s definition of church there is an unstated assumption that this can only be a traditional congregation. I would be curious to know what the minimum requirements to qualify as a church would be according to this author.

    Although for me, leaving the institutional church was due to a difficult and hurtful situation, I find the implication that I am too bitter and afraid to commit again offensive. I don’t believe my eyes would have been open to the things the Lord has taught me while I was engrossed in the programs of my church. Could it be that God would use those circumstances to set me on a different path? Would God actually lead someone out of the traditional church?

    From the second article:

    "It’s a biblical fallacy to say we don’t need church," Rainer comments. "The New Testament pattern is very clear–that there was some type of formal gathering of believers on a regular basis who had accountability to one another. I quite frankly don’t buy that church can be anywhere."

    Again the question seems to be what qualifies a gathering to be considered legitimate as “church.”

    I agree with Roger that it is “vested interest” that will keep this conflict alive. The role of the pastor, the need for covering, and the threat of slipping into doctrinal error are ideas that are necessary to maintain the existing structures.

    If you eliminate the need for “priesthood” and the denominations or networks, what would happen to all the jobs and buildings? What would we do with our tithe?

    This sounds like church to me:

    For the last seventeen years, I have been gathering with Christians outside the organized church. Without exception, all of the groups that I have gathered with or have worked with personally have known the pains and joys of community life in bed-rock reality, they have all had consistent meetings under the Lord’s Headship without a leader or facilitator, they have made decisions together, and they have solved their own problems . . . all without a pastor, or a group of selected men to rule them, and without a song leader or worship team.” — Frank Viola

  13. tim May 3, 2005 at 8:39 am

    I say this as someone who left ‘the institutional church’ and came back –

    The current models of church aren’t great- they’re often politicized, inefficient, and sometimes not even ‘church.’ That said – they are what we have. They’re not the end, but they serve a purpose. Any time a new movement comes along we look back and say "This or that was so wrong" but the reality is there were plenty of godly people doing the best they could. There is nothing new under the sun.

    During our time away from ‘institutional church’ my family detoxed from it. we’re not swayed by it’s perfumes or it’s programmatic bliss. The house church we were part of was inherently disfunctional (I played my own role in that, and I’ll own it) and proved to me that you can get a new sand box but the cats will still poop in it. Our ecclesiology is our sand box and it’s not the solution.

    Wayne’s article "the church that Jesus builds" touched me and spoke right from my heart. Stop trying on a new model and building a web site and a "network" for the sake of fixing what’s wrong with the church.

    Some are called to birth new movements and I’ve met many people who are doing just that and God is clearly present and it’s clearly an awesome thing happening. But we have to stop demonizing the ‘institutional church.’ We have returned to a church and though we don’t agree with everything, we identify with this body – we belong to this tribe of Christians and we agree with their values. We are learning to love these people that we disagree with about methodology – and God is working in all of us through this – it’s awesome.

    I had hoped to be more succinct -sorry for the rambling.

    tim

  14. geo May 3, 2005 at 11:25 am

    hi Tim,

    I am all for the ceasing of demonizing the I.C. as you put it. But it seems to me it is those in the I.C who are demonizing those outside of their paradigm not the other way around. I find very few in the I.C. who will even talk with me once I make it known that I do not "go to church". Know what I mean? So maybe you can tell our siblings in the I.C. you attend that we are brothers and sisters not backslidden as most think.

    Peace

    Geo

  15. tim May 3, 2005 at 11:39 am

    I say this as someone who left ‘the institutional church’ and came back –

    The current models of church aren’t great- they’re often politicized, inefficient, and sometimes not even ‘church.’ That said – they are what we have. They’re not the end, but they serve a purpose. Any time a new movement comes along we look back and say "This or that was so wrong" but the reality is there were plenty of godly people doing the best they could. There is nothing new under the sun.

    During our time away from ‘institutional church’ my family detoxed from it. we’re not swayed by it’s perfumes or it’s programmatic bliss. The house church we were part of was inherently disfunctional (I played my own role in that, and I’ll own it) and proved to me that you can get a new sand box but the cats will still poop in it. Our ecclesiology is our sand box and it’s not the solution.

    Wayne’s article "the church that Jesus builds" touched me and spoke right from my heart. Stop trying on a new model and building a web site and a "network" for the sake of fixing what’s wrong with the church.

    Some are called to birth new movements and I’ve met many people who are doing just that and God is clearly present and it’s clearly an awesome thing happening. But we have to stop demonizing the ‘institutional church.’ We have returned to a church and though we don’t agree with everything, we identify with this body – we belong to this tribe of Christians and we agree with their values. We are learning to love these people that we disagree with about methodology – and God is working in all of us through this – it’s awesome.

    I had hoped to be more succinct -sorry for the rambling.

    tim

  16. tim May 3, 2005 at 1:20 pm

    Geo,

    I probably overstated the "demonizing" thing. The fact is, folks in emerging church circles are often deconstructing their view of church – and when you take it apart and really look at it – you see all sorts of nasty inside. The same is true of anything that’s been put together for any length of time –

    I would say both parties misunderstand one another – I’ve heard dear friends on each side do so.

    I.C. Pastor says "It’s just young people inventing another brand of Christianity. Wait until they start having kids and have to deal with that…"

    Emerging Pastor "They’re so inauthentic and programmed over at the I.C. They’re just dishing out Churchianity by the spoonful while people just come and pig out."

    The thing is- there are underlying truths to each of these statements – it’s the good points you miss it should read

    I.C. Pastor "I’m glad their challenging our models – this is good as it makes the church more flexible. I’m sure there will be challenges (like lots o’ kids someday) but they’ll figure something out for that too, I’m sure."

    Emerging Pastor "It’s a little programmatic for me- but I know that they are simply trying to communicate The Message (Christ’s Kingdom) to people in their communtiy. And by the looks of their outreach to innercity youth, some of their people really get it."

    Ya know?

    Tim

    Syracuse, NY

  17. geo May 3, 2005 at 2:25 pm

    hi Tim,

    I am all for the ceasing of demonizing the I.C. as you put it. But it seems to me it is those in the I.C who are demonizing those outside of their paradigm not the other way around. I find very few in the I.C. who will even talk with me once I make it known that I do not "go to church". Know what I mean? So maybe you can tell our siblings in the I.C. you attend that we are brothers and sisters not backslidden as most think.

    Peace

    Geo

  18. tim May 3, 2005 at 4:20 pm

    Geo,

    I probably overstated the "demonizing" thing. The fact is, folks in emerging church circles are often deconstructing their view of church – and when you take it apart and really look at it – you see all sorts of nasty inside. The same is true of anything that’s been put together for any length of time –

    I would say both parties misunderstand one another – I’ve heard dear friends on each side do so.

    I.C. Pastor says "It’s just young people inventing another brand of Christianity. Wait until they start having kids and have to deal with that…"

    Emerging Pastor "They’re so inauthentic and programmed over at the I.C. They’re just dishing out Churchianity by the spoonful while people just come and pig out."

    The thing is- there are underlying truths to each of these statements – it’s the good points you miss it should read

    I.C. Pastor "I’m glad their challenging our models – this is good as it makes the church more flexible. I’m sure there will be challenges (like lots o’ kids someday) but they’ll figure something out for that too, I’m sure."

    Emerging Pastor "It’s a little programmatic for me- but I know that they are simply trying to communicate The Message (Christ’s Kingdom) to people in their communtiy. And by the looks of their outreach to innercity youth, some of their people really get it."

    Ya know?

    Tim

    Syracuse, NY

  19. Jean May 3, 2005 at 8:16 pm

    So much depends on who is leaving and why. Articles like this that lump everyone together show that they don’t get it.

    I am referring to the second article listed, "When Christians Quit Church".

    ""It’s not like I’m backsliding," she cautions, describing her daily commute prayer-and-praise sessions in her car. "Only people with a religious spirit who think you have to be ‘in church’ say that. I just have a hard time with the routine of it. … It’s not fresh." "

    The above rationale for leaving a congregation shows a consumer mentality–church as a place to attend (when it’s convenient). Almost the antithesis of what a lot of us have gleaned from this website and its teachings and discussions. It’s about learning to live in trust and discovering authentic relationships the Lord leads us into when we are listening.

    I hardly think that any of us seeking God’s heart for his church is going to accept singing in your car as a valid substitute. Maybe there is more to her journey than shows up in this article. But this makes no mention of body life or fellowship. The implied definition of ‘church’ is where you park yourself for an hour and a half a week. So I guess they really are "quitting the church", since they are all on their own.

  20. Jean May 3, 2005 at 8:48 pm

    I just read the interview with Eugene Petersen. I agreed with some of it, like this:

    "The Gospel of Mark is so graphic this way. The first half of the Gospel is Jesus showing people how to live. He’s healing everybody. Then right in the middle, he shifts. He starts showing people how to die: "Now that you’ve got a life, I’m going to show you how to give it up." That’s the whole spiritual life. It’s learning how to die. And as you learn how to die, you start losing all your illusions, and you start being capable now of true intimacy and love.

    It involves a kind of learned passivity, so that our primary mode of relationship is receiving, submitting, instead of giving and getting and doing. We don’t do that very well. We’re trained to be assertive, to get, to apply, or to consume and to perform."

    –But then he seems to contradict himself:

    "Spirituality is no different from what we’ve been doing for two thousand years just by going to church and receiving the sacraments, being baptized, learning to pray, and reading Scriptures rightly. It’s just ordinary stuff."

    So it’s about what we do??

    "What other church is there besides institutional?"

    "So why are they going if it’s not going to be religious? What do they go to church for?"

    "It’s very dangerous to use the language of the culture to interpret the gospel. Our vocabulary has to be chastened and tested by revelation, by the Scriptures. We’ve got a pretty good vocabulary and syntax, and we’d better start paying attention to it because the way we grab words here and there to appeal to unbelievers is not very good."

    This is the same person who translated the Message?!

    I thought his tour de force was using "language of the culture".

  21. Jean May 3, 2005 at 11:16 pm

    So much depends on who is leaving and why. Articles like this that lump everyone together show that they don’t get it.

    I am referring to the second article listed, "When Christians Quit Church".

    ""It’s not like I’m backsliding," she cautions, describing her daily commute prayer-and-praise sessions in her car. "Only people with a religious spirit who think you have to be ‘in church’ say that. I just have a hard time with the routine of it. … It’s not fresh." "

    The above rationale for leaving a congregation shows a consumer mentality–church as a place to attend (when it’s convenient). Almost the antithesis of what a lot of us have gleaned from this website and its teachings and discussions. It’s about learning to live in trust and discovering authentic relationships the Lord leads us into when we are listening.

    I hardly think that any of us seeking God’s heart for his church is going to accept singing in your car as a valid substitute. Maybe there is more to her journey than shows up in this article. But this makes no mention of body life or fellowship. The implied definition of ‘church’ is where you park yourself for an hour and a half a week. So I guess they really are "quitting the church", since they are all on their own.

  22. Jean May 3, 2005 at 11:48 pm

    I just read the interview with Eugene Petersen. I agreed with some of it, like this:

    "The Gospel of Mark is so graphic this way. The first half of the Gospel is Jesus showing people how to live. He’s healing everybody. Then right in the middle, he shifts. He starts showing people how to die: "Now that you’ve got a life, I’m going to show you how to give it up." That’s the whole spiritual life. It’s learning how to die. And as you learn how to die, you start losing all your illusions, and you start being capable now of true intimacy and love.

    It involves a kind of learned passivity, so that our primary mode of relationship is receiving, submitting, instead of giving and getting and doing. We don’t do that very well. We’re trained to be assertive, to get, to apply, or to consume and to perform."

    –But then he seems to contradict himself:

    "Spirituality is no different from what we’ve been doing for two thousand years just by going to church and receiving the sacraments, being baptized, learning to pray, and reading Scriptures rightly. It’s just ordinary stuff."

    So it’s about what we do??

    "What other church is there besides institutional?"

    "So why are they going if it’s not going to be religious? What do they go to church for?"

    "It’s very dangerous to use the language of the culture to interpret the gospel. Our vocabulary has to be chastened and tested by revelation, by the Scriptures. We’ve got a pretty good vocabulary and syntax, and we’d better start paying attention to it because the way we grab words here and there to appeal to unbelievers is not very good."

    This is the same person who translated the Message?!

    I thought his tour de force was using "language of the culture".

  23. Bob May 4, 2005 at 4:44 am

    I saw this post yesterday and was going to comment but now I’m glad I didn’t. This morning coming into work I saw a robin hopping around a shiny garbage can annoyed at his own reflection–pecking, flapping and chirping. I laughed at the silly (dumb?) bird who didn’t know better.

    I watch this recent clash of IC and Emergent and I can’t help but get the feeling that God is seeing His children focused the same way. Spending time fighting their own reflection; both losing sight of what is real.

  24. trish May 4, 2005 at 5:45 am

    I have read all the articles and all the comments. The bottom line in all of this to me is Jesus Christ and our relationship with him! We spend so much time arguing about form, leadership, worship style, programs, buildings etc etc etc that friends, it seems like we’ve forgotten who is the bride and who is the groom! We are the bride! And God is so much bigger than the periphery we have placed around him. The IC "is" a human institution! Du! That’s a huge part of the problem right there. Do we seek God or use him as our mascot? I say these things in love!

    God bless your day!

  25. ryan May 4, 2005 at 7:35 am

    I went to a "Christian College" and was taught how to reproduce and keep the system running. I did that for a year, and I could not take it any more.

    The part that amazed me about myself as I was coming out is that I was taught to go back to "Luther." What I realized was that Jesus took us back passed Genesis 3 to Genesis 1 and the beginning of 2. To the time when all things were given to Adam and Eve by their Father who was with them, "walking in the cool of the day."

    "You cannot pour new wine into old wineskins." When Jesus said this, what was the old wineskins? The New wine would have been the Testimony of the Kingdom of God being here. So the old wine would have been the worship of the Law. So the old wineskins was the structure in which that Law was kept.

    Back in 325 that is what they did. They started to have "official" worship services just like the Jewish traditions of old, and they incorporated pagan worship into it.

    Now what does Jesus say about what happens when you mix the two? It destroys both! You cannot put the message of Life into a religious system and structure because the system and structure have limits. The message is about the Freedom that God Himself IS, and there are no limits to Him.

    The institution exists for one reason, to lessen the amount a man has to "die to himself." Look at it, what does a person have to do to "belong"? Come forward, repeat after me, get dunked. They have taken all that Christ gave us, and reduced it. Jesus said, "Life begins at your death on the cross, not until then" (My paraphrase of his statements of pick up your cross). The institution desires to have numbers at their disposal and to change our country through legislation. God does not need legislation. He needs people who have follow HIm to their death, and still do. I love reading you all in here. I love being one of you.

    One of the things that I have come to accept is that, "A man sees what he desires to see." Jesus Himself lived by this principle. He allowed men to see what they wanted, and He called the 11 that he knew were looking, (hence them not wasting any time in quiting their jobs and following Him).

  26. Bob May 4, 2005 at 7:44 am

    I saw this post yesterday and was going to comment but now I’m glad I didn’t. This morning coming into work I saw a robin hopping around a shiny garbage can annoyed at his own reflection–pecking, flapping and chirping. I laughed at the silly (dumb?) bird who didn’t know better.

    I watch this recent clash of IC and Emergent and I can’t help but get the feeling that God is seeing His children focused the same way. Spending time fighting their own reflection; both losing sight of what is real.

  27. trish May 4, 2005 at 8:45 am

    I have read all the articles and all the comments. The bottom line in all of this to me is Jesus Christ and our relationship with him! We spend so much time arguing about form, leadership, worship style, programs, buildings etc etc etc that friends, it seems like we’ve forgotten who is the bride and who is the groom! We are the bride! And God is so much bigger than the periphery we have placed around him. The IC "is" a human institution! Du! That’s a huge part of the problem right there. Do we seek God or use him as our mascot? I say these things in love!

    God bless your day!

  28. ryan May 4, 2005 at 10:35 am

    I went to a "Christian College" and was taught how to reproduce and keep the system running. I did that for a year, and I could not take it any more.

    The part that amazed me about myself as I was coming out is that I was taught to go back to "Luther." What I realized was that Jesus took us back passed Genesis 3 to Genesis 1 and the beginning of 2. To the time when all things were given to Adam and Eve by their Father who was with them, "walking in the cool of the day."

    "You cannot pour new wine into old wineskins." When Jesus said this, what was the old wineskins? The New wine would have been the Testimony of the Kingdom of God being here. So the old wine would have been the worship of the Law. So the old wineskins was the structure in which that Law was kept.

    Back in 325 that is what they did. They started to have "official" worship services just like the Jewish traditions of old, and they incorporated pagan worship into it.

    Now what does Jesus say about what happens when you mix the two? It destroys both! You cannot put the message of Life into a religious system and structure because the system and structure have limits. The message is about the Freedom that God Himself IS, and there are no limits to Him.

    The institution exists for one reason, to lessen the amount a man has to "die to himself." Look at it, what does a person have to do to "belong"? Come forward, repeat after me, get dunked. They have taken all that Christ gave us, and reduced it. Jesus said, "Life begins at your death on the cross, not until then" (My paraphrase of his statements of pick up your cross). The institution desires to have numbers at their disposal and to change our country through legislation. God does not need legislation. He needs people who have follow HIm to their death, and still do. I love reading you all in here. I love being one of you.

    One of the things that I have come to accept is that, "A man sees what he desires to see." Jesus Himself lived by this principle. He allowed men to see what they wanted, and He called the 11 that he knew were looking, (hence them not wasting any time in quiting their jobs and following Him).

  29. barry May 4, 2005 at 11:29 am

    It’s all about Jesus; not about church. He will take care of "church" and everything else. Let’s set our hearts to authentically following Him. It doesn’t matter if He leads us into an institution with a building, or and institution meetin in a home, or seemingly random meetings with other believers. It’s all about about Him; His desires, His path for us. It’s not about us; about our desires, our wants, our needs, our entertainment.

    Follow the "Cloud" wherever He appears and go where He goes. Don’t criticize others when He directs them on a different path.

    I have a suspicion we’re in for a "paradigm shift" in doing church. Only by His lovingkindness and constant direction will we ever see and follow.

    Blessings to all of you dear fellow-slaves of Jesus

    Barry

    currently stationed in Marshfield Missouri

  30. barry May 4, 2005 at 2:29 pm

    It’s all about Jesus; not about church. He will take care of "church" and everything else. Let’s set our hearts to authentically following Him. It doesn’t matter if He leads us into an institution with a building, or and institution meetin in a home, or seemingly random meetings with other believers. It’s all about about Him; His desires, His path for us. It’s not about us; about our desires, our wants, our needs, our entertainment.

    Follow the "Cloud" wherever He appears and go where He goes. Don’t criticize others when He directs them on a different path.

    I have a suspicion we’re in for a "paradigm shift" in doing church. Only by His lovingkindness and constant direction will we ever see and follow.

    Blessings to all of you dear fellow-slaves of Jesus

    Barry

    currently stationed in Marshfield Missouri

  31. Wayne May 4, 2005 at 4:34 pm

    Thanks for all your input here, folks! This is some great stuff.

    Unfortunately we’ve had to postpone our planned taping for this evening. We will be doing it on Monday evening, so keep those cards and letters coming in as they say!

    Wayne

  32. Wayne May 4, 2005 at 7:34 pm

    Thanks for all your input here, folks! This is some great stuff.

    Unfortunately we’ve had to postpone our planned taping for this evening. We will be doing it on Monday evening, so keep those cards and letters coming in as they say!

    Wayne

  33. Chris Irwin May 4, 2005 at 10:44 pm

    I too had a paradigm shift years ago when I realized that the traditional church by its very form hindered the practice of the "one another" passages while encouraged the gap between clergy and laity. With faith (and no small amount of nervousness) we decided to plant a new form of church that was all about the practice of Christianity–through cell groups.

    It was liberating, it is still amazing—and after 8 years I’ve learned the ups and downs of this "FORM" as well. God has taught me to see past forms–forms are necessary but God is greater. It is "FUNCTION" that matters–and irregardless of whether you are in the traditional, cell group, or IC you will find those people who function and grow and those who won’t.

    While I still love our cell church approach, I thank God I’m past the "this is better" and "how horrible is that" mentality. My vision transcends "form" and centers in on "Function."

  34. Chris Irwin May 5, 2005 at 1:44 am

    I too had a paradigm shift years ago when I realized that the traditional church by its very form hindered the practice of the "one another" passages while encouraged the gap between clergy and laity. With faith (and no small amount of nervousness) we decided to plant a new form of church that was all about the practice of Christianity–through cell groups.

    It was liberating, it is still amazing—and after 8 years I’ve learned the ups and downs of this "FORM" as well. God has taught me to see past forms–forms are necessary but God is greater. It is "FUNCTION" that matters–and irregardless of whether you are in the traditional, cell group, or IC you will find those people who function and grow and those who won’t.

    While I still love our cell church approach, I thank God I’m past the "this is better" and "how horrible is that" mentality. My vision transcends "form" and centers in on "Function."

  35. KK May 7, 2005 at 7:27 pm

    I’ve read the comments with interest, but Barry’s comment of "I have a suspicion we’re in for a ‘paradigm shift’ in doing church.", really rang an echoing bell in my memory banks.

    Most of Popular Christendom has a definite agenda, with the ultimate being the legislation of morality–their version. It has everything to do with grasping at money and power and lust and idolatry. Welcome to the Garden all over again.

    There are a number of underground currents going on that as a home educator I can see quite clearly because there is a groundswell of vague hints of the same sort of restlessness the "System" has with home education, as well. What the "System" cannot control, it first chatters about within its own confines, then moves to publically marginalize so as to re-draw the uncertain ones back to "the fold" and creates questions in the unknowing public’s minds, next it attempts to seduce the doubleminded and regaining those, makes turncoats out of them to remove the staunch dissenters in any way they can. Often one finds streams of these motions going on all at once in various forms.

    If these trends follow the normal historical path, persecution is coming to those who simply will not comply with the "System’s" demands. I do not say that as a paranoiac. It simply "is". I know Father will take care of us as graciously as He always has. I can simply see history repeating itself and the tentacles of discontent are at the starting phases of public marginalization. Sometimes these things take years to unfold, but it’s coming all the same.

    Prayer, a sweet relationship with Father and determining to let Him have His will done in us, regardless of personal cost, are the only way to live now, so we’re ready to live quiet, light-filled lives, regardless of what comes down the road. Then we can easily be placed (by Him, not ourselves!) in the world/institution/paradigm shift/house church/church pew, but yet not let the "weak and miserable elements" of any of those be in us or in control of us…only He will be.

  36. KK May 7, 2005 at 10:27 pm

    I’ve read the comments with interest, but Barry’s comment of "I have a suspicion we’re in for a ‘paradigm shift’ in doing church.", really rang an echoing bell in my memory banks.

    Most of Popular Christendom has a definite agenda, with the ultimate being the legislation of morality–their version. It has everything to do with grasping at money and power and lust and idolatry. Welcome to the Garden all over again.

    There are a number of underground currents going on that as a home educator I can see quite clearly because there is a groundswell of vague hints of the same sort of restlessness the "System" has with home education, as well. What the "System" cannot control, it first chatters about within its own confines, then moves to publically marginalize so as to re-draw the uncertain ones back to "the fold" and creates questions in the unknowing public’s minds, next it attempts to seduce the doubleminded and regaining those, makes turncoats out of them to remove the staunch dissenters in any way they can. Often one finds streams of these motions going on all at once in various forms.

    If these trends follow the normal historical path, persecution is coming to those who simply will not comply with the "System’s" demands. I do not say that as a paranoiac. It simply "is". I know Father will take care of us as graciously as He always has. I can simply see history repeating itself and the tentacles of discontent are at the starting phases of public marginalization. Sometimes these things take years to unfold, but it’s coming all the same.

    Prayer, a sweet relationship with Father and determining to let Him have His will done in us, regardless of personal cost, are the only way to live now, so we’re ready to live quiet, light-filled lives, regardless of what comes down the road. Then we can easily be placed (by Him, not ourselves!) in the world/institution/paradigm shift/house church/church pew, but yet not let the "weak and miserable elements" of any of those be in us or in control of us…only He will be.

  37. Jonathan Grubbs May 13, 2005 at 1:46 pm

    I was almost shocked when I read this in Tim Stafford’s article on CT, where he says;

    "A living, breathing congregation is the only place to live in a healthy relationship to God. That is because it is the only place on earth where Jesus has chosen to dwell. How can you enjoy the benefits of Christ if you detach yourself from the living Christ?"

    That to me almost sounds cult like, to say that Jesus Christ only dwells in the walls of the institutional church. I thought the Bible taught that Christ dwells in every believer when they repent of their sins and accept his free gift of salvation.

  38. Jonathan Grubbs May 13, 2005 at 4:46 pm

    I was almost shocked when I read this in Tim Stafford’s article on CT, where he says;

    "A living, breathing congregation is the only place to live in a healthy relationship to God. That is because it is the only place on earth where Jesus has chosen to dwell. How can you enjoy the benefits of Christ if you detach yourself from the living Christ?"

    That to me almost sounds cult like, to say that Jesus Christ only dwells in the walls of the institutional church. I thought the Bible taught that Christ dwells in every believer when they repent of their sins and accept his free gift of salvation.

  39. Lutheran Chick August 31, 2005 at 12:04 pm

    I know this is old and most likely no one is reading this blog anymore, but I’m going to write anyway. Recently as we were discussing the editing of our church bulletin, one woman said we shouldn’t say “First Church’s parking lot” since a building couldn’t own something. “Ahh,” I replied, “you misunderstand. First Church is not the building but the people. And the people can have a parking lot, a staff, a Sunday school, a sanctuary or anything else that they might use to glorify God.”

    Jesus said, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” This isn’t rocket science, it’s scripture and not so hard to understand. The hard part is letting go of the idea that “we’re the only ones doing it right.” Whether you’re part of a mainline denomination, an emerging church or a couple of people meeting in their backyard, we need to understand that God is bigger than our little squabbles and even though we might not agree with their methodology, Jesus is there among them too.

    I grew up in the church, went away for a long time and then came back. I’ve seen both sides and a lot of in-between places and am glad I’m back. I want to bring others in but only so they can know the joy of the community of Christ. It’s not perfect but, at least for me, it’s a good place to be. As Philip said to Nathaniel, “come and see!”

  40. Lutheran Chick August 31, 2005 at 3:04 pm

    I know this is old and most likely no one is reading this blog anymore, but I’m going to write anyway. Recently as we were discussing the editing of our church bulletin, one woman said we shouldn’t say “First Church’s parking lot” since a building couldn’t own something. “Ahh,” I replied, “you misunderstand. First Church is not the building but the people. And the people can have a parking lot, a staff, a Sunday school, a sanctuary or anything else that they might use to glorify God.”

    Jesus said, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” This isn’t rocket science, it’s scripture and not so hard to understand. The hard part is letting go of the idea that “we’re the only ones doing it right.” Whether you’re part of a mainline denomination, an emerging church or a couple of people meeting in their backyard, we need to understand that God is bigger than our little squabbles and even though we might not agree with their methodology, Jesus is there among them too.

    I grew up in the church, went away for a long time and then came back. I’ve seen both sides and a lot of in-between places and am glad I’m back. I want to bring others in but only so they can know the joy of the community of Christ. It’s not perfect but, at least for me, it’s a good place to be. As Philip said to Nathaniel, “come and see!”

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