A few years ago I realised that in order to keep my faith and my marriage in tact I needed to get out of the institutional church. I love God and my wife and in that order those are the two most important relationships in my life.
Unfortunately I had repeated experiences in multiple churches that did not agree that my priorities were correct.
Before I continue I want to make it very clear that I write out of a position of disappointment and sadness, not anger.
I grew up in a ‘happy-clappy’ environment and I have the fondest memories of house-church experiences. Our church brought together multiple cultures and generations under one roof with the purpose of sharing in an abundant life. As a young man, and after I got married, my own church experience was quite different. Even though I looked to be involved and connected, the overriding passion of the leaders to build large organisations overshadowed the desire to build true community.
After a number of negative experiences because of fellow believers’ misguided passion I realised that I had to make a decision to get out of the institutional church. As Gandhi said:
“I like your Christ, I don not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
With peace and forgiveness in my heart I left the church. I prayed blessing upon the church(es) I left behind, recognising that they do not know what they do.
You Can’t ‘Go’ to Church
Progressively I realised that you cannot go to church. It is not a building, it is a way of life and relationships that bring about abundance. Abundance not from a material perspective primarily, but an abundance of healthy building blocks of life. The easiest way to understand or measure it is to ask yourself how much love, peace and joy you have in your life on a consistent basis. Irrespective of the environment you encounter.
I have used this inquiry into my own life, and with specific application to my marriage, for many years. Once I decided to seek out this promise God made I started to grow more than ever before. My marriage has improved year on year and the solid foundation in our marriage is translating into a positive influence on our kids.
I focused on fellowship with friends and family that shared my faith, but did not require me to be part of any specific denomination or organisation (a.k.a. church).
Many people lose their faith because either the ‘church’ failed them or God did not ‘come through’ for them. I almost got stuck on both accounts. One question move me forward: Do I really believe God is good? When ‘His’ people are not who they should be and the world He created seems to turn against me how can I believe that He is good? Logic would dictate that He is unjust, left me here to suffer and that I am powerless over my circumstances.
I was faced with a simple choice, turn my back on God and seek my own way or take a ‘risk’ and go deeper to find answers. WARNING: If you choose to go deeper it can be very difficult and painful for many years. …BUT, it is also the way to find life. Are you serious? Once I defined church primarily as the place where I meet God and share this experience with other people in order to grow and learn my life got richer, fuller and abundant!
I went from surviving to being truly alive. My faith has been tested many times because I desired to know what I am made of. I wanted my whole being illuminated and this desire is serious and it leads to serious challenges. It is God’s leadership development plan that has not changed. He calls, but few answer.
The call will most probably lead through the wilderness and darkness. The wilderness is the only place that you can receive the treasures of darkness of which greater faith is the primary one.
How serious are you about your faith and life to the fullest? Are you dependent on other people, the environment or past experiences to shape your connection with the Divine? Are you surviving or are you alive!?