WHY DID I STOP GOING TO CHURCH? BECAUSE I WAS LOOKING FOR JESUS AND I COULD NOT FIND HIM THERE!

The words of the prophet Jeremiah are jumping right off the page for me this afternoon.  Though I read about God’s anger at Judah’s and Jerusalem’s unfaithfulness as they had replaced God with the worship of idols, with their pride and unrepentant hearts, there is an underlying powerful prophetic message in God’s heart through Jeremiah which speaks not of the judgement that came to God’s people in a distant and forgotten era, but of the very epidemic which is assailing God’s people even today .

I bumped into an old friend today in the supermarket, and we chatted for quite some time, as we had not seen each other in a while.  From the moment I got up this morning, I knew that as I would go about my daily business, I would come across someone, and that I would find myself explaining to that someone why I no longer go to church.  The thought was strongly imprinted on my mind this morning that I needed to be able to verbalise why I have stopped attending the Sunday service, why I am no longer a member of my local church.  It was almost like I was being warned of an impending situation coming my way, and being equipped to navigate it to the best of my ability.  For the last few weeks I had sensed the Lord saying: “Very soon, people will begin to ask why you are no longer going to church, and it is very important that the reasons you give are accurate and a true reflection of why you have come to such a decision.”  It felt very much like the Lord was letting me know that there was great weight and consequence in the answer to that question, and that the path that other people would take would depend upon the choices that I am making in my own spiritual journey. 

I know that members, old and current, of my local church read this blog.  I know that some of you prefer to lurk in the depths of anonymity and pass judgement from the comfort of your own home on what I feel and write here, rather than leave me a comment or pick up the phone to let me know where you think I am failing.  Others clearly agree with what I say but are far too proud to let me know so, because that would give me confirmation of what I believe the Lord is speaking into my life and that of so many, and you would rather allow me to continue wondering whether you do echo the things I see and hear from the Spirit of the Lord in the days we are living in than risk stroking my ego by offering me some much needed encouragement.  But I tell you that wrong motives will always fail, and ultimately they will not succeed in causing the confusion they meant to achieve.  The thing is that my walk is with the Lord.  Yes, I very much appreciate any comments left on this site, but ultimately there is only one voice which commands my innermost being, one presence in my life who has the final word on all I do and undertake.  I am ultimately not answerable to members of my church, broken cisterns like myself who cannot produce fresh springs of living water.  It is the Lord who commands my life and it is only His direction that I seek and need.

Why am I saying all of this?, you must be wondering.  I am aware that some of you out there are of the opinion that I am in a bad place, that I am struggling.  Well, let me put those rumours to sleep, let me nip this misconception in the bud.  I am not struggling, I am not in a bad place.  I AM FINALLY FREE!

Let me explain! I love the people who make up my local church, without exception.  All of us have some rough edges, which every now and then can cause wounds and rub some old ones, but if any of them needed me to stop all I am doing to help them overcome something big, to help them get through a rough patch, I would not hesitate to do it.  In the very same way, every time my family experiences a big crisis, the church gang jumps right in be it with practical support, prayerful encouragement or simply by being there. Fantastic, right?

BUT therein lies the very problem! The Church today has become so good at playing Big Happy Families; the church has become so intent in protecting and nurturing its own, that it is no longer the church as Jesus Christ meant it to be, because if we were, we would snap out of it, we would act according to the word of God and we would wake up to the sickening reality that whilst we pat ourselves on the back for the love and support we extend our brothers and sisters, to those who “are in”, we are watching countless souls go to hell right outside the boundaries of our church, simply because they are not a part of it.  We would give our arms and legs for each other within the local church,  if that meant that we can continue celebrating together, laughing together, crying together, rejoicing together, suffering together, succeeding together, believing together, hoping together, loving together, eating together, partying together, socialising together. We have built castles, fortresses, walls, impenetrable spiritual bonds that to the outsider shout out: YOU ARE EITHER IN, OR YOUR ARE OUT, YOU EITHER BLINDLY TRUST IN THE AUTHORITY OF THOSE IN CHARGE OR YOU DO NOT BELONG, YOU EITHER FOLLOW THE “RULES OF THE GAME” OR YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO PLAY AT ALL, YOU EITHER BUY INTO THE WHOLE “LET’S DO CHURCH THING” OR YOU AUTOMATICALLY BECOME A THREAT, A NUISANCE, AN OBSTACLE IN PURSUING  THE VISION OF THOSE WHO ARE IN CONTROL, THOSE WHO HAVE THE POWER TO DO AND UNDO.

Life inside the camp appears vibrant, genuine, healthy, happy, powerful, purposeful, Christ-centered, full of love, willing to be selfless, to serve and to sacrifice, but the reality is there is no life but death, spiritual death.  We care for others so long as others care for what we care for: our local church, the vision, the ministries we are involved in, the leaders we personally believe in and support, the projects we undertake and are driven by.  The moment you openly and publicly admit to no longer buying into what is being sold in the market that so many local churches have been turned into, all interest, love, support and encouragement vanishes like dust, and what was perceived as a union made in the heavens, an unbreakable spiritual bond forged in joy and affliction, was just a farce, a pretence, a means to an end.

When you begin to be absent, people immediately begin to talk to you as if you no longer belong to “the gang”, the “club”, whatever you want to call it.  Prayer requests stop, emails go unacknowledged and unreplied, support for your own causes wanes, and ultimately you become totally invisible.  One minute you are flavour of the month, the next you are a heretic who has lost her/his way.  This is how members of a church go about their daily business: casting people’s spiritual fates into oblivion with the blink of an eye. 

After much reflection, prayer and wrestling I came to realise that my local church makes for a great social entity, a solid clan, a faithful brotherhood, a supportive big family full of love and dedication to its members, but none of those things fulfill the calling that Christ placed on His people, His bride, The Church; they are all very commendable and valid in their own right, but they all fall dramatically and tragically short from the purpose that Christ has for His church in this world, at this hour.  Our calling is to meet the needs of “the least of these”, of our enemies, of the lost, those who do not share our beliefs, our faith, our security, our health, our confidence, our hope. We know all this, we proclaim it, we repeat it like parrots to each other, we blurt it out to those whom we are trying to impress from our spiritual pulpits, but the reality remains that we would rather remain in the safety of the camp than venture out to the harvest; we would rather make ourselves look committed to a higher cause, namely our church, and sacrifice in the process the very calling of The Church: to lay our life down for another, to step out of the comfort of loving just those who love us and extend the same grace, compassion, forgiveness and mercy to those whom we perceive as a threat or as undeserving.

The reason why I have stopped going to Church?  Little of what takes place in my local church has much to do with Christ or the commandments he gave to His people.  Much of it however is to do with pushing forward a vision, with consolidating little kingdoms with kings and queens who have become “royalty” by human appointment and not by God’s anointing or a daily walk with the Lord Jesus Christ.  For all the love, joy, support, nurturing and encouragement that members of the local church family offer to each other, the truth remains the lost remain lost and Evil continues to claim its victims, because those with the power to eradicate the darkness with the light they carry within are solely concerned with the preservation of the institution they have committed all their being, resources and time to; they are concerned with enticing the outsider with enough bait to ensure they bite in and buy into the hypocrisy and the fallacy they chose to buy into or were blindly driven to.

For weeks I have been absent and tried to imagine how would I come to know that the love of Jesus is present in the place where I live, was I not to be a Christian who is a member of a local church.  The answer is that I witnessed nothing, saw nothing, heard nothing, experienced nothing which led me to believe or know that the local church was being the hands and feet of the Jesus that Christians are so good at preaching about.  God has not placed a calling upon unbelievers to come looking and knocking on the doors of a church trying to find Jesus.  God has placed a calling in the hearts of His people to go out and find those who cannot find Jesus for themselves and to love them unconditionally by providing them with the very thing they may be lacking.  Satan does not need to blind the hearts and minds of unbelievers for that is already happening.  It is the hearts and minds of Christians which the evil one has made numb and desensitized to the pain and need of a dying world.  The Baal of old may no longer be made of gold and in the shape of a calf, but Baal is still worshipped in our churches today, for if it was Jesus Christ whom we worship and glorify, we would not be so concerned with our own comfort and well-being, with the success of our own plans and agendas, with using the churches money and resources for its own development and growth; we would be filled with shame, we would make mission our number one priority and not committee meetings, we would use our power and influence to do good and not to push out of the way or to discredit the people who do not agree with us, the people who no longer buy into our own vision and plans for the local church.

Why did I stop going to church?  Because I was looking for Jesus and I could not find him there.

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13 thoughts on “WHY DID I STOP GOING TO CHURCH? BECAUSE I WAS LOOKING FOR JESUS AND I COULD NOT FIND HIM THERE!

  1. This post really resonates with me because I too am struggling with the same sorts of concerns. My husband and I have been what we call “free range” Christians for over a year now. We have been visiting many different churches of our denomination and others in order to determine where we best fit in. So far we haven’t found it. A few years ago I wrote a satirical story in which the members were urged to contribute via PayPal if they could not be present. Ironically, I just visited the website of a new church and there it was — the opportunity to give via PayPal! I find that I struggle with the church as the business it has become in today’s world, yet I do miss the community it affords. When I don’t attend, I miss the fellowship and sense of unity that comes with corporate worship. I feel that the church is missing the mark in many areas, and I confess I have become disillusioned with its leaders for various reasons; however, I feel that I will continue my search for a “church home” in order not to feel like an orphan I suppose, having been in church my entire life. However, after having experienced a great deal of hurt at the hands of church leaders, I think I will have a more realistic view, trusting only God Himself. Perhaps this is the lesson I needed to learn all along.

    • Hi Jan,

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving your comment and personal insight and experience. I appreciate your honesty and transparency.

      I understand what you are saying about experiencing community, the fellowship and “the sense” of unity in worship. Those are wonderful things, positive things that being part of a church community provides. But if we are honest and we look deep within, we both know that is not what should make us want to be part of a church. Ultimately, we are not there to feel good about ourselves, each other and the strong bond between us, but to be light and salt to the very ones who are not a part of it yet. This is such a simple and basic biblical truth, and yet so many leaders are overlooking it because they are so caught up with the church vision, mission statement, meetings and programs.

      With regards to you feeling like an orphan, may I just encourage you by saying that that is the very thing you are most definitely not. Wherever you are, your Heavenly Father is with you. And that is just my very point. You are the church as much as any of the people you worship with on Sunday or any other given day, and in the end it is only Jesus who is the way, the truth and the life, so no matter how supportive and nurturing a church may be to you, ultimately, it is only Jesus and His Truth which we must follow. Setting foot on a building on a Sunday morning is no more The Church than you praying for your neighbour in their time of need, particularly when it comes to churches which are self-serving and self-centered.

      May I please take the liberty of recommending a powerful book entitled “The Missional Mom” by Helen Lee. It will open your eyes to ways in which you can begin to discern what is your calling in the place where God has placed you; how you can begin to network with others using your gifts, resources and passion to be the hands and feet of Jesus wherever you are. It is possible to be the Church outside of the church walls. Indeed, I have experienced more of The Church outside my church walls in these last couple of years than I had done within the Church Institution all my life, and more importantly, I have witnessed the love, compassion and mercy of Jesus in tangible ways I had not seen before. So long as you are obedient to the voice of Jesus Christ in your own walk, He will bring along the way the least expected of people with whom you will develop that community, that unity in Christ, that fellowship of which you talk about.

      Another book through which the Holy Spirit has spoken right into my life has been “So you don’t want to go to church anymore” by Wayne Jacobsen and Dave Coleman.

      Let me know how you and your husband get on. Church hopping is most certainly not for me. Sometimes, when we don’t fit in and we consistently sense that the Jesus we read about in the Bible is shining for his absence within any given church, we need to begin to ask God why this is the case, where is He leading us, what is next? When we read the Old Testament we see that often God took His people into exile as judgement was about to occur in the very places He had driven His people away from. These are interesting times for The Church at large and it is my belief that judgement is beginning with the House of God, just as His Word tells us. Perhaps it is time to be completely still, so that you can discern whether trying yet another church is what He is calling you to, or maybe something far bigger and greater.

      May the Lord bless you and shine His face upon you.

  2. Why did I stop going to church? Because I was looking for Jesus and I could not find him there. First of all in most peoples thinking church is the building… the church is not the building we who except Jesus Christ as our personal Lord we are the church… we who believe need to be around those who truly understand that thought… the fact still remains… why would anyone want to go to church and miss sports, games and “O” yes sleeping late. That question must only come from one who truly understands what is more important and understands if they want to recieve the truth… you see the truth will set you free. the reason i go to church is because i understand the truth… do you? the fact still remain God does not make mistakes

  3. Hi Harry,

    I appreciate the comment, but you are preaching to the converted. I find your tone patronising, and your attitude towards me, another Christian, only serves to confirm much of what I express here. It is not me you need to spend your time preaching to, but the lost, the broken-hearted, the widows and orphans. The problem is that if you use such patronising tone with someone who already has Jesus living within them, you stand little or no chance of reaching those who do not believe at all. And that is a big factor in why many churches are empty today. “By their love you shall know that they are my disciples” Jesus said. Not by loyalty to a church or regular Sunday attendance. That was never God’s idea of loving thy neighbour as yourself and loving God above all else. I don’t rely on someone in a pulpit, a broken cistern like myself, for the Truth but the word of God alone and my daily relationship with Jesus Christ. You contradict yourself in your comment, as you declare that the church is not confined to four walls but made up of all believers who have accepted Jesus Christ into their heart, soul and spirit. And then on the next line you say that attending church is your way of receiving truth. But if like you say the church is not the four walls and what takes place within them, how then can you obtain any truth by being the member of a church? Can’t make sense of that one! Sorry

  4. Pingback: Just when I was beginning to think the path is too lonely and the effort required too ardous….a breakthrough | BELIEVE

  5. I am at the same place myself and have been for a very long time.

    I confess that I too no longer enjoy “church” as I used to and my experience completely mirrors yours. Listening to many of the messages preached in my church fills me with dismay as it appears we are all being conditioned to act and behave in a certain manner which the leadership feels is appropriate. Upholding the word is no longer as important as protecting their visions and that of the denomination.

    I made the careless mistake of voicing my opinions once and trust me that did not end well and it only taught me to keep my distance.

    I still attend the church anyway but from afar as I have not heard anything from the Lord regards to what to do next. But I am comforted in the fact that I am not the only one who feels this way.

    Thanks for sharing, its been encouraging.

  6. Hi Tony,

    Thank you so much for your comment.

    May I recommend a book for you entitled “The out-of-chuch Christians” by Andrew Strom? Trust me when I say there are hundreds of thousands of people who feel just like you and me, and The Institutional Church lacks discernment as it dismisses as heretical or rebellious the thousands of Christians who are expressing the same concerns all over the world, particularly in the Western World.

    If they truly cared for the Body of Christ, those in leadership would make it their responsibility to begin to look at the reasons of why this exodus is taking place. Instead they patronise those who leave by saying they leave as a result of people having been hurt, when in many cases that was never the determining factor. It is so much deeper than that.

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  8. Hello everyone,I believe that God is showing me that it’s a different spirit that creeks in the church.When the church members backbite against each other or say give certain amount of money and expect something in return.God showed me that two main thing that the devil use in a church to destroy it ,and I can’t get over the fact that now they give you half of the bible when you become a member.Now a days If you want the truth read the bible for your self and ask God to give you wisdom and understanding.I just made a decision to stay out of church I believe thats what God is showing me to do.I not aginst church I believe it some true one out there,the one that have less people.Give like the widow two coins and see who look down on you even if that all you can give. God bless and Jesus is Lord!

  9. Well im a young student in varsity who is crazy about Jesus.however when i started visiting the churches around me to find one that i could belong to,I only recieved discrimination and rejection in turn for being a recent memeber.I guess they didnt think I could contribute anything since I was just a young person.The other thing is most of them dont even care about teaching holiness but only about how beng a christian will gaurantee you open doors in everything you touch.I agree that our God is a blesser,but if that is the basis of salvation,I wouldnt have been born again in first olace because I think God is so much more than what church goers paint him out to be.Everytime I go to church I come back feeling depressed and unvalued,so if thats the case id rather keep worshipping God at home because I truly love him and I will not let how church members depict him cause me to turn back and stop following christ.Mulalo.

  10. Your post bears witness to a vision I saw a little while ago. In the vision, I was able to see through glass doors the inside of A church. What I saw was people really getting into praise and worship. Then my attention was drawn to the doors that I was looking through. The doors only had handles on the inside which meant that in order for you to get in, you had to be let in by someone on the inside. Furthermore, if you left for any reason, you had to be let back in by someone on the inside.

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