Faith

Leaving Organized Religion (Part 1)

I’ve had issues with “church” (or, as some prefer to call it, ‘organized religion’) for many, many years. I have encountered way too much hypocrisy & legalism, and have never felt comfortable going to church every Sunday morning. I was practically forced to go to youth group as a teen, and then had issues at 2 of the 3 different churches I’ve attended in the last 20 years… issues that couldn’t just be overlooked, and so I left. My current church is definitely better than the other two were, but it still makes me uncomfortable, to an extent.

Leaving Organized Religion: Part One | She Will Rise

Back in 2009, while browsing in a bookstore, I came across a book called “Pagan Christianity” by George Barna & Frank Viola. I didn’t buy it, but just picked it up and skimmed through it. And, it piqued my curiosity. Here’s the description (from Amazon):

Have you ever wondered why we Christians do what we do for church every Sunday morning? Why do we “dress up” for church? Why does the pastor preach a sermon each week? Why do we have pews, steeples, choirs, and seminaries? This volume reveals the startling truth: most of what Christians do in present-day churches is not rooted in the New Testament, but in pagan culture and rituals developed long after the death of the apostles. Coauthors Frank Viola and George Barna support their thesis with compelling historical evidence in the first-ever book to document the full story of modern Christian church practices.

The book had me intrigued.

Then I picked up a book from the local library that I originally had no intention of reading: “The Year of Living Biblically” by A. J. Jacobs. An online friend reviewed it, and that review prompted me to give the book a try, and see what I thought. Well, I thought it was a fantastic book, and it got me thinking even more! What really got me, though, was the revelation I took away from that: Nowhere in the Bible does it say we have to attend church (in a building) every week!

People have always loved to quote me Hebrews 10:25, saying this was the mandate that we are to never stop going to church. Well, guess what? This verse does NOT say you have to “go to church”… it just says you aren’t to neglect meeting with other believers…

Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” ~ Hebrews 10:25, NIV

Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” ~ Hebrews 10:25, KJV

And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” ~ Hebrews 10:25, NLT

See? Even in the King James Version (which is thought to be one of the most reliable — closest to what was originally written), it says not to neglect meeting together with other believers. But it does NOT say you have to meet in a church building.

Then, while online shortly thereafter, I came across yet another book: “So You Don’t Want to Go To Church Any More?” by Wayne Jacobsen. And, by Googling the author, I came across his website, LifeStream.org, where you can read a multitude of articles on why he no longer is a fan of “organized religion”, and about how he believes “church” means something different than what we have always believed it to be…

Mr. Jacobsen says “Church is not somewhere you go; it’s something that you are“. We, the followers of Christ, are His ‘church’, His bride. Wherever we are to be found, that’s where “church” exists.

And I really like this concept! 😉

I read some of the articles on this LifeStream website, and apparently this is a growing trend… people are leaving the church building — the Sunday morning gatherings — and they are seeking out other believers that they can learn from and grow with, believers who share their same belief that you can’t limit God to man-made traditions.

Personally, when I realized that the Bible doesn’t even say you have to “go to church”, but only that you have to continue meeting with other believers, I was so relieved! No longer do I have to give in to the guilt that’s heaped upon me when people ask me if I’m going to church regularly, and I have to say ‘no’. No longer do I have to accept the shame they try to instill in me for not going. Instead, I can relax, knowing that I make my weekly Bible study meetings a priority, and am thereby obeying the Biblical command to continue meeting together with other believers.

{…to be continued…}

Note: This post was originally written in 2009.

Series NavigationLeaving Organized Religion (Part 2) >>

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