Leaving Church to Find God

Posted on June 7, 2011

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By: Rory Moore

A lot of people sit in the pews and ask themselves “WHAT am I doing here?”

It was all so wonderful at one time.
Finding and falling in love with Jesus, forgiveness of sins, a new life, new and wonderful things to learn, and a sense of God’s presence and joy.  But as time went by, the joy fizzled out, and the routine of church became…, well, a routine.

The emptiness grew. All you wanted was God, and back in the beginning, you remember how great and wonderful God was.  You sang the songs with heartfelt feeling and The Bible was the greatest book you ever read, so that even the TV got turned off. You arrived early to church and stayed late.
You never missed a service if you could help it.

Something slowly changed. Did  Jesus become boring? What happened?
You thought something was wrong with yourself so you threw yourself into the growth program, volunteered for a committee, taught Sunday School.  You overlooked others faults, pretty much, but sometimes you wondered how people could practice some pretty carnal vices and still sing in choir or teach the children.

Although you couldn’t figure out what was wrong, there was only a sense that something was not right. So you worked on the building, cleaned it on Saturday nights, and tried to be “involved”..
But as time went on, the best part of a church “service” was when it ended.

But in time, you weren’t getting much out of it anymore, were not challenged in the areas of your life that needed change, and even when the pastor or priest assured you that you were one of God’s children, you wondered and hoped it was true. You knew you were much closer to the church than you were to God so you justified yourself that it was OK.

You wanted to have close spiritual friendships but as you sat in church looking at the back of 40 or 50 heads, you wondered what THEY were thinking.  And when service ended, everyone pretty much went off in their own direction, there was little closeness.

So you continue to go along with the songs, the offerings, the wannabe-happy-here attitude, but inside you are crying out “WHERE ARE YOU GOD!?”

You even hang-tough when bad stuff happens. People leave, people you thought you were friends with quit calling.

You see people suffer church abuse, you even see the leadership doing things that can’t be right, but you have learned to shut up and look the other way. After all they are the leaders and you are not to question or challenge them because they represent God to the church, right?

You even see your own kids  mistreated by some of the leaders and by other kids in the one place you thought was safe.

Over the years, by God’s incredible grace, you still “stay the course” through some incredible church explosions. You saw situations that were unthinkable to your once idealistic mind, both in the pulpit and the pew. You stayed loyal to your leaders and defended them even when many others openly pointed out their mis-deeds which you excused or justified.

You trudged on, the kids didn’t want to go, it was too “BORING!” they said. And inside, you knew they were right, but the thought of NOT going to church was unthinkable. You watched some Christian TV but were turned off by the cheap, shallow, carnival style pitchmen. They performed just like a lot of non-Christian entertainers only they used church-speak.

You still defended your church, your leaders, your teachings, but inside the nagging emptiness continued and grew. Somebody announced a new church activity,and a new program so you decide to give it another shot trying to “work through” the funk of spiritual stagnation….

Six months and 40 days later, you felt even emptier.
What made it worse was some of the others that participated in the same program and gave glowing testimonies about the program, were now not even coming to church anymore!

Somehow, you kept on giving financially (you had a name and reputation to maintain there, after all), even though both you and your family were struggling.  And you saw things and heard things that did not fit what you had read in the Bible.

But the years of conditioning to accept whatever was said in justification for questionable actions over-ruled common sense and the ability to be objective when it came to your church ….

Then came the unexpected crisis…….

After the spiritual honeymoon and becoming settled in to the church routine, you became a respected, stable member of a local church. You saw many people come and go, even pastors and leaders. You worked to support and encourage others through many difficulties and you gave of your time and ability. One day you realized “WOW! I’ve been a Christian for 14 years! Where did the time go?”

You raised your kids in church, some of you struggled with unsaved spouses, some did not. You saw divorce in the church, out-of-wedlock pregnancies, dishonest financial deeds, leadership corruption, and other un-Christian actions around you but you held on to your faith, your God, and your church.

Then came your own crisis of faith.
It may have come as a phone call at 1am.
It may have been your company going bankrupt, getting fired or layed off, an unfaithful spouse, the death of a loved one, a child on drugs, a doctors report, the loss of a home, business, or a lawsuit…and the sense of life turning against you.
It may have been the words “I don’t love you anymore”.

It may have been your pastor going into adultery with one or more women in the church, it may have been a pastor getting away with large amounts of the church’s money or property, it may be that no one was held accountable and they seemed to get away with it.

It may have been your spouse or child saying ‘I’m not going back”, or seeing the serial abuse and mistreatment of other members to the point you realized something is/was seriously wrong.
It may be the acceptance of new doctrine or practices that are contrary to the traditions of your faith, it may be some really “weird stuff” happening in church.

It may have been a nuclear shock of discovering your child had been molested by a youth minister, it may have been the discovery and cover-up of an affair either in the ministry or the family.
It may have been a sharp conflict with another church member. Or it may even have been things you read in the Bible that now you cannot reconcile with what your church does or does not teach.

It may have been your own lack of walking in a close relationship to the Lord.
It may have been the cares and business of life that slowly caused a drifting away from what you first had with the Lord and the day came when you realized your very soul was in jeopardy.

It may have been the day your world fell apart and what had always happened to someone else now happened to you.

One or more of the above scenarios played out a process in your life that turned you into a lit fuse on the way to an explosion.

The phone call, the letter, the email or text, the policeman standing at your door and suddenly the last strings that held your world together were gone.   At first you are stunned; denial and disbelief kick in and with it, a numbness of emotion and feeling. The world looks different, people appear strange, there is an unreality to life and the realization that there is an unstoppable process taking you into an unknown future.

Depending on the circumstances ranging from the shock of finality, or hoping for a second opinion, or making a call to a lawyer or other professional, or to another church member to compare notes, reality settles in and you try to cope.  A lot of them listen, offer a few words of encouragement, but nothing can heal the wound you have taken.

You come to the realization others cannot understand, help, or solve the problem. And even when you are among the others, you still feel alone.  You battled anger, resentment, “WHY ME?”, blame others, blame yourself, and cannot find any of the answers or understanding that you need.

These scenarios happen to people every day, in church and out. We watched it happen over the years many times in the lives of those arround us, and then one day, one month, one year, it happened to us.

Convergance.
It began with the death of my dad, our oldest son turning 13, and a series of events that felt like a slow, agonizing death-which, in reality it was. It turned into a death and what Jesus spoke about on more than one occasion:
Mat 10:39   He that findeth his life shall lose it; and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.

You see, we would never had made the changes we needed to make, that God desired us to make, and to return to Him and the careful study of His Word. Yes, the very crises that caused such great hurt and sorrow became the very instruments God used to bring us back to Him. I found God on my knees in our living room and soon after, He began to challenge my wife and I regarding every tradition and concept we had taken for granted.

…and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.

It was in the deepest, most painful days of that time that we found God again. And for that, we are ever grateful. Yes, it did cause us to leave our church of 24 years and we paid a price in losing old friendships we thought were lifetime. The amazing thing was as we disconnected with church, we reconnected with God.

Although that sounds like a contradiction, it is not, because we found as we returned to the study of scripture and prayer, we realized the church had departed from God’s Word and the longer we stayed out of the churches, the clearer the picture became of what we had left.

Some folks leave church because they are bitter. Some leave because of sin. Some leave because they finally wake up and see the emptiness or the phony showmanship. Some just grow weary and leave. There are many reasons, but our hope here is that we are speaking to those of you who are at some stage of what we and others have been through and your hearts desire is to follow Jesus…like you did at the first.

You may feel isolated sometimes and alone, but God has not failed you or forsaken you. He is bound by His Word and when we believe what He says about our circumstances, He will show up-maybe not like we want-but He will for our good. He said so. “ALL things work to the good…..” is still true when we trust Him…..

5.5 years later, in answer to the question “Leave or Stay?“, without hesitation we answer “LEAVE”.  It has been one of the best decisions we ever made.  We left “church” but we found God.

More specifics of Rory’s testimony here: http://www.preparehisway.com/about_us.html

Rory’s new site is: http://preparinghisway.blogspot.com/

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