Leaving the Institutional Church

Posted on March 30, 2012

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By: Sandra. What I must start off with is that I always believed in God. I was brought up Catholic and my father always made sure we went to church and had a Catholic education. (Growing up my father always wanted to be a priest, according to what my grandparents told me.)

I am the oldest of 9 children. At a very young age I entered the convent to be a nun. It was the week before my 17th birthday. At 19 I was out. During this time my parents were going through a divorce, but a month before the divorce was final, my dad was killed in a motorcycle accident on his way to work.

Without going into a lot of detail, let’s just say my life growing up was not peaches and cream. There are abuses I went through and I always tried to do the right things, but failed in areas. There were times I got drunk, lied, etc.. There are some sins I can think of that I am very ashamed to talk about, but that is in the past and forgiven.  After my father’s death, my mom moved to Florida with the children.  About a year later I decided to move to Florida.

Though I believed in God, I was very empty inside. I was looking for a church and ended up finding one, which had a group of people who met on Friday nights at the Walsh’s home for prayer, praise, and Bible study (in the late 70′s).  A lot of them were new Christians. It was there someone told me about Jesus. The person telling me about Jesus acted like he knew Him personally and THAT was what I wanted. I became a Christian that year. I was hungry to read the Bible and continued to go to the meetings.

Well, years went by. I learned things as I read my Bible and I attended different kinds of churches and finally ended up in a Baptist church.  All I can say is, as time went on I lost my zeal for God even though I was active in church. I was in the music ministry and we had a music ministry for the prisoners here in Volusia County. I also taught Sunday School to 5th graders. I attended church on Sundays and of course our Wednesday evening services. I attended just about every function the church had.

Around 2004 things started to change for me. I found myself hungry for deeper things of God. Through the years I gained a lot of head knowledge, but I was empty inside. I started questioning my beliefs and ‘why’ do I go to church. I started looking at my life and those around me. When it came to Sunday mornings, it was I who had to make sure everyone in the family got up so we could be on time for church. There were some mornings that were not pleasant.

I got to the point where I started watching more closely at the people in the services and after the services. Everyone seemed to have their own little circle of friends.  As much as I went to church, it was hard to really find anyone to converse with who was ecstatic about God. I wanted to talk about Jesus, to have conversations like I did in the old days with people who, like me, were new Christians, where we were on fire for God and we couldn’t talk about anything else but what the Lord had done in our lives each week and shared Scripture verses that spoke to our hearts, and words of encouragement for each other. Those days were gone. I couldn’t find anyone on fire for God, much less that spark was gone in me as well. Once in a great while I found someone just before Sunday School or Sunday service where a sincere conversation took place and we got more out of our two-minute conversation than the whole hour sermon!

After Sunday services were over, I would watch people as they got in their car to go home while I waited for the children to get out of their Sunday School class. Some people looked like they had been sucking on lemons all morning. I would see people in a rush to get home that they were not courteous to oncoming traffic within the church parking lot!  And I remember sitting there and thinking, “Is this all there is?”  I was thinking about my life, about the church attendance, people rude in the parking lot, people looking angry most of the time, how people were backbiting each other, etc. etc..

This got me started to look up on the internet about church or church life.  I came across an article titled, “Why Modern Churches are Carnal.” It explained the word “church” and how it has nothing to do with early Christian practice, about man-made traditions, titles, the binding of Christians to tithe, about the abuse and roles of those within the church structure. During this time I was also seeking the Scriptures and came across a doctrine that I have held onto for years and found to be false (Original Sin). I was excited about this new-found truth, and when I tried to share it with my Christian friends they turned on me (from the internet to those I knew in church, right down to the pastor).  Some of the church members accused me of trying to undermine the teachings of our pastor. Some of them did not bother to speak to me anymore.  I seemed to have made enemies.

I went to church a few times thereafter, but this time with my spiritual eyes and ears open to what the pastor was preaching.  He was not preaching against sin, but giving excuses for sin and to encourage the pew sitters to try and do better, even though it was taught that it was impossible to keep the commandments!

The last time I went to church was on a Wednesday night. The sermon made me sick to my stomach, and I could not understand how anyone could agree with what the pastor was teaching. It took everything in me to not jump up and shout, “NO! This is wrong, this is not right!” The teaching was making them comfortable in their sin – for them not to worry if they were guilty of any of the sins found in 1 Cor. 6:9-10 when it says those guilty will not inherit the kingdom of God! Instead the pastor told them they did not have to chew their nails off their fingers, so to speak, because we all stumble at times. He even confessed one Sunday and said, “I lust daily.” These people had nothing to worry about because they are fed that a child of God can never lose their salvation.

Well, that Sunday I got up and I just couldn’t get myself to go to church. What had been going through my mind those few days was, “Come out of her.” I felt the Lord was telling me to get out of the church I was in. That Sunday morning my husband was already up and sitting at the table. I said, “I’m not going to church anymore.” He was kind of surprised. He didn’t say much. This is not to mention that he felt like he had to go to please me. Why tell others to get ready for church if it’s not in their heart to go? I didn’t want my family to go just to please me. Not to mentioned that one of my daughters met some friends “at church” that led her faster down the path of destruction. There were some teens there who cared nothing about their spiritual life. They were just in “the program” and going to church because they were forced to attend like I did with my children.

It was difficult for me at first when I stopped going to church. I had some “guilt,” and then wondered, “What’s next?” I don’t know if you heard the expression, but I had to “detox” from church. My life was caught up in the institutional church, helping to build the “pastor’s kingdom.”  I was kind of afraid at first because we’re taught that the more you stay away from church, the deeper in sin you will go. This is a lie. If a person goes deeper into sin, then one must wonder what his spiritual condition really is.  For me?  I had to learn to lean on Jesus and not some church system and a one man pastor.

It’s been since 2004 and I still not have attended a church service. There have been times I thought that maybe I should find something because I haven’t found Christians around me going through the same circumstances. I haven’t been able to find a fellowship of other believers except for those I have found through the internet. I keep praying to find something or the Lord lead me to somewhere, anywhere. But it is during these times that I know He still wants me to seek Him. The last time I went through this agony about fellowship, I was led to an article indirectly. It is titled, “No Fellowship, No Problem!   Again, the Lord spoke to me through this article.

I’m still here and still surviving.  I use my time for study in God’s word, for the web, and this blog for His honor.  Maybe some day I might find that home fellowship with other believers close by, but for now I remain content in the state I am in, trusting in Jesus.

Visit Sandra’s blog and homepage at: http://dividingword.wordpress.com/

 

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