Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Religious Systems Can Never Take The Place Of God

You are a newcomer at a new christian church, you are invited in with smiles and gratefulness. You are showed the ropes; where the tithing envelope is kept, and what the rules of the church are, and how to 'get involved'. You start to get excited hoping that this time will be different than the last three churches you attended thinking, this is it, this is the one that is different. You filled out all the forms to get involved, you're ready to make a difference. You become so accustomed to how and what your place is, you attend every small group bible study, worship practice, and every worship service. With anticipation and great hope for something different you start to recognize all the similarities in this church compared to the three others you left in search to find the perfect church. You start to get lethargic because you can no longer see the hunger you once had. That hunger was for God, that hunger that was never satisfied by the Holy Spirit , no matter how hard you worked and tried, it never came. You became so tired, you had nothing else to give to God, because you gave it to others who took and took, and never thought twice about what they were doing to your relationship with God. You start to pull back realizing that this is the only way you are going to survive and find God again! Elders of the church start to realize that you're not involved as you once were, they start to question you and have concern. They offer to take you out to lunch and 'help'. You comply and go out to lunch. They question your faith, and why you aren't tithing as much as you were in prior months. They ask you why you quit going to Monday, Wednesday and Friday night small groups bible studies. You are honest and sincere, and tell them that you are exhausted, and needed a break, and can't seem to see God in the midst of how busy you have been in the church. They are astonished at your reply, so they muster up every scripture verse to pressure you into not giving up and still follow through at what your calling is. They manipulate you into servicing their system and trying harder. They don't try to provide any encouragement but tell you that if you do what you need to do in the church you will be closer to God again and if you don't, God will not be close to you and will punish you. They then wrap up the lunch meeting with a prayer asking God to give you strength to do His work in the church. You leave empty and hurting more than when you first got there. You are alone in this, no one understands your desire to know God on a different level of expectancy. You then leave this church with hopes, again, to find the one church that will fulfill your relationship with God!

10 comments:

Free Spirit said...

My experience: not gonna happen. I've done my share of church hopping, met every time with disappointment, until finally Father showed me that "church" will never be able to meet my desire for intimacy with Him.

I believe what you describe here is a typical example of the machinery and deception of religion that I once subscribed to. Yuck!

Nicole said...

Amen! I can relate! There will never be a perfect church, but only a perfect God who is enough to follow...

Thanks for your thoughts!

In Freedom, Nicole!

Katherine Gunn said...

Hmm... yeah. That about sums up what I've seen...

Kent said...

I never did the church hopping thing. I completely left the one I grew up in during my prodigal years and when I came back I attended a new one for about a year and a half and came to a place of feeling that something was out of step. We then left what we thought was the "institutional church"...(I just call it the religious system now)...and began a home fellowship which we shut down within a year because we realized it was just a mini version of what we had left. It's been about 15 years now of having nothing that looks like organized religion and all I can say is Ahhhhhhhhhhh..........

Relational community with Father Son and Spirit along with those we are joined to in friendship through all aspects of our lives is turning out to be something so full of life and healing and growing freedom.

It's taken a long time for the residual effect of religion to be removed (and I am certain there is still more to go)and there is nothing that could get me to trade this for what Nicole described, but I know that is the reality for many people. I have conversations with people trapped in it all the time. It can be a long road out of it all.

20 years ago someone told me he had a feeling that as hard as it had been for us to leave the institution it was going to be a much tougher road to get the institutional thinking removed from us. Turns out he was right....but it's all worth it.

Lindsay said...

This is a hard thing. Can't say that my experiences parallel exactly what is here, but I can say that I have had many years (29 since I have been born) where I have been ingrained to think a certain way by those around me. I was in church from day one, went to Christian school, a Christian Reformed college, and it is really sad to say how involved with that my life has been! I have had very few friendships with "non-christians." Thankfully God was revealing so much to my mom starting when I was about 12 with the Exchanged Life and understanding God's grace more fully. She shared so much with me, but it is not until recently that God has begun working in me in that way.
I know I have so much baggage from growing up with all of the church/christian school ways. I know that God wants to free me of those and the process has begun. I have thought for so long that I had all there was.... the religious side of Christianity but had longed for an intimate relationship with God. In fact I really never used to mention God. It was only Jesus you would find me mentioning as God was so distant and I just couldn't begin to understand who He was. Now I have the freedom to speak about God without a distance. I have a relationship that is beginning to depend on Him instead of myself. He is revealing so many areas that I like to control, manipulate, and work in ways that is not Him.
All that to say that this whole IC thing is hard! We are at a church that is probably the most relational church I have been in (and I have been in several from moving a lot!) Yet even in being so relational I am still struggling with the structure, expectations-desires for church people, and all the sticky issues that go on.
I did have to laugh at God's working. As my husband and I are both right in the same place in growing and dealing with all this (Thanks to God using the God Journey in large part) we were taken out to lunch by our pastor about a week ago and my husband was asked to consider becoming a part of the "church board." We know this is an opportunity to decline as God seems to be working in us in such an opposite way. In fact maybe this is our first step to pull away and not focus on anything but God and knowing Him intimately.

Wow! I hope I didn't bore you but I needed to talk about this! Thanks! I am enjoying following your blog.

Nicole said...

Hey There!

Kent, great comments! It does take a long long time for religion to melt off of the forefront of the way we think and live! Amen to healing and growing freedom!

Lindsay, welcome and thank you for you're openness to share here on my blog! I understand completely about what it is like to be drenched in religion where you can hardly separate who God is in your life and your services in the system! I went through several 'falling on my knees' moments trying to figure out why I couldn't be closer to father even if I followed all the rules and did everything that a godly person does. The veil was lifted when I actually gave up trying!

Wow what coincidence about going out to lunch with your pastor! Have you guys already decided what you are going to do? Father usually gives us opportunities to separate ourselves from religion in some way or another!

Thanks a lot for coming by! I am glad you did!

In Freedom, Nicole!

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