This part of me trying to explain my relationship to the church. You might want to read Part 1, first.
Question #2 Why don’t you go to church anymore?
Short answer: I am currently following Jesus without being a part of the institutional church because I like the freedom that it provides in living out my faith.
After the disbanding of the church, I thought I would take a break and get some things done around the house that I had put off while I was busy trying to get things going at church, I planned to jump back into another pastoral position. As I looked, I found that churches were either small and backward, looking for a “Brother Bud” type of pastor, or ambitious and trendy, looking for a “Superstar” who could miraculously take them to the next level. I was neither, “Brother Bud” nor a “Superstar”. After talking to several churches, I became disillusioned with the process.
After ten years with my last church and having never been unemployed, I had a significant period of unemployment. I worked a few jobs that were obvious mismatches just to get working. Eventually, I began my own business of painting and window cleaning.
During this eight year period, we attended three conventional churches, two house churches, and had a couple of periods in which we took a break from church. This was another new experience, having never been a “church hopper.” I did some consulting for a couple of churches, developed the “welcoming ministry” at one, and coordinated a large community service event for another. I encountered suspicion as a former pastor and I discovered that church leadership culture tends to be very closed.
My experience as an informed outsider left me very disillusioned with churches and my perspective underwent a huge shift. I had always been in love and totally devoted to the local church, and now I had become a critic. All of this resulted in a major identity crisis for me.
I loved Jesus as much as ever. I loved community with Christ followers. I loved being a part of kingdom work in the world. But I didn’t love the institution. It was, in general, too self-serving, too internalized, and too oblivious to people who were disenfranchised. Yet, there are many fine people who I love dearly that are part of an institutional church and many of them seem to love it. All I can say is that we are all at different places in our journey. If I hadn’t been forced by circumstances to look at things from the outside, I would be as much of a proponent of the institutional church as ever. I have no problem working with local churches and with pastors and I understand them better than most because of my past experience.
I am not sure that I will stay in my present mode of not being directly associated with a local church, but it does have some advantages. I am free to live a totally integrated life, with no divisions between the spiritual and the secular and I see God at work in interesting places. I am free to enjoy community wherever I find it. I am free to take responsibility for my own spiritual formation. I am free to join in with what God is doing wherever it happens to be.
One important conclusion is that nobody is superior to anyone else. If you are a faithful church member, that does not make you in any way better in God’s eyes. Nor do I have room to feel in any way superior to “those people who still are a part of institutional church.”
You can read part 1 here.
This post was originally posted April 8. 2010.