Leaving the institutional church opens up a world of opportunity for people who are serious about expressing their faith.
We get to choose where, when, and how we worship. Will we worship God as we walk along a nature trail in solitude? Will we worship him in a crowded festival, full of people as we are bombarded with a collage of sound, craftsmanship, and a vast spectrum of unique people and their creations? Will we worship him by serving a neighbor in need? Will we worship him as we share a table with people we love? Will we worship him as we hang out with some friends and muse over the wonder of God and life? Will we create something as an act of worship, a poem, a story, or a song? Like I said, we have a lot of options!
Will we read the Bible or another book to further our spiritual development? Will we journal our thoughts or discuss them with a friend or, perhaps, a few friends?
How will we pray so that it is meaningful and not just a rote act? How will we reflect and gauge our spiritual formation?
What relationships do we have in our lives that enable us to experience community and participate in service? Are we too much of a lone ranger? Do we need to develop new relationships?
What makes our life meaningful? What are we doing that makes us feel alive?
What do we excel at? Are we focusing on those things, or just trying to get by in life?
We don’t have to give money to the church, but we can. Will we choose to financially support a Christian or charitable organization that aligns with our values and passion?
What will we teach our children now that we are not relying on the church for that? Will we have regular teaching times or do it on the fly, looking for teachable moments?
How can we be a good neighbor? How will we help the disenfranchised? How will we serve other people?
Once you stop feeling guilty for not going to church, you will begin to appreciate that you finally can have a real Sabbath rest. Don’t let other things crowd it out. You have been given a deposit into your time account. Now, you can take up a new interest you may never have had time for before.
If you were regularly supporting your church, you have been given an actual financial deposit. Now, you can decide what ministries, missions, and causes you want to support. Now, you can serve people in a way that excites you. You have the freedom to create new rhythms, new relationships, and new priorities. Treasure it and use it wisely.
I remember when I first backed away from the institution. People thought I was backing away from the church and from God, which tells me their understanding of both was way, way too narrow. When you think about the core concepts of church: community, encouragement, and mission; it is very broad. You don’t have to go to a special building to hear a professional communicator, watch a show, and give them money for it to be the real deal. The opportunities for our spiritual expression are endless!
An excerpt form my soon-to-be-released book, An Irreligious Faith: How to Starve Religion and Feed Life