A lot of people are going to tell you that you’re nuts for trying to live out a life of faith away from the church and religious institutions. A lot of people are wrong.
Churches, like people, come in all shapes and sizes. Some are so in love with their traditions and so out of touch with the real world, that they are irrelevant. Thankfully, some are beginning to take the initiative to tangibly represent the Gospel and love of God to their neighbors. Some are self-serving; others are trying to bless people in their communities. Most churches are some combination of these positive and negative traits, just like individuals.
A faith apart from its institutional elements is not for everyone, so there is no need to try to force it. You will know if it fits you, or not. But the trend is away from the institution and toward something more personal, more relational, and more authentic. And those are great values.
That has left a lot of people flailing in some sort of vacuum trying to figure things out.
They may wonder:
Am I a heretic?
Why did my church friends desert me?
Are there other people like me?
How can I cultivate my faith, but still keep it real?
Those are the questions I have tried to address in this and my previous book.
You are not a heretic because you have issues with cultural Christendom.
After using most of these pages to describe the viability of a free range faith, I feel I must list the dangers like those disclaimers in television commercials for prescription drugs.
If you have been a part of the church, the transition to a free range faith will take a while and it will have some challenges. Those may include some strained relationships with your church-going friends, but you will find new friends and new interests to fill the vacuum.
You may feel alone when you are in a company of millions of people.
You may wonder if you are a heretic as you are drawn to re-evaluate your beliefs, but you will find a more authentic faith in the process.
When I hear the words, “free range,” I immediately think of chickens and the way they were raised back in the days of the family farm. These yard birds had a place to shelter from the weather and food to eat when it could not be found through their own foraging. Yet they were free to roam. They made their own choices.
We have come a long way since those days; feeding chickens growth hormones, freakishly accelerating their development, getting them plump in a hurry. They are squeezed into metal buildings with no space and nothing to do but eat, grow fat, and be slaughtered. Every chicken is contained in its tiny space for life, until sacrificed for the “greater good.” The chickens are all treated the same and they all do pretty much the same thing because they think they have no choice.
They probably don’t know they can make their own decisions and they probably don’t know they can fly.
Should one escape the containment facility, it will need to adjust to living in the real world. If the chicken could speak to us (or if we could understand chicken speak), I think it would say,
“There is nothing better than being free, but it’s really different and I had to adjust to it. But there is no way I am going back!”