Leaving church — whether a specific fellowship or the industrial model altogether — is not a decision people make lightly.
Nor is it one that others take well, and if you are in the process of dropping out of a particular body or the entire conventional, establishment fellowship (i.e., multiple weekly meetings at a specific building with a closed group of like-minded people), you will no doubt engender the censure of others.
As a person who has left, successfully and happily, the 21st century corporate church — and to clarify for those who are happy in their existing church fellowship, not all churches look this way — albeit an increasing number of them, especially the mega-models, look like a business, act like a business, and generate money from their “customers” like a business — I have walked through the disapproval, fielded Hebrews 10:25 (“Forsake not the assembling of one another“), and made it to a good place of walking with Christ, learning and absorbing the love and grace of God, and studying Scripture — confidently — on my own.
Wow. That was a long sentence. I don’t think I could survive without the dash.
What I can survive without, however, is the Sunday morning dash that we did for so many years — getting the kids up and dressed, eating a quick bite, leaving the dishes in the sink to greet us after we got back — 68 minutes later — from a place where we sat and stared straight ahead, standing when we were told, singing what was put in front of us, and listening to a message we were encouraged to take notes on.
One of the most memorable messages was one I heard more than once, in more than one church:
“You must take time and arrive here in a calm, spiritual state of mind. Parents — you mothers, really — it’s up to you to lay out the children’s clothes the night before. If you’re properly organized — and God is the God of order — Sunday mornings should not be stressful.”
Great. That’s the kind of spiritual teaching I really needed.
Actually, the kind of spiritual teaching I needed was the kind I really didn’t want — a close, intimate walk with God that derives out of the pain, suffering, and hurt that is a part of life down here, and when that pain, suffering, and hurt hit bad, we found ourselves in the outside of the circle, looking in. After awhile, we thought to ourselves, “What if we turned around and walked the other way? Where would it take us?”
It took our family to an alternative, independent way of worshiping God, one that healed wounds and encouraged growth. And while our path isn’t the right one for everyone, worshiping God in spirit and truth — which means asking uncomfortable questions, wrestling with God like Jacob did, and insisting upon the real thing instead of the best looking substitute — is the path of all believers.