You can be sure that, if there is anything you want learn how to do, there is a book written on it.
You can also be sure that most of the self-assistance books (especially the ones that trumpet being “Everything You Need to Know about . . .”) aren’t worth the price of the postage to send them, consisting of quickly cobbled together rehashed material with a sprinkling of inspirational photos showing you what the finished product is supposed to look like. (You’ll never replicate it: the project is too complex, and the instructions too simplistic. But the photos are “inspiring”).
So it is when you choose to leave the established, weekly church service paradigm — a decision more and more people are making these days. Admittedly, there aren’t a lot of books written on this — YET — simply because it is not in the interest of the corporate Christian complex, with its voice represented by major Christian publishers, to encourage, or even acknowledge, any rebellious act of independence on the part of acolytes.
But as more and more of these acolytes wake up, shake our heads, and blink, the shockingly rare occasion of a person deciding to
- leave the corporate church situation without
- giving up on God, but rather
- pursue God outside of the conventional “norm”
becomes less and less of a rarity. And as things become less of a rarity, they alarm those who have a vested (read: financial) interest in keeping things the same.
Not All Fruit Is Sweet
(Stop, for a moment, and consider the fruit of massive church attendance: there is a literally captive audience that sits, passively, in the pews and absorbs what it is told from the pulpit. Is what they are taught sufficient to “equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity”? [Ephesians 4:12] The most unifying factors we see among many evangelical, churched Christians today are fear of the future, an obligation to support anything the modern state of Israel does, denigration of entire religious or ethnic groups, worship of the military and anyone else in uniform, blind acquiescence to authority, and a distinct tendency to vote Republican.)
So the first thing to do is to stop us from leaving in the first place. This is initially well accomplished by peer pressure, as well as regular applications of Hebrews 10:25 (“not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together”), but at some point, really irritatingly persistent people, with serious questions about the gospel and why what we’re told it is, is such good news, eventually see leaving as their only option. (At this point, many of their “leaders” emit a sigh of relief, as these difficult people only cause others in the group to bestir and feel the first pangs of discomfort that, unless quickly repressed, result in further questioning.)
Sunday Morning Looks Different, Now
But after we leave, what then?
How does one “assemble together” and “worship” and “live the community Christian life” in accordance with the way that the first century Christians did, which, we are constantly given to believe, is the only right and proper way to do it? In other words, how do we make sure that we don’t do this whole thing wrong?
This very concern we have of doing things “wrong” is a leverage that can be used against us, and cleverly enough applied, keeps people from making a clean break from an adulterated system, because we know so little of God’s mercy, love, guidance, and interest in us that we’re convinced He’ll drop us for not following the “rules.”
But in the first place, there are no “rules” — nobody really knows how the first century Christians worshiped, although plenty of emerging voices (funded by the corporate Christian establishment) are willing to lay out the system for us. It’s not much of a stretch of commonsense, however, to grasp that how our earliest brothers and sisters worshiped doesn’t resemble traditional, 21st century, corporate church service.
So if you leave that, you’re not leaving the ways of Peter, Paul, and Mary.
But what to do? Does one start a house church? And if so, how does one run it?
Who speaks? Just the elders? Only men? And how do we choose them?
Is it okay to not meet officially at all, but simply to read and meditate on one’s own, and informally get together with other believers, and just talk? Does talking with immediate family members and very close friends count as fellowship?
Whose Answers Meet Our Needs?
These are good and valid questions, ones without definitive answers, but as the literal movement of people from the pews to someplace outside of the pews continues, wait for it: the books, with definitive answers, will come; they will be published by major Christian houses (which don’t look at writings from individual “nobodies,” by the way, so don’t think they’re discovering fresh and unusual voices); and they will guide us, step by step, into a doctrinally correct form of worship outside of the box.
At some point, celebrity Christians will speak — first to urge us back to the box, then, as disobedience to their authority (they get that from us, by the way, when we give it to them) persists, to “guide” and “teach” us how to be this new type of Christian. At some point, they may go to the airwaves, allowing us to “worship,” in the privacy of our homes, under their aegis.
Oh, wait. They already do that.
Our path, as Christians, is a narrow one — anyone who hikes knows that narrow paths are generally more difficult, far less populated, and not easy to pick out — they require stamina, patience, clear thinking, and persistence because they take us to incredible places.
The only book you need to do this does not pay royalty fees to its author, nor did He write accompanying workbooks. Start there. Open your mind as well as your eyes, and pray for the discernment and guidance you need to take the next steps.
Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes, where a companion article to this one is Leaving Church: Is It Rebellious or Obedient? As this has, at the end, the caveat about “not all churches being bad, etc., ” and “this may not be for you, etc.,” I will not repeat them here.
My goal, as a writer and a Christian, is to encourage the seekers and believers who are tired of twisting and contorting themselves to fit into the very small space they are being squeezed into.