I wanted to write about this subject three weeks ago but am just getting around to it now. This subject is “unbiblical” to the conventional Christian. There is no life beyond church they would say. I have even heard people within the church call people who have left their church “bastards.” Yet here is where so many people find themselves. And so… I write.
I am not going to spend time here defending this topic, I am going to go right into writing about it. I remember asking God about his body, the church years ago which began a 15-year journey of seeing the ins and outs of church creation, growth, development, leadership, failure, hypocrisy, glory, strength, and blessing. If the church were a closet full of clothing, I have worn almost every outfit in different seasons where I felt God leading me through relationship with people.
And yet I find myself, and other people I both respect and would call people of great faith, outside of regular church participation at the moment. I will not group these people into people who are rebellious, hurt, bitter, or prideful. These are beautiful, servant-hearted, prayerful, joyful, faithful, creative children of God.
So why do we find ourselves here in this field of spirituality beyond where the paved road ends? Could there even be purpose in this? God of course lives within the walls of his church but I think he is also moving his body, his people beyond not only church walls, but Christian culture. There are so many people who carry the love of God and the ways of his kingdom into so many places; the home, business, arts, media, entertainment, education, etc.
Can I be a Christ follower without walking in American church culture and vocabulary? Of course I can. I hope we are sharing God’s culture, how he loves us and sees us, with people and nations. I’d like to make the argument that this can happen 100% outside of meetings and buildings set aside for this purpose. People can experience hearts and homes of heaven.
I don’t think there is necessarily a wrong reason that people have quit participating in a church regularly. I do think there is a fullness of God’s people operating as a kingdom of priests as he originally intended. His children have full union with the father.
Church family commitment is like marriage, you get involved because of what you have to give, what you have to offer, not what you have to get from it, or how they can serve you. Community is beautiful and I think this can be found outside of a church governing structure and weekly scheduled meetings. But…
What I’m seeing even more of is people who are very much on relative islands of preparation and intimacy right now. Little pockets of service and relationship more based solely out of energy spent on building/maintaining healthy family relationships. I do think it’s beautiful when the role of a mother and father are one and the same as the pastor and priest. That discipleship and family are one and the same with no definitive line between the love of God and the love of family.
Not being understood and being judged is a regular occurrence of life and I’m being reminded over and over again to not care what other people think. Especially people who care more about what my life looks like rather than wanting to hear my personal experience.
Being outside of a church structure doesn’t mean we quit learning about God as we live life with him.
I just wanted to write a bit of encouragement to those who find themselves in no man’s land. Or not operating in the fullness of their giftings at whatever church they find themselves in. You are not broken, you are not failing, and you have not been ‘taken out of ministry.’
God is so much bigger than our little religious mindsets of what freedom and spirituality look like. He grows things inside of us we don’t even know need growing and often times they have nothing to do with external appearances. Although God is in religious meetings every week, he is just as much at the dinner table, in the nursery of your house, at the grocery store, and in your office.
I love that the presence of the awareness of God is naturally felt at all hours in all places. Our existence is one with his. You are the church my friend, you couldn’t leave who you are. You are his temple and the only building he cares about. He’s never left the meeting of your life and God is not finished being in love with us wherever we are, whatever season we find ourselves in. Joy is in his house, in his bride, and in his family. Blessings to you, all the beautiful sons and daughters of God who find themselves in No Man’s Land.
2 thoughts on “No Man’s Land. Life Beyond Church”
Heather, this so speaks to what i have experienced since not being in an organized church. I probably have many more mindsets to have broken since I have spent 40 years in the institutional church and think I am still detoxing and letting God tear down a lot of my thinking about the body so He can give me clearer understanding. I have been very hungry for vibrant community and have tried to go back to IC over the last 6 months. I could fit in a lot of the places I go but every time I leave I have this wearying feeling in me when I think about committing to church in this model. At first, I would be questioning is there something in me that causes me not to want to make commitment but after much wrestling, believe it is just not what God has put in my heart for this season. There is something new; I don’t understand it all, can’t communicate it very well, and just trying to take one step at a time but wanting to move forward in it. It can be a lonely place but pioneers are lonely at times and question, ‘ where the hell am I going’ many times, I am sure. I know there are people out there who have not found what they are looking for and I pray for the voices, especially in this religious area, to arise and rattle our cages and cause us to seek God for the new thing He has that will make a difference in our culture and cause Him to be seen in way that causes us to hunger after Him and be in awe. Thanks for sharing. Carol Bell
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