Leaving Organized Religion :: One Woman’s Story
Here’s a great blog series by a young woman, Heidi, of Live With Desire:
While living in Germany for a brief period of time, God brought a fellow American into Heidi’s life and the two of them began getting together informally to share their lives from week to week. At some point in their relationship, she says (excerpted from part 5):
I started asking questions. Just where did we get American-style, institutional churches anyway? They didn’t remind me too much of what I read in Scripture. I started wondering about our formulation of “church”….lots of people, sitting in a room arranged with a stage and an audience, listening to what basically amounted to a concert and then listening to someone in front talk through a passage of Scripture…what did this have to do with participating in the Body of Christ, having real relationships with other believers, building them up, inviting them to live in the life of Christ, meeting each other’s needs, feeding the widow and the orphan, fighting poverty and loving our neighbors? Was it a necessary component of following God and knowing God? I had no doubt that some people could find, in the context of normal, institutional churches, true fellowship and encouragement and life as the body of Christ; some people could find a place to meet others’ needs and get their own met; some people could feed the widow and the orphan through the context of their local church, and could fight poverty, and could love their neighbors. I’d seen it, and even at one time experienced it myself. God first came for me, remember, within the context of church and church conferences.
But was it necessary that it be that way? Just because some people could find, in the context of traditional, institutional local churches, what God must have meant when he called us a “Body”, did that mean it was the only way? The God-ordained way? Did he spell it out, that it had to happen that way? Because if it was, why was I missing it, and why were so many other people missing it, when we wanted to find it so badly?
I tried to go back to church. I did. Every time I would end up either angry, or bawling my eyes out in tears from the condemnation and shame that I found there. Meanwhile, without being in the local church, I was growing more than I ever had. I was reading and learning like crazy. God was speaking to me. I was going to conferences (like Ransomed Heart’s “Captivating”) and eating up what God was teaching me there. I was spending time in relationship with other believers; I was finding myself in the unique position of meeting the needs of people who were left outside in the cold by their respective churches. For so long I’d defined myself by certain things. Bible studies. Quiet times. Small groups. Sunday school. Evangelism trips with members from church. Sermon notes. My “life in Christ” was really “life in church” – and the funny thing was, it gave me many burdens to carry, many “plates to spin” as C. J. Mahaney put it in that groundbreaking talk on legalism I talked about earlier. Even good things became burdens, part of the shame game that seemed designed to make sure my behavior matched that of “the good Christian” as defined by Church XYZ, but none of it brought me intimacy with my Father. My soul was left dry and empty by the organized church, and yet God had begun to work in amazing ways in my life….outside of the box of organized religion.