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Preparing to make the leap

February 6, 2009

The time is quickly approaching for my departure from professional ministry after devoting thirty-five years of my life inside the institutional church (IC). Several of my friends have tried leaving; in fact, a dear friend of mine broke the news today that he’s accepted a part-time pastoral position at a small Southern Baptist church. Another friend returned from the mission field and couldn’t find meaningful employment to support his family, so a medium-sized church came along looking for a guy with a DMin and years of preaching experience. They offered him a nice salary and benefits package. He accepted the position, but I know it’s not what he really wanted to do. Although I can’t wait to get out, I do feel that some preparation may be necessary. Actually these are things I’m avoiding like the plague.

  1. I’m not burning any bridges! Not with friends who remain in vocational ministry or those who simply attend an institutional church. If they can passionately pursue their relationship with Jesus and other believers in that context, then who am I to persuade them to leave? Or treat them any differently?
  2. I’m not sharpening my axe! Personally, I suspect the IC will always be with us. I refuse to go on a crusade against the institution and try to single-handedly dismantle the system. If people approach me and ask why I quit attending church meetings at the local Baptist church, then I will tell them honestly. But I have no intentions of ripping into pastors, church leaders, and members for attending an IC if that’s where they feel they need to be.
  3. I’m not planting a house church! To me, most house churches are simply a miniature version of their larger cousin on the corner of 4th and Main. Most people have great difficulties with the multiplication process, so most house churches end up renting larger space and, the next thing you know, they eventually erect a building of their own. Many house churches follow a pattern of worship (aka “liturgy”) and emphasize “preaching” to the point that I see very little difference other than the square footage.

My hope is simply to live alongside other believers in a way that makes Jesus known to those who don’t know Him. I want to share His life with others around me without feeling compelled to ask, “So where do you go to church?” And my primary aim will be to encourage other believers in the faith, looking for ways to stimulate them in their love for Christ and their neighbor, as well as to join them in doing good for those around us, in the name of Jesus Christ.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. February 20, 2009 5:18 am

    This might just be the best and most healing leap of your life, as well as the most difficult and soul stretching one. At least, it was for me…

  2. admin permalink
    February 20, 2009 1:11 pm

    I had breakfast in Waffle House last Sunday morning and started a conversation with my waitress, a professing Christian who had been through so many personal tragedies including physical abuse and divorce. She also told me about feeling snubbed at just about every church she attended because “I’m white trash and I only work at Waffle House.” Then she asked me, “What church do you go to?” I told her, “I don’t go to church anymore.” This confession followed my admission to being an ordained clergyman and former missionary, so she looked shocked and said, “Oh, really?” So I suggested we start a new church: The Church at Waffle House. She loved the idea, “Yeah! We can just have church right here!” To which I smiled and said, “We’ve been having church since I walked in here!”

  3. Dave permalink
    February 22, 2009 2:41 pm

    I left the IC several years ago like you are preparing to do. Your Waffle House conversation reminds me of many I’ve had at Shoneys. Too many Christians in the IC beome “legalists” without even knowing it. They wouldn’t understand how you could have been having church since you walked in there (Waffle House).

  4. admin permalink
    February 22, 2009 4:17 pm

    You know, I’m probably gonna have to change my vocabulary quite a bit, like my use of the phrase “having church” which is based more on an IC understanding than a biblical one. We don’t really “have church,” do we? We are the church, the bride of Christ, His body!

    Yesterday, a friend asked me, “When you leave the IC and get together with other Christians on a more informal basis, are ya’ll gonna worship?” Now this guy has been a pastor for years, so I asked him, “What do you mean by worship? When does the Bible say we should worship God?” When I put it like that, he immediately responded, “Twenty-four seven!” See, he knows in his heart that what the IC does on a Sunday is unsupported by Scripture. He wants to get together again and talk about this stuff some more. He said, “You’re making a lot of sense and I agree with most of what you’re saying, but I have a lot of unanswered questions.” And I’m thinking God’s already at work in his heart, but if not at least he’ll understand my decision a little better.

  5. Dave permalink
    February 22, 2009 5:29 pm

    Your friend sounds like he is still living in the Old Testament reality where sacred days,buildings,worship, priesthood,tithe is dressed up in New Testament language instead of simply following Jesus. As such, it is difficult for him to find life in the shadows which is all those concepts were in the Old Testment. I hope your next conversation goes well…

  6. Yvette permalink
    May 31, 2011 8:44 pm

    Right on bro. This is where I am.

  7. May 29, 2012 10:26 pm

    So you are saying the Apostle Paul did not observe Jewish holy days, or at least show regard to them? Why dont you read the book of acts before you make these sweeping claims. Oh, Im all for being real and original. But dont leave one ditch and crash into the other And, the bible does say all things should be done decently and in order……

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