I’m not writing this to convince anyone to leave their congregation. Likewise, this isn’t meant to be offensive and I apologize in advance if it comes across that way. This is only an explanation of why I personally don’t attend right now.
First, my definition of church is a body of believers with a deep spiritual connection to Jesus and one another. When I refer to church, this is what I mean (thus the reason for “church” in quotes in the title). It doesn’t have anything to do with a building, Sunday, a denomination, or specific doctrine.
For my own personal journey, Jesus led me away from institutional religion. This is not to say he will never lead me back there. However, the definition of church can never be the same for me as it once was.
I find myself in agreement with many things that organized religion presents, yet I cannot bind myself to these things as it limits my ability to reach out to others. Some time ago, I was led to officially relinquish my membership. At the time I didn’t even know why. Now, I feel that part of the reason is so I’m not bound to a doctrine that limits me from helping others. I had to take off the “mask” and allow Jesus to love me for who I am and not for who I was trying to be by external conformance.
I don’t want to get into too many of the specifics with this as I believe everyone has their path to walk to find that deeper relationship with Jesus. Part of my path has led me to, and now away from, the institution. When we respond to those who walk away from us with disregard as though there is no possible way they can be saved outside of an institution, we place our definitions of salvation above God’s grace, mercy, and sovereignty. In effect, we’re stating that God only has power inside the box we’ve created.
The relationship with Jesus that has now developed in me transcends everything I’ve ever experienced in the institutions I’ve attended. As I mature spiritually, I feel as though I may be able to attend these congregations again in the future but only by God’s leading and only at his timing. I still see many who are developing a deeper relationship from the inside of these institutions but their progress seems to be impeded. Like was also my case, many seem to be clawing for every inch in a slippery, muddy, uphill battle to draw closer to Jesus when the truth is more like a stroll in the park with your best friend.
The major turning point for me was around the summer of 2013 when sitting in a pew on Sunday morning. I told Jesus that no matter the cost, I wanted to develop a deeper spiritual relationship with him. This was spoken from the very depths of my spirit as a longing to be lost in Jesus’ love. The cost included anything and everything that would stand in the way of that relationship (see Matthew 10:38-39 and 5:11-12). Many people have seemed to respond to my journey with a conditional based love. I understand why and don’t hold anything against them. Additionally, I have learned to love those inside and outside of the institution more by allowing Jesus to be first in my life and showing me how to love more unconditionally day by day.
It is my hope that I can show this relationship to others as I mature, but, as was also my case, the desire has to be in each of us first. The truth can only be accepted when we come to a point in our walk that we are ready to believe it.