Over the past few years I have heard many woeful stories of people’s experiences in Christian churches. In the process they had many questions that church leadership could not answer or they gave them answers that were unsatisfactory. In my own search for a meaningful relationship with Jesus and His bride, I also had many questions, but the worst ones of all were about the way the church leadership treated people that just did not fit as a cog in their well-oiled machine. If you wanted to “have a ministry” in that system you had to swear unquestionable allegiance to the king and do everything HIS way. And even if you didn’t feel you had a “calling” on your life, well you had better financially support that kingdom or your Christianity was soon called into question. And worst of all, if you came into a “church growth” minded church with a boat load of problems from your past, even problems that were caused by other church leadership, you were classified as a “high maintenance” church member and not encouraged to hang around.
Well, I often seemed to end up in one of these undesirable categories for I started out with a lot of baggage from being raised in a dysfunctional, alcoholic Catholic family that was always at war. When I finally did get saved in my early 20’s I soon found out that the churches I tried to fit in were also dysfunctional families with leaders that abused their authority. I say, “soon found out,” but that is not quite the case. You see, this kind of leadership along with their own dysfunctional followers fit the mold in my mind as what a “family” is. So it took me submitting to many years of abuse and studying my Bible to finally figure out that THIS was NOT the kingdom of God that Jesus and the early church taught about and lived! Finally, after almost 30 years of “trying to find the right church,” my wife and I gave up!
But this was not all bad. I remember praying about my bad church experiences and I said, “God, I DON’T FIT! I JUST DON’T FIT!” To this He replied, “YOU are not supposed to fit!” I finally started to suspect that I was barking up the wrong tree when one Sunday (during another sermon by an egotistical pastor) I heard the Lord say, “Why do you keep seeking the Living among the dead?” Woe!!! I said, “Lord! Is that how you see all this?” Then shortly after that I was sharing some of my many bad church experiences with a sister that was heavily invested in that system and she said something that I did not expect, “Michael, if you go into a yard and are trying to get to the front door and a dog always comes out from under the porch and bites you on the leg… you should get the message that you DON’T BELONG IN THAT YARD!!!” Well, I finally got the message!
So, that was it for my wife and I. We have not been part of a Sunday church since about 1996. And you know what? The longer I have been removed from that man-made system, the clearer the voice of the Spirit has become to me. It is amazing, but true and just like John wrote while warning the early church that there were already many anti-christs among them, “You have no need any many teach you, for you have an unction and He will lead you into all truth.” And HE HAS! Praise God that “there is only ONE Mediator between God and man, the Lord Jesus Christ” and Father never meant for a hireling or thief and a robber to take Jesus’ place over His flock. And as we read in John chapter ten, Jesus calls us each by name goes out before us and we who are HIS sheep are meant to HIM. In Hebrews we read,
“Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever. Be not carried about with various and strange doctrines [all those conflicting pulpit sermons and Bible studies]. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace [the supply of Christ in us]… We have an altar [the Holy Spirit teaching us], of which they have no right to eat who serve the tabernacle [organized religions of men]… Therefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Let us go forth therefore unto him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come.” (Hebrews 13:8-14 KJ2000)
Yes, it can be lonely outside the camps of Christendom, but I have found by experience that as we become securely attached to Christ as our ALL, He then leads us to find fellowship with others who have done the same. Remember, Jesus prayed, “Father that they might be ONE IN US.” As our unity is secured in the Father and the Son, then we can find unity with others who have this established in their lives as well. Until this is the common bond, our relationship attempts will always fail. We are only members one of another as long as each of us is holding to the Head as individual members of His body.
“As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him: Rooted and built up in him, and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in him dwells all the fullness of the Deity bodily. And you are complete in him, who is the head…” (Colossians 2:6-10 KJ2000)
yes Mike it is amazing how the religious system they call chrisendom can be so detriminial–I was not raised in any religious church but once I got converted to the real deal I went into the funny mental bunch and stayed polluted for 26 years–then 13 years ago on this very date God showed me that he was the pope and he was living inside of me to live the Christian life through me using me for his fathers glory–all I could say was-oh boy that sounds like a winning deal to me cause all im doin is messin it up–now you write this post on this date–thanks a million for the flashback–I knew there was a reason I could not sleep tonight.
Well, I think NOT being raised and steeped in religion is better so that when Christ calls us we KNOW HIS voice and don’t have to sort out all those other voices from His!!!
Kenneth, glad to help you celebrate your anniversary! 🙂
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Terrific, Michael!!! Am speechless… 🙂
Susanne, so am I! 🙂
I agree with you wholeheartedly Michael! But I would like to ask you how should I respond to a dear sister of mine who doesn’t agree with this. She says we need to be under the authority of a local church per 1 Timothy 2-3. I know that the early church was so much different than today’s evangelical churches. I have yet to find a “church” where the Holy Spirit has the freedom to move. I almost feel like I am a horrible sinner because I don’t “go to church!” Thanks for this!!
This is a good question and I hope I can do you justice, but first I need to know what this verse has to do with being “under authority”?
“For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior;”(1 Timothy 2:3 KJ2000). The one before it speaks of praying for those who are in authority for sure and we should. Most people when they think of those not going to Sunday church and not being in that system like to point to those outside that system as being rebels and use the verse in Hebrews 10:25. “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as you see the day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:25 KJ2000). Anyway, I have addressed this issue and what it means to be “assembled together” in the context of this chapter here: https://awildernessvoice.wordpress.com/2013/01/03/forsaking-the-box-job/
This thing of being “under the authority” of pastors and such or the often asked, “Who is your spiritual covering” was answered by Paul in the following passage,
“Be ye imitators of me, even as I also am of Christ. Now I praise you that ye remember me in all things, and hold fast the traditions, even as I delivered them to you. But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoreth his head.” (1 Corinthians 11:1-4 ASV).
My Head and covering is Christ not somebody that went to a seminary and bought a title. When I pray or prophesy with another man as my covering, I dishonor CHRIST for HE is my inspiration and His Spirit leads me into all truth. Paul says here that the Head of the woman is THE MAN, Jesus Christ, as well, though when a man and wife are equally yoked together to Jesus there is a godly authority in the husband that can be trusted by his wife, but even here the admonition by Paul in Ephesians is “Husbands love your wives even as Christ loves the church and laid down His life for her.”
Even in this passage from 1 Corinthians we see Paul saying, “follow me even as I follow Christ.” He was providing a godly example, not a worldly hierarchy. He speaks of leading by example here also saying, “For you yourselves know how you ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nothing; but worked with labor and travail night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you: Not because we have not that right, but to make ourselves an example unto you to follow us.” (2 Thessalonians 3:7-9 KJ2000). There is a big difference between men who are true godly servant of Jesus’ sheep who go out before them leading the way by example and are down in the trenches with those they serve and those who lead by “office” or title and have hidden and sheltered lives for six days of he week.
Deborah, seek the leading of the Spirit, always, and pray for your friend that she will do the same and that He will open her eyes. The traditions of men are often stronger than the truth of the scriptures and especially the leading of the Spirit in church people’s lives. God has to break through all that by HIS power.
God bless you, Michael
I once thought if I ever write about my life journey, it will need to be a novel, not an autobiography. In that way I can protest the guilty – it seems all are guilty, including myself. Some of my past walk was so painful that it is hard to realize that it was – now that God has delivered me from so much. I still have need of mercy and grace, and He is still giving. I cry out for His great salvation for I need daily deliverance and to be a sheep of His pasture. He answers my prayer.
Thank you for the sharing. Your journey reminds me of my own. However, much of my suffering was because I wanted to be accepted in the system. God loved me so much, that He saw to it that I was not accepted in the system. Praise God for His protecting love.
Love in His shared suffering,
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Yes, Pat… That was what made me keep going back for more abuse, myself, bottom line… I wanted to be part of it and “be a somebody” like Pastor Wonderful or Prophet Profit! So He rubbed my nose in everything He wanted me to never do to others while in that system.
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Excellent, Michael! I’m sharing this!
Michael,you are so right about trying to start a relationship with those who have been churched to death. Not gonna happen, not in a million years. I’ve always felt like there was a wall between us and them. I tried climbing over that wall, tearing that wall down, and even pretending it wasn’t there. I blamed myself for that wall. Had to be something wrong with me. As a child I always felt there was something wrong with me.
Sold out completely to Jesus and thought it was gonna be different now in the church. To my horror, it was not. The wall was there. Took 27 years to figure out that not all things were right in Zion.
Free, free! Thank God almighty, free at last!
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Devon, good to hear from you again. My childhood was spent hoping to be the “perfect son” who would not put any stress on an already stressed out marriage, so I ended up being the “parent” while my parents acted like kids! I guess this is where my inability to be who I was started. I then found myself trying to be “acceptable” among my peers and more changing with the wind whichever it blew. I must have an early age figured out that I WAS NOT acceptable and something was wrong with ME. Years later I learned from my mother that she had a fight with my dad when I was about one over the way he was disciplining me as being cruel, so at that point he said, “Alright woman, if that is the way it is going to be, YOU RAISE HIM!” So, I guess I always felt that rejection of my dad and always wondered what I did, thus the constant striving to be accepted. Or as you put it, “I felt something was wrong with me.”
Anyway, I finally forgave my father before he died and we ended up having a relationship at the end… as much as we could when we lived 900 miles apart. As with you, the real shock for me was to discover that my brothers and sisters in Christ in that religious system were no more family than my own siblings were to me (they were 11, 15 and 18 years younger than me). I really struggled with that and again wondered what was wrong with ME?
Finally, the Lord got the message through to me that I was not to put my trust or hope in men nor be a man pleaser but to throw all my hopes and trust in Him (See Psa._118:8, Psa_40:4, Psa_62:8, Psa_62:9; Jer_17:5-7; and Mic_7:5-7). Brother, we are really free when neither the acceptance nor the rejection of men means a thing compared to knowing we are acceptable in the eyes of our Beloved (Eph. 1:3-6).
Like you Michael I finally bonded with my dad when he fell sick on vacation 800 miles away. Couldn’t get him home. Veterans hospital. Flew down to see him and when he saw me he grabbed my hand and about broke it off he was so glad to see me. Long hair and all.
He never showed me that kind of love my whole life. My brother is still,an alcoholic to this day because of the home life.
I still feel the pain of rejection now and then but I don’t live in depression about it anymore as I did for about 27 years off and on. Like I said, the truth of things did set me free from that pain over all.
I believe when I do feel it, I’m simply sharing in the sufferings of Christ. A man despised and rejected, Isaiah 53. And not just rejected and despised by the world.
Devon, about 45 years ago I ran into that verse where Paul said, “That I may know Him [Jesus], the power of His resurrection, the fellowship of His suffering and be conform unto His death,” and I dared to pray that as well. I wanted the full-meal-deal with Jesus whom I loved. Well, I had no clue what “the fellowship of HIS sufferings would entail until I started going through them and had Him open my eyes after years of it to show me that my prayer was being answered. It was after that that I was able to read Isaiah 53 and see my own life overlaid on many of the verses as you have also noticed. Brother, we have been given a great gift! Jesus has given us His sweet fellowship and allowed to help “fill up the sufferings of Christ” in all our rejection and persecution we have gone through even in the church! They might have even meant it for evil, but God is meaning it for good in us. “For I recon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory that is being revealed in us.” It is ALL good, my brother! ALL things DO work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to HIS purpose!”
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