Stay At Home Christian

I’m heading out on a loooooong run tomorrow morning instead of going to church. Does that make me a bad Christian? I hope not. It’s just I’m not feeling the whole church experience once more. It has been a year now since we left the small church we had been attending for over four years. Since then we have drifted like nomads in the desert from oasis to oasis in search of a new spiritual home.

The churches we sampled during 2017 just haven’t felt right for one reason or another. At times we have felt close to making a decision but on each occasion we chosen to move on. They have been too big, too impersonal, too ambitious or too closed down. Yes you want your local church closed down? Easy? Just invite us along. I guarantee they will have folded by the end of the month. If not earlier.

We have tried home church, online church, churcity church church. But still we have nada. It’s got to the point now that I don’t really want to even be around Christians. They all seem no nice and happy and smiley. Everything is perfect and wonderful and ‘nice’. They have no concept of personal space and will hug you like their long lost brother the first time they meet you. Then ignore you the following day in the high street or not reply to your mid week text message, desperate for a little support and fellowship. Then hug you the following Sunday again like some sort of holy Groundhog Day.

That’s just a personal experience of mine and the purpose of this post is not to bash church going folk. That would be petty and bitter. I’m a bit better than that I hope. Let’s just say that Fionnuala and I have had a few negative church experiences which leave us wondering will we ever find somewhere. We keep telling ourselves that we need to be part of a church, that we need the structure and discipline of the Sunday environment. It’s what people like us do right? We go to church. It’s all quite bewildering and depressing to be honest.

Our son, Adam, has no interest in church. He finds it boring and his idea of hell is being dragged out of bed on a Sunday morning to be subjected to worship music and lengthy sermons. Even at the hip, happening churches we went to where the worship was like a rock concert and the pastor had ripped jeans and designer stubble. So we don’t force him to go. Which hasn’t been an issue of late as we haven’t been going ourselves. Adam describes himself as a ‘stay at home Christian’.

Ask him to recount a Bible story and he will deliver it in an engaging, witty manner. He once explained the Christian themes and symbolism behind ‘The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe’ better than C.S. Lewis himself could. He gets it and understands it as clear as day. He has a relationship with God I’m certain of that. He just does it his own way. And the way in which he leads his life regularly puts me to shame. He is the total opposite of me when I was his age. He is athletic, cool, funny, and popular. I was none of these things.

So tomorrow I am taking a leaf out of my son’s book and being a ‘stay at home Christian.’ I’m going to run along quiet country roads. I’m running away from church but I hope I’m running towards God. I will think and pray. I will declutter and detoxify, flush out the bitter negativity and cynicism along with the sweat from my pores. Church and Christians seem like barriers between myself and God at the moment. They bring out the most decidedly un Christian attributes in me.

I hope this post hasn’t offended anyone. I know our followers are a mix of believers and non believers. I always seek to be honest but never to upset. I see myself as a writer who happens to be a Christian as opposed to a Christian writer. I will never ram my faith down people’s throats but I will talk about it. It is fractured and church is partially responsible for that. Not as much as I am though. I’m not a church basher. There are many wonderful churches out there. And there are many wonderful Christian people. WordPress has reaffirmed that for me.

At present WordPress is my church. And you people, whatever your belief system, are my congregation. I’ll be thinking of you all out on the road tomorrow morning.

Tell me about your church experiences?

Good? Bad? Indifferent? Non existent?

What does church mean to you?

170 thoughts on “Stay At Home Christian

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  1. The world seems to be filled with God fearing, God loving people who are at a crossroad when it comes to church, that doesn’t really have a direction to where God wants them to be other than fellowship with Him. I, too, am “unchurched” for the most part. I am a member at one, and visit 3 others, but spend most worship days watching online at home. My health plays the bigger role in this. Praise the Lord for giving us each other to keep strong in the faith while not giving up on God’s people… churched or unchurched.

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  2. I haven’t been a christian for a long time but I agree on the church thing. It’s hard to “fit”. If you get more of a sense of church from running those quiet country roads, I’m sure God would be just fine with that. After all, God is always with you. No church necessary to connect. As an agnostic, I find I most believe in the possibility of God when I’m in nature, not in church.

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  3. Perhaps you and your family are in a season of transition. Keep praying about it as you are doing, and when the time is right, the Lord will direct you to the place that is the right for you all (I’ve had several bumps along Church Road, myself).

    Transitions are bewildering because we so often do not (or cannot) know what is next. All we know is that what we are trying to do – or have done in the past – is no longer working.

    In my own life, when this happens, I recognize that the ball is back in the Lord’s court. When I am doing all that I know to be right but still sense misalignment, then I know that I need to wait until I receive further direction from the Lord. However, please know that I am speaking from the lens of my own personal experience – things very well may look different for you.

    Hang in there! I will keep you in prayer.

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  4. I have been brought up as a catholic until I dissociated myself after so many bad experiences and also because it was a version of the or,d that didn’t belong to me.I never really believed in a “God”,then I got to know “church of Ireland “ that sure compare to other Christian faith is fresh air and freedom but then realized it doesn’t belong to me either.Am I spiritual person?yes.Am I a religious person?no.
    Does this make me a bad person?no as soon compassion is at the base of my values.
    My mother is a religious person but not a church person ,but she is indeed a Christian person and a good one,better then the Christians who refused her communion because she was divorced.So I say ,you be yourself,keep being a Christian as you are.It is not a matter of going to church or belong to group ,it’s a matter of what we feel or how we act.
    Churches and church group /community are too often like a political party or worst an inquisition :ambitious for power,easy to judge and with not that much compassion.

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      1. And you are right .i suppose at the end it is all about what it makes us feel and live better.if a particular cult help in this why not but it must be felt isn’t it? Not imposed I think.Have a good Sunday 😀

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  5. I totally get it! The church does not always seem safe, and often, especially larger, evangelical churches, feel very legalistic, fake and unsafe to me. Part of it is probably that growing up my parents didn’t give me a great representation of God. But I totally understand the “happy people” thing. I find it hard at my church even though I know they aren’t always happy and I do have permission to be sad… I just don’t feel safe there. The worship service crowds out all the space to actually be authentic. It’s too ritualised.

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  6. But, I forgot to put that I do believe that a fellowship of believers is important for a Christian, and not just online but people who can share your life day by day. I’m not sure quite how to get it but I’m working towards it. Also, I hope you enjoy your run!

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  7. The very last letter to the seven churches in the Book of Revelation describes the members as being neither cold nor hot but lukewarm. Today’s Christians claim to believe in God and His Word but unfortunately their hearts aren’t don’t.

    Hot water + Cold water = lukewarm water

    Hot head + Cold heart = lukewarm Christian

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  8. I so can relate and am happy you are listening to your Soul! We DON’T need a church to be spiritual. God is not up in a cloud with only portals that connect to buildings with crosses on them. Source is within and all around. As you pointed out, practicing the music of our soul should be a 24/7 practice and not a once a week thing with shiny happy faces. This norm of you have to belong to a church like many other norms that have been pushed down on us by society is bullshit. All I know is that whatever connects you to God/Source/Loved – do it!!! I imagine your running is like meditation where at at a certain point all else falls to the side and you are connected. Don’t beat yourself up for what doesn’t feel right four your soul. Always listen to your soul over the marketing society machine.

    Sermon over. Enjoy your runs and spread love always. Ahoe!

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  9. I was out of church for over a year due to cancer treatments and I have to admit that I grew in my faith trough home devotions during that time as much as I have ever grown. The things I missed the most was the corporate worship. I could worship fine on my own, but it is not the same as being in the midst of a congregation. I m now back at our home church, and it feels good.

    That being said, I certainly can identify with you on finding the right church. It has to be right, and until you feel God in it, you re right not to just go to a church to be at one. By the words you right, I can tell you have a passion for God, and he will guide you and direct you when the time is right. Until then, enjoy life wit Him!

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  10. Another honest and insight post, thank you Stephen. I too am currently without a church, which is especially strange for a pastor. Allow me to clarify: I pastor our ministry, not a church proper, out of our home. We are all about being the hands, eyes, ears and feet of Jesus in our community. We try to follow His model, which is to meet with people where they are. Jesus taught in the temple, but the overwhelming majority of His ministry was done in the day to day lives of the people He met.. Because of this I/we volunteer in many activities around town, with the simple goal of spreading the love of God in whatever we are participating in.
    We worship in various churches in the area, for the bible does tell us not to forsake gathering with other believers (Hebrews 10:25). Developing relationships with these churches has allowed us to come along side some of them to offer our help, be it pinch-hitting in the pulpit or leading worship musically.
    So keep running and praying and writing. God will reveal to you where and when to find a church home. Blessings to you and your family.
    Chuck

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  11. Wow! Thank you for your honesty. Truthfully, I often feel the same way. I’ve been attending this church for about two years now but I still don’t feel like an important part of the congregation. That’s partially due to my social anxiety issues. I’ll stay for the sermon and everything but I leave as soon as service is over. The fake hugs, smiles, and “how are you??? oh no…I’ll pray for you” just bother me. I have deep relationships with Christians who don’t attend my church building and that’s been pretty good for me so far. But, I do feel that desire for community in my church. How one goes about that is entirely another conversation. 😦

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  12. This is so refreshing!! I’ve always found more God time while tending my garden than structured worship settings, complete ditto ❤

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  13. So many days I don’t want to go to church or bible study but when I push through and go anyways, there’s usually a reward…a msg that hits home or connecting with someone who’s especially encouraging etc. As a single I don’t feel like I fit anywhere, but there’s something about gathering with other Christians regularly they helps me feel not so alone during the week. My friends are spread out so church or Bible study is the only time I see them during the week. But it would be really easy for me to not put the effort in…I go through stages where this is all I want–to stay home all week with my dogs.

    I encourage you to keep connecting with other believers, in person, on a regular basis somehow.

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  14. Growing up I had to go to church every Sunday and Wednesday. I never got past the feeling that people in church were a bit phoney and that services were contrived. After living in the Middle East for a time a swore off religion, too much violence gets justified under that banner. I’m happy to be one of those spiritual but not religious types.
    That being said, I am having similar problems with recovery meetings at the moment. I know support and direction are necessary, whether it’s faith or recovery, it helps to find like minded people. I’ve had some good experiences with meetings and some bad ones. I tend to get that same feeling of phoniness at a lot of meetings. Too many people trying to convince me that they are sooo happy and they care sooo much but I haven’t gotten one text since I stopped going.
    I suppose that’s why I’m trying blogging as a way to vent these days.

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  15. Dear Stephen and Fionnuala: I feel such a burden for you in your search for a good, strong, bible-based loving church. I do not go to a church. Every Saturday i go to a Messianic congregation, Baruch ha Shem in Bunnell, Florida. We are small in number, but strong in faith and love for each other. We love the Word of God. My mom and grandparents were jews and in 1985 I was drawn to learn about my Jewish heritage. I saw a map of Belfast somewhere on your blog page….is that where you live? My husband’s grandparents McCloskey came from Derry many years ago.

    Not going to church does not mean you are a “bad” Christian. The churches leave you starving and you are hungry. I was going to suggest home church but read you already tried that. So sorry that didn’t work. Do you know any people/couples that believe as you do, who are joyous, genuine, etc? If not I pray you find some folks like that soon.

    How about evangelizing the unsaved? As they come to faith you two could disciple them and slowly build a congregation with the values you embrace. then everyone would be on the same page. Think about it. I will pray for you. Stay strong despite all this. Be strong in Him….read His Word every day and talk to Him. Then stop and listen for His voice.

    May God bless you both.

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  16. As you know, I’m a lapsed Catholic, and though I believe in Christ as a historical person, and someone whose teachings I try to follow in my daily life (kindness, forgiveness, generosity, and so on) because I am a spiritual person, I’m still not sure what to believe about miracles and Jesus being God, and yet God is Christ’s father. Anyway, I always hated going to church (as a child and teen). I found it boring. But unless you’re looking for fellowship, I feel that you can still be a good Christian without going to church, as long as you follow his teachings. Just my opinion.

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      1. Reading your blog (and meditation) has affected how way I live my life, which is trying my best to follow Christ’s teachings. I just asked my husband, without prompting, if he thinks I’m a Christian. Without hesitation, he said yes! I’m happy about this revelation because I always thought that a Christian is someone who’s a regular churchgoer and has memorized the Bible. But you’re right—going to church doesn’t guarantee you’ll go to Heaven.

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        1. Christians was a nickname used by the Romans to describe followers of Jesus. Which is basically what we both are. Imperfect people doing their best to lead good lives and help others. Jesus was about love. Everything else flows from that. So yes, Barb I regard you as a fellow follower of Jesus. Which really heartens me 🙂

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  17. When I turned 9 my parents decided to stop attending the small Lutheran church in my hometown. They left in the midst of issues surrounding the pastor and my eldest sister’s confirmation. At that point, my middle sister and I found we were left to fend for ourselves(transportation-wise). She stayed until her confirmation, around her 15th year. I was 19 when I surmised the Pastor wasn’t as accepting as I needed him to be.

    It wasn’t until I found “Walden” by Thoreau, in my early 20’s, that I understood how much more accepting God is in a natural setting. I’ve never felt closer to God than when I’m standing alone in the outdoors, and it doesn’t matter what day of the week.

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    1. The surface of the earth is soft and impressible by the feet of men; and so with the paths which the mind travels. How worn and dusty, then, must be the highways of the world, how deep the ruts of tradition and conformity! I did not wish to take a cabin passage, but rather to go before the mast and on the deck of the world, for there I could best see the moonlight amid the mountains.
      Henry David Thoreau, Walden

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        1. A few years back, I did the Easter/Christmas services with my step-kids(as well as their Catholic confirmations) but aside from that, I haven’t regularly attended for nearly 15 years. I find myself talking to God, more now, than ever before—though I feel it has quite a bit to do with ongoing, unfamiliar, changes in my life. Refreshing, yet continually antagonistic.

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            1. I’m not sure how to respond. I believe God is in the goodness of his believers. When I do good works, they are always for the benefit of his children (humankind). I apologize to God, often, as I strip off the layers of past, juvenile mindsets and I struggle daily, looking for the truth he wants me to see and contemplate.

              But I’ve never expected a response. Isn’t it our response to God that matters?

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  18. I can relate. I left the church 15 years ago (not my faith) after I was teaching at a Christian school and was met by the most ungodly administration. Damage was done and I was left a hair shy of bitter. I moved to the Pacific Northwest in October and decided to join my brother at his church. It’s a breath of fresh air. Imperfect Christians that actually walk talk.

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  19. I can relate a bit to that experience of feeling “lied to” with a church—they make it seem like they care, but when you need fellowship or support, it becomes difficult (or impossible) to find. I was nervous to attend my current church at first, but I’ve been attending since September, and they seem very open, honest, and sincere. And they admit there is brokenness, but that fellowship and relationships are vital to faith.

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  20. As a minister, I am disheartened at what I read of people’s experiences with churches. I have often said that the biggest impediment to drawing people to Christ is Christians who do not walk the talk. I have been researching why young people are leaving the church and now I understand. But, I want everyone to remember that we are all flawed in some way. But, we live in a world where we are only seen as valued if we look all put together, so many people who smile at you in church and hug you may be hiding pain, to not seem vulnerable or weak.

    I do the greeting on Sunday mornings at my church, and I shake hands and compliment people because it is importnat to me, someone who never felt loved or valued and who survived domestic violence, to let people know I see them, and they are valuable to me. I hug people because I spent my whole childhood not being hugged, and I want my hug to say, You are unique and special and God loves you! I agree, though, that churches have to be more willing to help people in the dark moments. Who better than those of us that God has brought out of darkness of depression, panic attacks, violence, cancer or illness, alcoholism, addiction, or abandonment to reach out with love. It is why I blog, so I can tell what I know, not what I read in a book. So, not only ask for church people to see your humanity, but see theirs, as people as lost as you are but masking it for their own safety. It should not be, but there it is.

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  21. It definitely is not easy to find the right church for you. Going to one you do not like is worse than not going to church at all. Why? Because it’s just a waste of time, you’re miserable and it actually pushes you away from God. I have currently found one that works for me. It brings me great joy to say this especially since it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack nowadays…

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  22. I used to go to church weekly. After going to one of those rock ripped jeans churches and joining a bible group of 20 somethings (I’m 37) and being ignored by some of the bible study members in Target and just not getting the support I wanted, I stopped going. My neighbors asked me to attend church with them this month. I said yes but now I’m regretting it like laundry. I love God and know I need more fellowship with believers around me but I too am a “Stay at Home Christian” I pray God leads us all to the right direction…maybe a new direction, who knows…

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  23. Church is a place of connection with me. My closets friends I met at Church and they have helped in my spirtual walk with God. I hope you enjoyed your run with God I have learned so much about Him as I join Him in walks, runs and zumba (yes God likes to dance). He wants to be near to us in everything we do.

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  24. Hello guys! Thank you for being open and honest about this today! That alone is a step in the right direction I think. I have been a SAHC for almost a year now and recently opened a forum asking the questions, ‘Do Christians have to go to Church?’

    The responses are varying. Some say, in order to be saved you must attend a Christian Fellowship. Others say its necessary to exhibit the fruits of the Spirit, that the fellowship and communion exampled by the early Church was the way in which God intended it. Others have narrow banded minds about what Church is/should be. And then there are some who believe God is found best outside of institutionalized structures. Man, like the Old Testament Law (Pharisees) show us, corrupts, and organizations become inevitably, corrupt because of man.

    To be honest, I left a cult that I was trapped in for 15 years, so I have a lot of unwinding, rewinding, relearning to do. I visited one church in this last year and instantly knew it wasn’t for me at the time.

    But I think the terminology is wrong today when we think ‘church’. Church WAS at home in the foundation of the New Testament faith. The disciples went from house to house. Peter preached in Acts 2 that they would go home to home, in fellowship. Francis Chan has some videos on how he gave up his mega church for home fellowships because it exemplifies the Gospel Church.

    Church now, for some, has become a meet and greet, sing 2-3 songs, have prayer requests, listen to a 1 hour (2+ for me!) monologue, pray again, somewhere in there ask for a tithe (which isn’t for NT Christians), eat lunch and Christianity is done for the week.

    So I said all that to say, in the year I’ve been a SAHC, I’ve learned more of His Word, my faith, trust and individual dependence on Him has grown, and I’ve studied more, written more and spoken to more people about God than ever before. This isn’t to say SAHC is superior to a building attending Christian, both have important and place, and I would argue fellowship of like-minded people is ever so important.

    I just wouldn’t let your life and faith be overridden by the ideals and traditions man has created all around us. The church isn’t supposed to be a building, it is supposed to be the body (Us!) fulfilling the Law of Christ (Galatians 6:2) and that doesn’t need lights and smoke machines to be accomplished. I would dare say modern ‘church’ hinders the purpose of the church.

    My $0.02! God Bless you and the family in your walk towards our loving God, who knows you right where you are.

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  25. My husband says he’d like to go back to church. When I question him on it, he says he feels like the act of going makes him a good Christian. That’s just works. We don’t need to earn brownie points with God by church attendance.

    I’ve told him he’s free to go but I can’t go with him. I’ve spent the last 2 years trying to get back my mental wellbeing. I have no plans to put myself back in a destruction system where free thinking and healthy boundaries are forbidden. While there might be great churches or great Christians in the world, I haven’t seen that many especially not in church. I think the abuse that gets hidden behind church walls is disgusting and I have no qualms about offending people if it means protecting someone from abuse in all it’s forms.

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      1. My marriage has suffered a lot since we left. I sometimes feel shamed like it’s bad bc we left church. Isn’t that the fear they put into your heart at church? Church is so holy, it saves your marriage. My daughter started cutting herself while we attended our last church. Our marriage sucked going in, then when the pastors got involved, it made it worse. Now we are in counseling and I honestly have no clue what will come of it but at least I’m not being told it’s all me and my husband is in charge and I’m just a woman so I need to shut up. I think when we left it was like when you clean out a closet. It’s a giant mess when you pull everything out. Then you have to fit things back together, toss stuff… It takes time to look together again. I’m trying to remember that when I’m going through the hell I’m in right now. It’s why I just can’t go back. It’s taken too much from me already.

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  26. I agree, so difficult to find authenticity rather than apathy among fellow believers. I would love to have been a part of the church in Acts, when the church was brand new and focused on serving and giving. I hope your family can one day find a church home with at least a bit of that spirit…so much more i could say on this topic…but for now, God bless, and thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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  27. You wrote: “We keep telling ourselves that we need to be part of a church, that we need the structure and discipline of the Sunday environment.” While that may be true, I think you are shortchanging yourselves. As Christians, our journey through this broken world is incredibly difficult, especially without a like-minded fellowship and community; which does require taking the good, the bad and the ugly. You and Fionnuala may be the “missing pieces” everywhere you have looked. I think the tendency is to ask ourselves “Will this church serve our needs?” when a better question would be “What are their needs and do our gifts and talents correspond?”. I’ve found in my own life that what I get out of each community has been in direct proportion to what I’ve given over of myself. I am a renegade though and have little tolerance for the man made rules of church institutions. Maybe giving yourself permission to take a break from the search will help you to clarify. I love meeting God in our natural world…. He’s an amazing Creator!

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    1. We emptied ourselves into a church for four years. We have it everything we had and received very little in return. I cannot expose myself or the family to a church environment like that again. We left church every Sunday demoralised and despondent.

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      1. I’m so sad you had this experience. I keep coming back to this post because it is really resonating with me right now, and reading all the comments is interesting. I love that your post has generated so much discussion on this.
        I think a lot of people, especially pastors, get burnt out from giving too much at church. I know the pastor and his wife at our current church got so burnt out they had to hand over a large bit of their ministry to someone else. I just wish that the gathering of the church didn’t have to be so rigid, I wish it could just be a bunch of friends eating together and talking about what God was doing in their lives and what their struggles were. I hate that when people go through hard times, the structures of church seem to override it. Like you can’t stop the merry-go-round and just all say ‘hey let’s just take care of this person today and let them talk about everything that’s happened’. It has to keep being happy and if you’re sad you have to pretend or else just stay away. It’s all messed up.

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  28. I stopped going to church because of sensory processing disorder. The lights are terrible and they replaced the organ with an even louder one. I also have to work hard with the resentment that rises up. I’m saddened that no one from church reaches out to me. I haven’t thought about an online church. I don’t know how it works but I’ll look it up. I do listen to sermons on YouTube and keep up my daily devotions and prayer life. Being in a blogging community really helps doesn’t it?

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    1. I’m so sorry you deal with sensory processing disorder. My son has that and when we used to attend church he’d plug his ears the entire time and act lethargic after it was over. It was terrible!

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  29. There is no perfect church. I think when trying to find the right church you gotta search for Jesus, and He will show you where you’re supposed to go. I don’t think it matters what church you go to as long as you’re growing.

    I go to a very big church. It’s not perfect, I totally get the everything has to be nice part. It’s hard to fit in and I don’t think it should take effort to fit in a church but it does. But I love my church because I’m growing there, and as long as you’re growing I think that’s what matters.
    Thank you for sharing this! I hope you find the right place for you!

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  30. One quick(ish) thing that’s been on my mind… If Christ is the head of the church, where I want to go or feel comfortable is irrelevant. In fact, how other people at the church treat me is equally irrelevant. Where God wants me is precisely where I need to be, whether I like it or not.

    The church my family goes to enjoys saying it is a “safe place” for people to experience God and has a desire to reach those who have been hurt by church. One major problem, though. The church is fully attended, staffed, volunteered, etc, by human beings… people who are sinful. People God is still working on. And people who are loved by Him anyway.

    After receiving a few knocks from this church (some directly to the gut, others worse because they affected my husband or kids), for months many of my words sounded a whole lot like your words above. BUT… God would not allow me to leave. Still hasn’t.

    And He’s had quite a bit for me to do there… both to serve and to learn.

    Still sometimes when my sin nature rubs up against someone else’s sin nature, things get uncomfortable. They even hurt… a lot. Yet, it is because of the hurt that God has begun to show me what it means to love your enemies – even when they are in your face all the time. It is in His church – and BECAUSE of the flaws – that I am learning (slowly…. slowly) to love and forgive people who aren’t loveable – poeple like me.

    I think that may be what Jesus meant when He said, “Love each other as I have loved you…”

    And today, I can look back 11 years and say if I’d left, I would have missed some beautiful things. Marriages that looked totally hopeless and yet by God’s grace are restored…. so many things…

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  31. Not offended, but sad. You’re never going to find a perfect church because people are not perfect. One of my good friends didn’t make his son go to church and he went astray and became a drug addict. I’m not saying that’ll happen to your son. But carnivores always get the herd running and then chase down the one that cannot keep up/weaker or is running off alone. When we try to go it alone, we are much more vulnerable to getting snared by the enemy. Will pray in a moment you find the right place for you. You might benefit from attending a home bible study in your neighborhood instead in a much more intimate setting. Or even starting one yourself so that you’re fellowshipping with other believers in some capacity. I discovered that other believers bring up points of view that I’d never considered about a particular verse or passage. You may also be the one to contribute that new POV. If that doesn’t work for you, you might be judging people too harshly.

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      1. I suppose there is some way you can keep him exposed to the Word of God and growing in it would be helpful. Perhaps there’s some animations or videos on GodTube or YouTube that he might want to follow?

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    1. CC, I find your response completely unhelpful. There are people who attend church and become addicts. Church doesn’t save a person. There are people in the church who molest children, embezzlement money, and abuse women. Guess the carnivores got the herd in the church too. It comes down to this for me–when Jesus says that no one can snatch his children (me) from his hand, is he lying? Your fear mongering seems to say so. I guess I’m gonna trust that even if I’m in the valley or the sea, Christ is with me. Paul sat in chains imprisoned and you didn’t see him going astray. This kind of stuff is what makes me cringe. Jesus didn’t use fear tactics to draw people in. He used love. I wish more people would try that instead.

      Liked by 1 person

  32. There were a lot of amazing and thorough comments to read through in this. I’ve had a toxic church experience and I totally get being desperate for connection outside of a building.

    I think some of the comments giving caution that people aren’t perfect and there isn’t a perfect church, all true of course, may not fully understand what it is like to not be able to connect to anyone outside of the church, that seems to be the main issue you’ve spoken of, as it is mine as well.

    I agree in those words of caution we could be the ones to add something God will use us in, so true. My home church, I felt a little detached in when I visited (cause I still don’t live in my hometown), and I know just because I don’t always connect with people there the way perhaps I would want to does not give me a reason to not go. I have people I can connect there with.

    But finding a church where I live currently, admittedly, I haven’t tried. Yeah, it’s different when you can’t connect to people.

    However, I believe God will guide me, as He did when I lived in Little Rock, and truly got to experience what it was like to be a starting church as the couple I became friends with were starting up a church. It was incredible.

    As I kept believing He would provide somehow, I noticed I had been connecting with A LOT of different believers, and there are some I converse with on a deeper level and everyone is open and loving about Christ. There isn’t a mask of happiness. (I plan to write about this). I know the feeling you speak of in those churches, and as this world continues to be full of darkness and lies, it will continue to creep into the building where the body meets and more wolves disguise themselves as sheep.

    My wordpress community is not a temporary church for me, I am with the church, the body of believers. I am provoked by posts talking of Christ, I surround myself with Christian bloggers, and I discuss. God helps me study. He helps others share posts, some sermons. I know some bloggers that are pastors.

    He seriously has provided the body of Christ to me. The only thing I am missing is more consistent face to face interaction. But I fellowship, I pray for, am prayed for, and listen to this body of Christ God has introduced me to. I don’t feel lost. I don’t feel pricked or convicted. I feel like Paul who got sent out and sent letters to the other churches and body of believers.

    But I do feel, if you are feeling convicted or confused, there may be something God wants you to further understand what He is trying to say to you. If that is the case, I pray you guys get that answer soon 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m really heartened by what you have written, thank you. I would like to add that meeting for church in a building can be very difficult for neuro diverse people. I’m not saying this to you T.R. but to people who don’t understand the church fit thing.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I think a number of people misunderstood me. We were not looking for a perfect church. We were looking for an honest church where people did their best to genuinely follow the teachings of Jesus. Still looking unfortunately. I am increasingly seeing more of Jesus in the actions of non church goers as opposed to church goers. I have seen some of the worst of human behaviour within the church environment.

      Liked by 4 people

  33. It deeply saddens me that church has become what it is today for so many of us. In my short lifetime, my family has experienced 4 church splits in different churches over everything from theology to the color of paint they wanted to use. I’ve spent nearly every Sunday of my life in church and when I wasn’t my whole week was thrown off. When my parents got divorced, church was my safe haven. I poured myself into ministry and study spending nearly every day of the week in church! This last year I finally left our church home of nearly five years…it was time for many reasons. I left without a word or warning and I haven’t heard anything from any of the people there since. I was a member but no call of concern from the pastor in nearly 3 months now, no friends who have attended birthday parties and other celebrations at my home checking in even on Facebook. For me, I believe God wants me in church on Sunday worshiping alongside other believers. No, I don’t think it makes you a bad person to not go to church and everything you said about the way people behave at church is 100% true. But I also think gathering with other believers to worship and fellowship, to have other like-minded Christ followers to walk alongside you providing encouragement and accountability is a vital part of being a Christian. It also does not make you a Christian just to go to church every Sunday, just as it doesn’t make you not a Christian to not be attending church regularly. Christianity is about your personal relationship between you and God. I don’t know Stephen, I believe that Christ has a purpose for the church as a body and we’re supposed to be apart of it but I don’t think church necessarily means what we see it as today with all its politics and traditions. I’m looking forward to when I get further into the New Testament and get to study what Paul taught what church is and what our role is in it. I recommend you look there too as you continue/discontinue your search for a church home. 🙂 I had to smile at the hugging like a long lost brother part though 🙂 my new church definitely is big on hugging and I just don’t know yet lol but ignoring you during the week and reserving all that ‘love’ for Sundays is definitely a red flag (one of the reasons we finally left our old church) I honestly don’t understand that level of fake it doesn’t compute with me. If I hug you on Sunday like you’re my brother you better believe that mid-week when you text or call I’ll be there to listen or give you a sermon 🙂 whatever you need! Love you all and I hope you enjoy your Sundays off from your search

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  34. Interesting topic. I am a Christian. I belong to a church family at Grace Fellowship Ministry in Gainesville, Florida. I go to church regularly and even though I am sick and at times I can’t go, but I communicate with Christians throughout the week and I have devotions with my family. My spiritual dad is a Pastor. My church is my family and they are my support however it took a long time to realize my expectations in a church really wasn’t about the church people, the music, or even the preaching. It was about God and my relationship with him. I could worship him anywhere, in my car if I want to but I choose this group of people to worship with and to grow with.

    You do not have to go to church to be a Christian, however it is wise to surround yourself with like-minded people and a group of people that you know are continually praying for you. God will not judge you on if you went to church or not, it has no bearing on whether you get to heaven or not.
    It’s true some people claim to be caring in the church and they really don’t care and they won’t remember you away from the church but the church is made up of a bunch of broken people trying to find their way. For every uncaring person there is also a loving person or a broken person waiting for a connection to another human. It’s so important to connect and lead each other because it strengthens us as Christians out in the real world. If church isn’t for you that is OK, but may I suggest that you have a family devotion time once a week and strengthen each other as a family. That you pray and seek God together by reading and studying his word. Also I love the idea of your running and praying to God on Sunday morning.

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  35. I’m sorry that you have had this experience. It is so hard to find the right church. My husband is a pastor. He was a youth pastor at a church we LOVED for 10 years. We moved to that town for that job and knew no one. The church became our family. Looking back though, it took a year or two before it felt like family. We didn’t have the option of going somewhere else because that was my husband’s job. We knew it was a good church or he wouldn’t have taken the job, but to get past the awkward small talk and really be known in a place takes time and takes serving side by side with people. That church became my family in good times and bad times. It is indescribable but is how church should be. We moved 7 months ago – 2 hours away. My husband has a new job as a different kind of pastor at a new church. (You can’t be a youth pastor forever). It is also a good church, but totally different in size and style. It takes time for church to become family. I know it will happen again. I need to get involved and be in community or it won’t happen, and no matter what it will take time. I hope you find a church that will become family too.

    Liked by 1 person

  36. Some really lengthy comments here – that’s good. I have not read them for several reason. My comment is short – God is all around us. I’m with you – I like the thought of going to church, but in practicality, I kind of feel the same. Read the word and be a person of God – where you do that should not matter. 🙂

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  37. My thoughts: God is so big! He created each of us to be a part of the body of Christ, whether it’s in or out of a church building. He commands us to love Him and each other and then He shows us how we are to do that using the gifts, talents, abilities, and heart’s desires He gives to us. When we seek His kingdom first and trust Him to direct our paths, He does. I thank you for this post. Enjoy the abundant blessings of this day.

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  38. Boss – you obviously opened up a can of worms here (and like you need another post to respond to). But, Jesus does have a church (Mat. 16:18) and he is coming back for it.

    I would not be writing this tonight if it had not been for “the church” in my hour of dispair 32 years ago. Their prayers and ministry of God’s truth are why I am alive (long story) – along with the power of the Holy Ghost.

    While you and your wife are in a holding pattern, please take a peek here. It is worth reading. The Best.

    https://martynballestero.com/2018/01/15/7101/#comment-23594

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  39. What makes the Church is not the building but the people. It took me a while to find one after praying for it for a long time. I was churchless for a while because it’s hard to find a church that preaches the truth and the occasional laziness on my part. It is hard to be a Christian and church less especially when it comes to dealing with temptations. Even the Bible says not to forsake the assembly of your fellow believers. It’s like being a coal and for your ember to remain hot you need the fellowship of your fellow believer. For me, I couldn’t just go on like that, one thing I notice too is I became unfruitful. After that my faith gradually became compromised.

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  40. I, too, am disheartened to hear of your experience with ‘christians’ and even more so with your choice of not attending at all as a result. I pray that you will be lead to a church that not only ‘works’ for you but that you can work for the Lord in. The Bible is very specific about coming together and the order of worship that I couldn’t see how we would be obeying His commandments if we weren’t doing as it says, no matter how we feel about it. Truth is truth, feelings are just that and do not dictate truth. Sure, I have been hurt and still get hurt many times as a faithful member of a church, people will give me many reasons not to come back but God gives me the only reason I need to be sure that I do come back. Personally, my 6 yr old and 9 yr old don’t ‘desire’ to get up on Sunday mornings for Sunday School, they would rather stay home on Wednesday nights instead of going, but if I stop being their parent and allow them to make such choices, then I cannot be surprised with what else I will allow them to do. Slowly, the world will begin to influence them more than me. Slowly, they will become desensitized to sin. Slowly, they will choose to listen to their heart and their feelings rather than the commandments we are given. I wouldn’t just respond this way to anyone. I felt that you wouldn’t mind my response by the way your blog was written. If we claim to have a relationship with Christ, we can openly listen to others who do the same and should take to heart what the Bible says about it. I pray that I will be a better Christian and church go-er and think of these things that have hurt you so that I can help prevent someone having those same feelings where I am. Thank you for your honesty in your blog. God bless your family.

    Liked by 2 people

  41. You should find a church where the gospel (that Christ died for your sins, and that you are forgiven without question) is most clearly peached, It’s a fact that we need to be reminded of over and over again. It’s too easy to forget and despair. That’s why we have a church. To remind us that we are no longer bound to our sins.

    I hope you find that. I will certainly be praying about it in the meantime.

    “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm then and do not let yourself be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” – Galatians 5:1

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  42. Hi Stephen

    Great blog post. I can relate. Having left “Today’s Religious System” in the early 90’s. Through much Pain, Tears, and Spiritual Abuse. And searching for a place to call home. Searching for The Body. Searching for Jesus.

    The first couple of years were very tough, very lonely, very dark. Eventually, I could NO longer search, or walk into a building they call church. I was thinking, “God is Done with ME.” And I had been ordained. In leadership. It was my whole life. Oy Vey!!! 😦

    I cried a lot. So much pain.

    BUT God…

    Doncha loveit when the Bible says… BUT GOD???
    I have NO other way to explain it… BUT God…

    BUT God… eventually brought a river of people across my path that had been Burnt, Burnt-Out, Crawled-Out, or Kicked-Out, of “Today’s Abusive Religious System.” I would meet a believer, and usually, one the first questions is, “Where do you go to church.” When I said, “Well I haven’t gone to church for a couple of years.” Many would say, “Yeah, me too.” And the horror stories would begin. And I would understand. They knew they were NOT alone. They were NOT being rebellious. They were NOT refusing to submit to Authority. They knew God was NOT done with them. They did NOT need someone telling them, “Go To Church.”

    Eventually I understood. I did NOT leave The Church of God, The Body of Christ. I left the church of man, the man made religious system.

    You begin…
    “I’m heading out on a loooooong run tomorrow morning
    instead of **going to church.”**

    But, in the Bible, Did anyone, ever, **“Go To Church?”**

    What is popular is NOT always “Truth.”
    What is “Truth” is NOT always popular.

    Liked by 1 person

  43. Ditto. Thanks for liking my post: Why is the Bible Important? I agree with you. I would much rather enjoy people, life and making a difference with little to no need to get up early, get dress and travel to a building for a sermon. I have asked God what is the significance of fellowship. Hopefully, I will write about.

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  44. ive been a stay at home christian for a lot of years having been married to a minister for 15 years. When that went wrong, faith went wrong too. A long story but interesting to read your post. By the way I​ think you are doing the right thing with your son. Forcing kids to church is never a good way forward. Hope you find the place you are lo​okin​g for.

    Liked by 1 person

  45. As you know, we move around a lot with the military. It seems like, just when we find a church we love, it’s time to move and start all over. We LOVE our church (New Hope Oahu) here in Hawaii. To be honest, it’s the best one I’ve had in my life. And, I’d go so far to even say our church here has been a big draw into wanting to live here permanently after retirement.

    With that being said, I do still watch the sermons from home sometimes. I’d say it’s about half and half right now. I watch it live so it’s the same message as if I’m there. But, I do miss the fellowship before and after. When we stay home, the kids will watch a Veggie Tales or Auto B Good cartoon while we stream our service live. I feel they are still learning hay way.

    But, I completely get where you are coming from with “church shopping.” Each new duty station, we have to do that. It can be frustrating when one doesn’t quite fit the mold of what you want. It’s even harder when one likes it and one doesn’t.

    My advice would be to just take your time. Go with an open mind. I know usually I can tell as soon as I walk in if it’s a yes or no. I also research them online a lot before we go to make sure they have the things I am needing: AWANAS, MOPS, VBS, women’s bible study groups. That’s the season in my life right now. My faith is established. So, my priority is getting a foundation for my kids. So a good kids program is essential. Ask yourself what you are hoping to gain from it and go from there. Just don’t give up. As much as I love watching the sermons online, I always feel so much better after I walk out of the church!

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  46. This is an interesting connection because you liked a post of mine at We Run and Ride and I hopped over to view your work. And this is exactly where I am as well. After thirty years of church and service such as teaching middle school and high school Sunday school and confirmation, I moved into other areas of service and kept running into outright dismissive, committee-oriented decision-making that depressed and disturbed me. In my case, my new “church” is writing another theology book titled Sustainable Faith. It addresses the fact that Jesus and John the Baptist both found the actions of religious authoritarians disgusting. From there, the book goes on to explain how to avoid that stuff as a Christian, and beyond. So I get where you’re coming from, and can share that as a longtime runner, cyclist and now swimmer, some of the most connectedness I feel with God are through those activities as well as my nature study, birding, photography and art. So feel empowered in what you’re doing. God is with you.

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  47. This is exactly where I am at this point in my life. None of the churches I have sampled feel right. Something is always off and I am one of those people who can’t commit to places and things that don’t seem for me. I haven’t sampled any church this year. I watch a lot of Christian TV and sermons online but it still feels weird. I have never found anyone who gets it. My parents just think I am being picky. Oh well, we have to believe God will fix it somehow. As for now, TBN is my church

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  48. I can definitely relate. I haven’t been to church in a couple of years (maybe almost 3?) and don’t think I’ll ever go back. I enjoyed the sermons but didn’t like sitting through the songs (sometimes I did enjoy them), the announcements, the money collection, etc. I always felt awkward watching everyone dance and shout, and I’d just sit there stiff as a rod (was I supposed to be doing the same thing? I just didn’t feel comfortable; I’m not expressive like that). A lot of churches that I’ve been to will constantly ask you to sow seed money in order to get your blessings; if not, they say you’re trying to rob God. Well, you ain’t gonna bleed me dry! I try to find ways to help others by donating to hurricane victims, giving to the homeless, etc. Not only that, but at the last churches I’ve been to, I felt like something wasn’t right (like the people are not who they portray themselves to be) and the Holy Spirit would warn me via dreams, etc. Relationship with Jesus is more important to me instead of trying to prove something to others/doing what everyone else does. And then of course you’ll have people that say you’re disobeying God by not going to church because it’s in the Bible (“you can’t just do what you want to do”). I just don’t believe that attending a church is a requirement to get to Heaven. Keep seeking Him and desiring His presence. Keep connecting with Him. It’s the relationship (not religion…not the “I have to do this because everyone says so” acts) that’s important.

    Liked by 1 person

  49. Stephen

    After leaving “Today’s Religious System.”
    (I never left “The Church of God,” His Body.)
    I wanted t know what the word “church”
    really means?

    Makes an interesting study.

    Here’s an interesting challenge.

    Read evey verse with the word “church” in it…
    Again and again, over and over, and…
    Asking yourself as you read…

    In the Bible?
    Did any of **”His Disciples?”**
    Ever?

    1 – *Go to* Church?
    2 – *Join* a Church?
    3 – *Lead* a Church?
    4 – *Plant* a Church?
    5 – *Pastor* a Church?
    6 – *Attend* a Church?
    7 – *Tithe* to a Church?
    8 – *Look for* a Church?
    9 – *Teach* Go to Church?
    10 – *Bring their friends* to Church?
    11 – *Become Members* of a Church?
    12 – *Apply for Membership* in a Church?
    13 – *Call themselves, Pastor,* in a Church?
    14 – *Call themselves, Leader,* in a Church?
    15 – *Call themselves, Reverend,* in a Church?
    16 – *Give Silver, Gold, or Money* to a Church?
    17 – *Build a building with a Cross*
    and call it Church?

    18 – *Were any of **His Disciples,** ever Hired?
    As a Paid, Professional, Pastor, in a Pulpit?
    Preaching, to People in Pews?
    Weak after Weak?
    In a church?
    ——-

    NOPE…

    Seems NONE of these things exist in the Bible…
    For one of **His Disciples.**

    But, These are ALL things taught and practiced…
    In “Today’s Religious System.”

    If, In the Bible…
    Jesus did NOT teach **His Disciples**
    To do these things?

    And, **His Disciples**
    Did NOT do these things?

    Why do WE?

    Why do WE, His Sheep, His Kings and Priests…
    His Friends, His Bride, His sons, His Servants…
    His Church, His Followers, His Ambassadors…
    His Ekklesia, His Called Out Ones, His Body…
    His Disciples…

    Do these things?
    That are NOT in the Bible?

    Liked by 1 person

  50. That made me smile, and prompted me to ask you two questions, which obviously you don’t have to answer.

    1. Do you sit in silent contemplation most days at home? It’s the best way to have nothing between you and God.

    2. Have you ever thought about trying a Quaker Meeting? They sit in silence too, though very occasionally someone might speak for a short while.

    That’s it for now. Hope you will find your ways ahead over whatever time period you need (could be the rest of your life)!

    Best wishes from Ruth.

    Like

  51. Words from the Holy Bible state that “where two or more are gathered in my name there is love, a church.” I consider agod and me to be two. When I am in nature or meditationg or cooming a lovely meal for those I care for, I am in church. I don’t need a the socialization of organized religion but many do. When I look at creation through my cmaera lens, my heartbeat slowed to match that of the pulse of Earth, I feel closer to my Creator than in ny building with any people. Good luck with your endeavors. And cyber hugs, but not the invasive kind. Just use it when you’d like! 😉

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  52. Please read my blog Why I Go To Church. I have a different experience than what you had. I would not have liked the churches you have visited either. Please read my blog. It is just a different perspective than the one you have. I am a Christian with bipolar depression, Borderline Personality Disorder, Anger issues and my share of heartaches and pain but there are times where I am a very happy Christian. When you get to know people you see people are all burdened with personal issues that we do not share with someone the first time they visit our church. I have educated my church family quite a bit about mental illness.

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  53. I really like the funny way in which you presented this not so funny topic. My church experiences, hmm. Good, great, bad, indifferent… all the above… I love church & church people, but I expect them to be just that – people. I expect them to love me and to fail me. I try to remember to thank God when I experience His love through them, and I ask Him to help me forgive when they hurt me… 🙂

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  54. Holy cow I am reading this as I wait for church to start. I have no idea where you live but if it was St. Louis I would say try oak bridge. So many teenagers drag their kids out of bed to come here. The pastor every week talks about how messed up he has been. The sign on the outside says it’s ok to not be ok, it’s just not ok to stay that way. Aka what you work on you get better at. I’m going to start following you after I get home from church. I hope you enjoyed that run. I walked to my church today. (1.25 miles). Running helps me and is my true God time.

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    1. Thanks. That would be great. Unfortunately I live in Northern Ireland so that would be a bit of a commute lol. But have you a website and maybe I could check it out online? The running is going well. I’m training for my eighth marathon in May. I hope you enjoyed church 🙂

      Like

  55. ” Church and Christians seem like barriers between myself and God at the moment. They bring out the most decidedly un Christian attributes in me.”
    This is me. I don’t know how to thank you for this blog post. I have been feeling guilty as I have been away from Church for the same reasons that you have mentioned. May God heal me and give me a forgiving spirit. Please keep me in your prayers.
    Myrtle

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  56. I feel ya. My family and I went through the same thing. I was hurt by the church so it took a long time for my wounds to heal. They have. I love my church family for the most part. I think God showed me to keep my eyes on Him not things even if it’s “church”. They know I’m a recovering and except that without judgement or I think. My blog tells the story. So I’ve been down the very same journey. I still miss church some days and I don’t feel guilty.

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  57. My wife and I have been struggling with this as well. We haven’t attended church for a few years but we do spend time watching pastors on Youtube or doing a live stream of their Sunday teaching and service. We were going to an Assembly of God church but they seemed to have ‘cliques’ (like something you’d see in high school). The same people would hang together before service and then talk to each other after service and no one approached us to say hi because we were the new kids on the block. They also started getting into big productions during service, etc. And the service were more ‘feel good’ than anything else.

    As a result, are currently ‘churchless’ and I don’t mind. I find it easier to get closer to God when it’s just the two of us watching a service online and discussing what was taught.

    Liked by 1 person

  58. My dear, I know exactly how you are feeling. Two years ago I desired more than the church I was attending, still attending could offer me. I prayed about it spoke to the Lord about my feelings, the spiritual emptiness I was experiencing,the Holy Spirit led me to a website called the heartdwellers, http://www.heartdwellers.org. why don’t you pray and see what the Lord reveals. Oh thanks for the following.

    Liked by 2 people

  59. Perhaps this may be a time for you to get closer to Jesus personally. Fellowship is good and helpful but not the most important thing. For sure I think you’ll be running closer to God because you are seeking Him. Whether you go to church or not has little to do with whether you are a Christian and how close a walk you have with Jesus. Few churches embrace the true spirit of God, and of those, none are perfect (being as we humans are never perfect). I would say love your brothers and sisters in Christ, wherever they are at, but embrace your own path. God is sure to lead you. Organised religion is a worldly manifestation of a spiritual truth, it is not that truth, but a way that truth has come to be expressed. Sometimes institutions like church can get in the way of our forming a personal connection with Jesus, sometimes they help. Each must find their own way to God. When you pass on one day and come face to face, whether you went to church or not will be irrelevant, the question is will you know each other intimately. Will you run trusting into His arms?
    I wish you joy in your quest whether in or out of the church system. Living close to Jesus transforms a mundane life to one of infinite joy and wonder. May you find all you seek in Him.

    Liked by 2 people

  60. It’s interesting that God has met us up from opposite sides of the planet. In June of 2016 He called us out of the church building as well. As I drove away that day I asked the Lord, “Where will we serve You? How will we serve You?” I then heard that wee mighty whisper behind me, “You are done with organized religion.” Of course, I thought that was me responding to the situation of the day but He meant it. As a result, our walk with the Lord no longer looks the same but is so much more than it ever was while members of a church. Instead of a weekly dose of bible on Sunday, Jesus has taken over our all day and every day. Instead of much frenetic church activity in our own strength there is much rest and faith and trust in the power of Almighty God that is moving throughout this entire universe, not just in the church building. The Lord didn’t mean for us to lock ourselves behind doors and windows accusing and condemning all those on the outside of that particular church. We are the Body of Christ! If we hurt and condemn each other we are hurting ourselves.

    It was about 15 months before God had us return to church at all but He made it clear we were not to get involved in any leadership or ministry capacity or join anywhere. We are now attending a local church where our children worship but He has called us there to love our children and grandchildren. So many times in the past we put service in front of our relationship with them and truly, our children are our first ministry calling from God. He wanted us to be fruitful and multiply and teach the fruit of our multiplication about Him. How many times did I neglect my first ministry to tend to my second?

    God is in the middle of doing a mighty work in our lives in a way that doesn’t look ordinary. He might just be sick of the deadness of ordinary. We belong to an extraordinary God, of course He is acting in extraordinary ways!

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