I gave my life to Jesus at age 15 and attended a Southern Baptist IC (institutional church) during high school and by the end of senior was ready for something different as I didn’t connect with anyone there and didn’t get anything out of the messages. I attended a large state college and got involved in a interdenominational christian organization. This would prove pivotal in my life as everyone had different backgrounds and beliefs but we all loved Jesus and the Lord used this group of believers greatly to teach me humility, discipleship, and freedom in Christ.
At the time I attended a family oriented non-denominational IC. When undergrad was done (I continued for four years in grad school for mental health counseling), I thought I was to leave that group and invest more in a different church and not just attend.
So I went to a large charismatic multi-racial IC for about 5 yrs. During that time I learn various things such as hearing the Lord’s voice more clearly, the importance of knowing him vs performing for him, and so on. Unfortunately, I also learned about the consequences of what happens when one person has complete control over a congregation. The pastor was the final word on everything (it wasn’t part of a larger denomination) and what he said went. Also, the paradigm there was that church was family and just like God hated divorce, he also hated when a Christian went to two different churches within the same city. If a member thought God wanted them to attend a different institutional church, the pastor would only give his blessing if the person was actually moving to a different city and traveling would not be practical. So when some of the pastors left unexpectedly and the main pastor didn’t talk about it, it was a huge deal and lots of us left during that season because of the hypocrisy of how it was handled (if we are a family, then lets talk about the problems that our family has and not ignore them).
So then I went to another IC in town and volunteered in the kids ministry and generally had a good experience for a few years with them. I read Pagan Christianity? one summer and didn’t have a “eye-opening heavy revvy” experience with it that some people have.. I had more the mentality of “well sure I can see that, but at this point the lord uses the IC and I know I’m being used in the kids ministry, so whats the big deal?”
A year after that, I was working the night shift at my job and therefore not attending Sunday morning services. Also by this time, the small group that I had been involved with for years disbanded (amicably; there wasn’t any fight, it was just clear to us that the season for it was over) and so the only connection I had with my IC was the Wednesday night service I went to to help with the kids. I was invited by a friend of mine to go to his new church Saturday night. I had no idea it was an organic house church; I just wanted to hang with my friend as well as go to a service.
Needless to say, I was surprised when I discovered what it was. For a few months, I went to both the house church Saturday nights while still helping with the children on Wednesday nights. After 4 months of this, many other circumstances were changing with my life (I went back to school for nursing) such that it became clear I was to end the kids ministry. The kids pastor and I were friends and he gave me his blessing to leave the kids ministry.
This was the last tie I had with the IC and it was obvious to me Jesus wanted me to fully devote my energies/commitment to the organic house church. I was done with church! So that is what I did…