For the first 10 years of our marriage, my husband was a youth/worship/associate pastor. I grew
up in one denomination, him in another, and we began our “ministry” in one neither of us had
ever been in. We spent the next 11 years in four entirely different denominations trying to find
that secret ingredient that would produce that “more” we read in Scripture. However, we were
convinced that the secret ingredient was figuring out the right way to do church. If we could just do it right, then we would experience that more. That Life.

Finally, we left the church system entirely. We didn’t know what we were going to, we just knew
that the Lord was telling us to go out into the great unknown, and trust Him. When we stepped
out, when we left it all behind, we began to see something we never expected. The Jesus we
knew and loved began to increase. Slowly at first, leading us to finally stop asking, “how do you
want us to do church?”, and start asking, “Lord, what do you want?”

Then one weekend, together with other Saints who were asking similar questions, He answered
us. He gave us a glimpse of His Divine Purpose, His heart’s desire, and our spirits began to
burn. Something had been lit within us. This “secret ingredient” we were after was revealed.

It wasn’t a form or model, it was a Person. A glorious Person that all creation reflected, and was made for. A Person that pleased the Father completely and fulfilled all the Father’s purpose.
A Person we were now made a part of, for His increase.

We realized that weekend, that the increase of Christ was only through our continued letting go
and laying down. Sometimes it is physical things, like our jobs and where we live. More often it
is our past experiences, opinions, ideas, long held beliefs, traditions, and especially, our
expectations. It is no longer about me and my needs. It is no longer about how to do church the
right way. It is now about Christ and the Church, the One New Man.

We have spent the last five years seeing more and more of this Person, together with our
Brothers and Sisters. Growing up into Christ together, on the adventure of a lifetime (and
eternity); fulfilling our destiny as members of the New Creation, the New Kingdom, the New
Humanity. Falling more and more in love with our Lord Jesus.

– Bridget

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…

– Thomas

Oswald Chambers once said, “Many of us do not go on spiritually because we prefer to choose what is right instead of relying on God to choose for us.”

Several years ago, I realized that I was bothered. It bothered me that I got paid to do what I tried to inspire others to do without pay, that churches would spend big bucks on “things” but turn away people in need for lack of funds, that I kept hearing more and more about character and principles than about this Christ, and that I embraced this mentality as what God wanted of His people, His church.

In 2007, I had a cushy job on staff with a church making decent money playing my guitar, singing, reading my Bible, praying, and spending time with people. Then God said, “Move.” He flipped our world upside down. We could stay in our house and church with our friends and cushy job, or we could go on spiritually.

So, we quit the job, sold the house, and moved in with my parents. I worked for mere peanuts. I wouldn’t have chosen that as “right” for us. But Christ is more.

In 2009, He asked us to step out of institutional christianity entirely. (Not easy, by the way. Especially when He asks you to keep quiet and not defend yourself against the lies, and rumors being spread about you.) We were definitely done with church in the traditional sense. But Christ is more.

Then He asked us to move again. This time, away from family and security and across the country to strangers and uncertainty. So, in 2010, we moved from Oklahoma to Florida, breaking families’ hearts along the way.

In Florida, I was constantly asked why I moved. I finally started answering that I moved for another woman, house, family, and better body, none of which were mine.

One day, I asked Christ why He moved us to Florida. The following is the answer I received:

“To strip the seeming beauty from the idols of the earth. To show you peerless worth. To fellowship with you, so you would have nothing else to do with those idols. To draw you, win you, and fill you completely till your cup overflows the brim. To capture your heart and unveil Mine. To pour out My grace on you so that sin won’t deceive you anymore. For you to hear Me, see Me, and know Me like you never have before.”

“For what purpose, Lord?”

“So that My Bride is made ready, My House built, My Family made complete, and My Body function under My Headship.”

Dear Brother/Sister “Done”,

I know you want to go on spiritually. From experience, I can tell you that it isn’t always easy or comfortable to rely on God to choose what is right for us. But I can tell you that He will always choose His Son. And His Son is the only right there is. May you rely on Him to work in you for His purpose. Amen.

– R.C.

My disillusion with the institution began shortly after returning from the mission field in 2005. I thought it was because of my inability to re-acclimate to the American way of life. We had several supporting churches that we needed to visit. As we visited them it seemed that the disillusion was growing. The facade of the institution was beginning to crumble. I started to see things that did not seem right. The churches being run like a business along with programs and tradition dictating the life of the church. I remember one day during a service, we stood up to sing, sat down to pray, stood up to greet others, whom I really did not know, sat back down to listen to a sermon. It looked like we were all robots going through the motions of this machine. It all felt very empty and as I looked around I thought to myself what was the purpose of it all? Then, my conclusion was surly there has to be more to this than what I see. The thought of leaving it all was insane, unheard of, we were missionaries and we had so much to lose if we left.

One day, while reading Revolution by George Barna, I read something that put words to what I was experiencing inwardly, it was people weren’t leaving the church because they were disgruntled but because they wanted to preserve their faith. That’s what I wanted and it seemed as if I continued in the institution that something would be lost. This started our family’s journey out of the institution.

The next few years was a refining of this desire to preserve my faith. We tried all kinds of things that we thought would preserve our faith. In our pride, we said we’re missionaries we knew how to start churches. We tried to find out the “right way to do church” for the next 4 years.

All our efforts and attempts failed because we were focused on our need for community, spiritual needs of our kids, to have more freedom from the structure of the institution in regards to sharing and worship.

Then in 2009, I realized why I was called out of the institution, not for my needs to be met, but for the need of Christ. I was done with church for sure. I came across a book From Eternity to Here by Frank Viola. It explained the eternal purpose of God. This purpose was for his people to live by another life, divine life and not their own. Learning how to know and express Christ together so that through the church He could become the ALL in ALL.

In 2011 we sold our house and moved to be a part of a group that wanted to meet the need of God. We’ve been a part of that group for 4 years. It gloriously and painfully shattered all my expectations of church and Christ. I thought I knew what it was all about how to do church but I knew nothing, nothing all. I’ve seen and experienced “the more” but it took emptying of my way of things and my needs in order to have room for Christ, His church, and his way of doing things.

– Carrie

Let’s start simply. While at Life Center (now called Journey church) I wondered about purpose. Both the purpose of all humanity and my specific part in it. Where do you even begin with questions like this? Not to mention being narcissistically stuck in your own head and having others opinions coming at you from all sides, while keeping an open mind. How do you honestly find truth and purpose?

“God….what do you want? What is your purpose with all this? What do you have in your mind?”

I came upon a book that would eventually help me get to those questions. It is called The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. I do not know Mr. Warren’s intention for writing this book, but I did not get the impression that it was for questions like these. Nevertheless, this is one of the many questions/prayers that came from the book. I am forever grateful for that book. I do not think that that book came to me out of sheer coincidence.

My friend Roger Samour gave me that book right before I moved to Tennessee for about two years. The book opened up my imagination to dream. Dream about what I wanted in this life. “If I could do anything that my heart desired when it comes to ‘ministry’, what would that be?” This, of course gave way to more and more questions. But something rather remarkable happened. At least I like to think so. Though most, I assume, would call it trivial. I began to get pictures in/from my imagination. When I read the bible I considered what life looked like with regard to context. It was amazing! Beautiful pictures of people living together, depending on one another for the simplest of things. Families, meals together, witnessing change in peoples lives as diverse as a spectrum, miracles small and overwhelmingly large. Just maybe life the way it was originally intended, if there is such an intention, which I believe there is.

“And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and the prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and they sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all, according as any man had need. And day by day, continuing stedfastly with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread at home, they took their food with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to them day by day those that were saved.”  Acts 2:42-47

After moving to TN, praying and pondering these things further, I came upon another book that would prove to be a milestone in my existential rabbit hole. A book called Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola. It caught my eye while I was perusing the “christian” section of a book store. Obviously because of the provocative title. I read the introduction. I was like……YEAH!

It is a historical study of where our current protestant church practices come from. It is somewhat of a hard read unless this specific topic can hold your attention. Parts of it can still be a chore, but well worth the grind.

The Lord used this book to shake my world and turn it on itself. And that was only the beginning. A slight sting of the birth pangs to come. With regard to then and to now, that’s putting it particularly bland. I don’t want to frighten you from “the road less traveled” but it was all hard and still is.

For circumstances that I won’t go into now, I made the move back home to Russellville, AR. I was both excited and scared to share these things that I’d ventured into over the past couple of years with the people that had helped me in all my jaunts with Christ. Upon sharing a bit of these new perspectives, they were anything but welcomed. Though I don’t blame my listeners. It was my complete lack of articulation and my controlling nature that gave way to their occlusion (picture a kid not wanting to eat spinach). For that, I apologize.

Now, chewing on the idea that I have to be careful how I go about these ideas and to whom I disclose them to, I continued down stream with the status quo and kept my mouth shut, stabbing ideas wherever I could. I continued to study the bible and other books by other authors on the same types of subject matter, trying to soak it all in, praying all the way. Further and further down the rabbit hole I started to see inconsistencies with the life around me and what I was reading in the Word. Eventually my conscience got too substantial to bare, and I left the institutional church never to return in the same capacity. Done with church forever!  It was a hard decision, but an important one. It has made all the difference.

Wesley – Nashville, TN

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