My done with church story starts out very typical. I was raised in the Midwest. I attended church all throughout my youth. To be more specific, I was at church whenever it was open, including Sunday morning and night, Wednesday night and Men’s prayer breakfasts. I was active in youth missions and traveled around the world participating in short term mission trips.

I did rebel in college and remember questioning my religious roots. I did not want to attend church and believe just because my parents told me that was what I was supposed to do. At some point, I resided that they must know what they were talking about and that if it was good enough for them it was good enough for me.

A Hop…Skip…Jump…

I find myself a missionary in West Africa. There were glorious times and not so great periods during this adventure. Building relationships with the locals, working along side them and empowering them to teach each other things of the Lord were invaluable. Bickering with the other missionaries over agendas, finances and control were regrettable. When the tiny West African country was thrown into a civil war with constant conflict I returned my family to the USA.

As my wife and I were raising our children we took a keen interest in what they were learning in Sunday School. We combined what we were showing them at home and saw a disconnect between that and what the church was teaching them. While the children enjoyed going to church, it became clear that the entertainment and candy was what was drawing them. They did not have to bring a Bible, use critical thinking or get to learn about a living Christ. The focus was on fun and stories that happened in history but had little relevance for today.

Related to what the children were learning, there was a direct reflection of what the adults were learning in big church. The entertainment was on a professional scale with lighting, music and decorations. While the sermon was Bible based, the attendees did not need to read the Bible for themselves. This performance did not impress upon the spectators that Christ was alive today and was more than capable of speaking to each one of them without the props.

I should mention that I was on staff at this large church. Most of my time was spent teaching adult Sunday School classes and being involved with the leadership team. There certainly were good things happening in the community. But, the life of the church was very mechanical. The church was being run as a business. I was convinced I could change the church from the inside. I fought against the institution fervently. I was unable to change the direction of the machine.

I had to leave with my family to preserve and explore more of what the Lord was teaching us. It was a difficult decision, but I believe that Christ has gained more and brought us further in Him. We were definitely done with church!

Now I desire to connect those who feel like they are being called to something deeper together in community.

– Andrew

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

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

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