deconstructing what means to leave the church building and a list of how it looks

One of the first things I struggled with when leaving the church building (not the church Body), was how do I explain to strangers and family where I go now? I no longer have the simple answer, “Oh, I go to such-n-such First Church. You know, the one on the corner of this and that street?”

Now, I use more words to describe church because I feel I gotta-explain-it’s-not-a-cult, church.

One of the ways I know it’s not a cult is the fact that I ask questions and have opinions, sometimes strong ones. We also focus on Christ over legalism, the full Gospel, and everyone is to bring a hymn, a psalm, a praise, a word, etc. There are no rules of dress, of obeying a “pastor”, or strict instructions on how to raise your family (rather public, private, or homeschooled).

I’d always imagined the communal family of Christ that Frank Viola has written about it. We’ve found that over the last several years. Our lives aren’t just lived together on Sunday mornings or Wednesday evenings, but throughout the week as we share and provide and support eachother in our daily lives.


It’s not always easy.

Here are some things I’ve learned since leaving the church buildings, 501(c) organizations, paid pastors, youth programs, nurseries, and free Mommy {pew} time:

1.  De-tithing. Oh there is giving. But when you’re used to giving 10%-20% to the church, all of a sudden you don’t have the automatic fall-back of just throwing it in the “plate”. Now you actually have to pray about where, when, what, and how much to give. This is more work and definitely more Spirit-lead to give as God directs. It’s also a bit scary. Building-less and staff-less, you now begin the journey of questioning {and researching} “What is a tithe anyway?” But one thing is for sure, your finances are freed up to give.

2. Un-pulpit-ing. I was shocked at how awkward it felt to sit in a small group, every week, that wasn’t dependent on one person doing all the speaking. {gulp}  And even more awkward was, silence! This is where an extrovert comes in handy, but not always. Sometimes, many times, silence is good. So each person has to be in tune to the Holy Spirit and speak as they are lead or pray as directed. Most of us have grown up in a church hiearchy where it was someone else’s JOB to lead. Yet, in this kind of fellowship each person is to be lead by Christ and therefore contribute His work to the meetings.

3. Re-Worshipping. Maybe your old church had a choir or praise band, but now you are the choir. Unless you have someone who can play an instrument, creative ways such as Cd’s or accopula singing may be in order (which we’ve done both kinds). Since we have a guitar player, we worship that way. You may become a little self-conscience of your voice since the typical band or choir aren’t present to drone out yours. But one thing that’s been neat in our fellowship is seeing gifts and talents that would have been hidden in a larger congregation. Also, a couple new songs have been written within our fellowhip and we also sing spontenously as lead by the Lord.

4. Re-Pew-ing. Just like family, it ain’t always one big happy one. After some mileage with your fellowship, you will have days you dream of the simple-pew life where you can go sit and simply leave without iron sharpening iron. “‘Memba those days?” You are tired of being iron! And have moments where the in-n-out sevice of a Sunday, pulpit preaching, begins to look mighty fine indeed.

5. Un-Staffing.  No more running to the staff for an issue to be resolved at the next staff meeting. You must prayerfully (perhaps with fasting) seek wisdom on issues that arise within the group. Now you are the staff and a vital solution to the issues. I’ve seen how uniquely Divine this can be when each family and person has been Spirit-led in resolving a difficult issue. Amazingly, in one of our situations we were all led to the same opinion and ideas but didn’t know it until we began talking about it. However that may not always be the case. Each person must seek what God is telling them on any given issue. Once again, more work.

6. De-Throning. Since there’s not a conflict of interest, as in the person in charge of the congregation (pastor) also dependant on their charge’s (congregation) giving, things get interesting. Someone with the gift of pastoring or teaching is not bond by monetary gain or limited in maintaining buildings, debt, salaries, or fear of the “tithe”.  No longer does one person {or their staff } decide the direction of the church. Instead, a pastor is just another “joe” in the group and the lesser recgonized gifts, such as helps for example, become more evident. And elders naturally operate in their gifting as do all the members of the Body.

7. Un-programming. Oh how the church loves it’s programs! But many times it means dividing the family up in many different and seperate directions. When it comes to kids in organic fellowships, each one may have a different way of doing things. For us, it depends on the seasons. We keep the whole family together when meeting in cold, hot, and rainy weather, or when it’s dark (usually late fall, winter, and part of summer). Other days we let them play through the meeting. For those with babies, Moms of older kids tend to help the Moms with younger ones.

8. Re-solving Conflict. This is when you’re ready to be Raptured outta here! “Like seriously, God, give me Jesus on those clouds and send me on a one-way ticket Home.” I’m sure conflict doesn’t feel much different to any one person, except you are the persons (refer to #5 and #6)! Yep. It’s your mess {and your group’s} and you all have to walk through it. Prayer and fasting {and Pepto Bismal} come to mind. The upside to this one is that I might lose a few pounds. In the end, conflict is worth it’s weight in Glory because this is a refining which comes by fire. Ouch and Ugh. But once its resolved in love by the Spirit, it is golden! And then you hope that God thinks you have enough “gold” for a long, long time.

9. Un-member-ing. We are members through Jesus Christ and no amount of papers, signatures, or dunking, commit me more than Jesus’ Spirit. So I am a full-fledged “member” just by being in the fellowship and doing life with folks.

10.  Knowing when it’s time to leave? This was a hard one for my family. We had finally found believers who truly cared for one another, fellowshipped outside the “church” meetings, and had felt like family. But after years of being there, there was still this unease in others to speak, edify, and share. Not at every meeting, mind you, but there were many meetings that resembled more of the traditional preacher style meetings. When we had those monologue kind of meetings then silence tended to happen and we’d close with nary a word from another person. How we lamented on the fuller edification that was being missed, but also, how deeply we loved the person giving the monologues. Even he  would tell the group to speak and to make an interruption when he talked, but this rarely happened and it felt forced when it did. What to do? We pleaded with others to speak, to allow the Spirit to operate through them and not hold back His blessing {through them} from us. We got affirmation, but not much changed or if it did change, it was temporary. So we did the uncomfortable, the dreaded, and we spoke to the whole group about how we felt on them organically sharing. Needless to say, this caused a schism between us and the loved {by us and all} preacher. We thought he wanted the same thing, but the operation wasn’t a witness to it.  Never in a million years did we imagine this was our ending. We thought this was something we could communicate and get through to the other side, together. But the damage was done. In our naivety of thinking our expression was the same as our beloved preacher friend, we were wrong. The damage was done. So, we prayed and talked to other folks in the fellowship with whom we were close. We came to a conclusion through  much wrestling with God. Our opposing ideas were causing division and we cared too much about this fellowship to stay. Besides, we felt strongly enough about the fuller edification of the Body that we in good conscience could not stay {since some had shared, they too, were looking for the same thing}. But nobody wanted to rock the boat. And we were not going to force it because it would be man and not the Holy Spirit. Our deepest sorrow was that folks felt like there were sides in this. This grieved us most, so much so I can not even begin to describe the depths of it. We knew then, it was time to go because that was never, ever our intention. We were shocked by our departure. But God has a plan and we’re learning from it.

What did I miss?

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About tammy {if meadows speak}

laugher. story lover. visionary. connector.
This entry was posted in church and the Holy Spirit, institutionalizing the church, liberty and sacrifice and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to deconstructing what means to leave the church building and a list of how it looks

  1. A great wee article my friend for recovering religious junkies like myself.

    If the Spirit of Yeshua lives on He is definitely outside the realm of the Christian businesses, sorry Christian churches.

    Keep up the illuminating writing



  2. Tracy Earley says:

    I have just now gotten time to sit and read this…loved it. It is so helpful in my search of “where to go, what to do, how does it look”

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