Monday, March 12, 2007

Is Church Worth It? Part One

There is a site called "Letters from Leavers". It is a place for people to post their story of why they left the church. I posted one of the most recent letters submitted. Though it is not my story, I identify with it. Maybe you do to. I can understand why people leave the church, and their reasons deeply motivate me and shape the creation and direction of Anchor.

One who’s been on both sides…

Does the Institutional Church (IC) do more harm than good?
Published by heyrick March 11th, 2007

I hope the following is helpful to those still involved in the institutional church. I was deeply involved for the better part of my 41 years. A series of life events brought me to a place where my relationship with God grew much more intimate. As my relationship with God flourished I began to see the following aspects of ‘church’, as I knew and experienced it, as barriers to my knowing God. I left seven years ago and my relationship and desire to be the church has grown exponentially. If you’re interested in how my family and I are the church now, I’d be glad to share.

1. IC’s by the nature of their buidlings and their venacular say to the community and their “members” both verbally and non-verbally; church is a place, a location, a building…even though we know it’s people.

2. IC’s by nature of their programs and scheduling say that “church” only happens only at their services, whatever day(s) they hold them…rather than all the time, everywhere with everybody.

2. IC’s by their format, programing and tradition separate children from their parents when communicating the most foundational truths of life (ie sunday school, training union, big church/kids church). And “most” parents rely on the IC’s teaching without adding their own…So kids are taught, by the nature of the program/format, that “other people”, who know more than mom & dad, will teach me about God.

3. IC’s separate the giver (tithing or otherwise) from the actual recipient of the gift by teaching old covenant giving (ie bring the tithe to the storehouse which they define as the church). This process says to the receiver that the church (ie the IC) is the “giver” and to the giver it says “we know what better to do with your tithe/gift than you do….they may not say this out loud but it’s the message the process sends. The method also complicates the process of getting the gift to the person in need. Finally, the giver and receiver don’t get to communicate the reason they give or the thanks for the gift…both of which God uses to “do” something within them….they “see” the need and they “see” God. Giving to whom God directs, when God directs is much simpler and effective.

4. IC’s, because of the buidling, paid staff and programs, only give 10% (I’m being conservative here probably more like 2%) of their budget, in ministry, to their community & the lost. The community looks on at all the “extravaganza”, without the ministry, and see’s church as a glorified country club…the members do too.

5. IC’s establish a hiearchy within the church. Paid staff know the answers and the average Joe believer takes their orders from them. This communicates, to Joe believer, an inability to make “spiritual” decisions on their own….We do all have the same Christ living within us. It also is a “pride” danger for the staff, as all the Joe believers come to “them” for answers.

6. IC’s focus on growing larger by far outways the need to grow in depth. think about all those pastor’s going to conventions and saying, “my congregation is only 50 but they are they have incredible relationships with and understanding of God….yeah right.

7. IC’s by their size, even with small groups, prevent deep relationship from forming within the body of Christ. Too many programs, events, meetings tie up all the bodies descretionary time. Programs and the many areas of service “jobs” orient members discretionary time to service where they receive cudo’s, rather than building relationships which develop community.

8. The casual nature of IC relationships and the standard of behavior that is rewarded and approved, limits open sharing of lifes troubles and trials to empty phrases “How are you doing? Great…and you?” Sharing real needs, trials and struggles receive punishment and the boot.

9. IC’s teach by the nature of the services that worship happens on Sunday morning in the “worship center” and while sittin and standing singing praise songs with our hands up or stoically with our hands folded.

10. IC’s teach prayer as a mechanism to prod God into action on that which we deem important. They teach that the number of people praying has more effect in motivating God into action.

11. IC’s substitues good marketing for the work of the Holy Spirit.

12. IC’s promote believers to identify themselves by what they “do” at church and assign value, higher and lower, to their areas of service. A praise singer is awesome while a stage hand is trivial. They may say that “all” service is equally important but they treat them with high/lower values in mind.

13. (Lucky number eh?) At IC’s, the implicaton is the person who dresses nicer, attends more services & activities, prays out loud in front of others, gives the most money, quotes scripture, sings or teaches for the stage, holds more “jobs”, wins more people to Christ, has a daily “quite time”, has well behaved children, has no bad habits, is more spiritual than the one with less of the above.

Go to this link for the original site:

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