If you’re one of those who have given up finding a local congregation that fits your desires and nurtures your spiritual journey, what is it that led you to make that conclusion? Was it a hurtful event? A theological shift? A leading by the Spirit? Something else?
I guess for me, it was a combination of all those things…
I endured a lot of verbal assaults from some IC leaders, and even though I refuted everything they said, they simply refused to pay attention to anything I said… So, I eventually wanted to leave and see whatever else was out there. It seemed like there had to be more to life than what I saw in the IC I was in. I had felt like the Holy Spirit was nudging my heart and letting me know that I should leave… so I left… I had heard (for years) about how some left the IC for house church and other similar things and I wanted to try some other things. I was already having some theological shifts towards God’s love and I experienced some more shifts after I left the IC…
See more of why I left at this link - Have You Ever Tried to Change It?
And there’s more of my story of what I learned about God’s love at this link - How Does God Win Us Into His Love?
Bailey, NC (USA)
For me, it started with a theological shift – a restlessness that I could no longer cover over and paste a smile on. And no one (but one dear friend who was in a similar frame of mind) in my IC world wanted to engage with these questions/thoughts. They looked like deer in the headlights when I would start talking about it.
At some point, I started to realize that the IC and the people in it would not change and that if I wanted change, I would either have to change back into what they wanted me to be (compliant and attentive) or that I would have to make a bigger change and leave that body of believers.
The catalyst for actually leaving did come about after a hurtful event centered around my pastor parents retiring from their church of 24 years and the vocational ministry and witnessing some hurtful things that were done to them. It made me question why I would want to remain a part of a group that could be so callous and unfeeling towards people who had “given it all” just like they had been taught/encouraged as young Christians.
That was the nail in the coffin. To say I am gun shy would be an understatement. I know wonder if having my children grow up in an IC in this day and age would be more harmful than good. So we are on the periphery of another IC that my parents and sister and her family attend. I cannot bring myself to jump in whole-heartedly because while they seem to be kinder of heart, I still see a lot of the “theological issues” going on in the practice of “church” there that first started to give me pause.
I don’t know that I have it in me to walk back into that system and bring my family with me. I am still longing to find an open consistent community without the tools of manipulation, control and the constant “self betterment” gospel that seems to be so popular now. I don’t need more seminars or quick guides to a better relationship with God. But people look at me like I have two heads when I express this. It seems to be more about “getting your kids into church” than considering their hearts and relationship with the Father.
It all started for me with an encounter with the love of the father. my life as I knew it had changed and I was on the life path I was born to be on. unease in the ic started within a short time, each time I went I needed to leave. After some time I sensed He said to me …" I am not able to do what I want to do in you in that place. ". That released me and apart from going back twice in the first 18 months out, in which I needed to leave after a short time, as internally I was very unsettled , my relationship with the father, son and Holy Spirit has continued to increase and it is quietly exhilarating.
I celebrated 6 years outside the walls in may 2017.
I have yet to experience a longing for community as such, as I know that He provides what I need and He has. I have heart connections with several that I live life with, and I love the ones He puts in front of me.
I only had a brief encounter with organised religion where I belong to a local congregation where I spent about 4 to 5 years. Prior to that I was backslidden after being in a cult but that I’ve mentioned before.
The first couple of years in the IC was great I was making friends, we would share some meals together have some brief fellowship together. It wasn’t long though and I noticed everytime I wanted to do something people seem too busy coupled with that I was growing more and more uncomfortable. It was an uncomfortability that existed not in my head but in my heart. At first I couldn’t place what the heck was this that was causing this I almost like a sort of a worry. Then I started noticing that every time I went to a gathering of whatever we were doing I was coming away and growing more and more disillusioned with everything. I tried talking to a few people but always seem to answer, was oh you need to get reading the Bible, praying more can we pray together and we’d spend an hour together followed by… you feel better??
I think the big change came when my cell group leader, we had cell groups, my cell group leader decided that he’s retiring and the cell was going to be broken up and we need to find a new cell group leader. On learning that news I had a deep feeling of disagreement and I just couldn’t shake it loose. It was at the end of that gathering where I learnt that news and I was on my way home travelling down the motorway as we call them in the UK and I felt God speak to me. "I want you to come away because there’s something I want to show you!"
I don’t think I’ll ever forget those words because I remember walking into my one bedroom flat thinking what on earth was that, was that just me was that God, where did that come from. I had a very deep understanding I hadn’t heard any audible words but it was a deep understanding that there’s something I need to be shown. I didn’t react immediately to that but I did stop going to the Sunday meets. The feeling didn’t leave me it was growing in me that there’s something amiss.
About a few weeks I think it was about two weeks later I happened to be walking in a shopping center and going past the bookshop I felt a strong urge just to walk in. As I looked around my eyes fell on one book, sitting on the shelf before me, the book was called "The Shack."
I don’t think I have to say but I picked up the book and read the back cover. My first thought wasn’t really the type of book I would normally read. I was preferrably looking for a good thriller type spy story, along those lines anyway. I put the book down walked out the shop. I was a couple of steps away when I really just felt a huge urge to turn around go back buy the book and go home and read it. I did do, probably one of the best “nudges” as I now call them, I’ve ever followed and it had results, good results wonderful results it brought me to the start of what I believe God was showing me.
Whilst reading it I wanted it to be true as I’m sure many of us probably felt. There I was thinking, could it be possible that I could really get that close to God? I prayed and I asked him. When I finished it it was in amongst the acknowledgements I learnt about "The God Journey,"
The next book I read was So You Don’t Want to go to Church Anymore followed by "He Loves Me."
As I came to the end of those I had started realising that it was possible to have a deep personal relationship with the Loving God. It is this that I know was what God wanted to show me as it has changed my direction totally, in fact it’s changed my life. The depth is still growing and sometimes not a lot else matters. God lead me to those books and into a freedom of growing trust that I would never of believed possible before 2008. Since that time God has been drawing me ever closer to him, I have plenty days where I have no clue as to how to navigate the things arising but I know this. He is watching and knows what’s needed.
I have not wanted to go back to any other congregation since, oh I have visited a few from time to time but it isn’t long sitting there and I feel a deep discomfort… My “Yuck meter” starts redlining and my feet get itchy…
I try to keep an open heart and if God says go there I will but so far no that seems off the cards and I am happy for it to be so.