His Truth Will Set You Free

Listen to what Jesus says; “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)


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A DeChurched Christian Searching for Christianity

I hung in there for as long as I could. Eventually, the hypocrisy was too much for me. The behavior felt so un-Christian. Just normal, natural human behavior, as ugly as that can sometimes be.

I prayed … a lot. I asked God if He wanted me to stay. Maybe I could do something that might help the deteriorating situation. I wrote a letter to the board of elders, the Session, as they called it. I’m not sure if the idea was God’s or mine, but I took a lot of time with that letter, praying my way through it, even including some Bible quotes from Jesus. No response. No visible result. I prayed some more. But no clear direction.

So I left that church behind. As I walked away, I carried with me questions, the most all-encompassing question being: if what I saw at that church isn’t true Christianity, what is? I may have given up on church, but I wasn’t about to give up on Jesus.

Have you had a similar experience? Do you have similar questions?


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We Are The Church!

church

I belong to several Facebook groups for Christians who no longer attend a church. We each have our own reasons for leaving what some call the “Institutional Church.” But this morning I was thinking about what we do in these groups. We share experiences, we share inspiration, we share our struggles, and we share support and encouragement. But what I think most of it boils down to is this – as a group, we praise and worship God and Jesus.
And then it struck me: We Are The Church! Each Facebook group is a type of church. And by “church” I mean God’s definition of church, which I believe is the collection of Spirit-filled believers. So though we’ve left the institutional church, I think we’re still in the true church.
What do you think?


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Church for the Dechurched

Dechurched

Are you a dechurched Christian? I am. Survey’s show that there are millions of us American adults who once were active in a church, but attend no more. We are called the “dechurched.”

Yet there is a church for us. Though I don’t attend church on Sundays, every day can be a church day. Every day can be a day with God.

Jesus founded the church and then passed it onto the apostles. The apostle Paul defined the new church as follows: referring to Jesus, Paul declared, “And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” (Ephesians 1:22-23, emphasis added)

The church is the collection of believers in which the Holy Spirit of Jesus lives… the body of Jesus Christ. As Paul also said, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? … for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17)

Church is not a building or manmade organization. Intimate and quiet time with the Spirit of God within you is what real church is about. As long as we look to the Spirit within us, we are not “dechurched.” We ARE the church.


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Feeling Disconnected from God

reaching out to God

I have a Facebook friend whom I’ve never met, who recently posted this question to my FB page: “I haven’t been to church in 2 months and feel very disconnected from God. I’ve talked to my Pastor who says this is normal and all Christians go through this at some point or another. Any suggestions?”

Wow! As I read this, I felt a surge of nervousness rise up within me. Though I enjoy posting my personal experiences and such on my blog, I don’t feel qualified to give individual and personal advice. But my FB friend was asking for help. And I felt I should do my best to honor their request. So, this is what I said…

“I went through the same thing. So many doubts. My only suggestion is to find as much quiet time as you can to pray and try to feel the very presence of God within your self. This is what I did, and try to do every day. And when I find and truly feel the presence of the Holy Spirit within me – well, it’s the peace that goes beyond human understanding, that Jesus promised us. Yet for me, it seemed to take a long time to feel the Spirits presence; I tend to be a slow learner. But be persistent and never give up, as Jesus encouraged us to be.”

In looking back on this advice, which is not really advice from me but from Jesus, I believe it’s good everyday advice for all of us.

Do you feel disconnected from God? Follow Jesus’ advice, and seek Him with all your heart. And you will find Him there, within you.


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The Wall

prison wall 2

All the surveys find the same thing: Christians are leaving church. Some surveys report that millions of Christians stop attending church each year. These people aren’t leaving Christianity; they’re just leaving whatever church they used to attend.

Yet something is driving people away. The surveys speak to that as well, giving several reasons why people leave the church. But it all simmers down to this: people are leaving because of a lack of truth within the church. The messages in some churches have drifted away from the truth of Jesus Christ. And what is preached is either a false Christianity, or no Christianity at all.

These false messages are like large stones in a prison wall, mortared together by pride, holding captive unwary believers. Yet as the surveys show, many climb over the wall and escape. But wounds remain.

Most church refugees I know, including me, carry wounds from their experience behind the prison wall of false Christianity. Healing comes from true Christianity, an intimate relationship with the One who heals all… Jesus Christ. A relationship given to us, and living with us, by His Spirit within us.

Did you crash into the wall and come away wounded? A while back I started a Facebook group with the hope that it would help provide healing for other wounded Christians … For Wounded Christians – A Place for Healing. Yet I now realize that no Facebook group can provide the healing we need. Only a personal relationship with the Holy Spirit can do that.


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Christian Decline in US

PEW Chart

The PEW Research Center recently released the results of its 2014 Religious Landscape Survey. Since its first such survey in 2007, the number of Christian adults in the US has shrunk by an estimated 5 million people. Yet over that same time, the US adult population has increased by 18 million. Why is the Christian church shrinking in the US?

Jesus knew the answer: “But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” (Matthew 7:26-27)

I believe that some churches have moved from a solid foundation of the truth of Jesus Christ, to a foundation of sand. Resting on manmade traditions and rules, and preaching popular opinion rather than the true essence of Christianity – this is the foundation of many of today’s churches. And they are crumbling. The PEW research shows the result.

Yet turning those survey results around is easy.


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Another Day in the Parking Lot

parking lot

Another lunch hour when I’m able to free myself from the hungry grip of work and grap some time alone. But not really alone. I drove to the nearby office park with the half-empty parking lot. My usual tree-shaded parking space is open. It takes a few minutes to quiet my mind and flush out all the work noise. But soon, here comes the Holy Spirit into my thoughts, here to share my lunch with me, and my writing time. I enjoy taking these writing breaks in the middle of my workday, when I can.

Oh, here come those two women who like to walk the loop around this large parking lot. The dark-haired one is doing the talking, as usual. And she’s whining again about something. She’s always whining, at least every time I see her. I feel sorry for her. She seems to have so much to complain about.

Dear Jesus, please help the dark-haired woman find peace. Please help her find freedom from complaining. I suspect you won’t remove her problems, the things she likes to complain about. But she could find true joy in the freedom that comes from letting go of her problems.

Lord, you’ve opened my eyes to this freedom and joy. Oh, I still complain, but not as much as I used to, before I let you into my heart. Thank you for coming in and healing my self-inflicted wounds. I’m so grateful.


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Are You a De-Churched Christian?

I’m a de-churched Christian. I’ve been reading the book “Churchless,” which contains lots of research data the Barna Group has collected about the various aspects of Christianity. Did you know there are about 18 million born-again Christians who no longer attend a church? The Barna study calls these people “de-churched.” It felt weird when I realized I’m one of the 18 million.

I haven’t attended church for almost five years. And what adds to the weirdness is, I can’t clearly tell you why. Oh, I could come up with surface answers easily enough. But none of them feel to me like they are the real, deep down reason I don’t go to church. And I want to know why.

It occurred to me; maybe some of these 18 million de-churched born-again Christians hang out online somewhere. So please help me if you know of any such hang-outs. Are there any Facebook groups? What other sites might the de-churched like to visit? Are there blogs for the de-churched?

My hope is that maybe by connecting with other de-churched people, I might learn why I have no desire to attend church. And if you too are a de-churched Christian, please share some of your story. It may help me, and it may help others. Thank you.


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Church for the Un-churched

churchless 2

Did you know that most of the people who don’t go to a Christian church had earlier in their life attended church? This is most apparent with the young adult generation, like from 18 to 30 years old. They attended as a kid, probably because their parents dragged them there, but they followed a different path when they gained their adult freedom.

I’m reading “Churchless,” by George Barna and David Kinnaman. It’s a book based on survey results of those who don’t go to a Christian church.

I just finished reading a chapter that describes the reasons young adults no longer go to church. And then this idea slipped into my mind: instead of the traditional brick-and-mortar church, what if there were an on-line church? Maybe it could be a Facebook group, where people go to talk about Jesus. Would this be more appealing than a traditional church? Might this type of church be able to avoid the turn-offs of a traditional church?

Please let me know if there is such an on-line church. What do you think of the idea? Thanks.


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Wounded Christian

wounded heart

“Every year, 2.7 million church members fall into inactivity. This translates into the realization that people are leaving the church. From our research, we have found that they are leaving as hurting and wounded victims—of some kind of abuse, disillusionment, or just plain neglect! From 1990 to 2000, the combined membership of all Protestant denominations in the USA declined by almost 5 million members (9.5 percent), while the US population increased by 24 million (11 percent).” *

Are you one of these wounded Christians? Some wounds go unnoticed, for a while anyway. For the past four years, I haven’t gone to church – I have no desire. I had stopped attending church because I was disillusioned by the messages coming from the pulpit. As I step back and look at myself as an outsider might, it now clearly looks to me like I’m a wounded Christian.

Are you wounded? If so, consider checking out the Facebook group, “For Wounded Christians – a Place for Healing.”

 

* From an editorial in the July 2012 issue of Christian Computing Magazine, “Why the church is dying in America,” by Steve Hewitt


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Self-Inflicted Wounds

wounds healed

Wounded Christians – some churches have wounded many followers with false messages. These messages are like spears, piercing our hearts and minds, often leaving grave wounds. Yet not all wounds come from a church.

I’ve met many pastors who have a very intimate and personal relationship with Jesus. Yet other pastors have fallen into the pit of intellectual self-importance. Their theological knowledge is more important to them than their relationship with the Spirit of Jesus. This disconnection leaves them wounded and weak, and often subject to despair.

Yet not just pastors. Any of us can fall victim to our own ego, our own desire for self-importance. Self-inflected wounds come from accepting false messages into our hearts. Yet we all have a shield for deflecting the spears of false messages, the shield of truth, given to us by Jesus Christ.

If you too have wounds and would like to meet with other wounded Christians, please consider joining the Facebook group For Wounded Christians – A Place for Healing.”


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Wounded, but Healing

wounds healed

The Facebook group For Wounded Christians – a Place for Healing, has me thinking about my wounds lately. What do my scars look like?

Up to my mid-thirties, I believed what most churches had been telling me, that I had to earn my way into heaven with good behavior. For some reason, this turned me off from Christianity. I don’t know why.

Then, someone gave me a book by Billy Graham. I don’t remember who gave me the book. I don’t remember the title of the book. I think I long ago lost the book. But for the first time in my life I read something in that book that shocked me. Billy Graham told me WHY Jesus died on the cross. Billy told me that Jesus paid the price for all my bad behavior. Billy told me that I didn’t have to earn my way into heaven – all I had to do was believe in the truth of what Jesus did for me, and accept the gift of salvation that Jesus offers me.

This truly shocked me. It was in direct conflict with all I had heard up to that point in my life. Salvation isn’t a reward for good behavior, but rather a gift, generously offered to all who have the faith to simply accept it.

I still remember that feeling of shock. It was then that my wounds started to heal.


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Healing my Wounds

wounded heart

This morning while praying, it became clear and obvious to me that I too am a wounded Christian. Why else would I sometimes be angry at certain churches and their behavior? My anger has it roots somewhere, and it must be in past wounds.

This morning I was wondering how the Holy Spirit within me feels about all this. Also, how can I let go of my anger?

I suspect God may also get angry at certain church behavior. But God’s anger does not affect His love. Like any good parent, no matter how bad the behavior, God still loves His children. That sense of God’s love for churches that cause me anger actually helps me begin to let go of the anger and take hold of the love. With the Spirit of God within me, He can love through me. I now know that I can feel sincere love for those who had hurt and angered me. For me, it may just take a little more time, to let go of my anger, and take hold of God’s love.

Are you a wounded Christian, carrying scars inflicted by churches or other Christians? Please consider joining the Facebook Group, For Wounded Christians – A Place for Healing, where you can share your feelings, your stories, your healing.

May God bless us all with His overflowing love, which washes away all bad feelings.