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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Does God Seem Missing?

Many Christians no longer attend a church, though they still believe in God and Jesus. I’ve seen the survey results.* Those surveys also found than many of the de-churched, as well as some who still attend a church, feel that God was missing from their experience of church. Maybe that’s why so many people leave—they go to church looking for God, but don’t find Him there.

Have you gone to a church looking for God? I think you needed to look somewhere else, for as Jesus said:

“On that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you are in Me, and I in you. (John 14:20, emphasis added)

“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, so that He may be with you forever; the Helper is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him; but you know Him because He remains with you and will be in you.” (John 14:16-17, emphasis added)

You’ll find God by looking within yourself. Want more assurance? How about this:

“And I will put My Spirit within you and you will come to life, … declares the Lord.” (Ezekiel 37:14, emphasis added)

“If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God.” (1 John 4:15, emphasis added)

“Examine yourselves to see whether you are living in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you?” (2 Corinthians 13:5)

Convinced? So how do you find God and get a sense of His presence? How can you feel God within you? Here’s the path that worked for me:

  1. It starts with faith.
  2. A growing craving for God’s presence.
  3. Prayer
  4. Keep praying, and wait for God to reveal Himself to you.

9-24-21 Does God seem missingFirst, you need to believe you can feel God’s presence within you. You need to believe in the Holy Spirit and Jesus’ promises about He being in you, and you being in Him. As Jesus and God are one, so can you and Jesus be one. And like all things, to experience it you must first believe it.

Faith will automatically lead to an ever-growing hunger for God’s presence. And, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Matthew 5:6)

Hunger will lead you to prayer. I’m talking about an unceasing and silent prayer, not an asking-for-favors prayer, but a prayer where you’re listening and looking for the Spirit of God and Jesus within you. The more you pray and look, the sooner you’ll find God. And,“If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” (Matthew 21:22)

So keep praying, and waiting. This part, the waiting part, requires patience, the hardest part for me—I hope your wait is shorter than mine was. But while you wait, read the Bible and look for where God and Jesus promise their presence. Let their promises encourage you and strengthen your belief. For me, waiting was where I grew the most. So I think waiting is as critical a step on this path to God as the others. “Wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 1:4-5)

* You can see the survey results for yourself in two very interesting books, both by David Kinnaman of the Barna Group. “Churchless; Understanding Today’s Unchurched and How to Connect with Them,” and “unChristian; What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity.”


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It’s Sunday Again … and Something’s Missing

The feeling clung to me for many months, maybe more than a year … after I stopped going to church. Guilt, confusion, lots of questions, and a hollowness that rose from my stomach and oozed into my chest. Was I doing the right thing? Staying home on Sunday—no more church? Eventually the feeling faded and I eased into a new Sunday routine.

Over time, I lost that feeling of guilt. I grew closer to God and Jesus than ever before, I think because I was now on my own in my relationship with them—no longer relying on a seminary-trained pastor to help me. And every day is now Sunday, for I worship God on all days. I feel God working in my life, and though life can really suck (especially this year), God’s presence makes all the difference.

But still, something’s missing. I’ve always known what it is. Churches call it fellowship—hanging out with fellow Christians and worshipping God and Jesus in some fashion. At first, I tried to resist, but that feeling lingering in my gut kept nagging me, telling me that fellowship is something Jesus wants me to do.

Yet, the dilemma. I can’t bring myself to go back to a church, and I’ve never felt God enticing me to go back either. I often hang out with friends who still go to church, but they don’t really understand me and my aversion to church.

Finally, yesterday, an idea seeped in. What I was missing, what I really want, is fellowship with other dechurched Christians.

Are you a dechurched Christian? You know, you still believe in and have feelings for Jesus, but you no longer go to a church? I have a question for you. What do you think of this idea:

  • Form your own Dechurched Network, a small group of other dechurched Christians.
  • Periodically, maybe even on Sunday’s, you get together and worship God and Jesus. Of course, these days your get-together might be over Zoom or spaced out a safe distance in someone’s back yard.
  • Worship can take any form you want. I think the only important thing is that we glorify God and Jesus in our time together. Doesn’t have to be elaborate. Leave the ceremony at the church. Jesus kept things simple—so can we.

Many years ago I started a Facebook Group called “Dechurched—A Place For Wounded Christians,” (https://www.facebook.com/groups/ForWoundedChristians ). Maybe that group could be a resource for your little network. Or you could form your own Facebook group.

Well, in any case, I hope to use the “Dechurched” Facebook group to promote this idea of forming small groups of dechurched Christians so they can “fellowship” and worship God together.

Again, what do you think of this idea? And thanks.


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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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A Question for De-Churched Christians

Are you a de-churched Christian? You know, you used to go to church, you don’t any longer, but you still believe in Jesus and care about your relationship with Him, even a little.

Look, I’m a de-churched Christian. I left a church that started behaving in a way that I believed was way off target. I test-drove several other churches, but never landed in one that felt right to me. Something always felt off, and maybe slightly un-Christian. I know there are some great Christian churches out there—I just haven’t found one near where I live, though I’ve long given up looking. Besides, Church has come to mean something different for me (but that’s not why I’m writing today).

Anyway, when I first left church many years, I stepped off on a journey to find true Christianity, the Christianity I felt I wasn’t seeing in churches I’d attended. Didn’t have to look far—it was right there on my bedside table, in my Bible. I’m now in the middle of writing a book about my journey to find the truth.

Anyway #2: if you’re a de-churched Christian, please consider letting me know why you left. Was there anything specific that turned you away? Did it feel like something was missing? Did you have a sense that you were seeing true Christianity?

Though your answers may be helpful for other de-churched Christians, if you don’t feel comfortable leaving a comment to this post, please consider sending me an email instead.

Thank you so much for considering this. All the best to you, and may you enjoy the presence of the Spirit of Jesus in your life.

CJ Penn

cjpenn@gmail.com


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The Spirit Speaks – of Being Churchless at Christmas

Are you newly dechurched? Have you decided that the institutional church isn’t for you, at least for now? And will this Christmas be the first one in a long time where you will not be celebrating with a church? Or is this just one more year of a churchless Christmas?

However your answers make you feel, I, the Spirit of Jesus Christ, wish no guilt be upon you. I know what you’re going through. And it’s okay.

If you can’t bring yourself to enter a church during this annual time of celebration, then bring yourself to enter into me. If you can’t walk through the doors of the church sanctuary, then walk through the door of the sanctuary of your heart. That’s where I worship. Join me within the depths of your heart this Christmas, and we will worship and celebrate together.


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The Spirit Speaks – of the One Greater than the Church

I, the Spirit of Jesus Christ, see the turmoil in my Church. I see the division and the politics. I see the dysfunctional collection of dissimilar churches. I see those children who are pushed out. And I see those who run away.

My children abandon churches for many reasons. Some are escaping behaviors that don’t make sense to them; things that don’t seem “Christian.” Yet this is the nature of church, for the church family members are all typical broken and flawed people. As sin is a part of human nature, you will find the fruits of sin wherever there are people.

This may seem like a dilemma; how can you have a Christ-filled church when it’s full of sin-filled people? As in everything in life, the answer to this question is to look away from the manmade weaknesses of church, and look to me. For I am greater than the church. Problems flourish when people forget it’s not church traditions that rule, but that I am Lord of the Sabbath.

To those who leave and those who stay, look to me, the One greater than the Church. As I said, “I tell you that one greater than the temple is here. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” (Matthew 12:6,8)


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We Are The Church!

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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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The Spirit Speaks – of Dechurched Christians Living in Fear

Dechurched2

I, the Spirit of Jesus Christ, see many of God’s children living in fear of judgment. Oh, they don’t fear my judgment; they fear the judgment of other Christians. Dechurched Christians, those who no longer attend a church yet still believe, fear the judgment of churchgoing Christians.

There are two victims in this: those who are judged, and those who do the judging. But my plan for my church and my children does not include judgment and guilt. Look, I don’t judge dechurched Christians because they no longer attend church. And I don’t judge churchgoing Christians who may have a hard time understanding and accepting dechurched Christians.

What’s most important to me is where your heart is, not where you’re sitting on Sunday morning. My desire for all of you is the same: that you have a personal and intimate relationship with me, Jesus Christ. Your relationship with me is more important than your relationship with a church.