Leaving and Cleaving
I left the institutional church (IC) in the fall of 2007, with my wife and family. I left because I was convinced that the human organization was not achieving God’s greatest purposes, and in fact could not achieve them, in spite of the fact that God faithfully indwells the people who gather together on Sunday mornings. Well, yes…we also left because the Lord led us out.
I believe that the IC lives a contradiction, saying one thing in its teaching, but another with its structure. “The medium is the message.” As a result, believers are equipped for ministry but never released. Leaders end up controlling the laity rather than empowering them. (For more see Identity and Authority of the Believer).
When I left the IC I was not alone. In the previous six months a number of other families had been making the same journey. But “where” were they going?
In the fall of 2007 I attended a local service where the preacher was sharing some of the early days in the life of a particular church community. He quoted David Ruis’ first sermon, delivered there shortly after the church had been founded. The title was, “Going, but not knowing,” based on the life of Abraham.
If you haven’t peeked into the book of Hebrews recently, I encourage you to do so. It’s difficult to grasp what a life of faith is like while living in our security focused culture. But I am also reminded of some words of Elizabeth O’Connor, one of the founders of the Church of the Savior in Washington, DC. She wrote that “Our security focused culture must be willing to allow that to be brought into being which might fail.”
But the entire structure of Sunday services is to ensure that there are no “failures,” no “glitches,” and that everything flows along smoothly. We take no risks when we meet in such settings. We know where we are going and where we will all arrive. We hope that we will all be together when we get there.
Risk…faith…moving ahead into the unknown.. Which of us really embraces such a journey? We prefer the well worn pathways. And besides, we are “found” and not lost, right? Surely we now have all the answers, right?
They have cradled you in custom,
They have primed you with their preaching,
They have soaked you in convention through and through;
They have put you in a showcase
You’re a credit to their teaching–
You are building the kingdom without straw!