Why I Quit Going to Church

 

During the past few years, Sharon and I have visited numerous churches. We were counting just the other day and realized we have been to at least two each of Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist, Assembly of God, Catholic, and non-denominational, in addition to countless Baptist churches. However, for the last two years, more often than not, most weeks find us not attending any church.

It is correct to say that we have quit going to church.

To be honest, I never thought I would make such a statement. I have been in church from the beginning. Somewhere in the Bible, it says, “In the beginning God created church and Terry was there.”Church storm.jpg

My father was a pastor, so our family life was centered on church. As I grew up, unlike many “preacher’s kids,” I never rebelled and left the church. I stayed with it—through high school, college, and my earliest working days. When I returned to college a few years later, it was to prepare for the ministry. It was time for me to become the preacher.

After seminary, I almost quit church. No church was interested in me being their pastor, and I was discouraged. After a short time, I was discovered and put back to work and once again the church was the center of my world.

Not true any longer.

Although I quit going to church, my relationship with Jesus is as strong as ever. I still pray, read the Bible, study scripture, share my faith, and jump on opportunities for ministry as much as ever. My level of trust in God, dependence upon God, and recognition of God’s presence has not waned.

When this first started happening, I thought there was something wrong with me. Even though I did not feel guilty for staying home on Sunday, I thought I should—at least a little guilt. But I didn’t. I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong. I thought that at least I must be a rare person—an active church member who drops out and doesn’t feel guilt.

However, I came to realize that I am not rare. There are many of us, perhaps even millions of us. I have found a bunch who have traveled a similar path and ended up at the same location. These are people who love Jesus, who have been church leaders or active members and have quit the church.

The real question is why. Why did this happen? Why did I quit going to church?

I have given this much thought, and you will hear my answer. However, let me say a couple of things. First, you might feel like I am attacking you or something that is important to you. Let me assure you that is not my intention. As far as I’m concerned, you can continue attending church until Jesus returns and I will not try to change your mind.

Second, don’t feel sorry for me. If you want to judge me, that’s your business, but I don’t need or want your sympathy. I’m a big boy, and I made a conscious decision after much thought and prayer. I don’t need your approval or your condemnation.

Now, let me try and explain why I quit going to church.

I spent nearly 15 years, during the prime of my life, helping churches raise money. I wrote books and study material that was used by hundreds of thousands of people. I helped develop a capital fundraising program for buildings that has been utilized in thousands of churches. It is not an exaggeration to say that I have had a hand in raising more than a quarter of a billion dollars for churches.

You might think my ego is a little inflated, but it’s not. I was good at what I did. However, now I think I was mistaken. I began to rethink the subject of money several years ago and in 2010 I wrote a book titled, “Authentic Stewardship” to express the beginning of my change of thought. My journey continued, and in 2014 I wrote a blog post called, “The Dissolution of Christian Stewardship.” It was seen as an attack on Dave Ramsey (although it wasn’t), and people went nuts with thousands of readers daily for a long time, and then rediscovered and revived for some reason a year later.

In September of 2010, a friend and I started Bread Fellowship, a different kind of church built around the idea of keeping Christ in the center without a circumference. In other words, we would hold up Jesus as the central message and allow anyone to come and participate. I tried to capture this concept in a book I published in the summer of 2012. It is a great model that I still think has merit; however, it didn’t work for me at that time.

Another significant experience along the way was a sermon I preached at Truett Theological Seminary in 2011. I was asked to address the subject of stewardship, which I did, but with a twist. Since it was a gathering of seminary students, aspirants for the church pulpit, I challenged them to think about the necessity to take a preaching position even if there was no salary. In other words, to consider working for Jesus without being paid.

It took me a long time to come to that position. In fact, I had to get to the point where I was making a living without depending on the church before I could see the value in not expecting the church to be my provider. I then began to realize that the church is better off without “paying the preacher.” It sets everyone free to follow God’s leadership.

Perhaps a more thorough explanation will be helpful before moving on. A pastor lives in constant tension of pleasing enough of the right people to keep his job. Being a pastor is exactly like working for any business—you have a boss, and you must make the boss happy. This is even more complex because a pastor will probably have multiple bosses within the church. The problem for the pastor in that situation is that he is no longer serving Jesus. He is now serving the men and women who make up the local church (who may or may not be faithful servants of Jesus).

All of this is compounded by the fact that these same people who pay staff salaries are also the ones who must pay for the church building. Therefore, it is imperative to keep them happy, to make sure their needs are met, and that they bring in additional people for fresh sources of revenue.

I learned all of this while doing stewardship. If I were starting over today, I would not spend my most valuable years of ministry helping churches raise money. It has taken a long time, but I’m finally leaving all of that behind.

In fact, money is probably the reason I quit going to church. I don’t mean the cost of attending, nor was I offended by being asked to give an offering. If churches are going to operate and be funded the way they are then asking for an offering is appropriate.

Before I expound on my understanding about church, let me ask a question. If money were totally eliminated from the equation, what would your church look like? In other words, if your church had no money what would happen? Would the church cease to exist? Or, would they find a way to do things without money?

While you ponder that question, I will share my opinion of the church today.

I am convinced the church in America today has become distracted from its purpose and focused on numbers rather than being the Body of Christ in the world. This has resulted in an overabundance of buildings and a failed understanding of the clergy. This is evidenced by the fact that the majority of the church’s budget is consumed by the cost of construction and maintaining buildings, and paying staff salaries—as much as 80% of most instances.

Consequently, the church has created a self-perpetuating cycle that begins with the idea that a church must have a building. In order to afford the expense, enough people must join the local congregation and be encouraged to give money. In order to continually recruit new members additional staff members are necessary, who also cost money.

The consequences of this failure by the church are significant and include the following:

  • Providing more and more expensive amenities to attract and keep people.
  • Attempts to become full-service providers for people, offering everything folks need for entertainment, child care, youth activities, support groups, recreation, etc.
  • Developing “worship services” that resemble musical concerts, complete with lights, video, and even pyrotechnics.
  • Recruiting “worship leaders” who are essentially performers, and providing “worship services” that have little to do with New Testament worship.
  • Churches with more than half of the registered members who are disconnected from the church and have little or no interest in following Jesus.
  • Preachers who are unwilling or afraid to be prophetic because the church cannot afford to alienate significant members.
  • A vast majority of believers who are not in a position to utilize their spiritual gifts because either they are not assigned a position by the church or because they don’t have the gifts required for open positions at church.
  • Churches have made a man (i.e. Senior Pastor) the head of the church rather than Christ. Or, perhaps they operate with a Board of Directors (Elders or Deacons), but not Christ.
  • Pastors are under the burden of generating enough money to pay their salary and all the church financial obligations.
  • Little money is available for helping the poor and needy.

Your church probably doesn’t possess all these qualities, but even one of them is an indication that you are heading in the wrong direction. In addition, this list doesn’t even take into consideration the role politics has come to play in the life of the church—that’s an entirely separate issue for another day.

Imagine how many poor people could have been helped, hungry people fed, orphans united with eager parents, or healing brought to the sick if that quarter of a billion dollars I helped raise would have been invested in something other than buildings and payrolls. But, money isn’t the issue. The point is that the institutional church has ceased being the body of Christ in the world. Instead, it has become a self-perpetuating institution that sells physical comfort and spiritual assurance.

That last statement sounds rather harsh so trust me when I say it is not presented with a flippant attitude. Let me hasten to add that nothing I write here is intended to be a criticism of any individual. The finest Christians I know have given their life to serve the church. They are sincere and completely committed to serving Christ. However, like me, they have given their life to serving a church that is far off course.

If you are traveling and set a course that is simply one degree off target, it doesn’t sound like such a big deal. In fact, after 100 yards you will be only five feet off. Two quick steps and you are back where you belong. However, after traveling one mile, you will be more than 90 feet off, and if you are going from San Francisco to Los Angeles, you will be off by six miles. The longer the trip the further away from the target that one simple degree will take you. If you travel around the world, you will be more than 430 miles off target.

The church in the New Testament set off in the direction established by the Holy Spirit. However, at some point, it was distracted just a little bit (about one degree). Now, 2,000 years later, the church is so far away from where it intended to go that the destination cannot even be seen on the horizon.

Church history tells us that there have been times when the deviation has been greater than one degree and other times when the church moved closer to the correct course. For example, Constantine and his attempts to make Christianity the official religion of the Roman world led us on a path that eventually went way off line. The Reformation and various spiritual awakenings have brought us back closer to the correct way. However, the end result is that the church in America today is nowhere near where it should be.

The result is an institution that is so encumbered with maintaining buildings, financially supporting staff, and striving to create a Christian world that it no longer has the will, energy, or desire to serve Jesus.

In order to correct this situation, I want to suggest a refocus on two essential doctrines of the Christian faith that can get us back on track. The first is the concept that the followers of Jesus make up the Body of Christ—the church. In other words, the church is not a place or a building—it is people. We are Christ’s body in the world. The church is wherever we happen to be.

When two or more of us get together, then we have a gathering of the church. Since I have been in church my entire life, I have a good idea about what happens when the church gathers. There is singing, preaching, praying, announcing, plus entertaining, marketing and promotion, and a few other incidental activities. However, when I read scripture, I discover a different list of activities.

The second essential doctrine is the priesthood of all believers. Protestants have wrapped themselves in pride that they did away with the priesthood because of their belief that all of us are priests before God. However, they have substituted pastors for priests. The pastor today is viewed as a necessity in order to have a church, and many of them operate as if they have special access to God.

The American church has named the pastor as the CEO of the local church. It is the pastor who casts the vision, develops the plans, secures the resources, and sets the course for action. It is the pastor who explains God’s word, leads the prayers, and finds the answers to people’s problems.

In most churches, if you want to do something you are told to “ask the pastor” (or one of his staff representatives). If you have a message to share with the congregation the pastor will want to know about it beforehand (at least I would have when I was the pastor). If you want to follow Christ in baptism, you need to talk to the pastor. If you want to renew your commitment of faith, then you go to the pastor.

In making the pastor the head of the church we have placed him/her in an impossible situation—expecting them to do what only Christ can (and should) do. If we remove the pastor from the position of intermediary between Christ and the church then everyone is allowed to function in direct relationship with Him. That is what the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers is about.

Now, let me return to my question—what would happen to the church if we remove money from the equation? In other words, the church does not have money for buildings, staff, or programs.

The first and most obvious thing is that Christians would gather in much smaller groups because the gathering would have to take place in homes, parks, and other public places. Imagine the dramatic change in the church if we eliminate the Sunday morning show along with the children’s and young people’s entertainment.

The next thing we would notice is that regular people would have to step up and do the work of the church since there is no longer a paid staff. The truth is that the ordinary people are to be doing the work of the church anyway. God has gifted each of us for service and ministry. He never expected that a pastor would be in charge of the church’s work.

That raises another important point—the work of the church should take place out in the world, not within the walls of a church building. We gather to be encouraged and strengthened, and then we scatter to be the body of Christ in the world. We take the church with us because we are the church.

Imagine all of that—a small group of believers gathering in a home for the purpose of sharing and encouraging one another in the faith. By the way, I’m not making that up. Listen to these words:

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:23-25)

This is not an admonition to gather in a large auditorium on Sunday morning as many want to suggest. Rather it is a call not to try to live the Christian life in isolation—we do not have a Lone Ranger faith. We cannot make it on our own; we need one another. We are to gather with other believers to stimulate and encourage one another.

But it is not an admonition to gather and watch others and be entertained. When the church gathers there is to be sharing (including a meal, prayer needs/concerns, possessions with those in need—not an offering for the church, and the Lord’s Supper). There is also to be encouraging one another (includes teaching, prayer, and spoken words). Finally, there should be praise, which includes singing and testimonies.

I have many believers in my life who share and encourage. Sharon and I strive to gather with others who desire to follow the leadership of Christ and help us be better representatives of Christ in the world. This is not an attempt to start a new church. It is simply a gathering of a minuscule portion of God’s church.

When I say that I have quit going to church, what I really mean is that I have stopped going to what most people call the church. The truth is that I cannot quit because I am the church. I am the body of Christ in a unique corner of the world—the one I occupy. As a follower of Christ, you are also the church. When we get together, then we can have church, even if it’s not in a building with a church sign in the yard.

 

 

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78 Comments

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78 responses to “Why I Quit Going to Church

  1. robin

    In your view of a church to where should the tithe be brought?

    • Use your money to minister to others. Rather than giving to maintain a building use the money to help someone who has lost their job, can’t pay medical bills, support a homeless shelter, etc. The possibilities are limitless.

      • robin

        Ok, but the Bible does say, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse,” (Malachi 3:10a) Shouldn’t there be some form of institution to disseminate these funds?

    • The passage in Malachi belongs to the religious system under the old covenant. Jesus established a new covenant. Since all Christians are now priests with direct access to God, we don’t need anyone to oversee how we use our money.

      • robin

        Ok, but this passage in act, is this president for an institutional church of the New Testament Covenant?
        Acts 4:34There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold 35and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.

      • Not sure how you can take the experience of selling property and giving the proceeds to the needy as justification for bringing money to an institution so they can construct a building and pay the staff. Seems like totally different things to me.

      • robin

        I was just pointing out that the money went to the apostles first, and then distributed.

      • The problem with the institutional church today is that the vast majority of the money is not distributed. It is used to serve the church, not the poor.

    • alice brown

      Just help the helpless, as Jesus taught. Let the world know you by your good deeds, your actions to help others, not by giving to a building.

  2. Karen

    My husband and I have a similar story and have drawn the same conclusions. Thank you for putting these thoughts into words. We are still struggling with finding other believers to fellowship with in a smaller, more intimate context. Blessings

  3. Mark

    Thank you for writing this article. It echos so much of what I think and believe. I have served in the past as a lay minister for six years and had a full time job, so I understand the very real issue of money in the church, whether your budget is 80k per year or 800K. . The Holy Spirit seems to be moving people away from traditional congregation format into something new. The old form may die out, thank goodness we are in the Resurrection business.and shouldn’t be afraid to embrace the change.

    • robin

      But aren’t we still supposed to give our tithes and offerings to the authorities of the Church like it says in the Bible?

      • robin

        First, I believe everything a believer does in matters personal, business, and church-related should be based on the scripture.
        Second, I am not attempting to insult you or your experiences. I am dealing with the scriptures alone.
        Third, I acknowledge the need for both the church and individual believer to engage in giving to the poor, and I am not trying to delegitimize that practice.
        With those established, here are some passages that support the idea of the institutional church managing monetary resources, using those resources for things other than giving to the poor, and paying its pastor and its staff, from both the Old and New Testaments.
        Malachi 3:10a “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house.” You mentioned in your post the Biblical precedent for a meal being served along with a church meeting. The tithe goes toward paying for that as well as other operating expenses of the church, not to the poor, to the storehouse. (All be it that food may end in the mouth of a poor person if they attend a service.)
        Acts 6:2-3 “And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty.” Part of the job of the church is to free the Five-Fold Ministry (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, Eph. 6:11) to do their duty. So people should be hired to preform these other duties.
        1 Chronicles 25 explains how David hired musicians for his house and the temple. I agree that money shouldn’t wasted on hiring musicians to put on an entertaining show; money should be used to hire musicians to create and sustain an atmosphere of worship. (Nehemiah 13:10-11 on musicians being paid)
        Luke 10:7b “for the laborer deserves his wages.” God does want His workers paid for their work.
        Do you see any flaw in my interpretations? If so please feel free to supply scriptures to refute them.

      • Robin, the Old Testament passages have nothing to do with the church. The early church clearly walked away from the Jewish Temple so the references to bringing food to the storehouse or hiring musicians have no application to the church.

        The Acts 6 passage says nothing about paying ministry staff. It simply points out the necessity of distributing the work. Your reasoning would suggest the servers should be paid, not the disciples (or whoever you are equating them to in today’s church).

        The Luke passage is an admonition to the Disciples as Jesus sent them out to spread the Good News. If you read the passage, the idea is that they would be fed and housed by folks along the way. This is more akin to supporting missionaries than to church staff.

        A typical church spends 50% of their income on staff salaries and another 30% on buildings. Most of what the staff is asked to do and what the building is used for is the comfort of members. In other words, the church is spending money on itself.

        I think we can do better than sharing a meal and then hoping “the poor attend a service” so they can get fed.

        Again, let me ask you, what would your church look like if it had no money?

      • robin

        First, I disagree with your point that the Old Testament has no place in the operation of the church. The representation of the temple is a type and shadow of our relations with the Most High and with our fellow believers. To ignore it is foolishness. It is the Word of God.
        Matthew 5:18 “For I tell you truly, until heaven and earth pass away, not a single jot, not a stroke of a pen, will disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.”
        2 Timothy 3:16-17 “All Scripture is breathed out by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
        Note, all scripture.
        About my reasoning over the passage in Acts 6, I believe that both the servers and the apostles should be paid. My proof for them being paid is the passage in Luke 10.
        You have pointed out that in Luke is in the context of paying ministers; I agree. However, that very scripture is quoted by Paul to apply to a different context.
        1 Timothy 5:17-18 “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.”
        Perhaps Jesus meant that as a general rule, that the one who works is worthy of reward, be it domestic or foreign ministry. In addition we see in the Old Testament many provisions made for every worker of the temple from the gatekeepers to the priest who would enter the Holiest of Holies they all receive their portion.
        And in conclusion I’d like to remind you I said at the start of my previous comment I completely supported the church giving to the poor. My point was that Malachi 3 states that the purpose of the tithe to provide for the daily needs of the congregation. Other funds can go to the poor.

    • alice brown

      My UU church in Birmingham rented our church out to the ‘Church Without Walls’…a bunch of Episcopalians who didn’t waste their money on a building, but used their funds to pay the bills of the helpless (for a few months, to help them establish responsible habits).
      Help others. Jesus didn’t have a home: he helped others.

    • Lorelei

      We need to pay attention to how the Amish worship the Lord they love. They go to each other’s homes on Sunday morning. They take turns holding the worship in their homes and then fellowship with food and conversation, and of course, not working on Sunday in any capacity at all. I love their belief system very much.

  4. Tommy

    It is easy to find fault with the church, and anyone can do it. I confess that many of today’s churches would not be places where I might choose to worship or invest myself in ministry. But to abandon the church because I cannot find a single congregation that measures up to my criteria and expectations says more about me than it does about the church.

    Eugene Peterson is correct in his Christianity Today article entitled, “Learning to Love the Church”: “There can be no maturity in the spiritual life, no obedience in following Jesus, no wholeness in the Christian life apart from an immersion in, and embrace of, community. I am not myself by myself. Community, not the highly vaunted individualism of our culture, is the setting for living the Christian life.” He concludes with this: “[H]oly living, resurrection living, is not a self-project. We are a people of God and cannot live holy lives, resurrection lives, as individuals. We are not a self-defined community; we are a God-defined community. The love that God pours out for and in us creates a community in which that love is reproduced in our love for one another.”

    As a pastor whose church you once helped with a capital campaign, I would encourage you to keep seeking a congregation. You won’t find a perfect one, and if you do, as the old joke goes, you shouldn’t join it because it would then no longer be perfect. But there are churches out there doing their best to be what Christ intended when he founded the Church.

    • Tommy, I appreciate the comment, but please re-read the article. I have no intention (nor can I) of abandoning the church. We are the church. However, my concern is with the institutional church dominated by obligations to buildings and staff. I am well aware that no perfect church is possible as long as I’m a part of it. However, I think it is possible to do church in a way that is more consistent with what church was intended to be – a community of believers who share their lives together and encourage one another. This can be done quite well without spending a great deal of money. I still meet with the church regularly, it’s just that we don’t do it in large groups in expensive buildings under the supervision of paid folks.

      • Tommy

        Understood. Of course there are certain inefficiencies with the traditional model of buildings and staff, but there are advantages as well, and either model can be done well or done poorly. The church I serve is nearly a century-and-a-half old with no debt and thus dedicates a large percentage of its resources to missions and ministry (some might say “all,” depending on how you define missions and ministry). We are in a position to meet needs that are beyond the means of “house-church” size groups (for want of a better designation), and we do. So each approach has its place. A church should not be disparaged simply because it has buildings and staff, or because it doesn’t. God uses both.

      • My concern is far greater than inefficiencies. For example, your own church is in the midst of a capital fund campaign to raise three-quarters of a million dollars for building maintenance and repairs. You have a large staff so it is likely that more than half the budget is consumed with salaries and benefits. Throw in the cost of utilities, upkeep, furnishing, etc. for the building and there is probably little left. My point is that none of this is necessary in order to have church, or for the church to have a significant impact in the world.

        The biblical model of doing church looks nothing like most institutional churches today. I can also add that many non-believers have been driven away, not by the message of Jesus, but by the actions of the church.

        I agree that a church should not be “disparaged simply because it has buildings and staff…” but the problem is that having those two things is evidence the church has moved away from the original intention. Buildings and staff drain the church of resources (including time and energy) away from actually being the Body of Christ in the world.

      • Tommy

        Terry, you’re correct of course that buildings and staff are not necessary to have church or for the church to have a significant impact in the world. If they were, the church would have ceased to exist soon after Jesus established it. You are also correct that many non-believers have been driven away by the bad behavior of so-called believers, but that is true across the spectrum, not just in what you consider to be institutional churches.

        What does the “biblical model of doing church” look like? We know the NT church took up regular offerings (1 Cor. 16:1-2; 2 Cor. 9), had paid ministers (1 Cor. 9:3-14; Gal. 6:6; cf. Matt. 10:10-11 and Luke 10:7), and commissioned and supported missionaries (Acts 13:2-3). What about buildings? Although the church at first met in the temple courts (Acts 2:46), they definitely had no Christian temple(s), because they knew that “the Most High does not dwell in houses made with hands” (Acts 7:48). But they made use of meeting spaces, whether upper rooms (with a capacity of at least 120; Acts 1:13-15) or lecture halls (Acts 19:9). What resources were required to secure those spaces is anyone’s guess, I suppose. Buildings are simply tools: they can be employed to advance the kingdom of God or they can distract us from kingdom work. But I think your assertion that “having [buildings and staff] is evidence the church has moved away from the original intention” is easily disputed.

        Also questionable is your last statement, if you’re speaking in general terms: “Buildings and staff drain the church of resources (including time and energy) away from actually being the Body of Christ in the world.” If I may use language from Covey’s 7 Habits, your thinking reflects a scarcity paradigm, sometimes called a zero-sum approach (i.e., “there is only so much, and the more you get, the less there is for me”). Yet God owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Ps. 50:10; see also 2 Cor. 9:8-12) and always entrusts us with the resources we need to accomplish whatever ministry he calls us to undertake. Good stewardship of those resources is the key, and I won’t dispute that there are good stewards and bad stewards. But the “buildings and staff” model in and of itself is not by definition a wrong or even unbiblical model.

        Terry, I’ve enjoyed this dialogue and wish I could pursue it further, but ministry calls. I for one don’t view your years of service in the cause of stewardship as all for naught. You helped many churches, more than you likely realize. The kingdom of God is enriched because of your ministry.

    • I have to agree with Tommy on this one. He nails it later when he talks about whose money is it. We believe God raises and lowers leaders – God is in charge and Sovereign. When we give to a church or a person in poverty we are both giving to God. It sounds like he is accusing the church as taking a glass of water from the ocean – you can’t out spend or out give God. It is all His stuff. If we are called to help fix a church building, who can say I am wrong? If I am called to minister to a group of 6 people in my living room, that is my calling.

      • While it is true that God has enough money for everything we need, we are not excused from being stewards of what he gives us. The typical church spends 50% of their income of staff salaries and 30% or more on buildings. That leaves 20% or less to cover everything else. Most churches give only token amounts to the needy and poor, choosing instead to spend the majority on themselves. It is true that God could dip into His vast ocean of money and scoop out another glassful of money if the church needs it, but why would He if we are simply going to build bigger buildings, pay staff higher salaries, etc.?

  5. I believe this to be your best posting so far, that I have read.

  6. Mary Wilson

    Terry, my spirit bears witness with your spirit. What you have written in your article, is what the Holy Spirit revealed to me apart from anyone showing this to me a long while ago; but the LORD will always confirm by the mouth of 2 or 3 witnesses. The Truth is never popular with the majority. But the Truth is there for all who truly want to know it and willing to receive it because the LORD does not want us to be deceived or ignorant. When Jesus says for us to follow Him; He didn’t say if, and or but. If you hunger and thirst for His righteousness; you are going to have to make some hard choices and it is going to go against the status quo. Following Jesus can be costly and lonely, though He will never leave us alone. I have tried to share revelation of the truth of God’s Word with other brothers and sisters as my eyes were opened up; there are those who see and those who see and have been set free and those who see but are bound by tradition and choose to follow man/tradition or whatever their reasons. I’m referring to tradition that contradicts the Truth of God; I’m speaking of not rightly dividing the Word of Truth. Just as with the lies regarding tithes. It is a lie that we as the church have been fed for centuries and we have accepted even though for some, the Holy Spirit was revealing it and we seen that it contradicted other scriptures. In my personal relationship with the LORD, He has show/spoken to me that people fear man more than they fear God so more often than not, there is a strong inclination is to not to go against the pastors, elders, etc because the church fear their wrath/rejection. All throughout the Gospels, Jesus gave us an insight into the workings within the heart of men. Of course not all but majority, I believe. For example; Jesus said in John 8:45, Jesus said, “And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not” John 12:43 “For they loved the praises of men more than the praises of God” “Matthew 15 Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, 2 Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread. 3 But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? 4 For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. 5 But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; 6 And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. 7 Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, 8 This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. 9 But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. Jesus brought the Truth to all but it was the religious ones that fought Him the hardest. Unfortunately, it is much easier to convince people of a lie than it is of the Truth!

    • Jody

      it is hard for me to listen to a six figure salaried preacher talk about faith….when his car breaks down, theres plenty of money to fix it, when the washing machine falls apart, he gets a new one……thats not faith….faith is…car broke down and washing machine fell apart, and Mr.Soandso has 86.00 in his account until next payday and he is praying and trusting God to see him through. To me, that is faith. I am glad I dont attend the churches now that I grew up in, because as Terry says, it was all about a dog and pony show and programs and buildings and comfort stuff, and very little to do with a true relationship with God! I have been a member of a church that most people in the congregation were barely middle class incomes, and the preacher and several staff were six figures or right close to it…..there is a big problem there!!!! the “storehouse” should be used for blessing the needs of those that are truly in need, not to bump up Mr. Associate pastor’s salary another 10k a year!!! excellent read Terry!!! thanks you!!!

      • Jody

        I am so glad for the fellowship I attend nowadays. No big budget anything, just God’s word straight and true, and a place where everyone is free to use their spiritual gifts and God-given talents to lift up the name of Jesus and Him alone!!! I truly believe this is how church is meant to be and should have been done all along!! No pre-organized “order of service”, or set song list, etc….just let the Holy Spirit show up and lead us where He wants us, and letting our time together be Spirit led, and allowing God to speak to us!!! Our needs are always met, and we help alot of families and people with needs however the Lord leads!!!

      • Mary Wilson

        Amen! smh…getting paid to preach and teach the free gospel. Take tithes from the poor, widows and orphans..smh….

  7. Thanks for the interesting and informative article. It sounds so much like my own story. It is encouraging to read articles like this and to know there are others out there going through the same things.

  8. mark ross

    reading through the comments in any church related article, somebody always mentions tithes and malachi 3:16…..nobody speaks on the other verses in that old testamant book. weird, right? paul wrote in romans that gentiles never had a part in jewish law, they had a moral law unto themselves. so these modern day preachers want to put their gentile congregations under jewish law? isn’t that the same thing that paul had to correct peter about ( in galatians somewhere)? nope, that isn’t liberty, which is what Christ gave us when He was nailed to the cross….liberty from the law.

  9. tiki

    I’ll start off by saying, I was born in a Christian home, and have been going to a church building my entire life. I’m 40 now, looking back, I’m glad I grew up in a church building, especially having a youth group to go to, it kept me out of trouble. I have a lot of great memories, had a lot of fun, and made a lot of great friends because of being in youth group, and then later on serving as a leader. However, once I got through the children and youth programs, and also served as a youth leader, I found I needed more knowledge of God and our faith. I’ve read the bible, sat through thousands of sermons, but got sick of the tradition of going to a church building every Sunday. When you’ve been going to a church building your entire life, there’s only so many times you can hear, “Jesus loves you” and “Jesus wants to bring you joy”, before it feels like you’re just putting in time.

    It seems to me, Sunday morning services, in at least the 3 previous church building I’ve gone to, are more centered around worship and entertainment, and it’s cut into teaching. By the time there was a welcome/introduction, shaking hands with people around you, worship, hearing the announcements, taking up the offering, and watching a 5 minute presentation/skit, the service was already over an hour, and the pastor hasn’t preached yet. By the time the pastor got up, I was drained. It felt like a show, like I was going to a movie or rock concert every Sunday morning. I was being entertained, I wasn’t learning anything new! I had to leave the traditional Sunday Morning Services, or I would have gone crazy!

    I have found a church building, where it’s less traditional, the service is an hour and 10 minutes, and is geared around amazing teaching. I’ve also done a lot of study of my own, thanks to youtube. It’s funny, I’ve learned so much in the last couple years since I left traditional Sunday Morning Service, I almost can’t get enough of God. Maybe when you leave the safety of a church building, you rely more on God and less on the building?

    Anyway, long story short, I’m happy to read I’m not the only one rethinking about how I learn about God. It can be lonely and a little depressing when you leave traditional Sunday Morning Service, a big part of your life is gone. However, when I read about how more and more people are leaving the safety of the building to get closer to God, it’s exciting, because God is moving his people out of the church building, and into the world!

  10. Mary V Wilson

    Same here…Let us open our eyes because the LORD is doing a great thing. His glory will He not share with another. His will is going to be done and nobody or nothing will stop Him. He is so loving, kind, forgiving and compassionate but He is Almighty God and All powerful! He knows everything about everybody and everything about everything. If we are whole heartedly seeking Him to lead us and if we desire to worship Him in Spirit and Truth, He has to teach us and we can trust that He is leading us into Truth. Let every man be a liar but let God be true.

  11. Terry. I would like to learn more about your story. Please review my musings. And comment as appropriate: https://aforwardglanceblog.wordpress.com/2016/07/12/invisible/

    • Michael, I understand the age issue with churches. Just yesterday a former pastor, with many years of experience in leading churches, told me that he would recommend to young pastors to develop another source of income so they will not be destitute when they turn 50+ and are cut loose by the church.

      However, I recommend pastors find another source of income from the beginning so they never have to be dependent on the church for financial support. My issue with the church is much deeper than simply generational differences – it is with the entire structure of the modern church.

      • Yes clearly a church without walls provides simpler rubric. I have observed many boomers dropping from simple church as well as Brock and mortar.

      • Matt Turpin

        When are these pastors going to work outside the church building when they are expected to be working in the church all the time?

  12. Andre Snodgrass

    The real church is the body of the individual. Our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit of God. So we should take care of that body to see that it serves the purpose of God, to disseminate the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But, physical locations, whether they be named Baptist, Methodist or etc. need to exist also. That is where those who are Christ’s gather together in fellowship. The New Testament says to gather together in fellowship and to have the Lord’s Supper in Remembrance of Him. How can you do this when you do not have a physical location and someone to remind you of what the command, “Do this in remembrance of Me” means? Physical locations are just as important in the spreading of the Gospel. Many people go to a physical church in search of the spiritual help they need. So how do they find you for that spiritual help they need if you do not have a physical location they can comprehend as a place to seek that help that is spiritual. We should not get tied up in deceptions that take us down paths that are not conducive to the promotion of the Gospel. All scripture is of God and is for the correction and teaching of that which is spiritual in essence. Where better than at a physical location to hear interpretation of the scripture? I like my church. It helps the poor and needy.

    • Mary Wilson

      I don’t think those of us who the LORD called out from the organization that we refer to as the church tried to bring division, disruption or persuade members to stop going, at least that is not what I did. Let me say that God is Almighty God, He is totally in charge and totally in control. He knows every heart and every thought and intention of man. I’m saving that to say that He can use any means by which to save a soul and to speak unto a heart and any place or anybody. He is not bound but does that mean that it’s His plan or that we are being obedient to Him. There are many accounts in the Bible that God’s people did not follow His plan but yet the LORD still used the situation for their good. A brother in Christ that I know was an atheist and He watched the blasphemous movie, Jesus Christ superstar and it caused him to start thinking about Jesus which the Holy Spirit used as a catalyst to draw him. There is the children of Israel, Abraham and Sarah doing things there way, David, Peter. It happens all the time that we do it our way and God allow it and many times still blesses us in spite of ourselves. That’s the good and merciful LORD that we serve. Doesn’t make it right, just God is a loving, king, considering and patient God. We don’t need to go to a building in particular to work d hip, fellowship, pray, take communion, encourage or be encouraged, to give, to help, and surely not to evangelize. The LORD showed me this as I aS spending time in His Word. Mark chapter 3, I was reading and the LORD spoke in my spirit that almost every account in the gospels where Jesus went into the synagogue and doing good, He encountered problems which resulted in Him having to leave or flee from the religious leaders who wanted Him dead. Jesus was doing good, following the law perfectly and showing them that they were not by His works. To this very day, the synagogues are still not operating according to the law…..and there is temple, so where is the sacrifice for their sins. The Veil was torn in half when Jesus died, Matthew 37:50-51; God was through with the temple and the religious systems which the tearing of the veil that separated every person from entering in the presence of God, the death of God’s perfect lamb, the Son of God removed the barriers. Acts 13:35, 17:24; Hebrews 4:14-26 and 10:19-20; allows us to enter in His presence at anytime, any place and anywhere to worship Him in Spirit and in Truth. Of course many remain in that setting, it’s not surprising, so did I for many, many years . Out of all the church organizations that I went to, I always thought this is where I will be. But it was not to be. He kept lifting the blinders up higher with each church that I moved to and show me more of HIs Truth. There came a time in my walk with Jesus, that He gave me a powerful revelation through an experience of mine in which He poured out His great mercy on me that transformed my life in a powerful way. With it came a transforming desire to love Him more and to show more love and mercy towards others. I desired and hungered and thirsted to know Him more and a cry of my soul asking the LORD to open my eyes and begged my LORD not to let me be deceived. It is His desire for us all to get to this point. He has and is answering that prayer until Jesus come back for us or I go to Him. So when we receive revelation of the truth, the question is, what will you do? This is not about condemning anyone, this is about being willing to follow when the LORD gives us revelation of His Truth. I’m sure we all can recall that after we first got saved that we were still blind in many areas of the truth of God’s Word. We should always be maturing. Yet too many are on milk. My prayer is that the LORD will bring us into the unity of the faith; not that we get deeper entrenched in man made doctrines and countless formalities that burden us down and take from us the yearning desire to thirst after Him and that make the Word of God of none effect.

      • Mary Wilson

        I apologize for all the errors. In Mark, chapter 3, Jesus once again had to flee from the synagogue but he went away from the synagogue, down by the sea…..how dare Jesus…and was able to teach, preach, heal and have fellowship and the people didn’t have to worry with the religious bondage in the synagogue under the rule of religious leaders. Just go through the gospels and see how often this was the case.

  13. Reblogged this on Every Day As A Disciple and commented:
    More of the truth…enjoy

  14. Well done. Your testimony bears witness with my spirit. Back in the early 1990s, I went to my “pastor” at the time with the same biblical message. Amazingly, I was not thrown out of “church.” But many people thought I was nuts, unrealistic. The argument was that the ideas given for the New Testament church were no longer “possible.” Eventually, I left that congregation to fellowship as you are describing. Unfortunately, I have met very few nearby who share the same belief system.

  15. Ps Raymond.Jones

    I was impressed with your insight regarding the institutional churches as an evangelist I have been also studying God’s Word and God has been giving me tasks to do which most believers would find a bit unusual for instance when I moved into the area I reside. He told me to let my hair grow really long and visit all the churches when I asked Him why He said “I want to see how they receive you” I asked him why? and He said “If they don’t receive you they don’t receive me because I Am in you” and the Lord and I would have a conversation about each church that I had visited, one particular church that a Sister was attending I asked the Lord about and He said “They are a religious social club playing at church” now I love God’s people but they have been so deceived it’s heart breaking, for instance the doctrine of tithing which you touched on, God has given me further revelation on the subject in Malachi chapter three God is talking to the nation of Israel not the church and scripture says tithes, now we were taught in school if a word had an “S” on the end it meant plural, so in fact Israel had failed to meet the commitments of the tithes so I researched it and found that the tithes was in fact 30% not 10% and it was to be allocated as such 10% for the Levitical priests, 10% was for the families of the priests to run the nation like a tax, then 10% was for the widows and the poor, so the Lord showed me and also He said they are stealing from My people by default as many pastors are not true shepherds but hirelings or wolves in sheep’s clothing my mentor used to tell me son my job is to train myself out of a job by making disciples I was given a task to do shortly as God has made available original Gospel music which I will present when I go on the road totally Scriptural, plus I have a lot of teaching DVD’s by Dick Reuben, on the “The Tabernacle of Moses” end time teaching from Pastor Barry Smith from New Zealand, Australia’s Evangelist Tim Hall, plus testimonies of different ministries, so be encouraged I don’t have a church supporting me but God provides all my needs according to His riches in glory, if God wants you to go and do something I know He will provide supernaturally because I’m living proof of that Blessing Ps Ray Jones

  16. Terri Mills

    Love this article and all the replys…to us, the most important thing is what God says about His Church in 1 Corinthians 12, 13, 14, 15 and numerous other places. This is how the church should be operating..We stopped going many years ago, stayed in His Word, asked Him to give us fellowship with other believers, and we minister in season and out of season, when it is convenient and when it is not convenient, husband goes to the prison and has a Bible Study weekly with the men there. God Bless..

  17. Misty Almero

    Thank you for sharing. It really is about the people forming bonds and being one body with Christ as the head. This is done because the people build one another up through the strength of the love of God/Christ/Holy Spirit and love for one another, not because we all meet in a building on Sunday morning. Oh how I wish more people knew this. I came closer to God in the past 2 years without the church than I did in the 30 years I was in the church. Its about the hearts of the people and genuinely caring for their lives, it’s about truly being involved with one another.

  18. Anna

    This has all been done before. Please read Fr. Peter Gillquist’s book, “Becoming Orthodox”. Many, many people have walked this exact road believe and preaching the things in this post, starting the conversations this post has started– thousands of them had the Grace to find their way back. Wayyy way back.

  19. Well said. Read Frank Viola’s “Pagan Christanity” and then “Reimagining Church” – two books blacklisted by mainstream religion. Tells the story of how the church became the institution it is today and then dares to look at what the church might look like if we did the course correction you wrote of. I have been a living stone in an organic expression of Christmas for 4 years now – I could never go back to just attending a service again!

  20. Enjoyed the reading of your journey and your experience. If you’re ever in Nashville, TN, let’s connect over a drink and/or a meal. Would love to share Christ with you brother. May you experience more of Him and share more of Him daily!

    Much Love.

  21. Chris Mattingly

    🙏🏻 great word bro. God has called me to church planter and set me up to make a living with out any finical support from the church. My passion and desire is to live out acts. To gather in homes and use the resources God brings to advance his kingdom not my own. Would love to talk more

  22. Pat G. DeDear

    WOW….. Pretty powerful!!! But that’s what I have been saying all along. WE are the church! As a Stephen Ministry Leader, I have an even stronger conviction of that.

  23. Gilmer Gal

    So many words to try and justify why you shouldn’t give a portion of your money to the church. Who sends missionaries to the far parts of the globe -or even our own community -to teach and preach Jesus (as the Word tells us is our main focus). Who is called to feed and clothe the poor and needy? Do we think we can do all that God requires of us by our good looks?? I’m sorry, but you sound like the rich man who doesn’t want to give up his gold.

    • I’m not sure how you arrived at your conclusion that I am opposed to sending missionaries. The concern I tried to express is that the way the church currently operates almost all the money given to the church is being spent on building and salaries. Imagine how much money would be available if Christians actually gave to feed and clothe the poor and send missionaries rather than build massive structures and pay for professional clergy. I don’t think that sounds like a rich man not wanting to give up his gold, but like a man who wants to be a better steward of God’s gold.

    • Mary Wilson

      I give to support missionary and evangelism, the poor, widows, etc. The same God who by His power and Spirit moved Paul and the others from Jerusalem to the other areas, the same God who by His Spirit moved Abraham, the animals on to the ark, the children of Israel through the desert to the promise land and the same God who is now bringing the back from the four corners of the world. Thank the churches and all the people who have given money. God is gracious and merciful even when we are not obedient.

    • Mary Wilson

      I think it’s only fair to say that there are so many in the church, families, widows, single parents who are struggling and receive nothing from their church, who the church is not helping, but are told they need to pay tithes.

    • Jody

      unfortunately, there are alot of pastors making six-figure salaries and some staff pretty close to that, with most of the members of some churches are barely getting by…..does the pastor REALLY NEED to make a six figure salary? how about half of that and the rest goes to the poor and needy? Who paid Jesus to teach and preach? no one. Take half of the salary and rely on God for the rest (faith)and then there would be even more money for the needy and for missionaries, etc. I have been leading worship in churches for many years and I don’t take a salary for it, because i would rather be blessed by God for being obedient than to have whatever a few dollars would buy me. God’s blessings for serving Him and others is far more valuable and you cannot put a price on that!!!

      • Mary Wilson

        According to Jesus, they have already received their reward. It looks a lot like the Catholic church in a sense except the pastors are selling blessings. Unfortunately, the great majority of the church has been bamboozled…smh.

  24. Jill

    All I can say is WOW! It breaks my heart to read your article! I’m not going to quote scripture to try to justify my beliefs on how important the local church is to so many people. The church is not perfect because it is made up of imperfect people. To many Christians today do not want to submit to leadership rather in the church, at jobs, in the home, schools,etc. So many things today point people to do what you feel is right for self. I fear that these small group of believers meeting like you say will give into this mind set of doing what they want when they want with no accountability. I agree with meeting with a small group of people that you can grow with and to dig deep into God’s word with but believe that those small groups are more effective when connected to a larger Body of Christ with in the local church. Jesus met with the masses, with close followers, with the 12 and then with Peter, James and John. I believe that his examples encompasses larger body that meet together and then smaller body of believers also. Their a definitely churches that don’t do it well but their are many that do.

  25. Many churches today fit your description, many don’t. I suppose this is just the critique post and I will have to read where you tell us of your alternative. A couple thoughts I have:
    The church’s mission is the mission of God (as you are going make disciples…), not to build itself up. God builds His church, so I don’t get concerned about numbers.
    People need to be part of the larger body, whatever that looks like in each person’s context. It needs to be a group of people who you get to know, grow with, challenge, and who holds you accountable to the truth. Some people go loan wolf and never allow themselves to be held accountable.
    We are stewards of God’s uncountable resources. When we give to anyone, anything, we give it to God. If I give to a building campaign, I don’t think I have dishonoured that stewardship if that is what God has led me to do. If he wants me to give elsewhere, He certainly can provide it. As was mentioned early, this isn’t about our money – we don’t have any. It is all God’s. Even if I give unwisely, it is like taking a cup of water from God’s ocean of resources. The New Testament concept on money is generosity, sacrificial giving, not tithing; and it relates to everything we are and have.
    Church buildings can serve a vital purpose in the life of a church (body of believers). We have three church who meet in our building, along with 7 weekly community groups, plus others from time to time. Over 300 people come through our doors who are mostly non-Christian, but testify to the space being an environment of peace and welcoming. I know other congregations that sold their building, and grow tired of renting and weekly setup/takedown, and how much manpower that takes.
    You have missed mentioning the things that are working well. Shame-based stuff (focusing on what doesn’t work) always takes second place to strength-based (what IS working) stuff. I will see what you have written about in both camps. Blessings on the ministry you have.

  26. This is a great discussion and I really appreciate the all the comments. I’ve not been to a church building service in just about one year now, but for reasons not so much focused on the financial side of church buildings, though I certainly see it as problematic. We have 27 churches (buildings) in our small town. I’ve attended several and two in particular for a few years each, working with them in various capacities. As was pointed out by a couple of brothers and sisters above, the pastor, or head elder becomes the “head shepherd” of that church and in every church here, that person does linguistic gymnastics around the subject of election. Instead, they preach a humanistic message that doesn’t exalt God or his Sovereign plan of redemption. As an alternative, I’ve found we can worship in our home by prayer, reading the Word, and listening to a radio ministry (which we support), and invite people into that fellowship. I continue to be engaged in ministry opportunities and sharing the gospel with everyone I know.

    • Mary Wilson

      Amen! It wasn’t about not wanting to go to church. There was many things that the LORD opened my eyes to see including the money, man replacing Jesus, etc. It was the Holy Spirit leading me more and more to see the truth through the lens of God’s Word. I felt strongly compelled to leave the church business and to worship God in Spirit and Truth.

  27. Nichole

    Someone posted this on FB and I saw it. I have many thoughts, this is such a complex and often personal topic. I wonder if you’ve ever read http://philipyancey.com/soul-survivor?

  28. Beverley Justice

    I’m old enough to remember a kinder, gentler time when I lived in the mountains of WV. Pastors and deacons actually farmed or had full-time jobs with the mines or railroads, and “tended the flock” in the evenings or on weekends or whoever was handiest when the need arose. If the building needed repaired, someone in the church just took care of it. The town was so small, a traveling Baptist pastor would preach every two weeks at the local Baptist church, and a traveling Methodist pastor would preach every other two weeks at the Methodist church. When the Baptist church needed a new roof, the whole town helped replace it in one day. And when the Methodist church had flood damage, the whole town helped with those needs, too. The only money needed was for electricity and heat, everything else was freely given. And a food pantry was full to help the needy, and food was given freely, yet never taken advantage of. And, when there was a death in the family, you just as well open the front door and the back door, because the whole town was going to come by to take care of what was needed – they never asked you what was needed, they just took care of it. I miss those times, I miss that family, I miss that Love of Christ so readily shared. No one was forgotten, no one was left behind. If you did not make it to church services, expect the phone to ring or a knock at the door – someone always cared enough to ask why, and to see if everything was okay.

    • Mary Wilson

      Oh my, Your sharing those days made me tear up. It is is a picture of love for one another and by our love, people will know that we are His disciples.

  29. Beverley Justice

    It was so cool. On the first Sunday, the Baptist church doors would open wide, and we would welcome our Methodist neighbors as honored guests, because we knew that the following week, when the Methodist church doors opened wide, they would welcome all of us as honored guests, too. My first cousin is the pastor of the largest Baptist church in that community, and he works full-time as a store manager for a local grocer.

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