Having got lost in reading a blog creatively entitled "No Regrets Living", a couple of years ago (well, life happened so I am only just posting now) I found myself writing a longer and longer comment to the post "The religious gender gap is closing!"
So I thought I would turn it into a blog post here instead of taking over the comments thread :)
Jayme cited an article 'Less Women in the Pews" which in itself is interesting as it talks about a survey by the Barna group; and it was a book by George Barna that played a part in my/our leaving the institutional church. Why might you ask do I preface 'church' by 'institutional' - it's really only while I don't know how else to differentiate it from the other definitions of 'church' (ekklēsia) that would lend to it meaning 'those who are Christ-like, whereever and however'.
So here is my succinct list of why I left the institutional church, although many facets of this have been written about in depth on Believing God, I know people jump to pages like "About me" to see if they identify with the writer before progressing to other posts. So I will add this to the right hand menu bar.
I left the institutional church in 2007, after 30+ years.
I left for a myriad of reasons. (It may seem as if all are negative and yet this process has had a very positive outcome.)
1) I began to see the hypocrisy. There was not one 'rule' for all people. They cared, as long as it suited them and didn't damage their reputation.
2) Church started looking like a business - it was about programmes not people, activities not relationships. What's more, you had to qualify to be included in their 'how to become a better christian' courses, or the 'worship' team or to be a 'missionary' ......you had to perform to be accepted.
3) I saw the church hurt people, stomp on their dreams and passions, ostracise them if they didn't measure up or fit in. People who were getting on with practically helping otheers in a low socio-economic community, by giving them meat and vegetables were closed down; people with mental health issues were prevented from participating in a small group; those who were previously allowed to share their giftings in the Sunday morning service were forbidden from doing so as it was not 'seeker-friendly' any more; ....
4) Some things that the pastor at the church we were attending said contradicted what others in previous congregations had said - it made me realise that I was relying on one person's interpretation of the canon of scripture instead of relying on the Holy Spirit to do that for me.
5) We had someone staying with us (Benjamin) whose questions about God made us search for the answers - some of the answers that we had learned sounded so stupid when spoken out loud that we ourselves began to question.
6) I found that there was 'spiritual food' outside the walls of a building - on the internet mainly (and in books). I could still 'grow' and found non-threatening avenues to ask questions, listen to ideas and meet Christ-like people.
7) I didn't 'get' the order of service - why did we do those things religiously each week? This is where George Barna's book "Pagan Christianity" came in.
I was fortunate, in that my husband and I left together, initially just to 'take a break' and which has turned out to be indefinitely.
We went through a year of similar trauma, trying to figure out what we believed in. It undermined our entire being - who we were.
Some of the benefits for us have been:
a) we each took full responsiblity for our relationship with God.
b) we reclaimed our family and have more time to invest in it - we now have a 'day of rest'.
c) we relaxed.
d) we talk more about God and christian living in our home.
e) we started to see and take responsibility for meeting people's needs where we could.
f) we have met some really lovely Christ-like people locally and internationally.
g) we began to understand more about God's nature and His acceptance of us.
Yes, it was scary to leave - fear was a factor that kept us going to an institutional church, but gradually that fear has given away to freedom. The chains of religion have loosed themselves and are being replaced by the comfortable embrace of a loving God.
Funny how that verse "perfect loves casts out all fear" is true and so appropriate!
[There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. 1 John 4:18]
This is Margaret's story, a glimpse at her journey to understanding the nature of and relationship with God.
She writes in a gentle unpretentious manner, which you can not fault. The tone throughout is a great example of the reality of what or rather who she has (re-)discovered.
"A relationship that isn't altered by perfumes, additives, chemicals, or artificial flavors that promise to make it sweeter, sourer, or tastier than it really is."
For those who have been caught up in programmes or with obligation to do this or that in order to reach a higher or deeper level of enlightenment, this ought to provide relief.
When I first grasped the idea that worship was more than singing songs inside a building one day per week, I began to see that there were multiple ways to experience and express that natural appreciation of the creator of the universe. Here, Margaret releases God from the building and illustrates from her own life the practical ways in which she has been called to respond to God and express His love to others. A reminder that God does communicate to us.
"His voice is found in the wisdom of friends and spiritual leaders. He whispers through dreams and visions and abundant provision. He speaks through both conscience and conviction and an undeniable sense that some thoughts are more like God-thoughts than my own. He even speaks in the silence."
For those who find that a little abstract, the other concept running through this title may also take a while to settle with you. The Organic God is described as luminescence. Readers of "The Shack" will know He is also described as fractals - similar themes that evoke a sense of beauty, wonder and awe. (It makes me want to add Auke Bay, Alaska to my life list.)
Oddly Margaret still advocates traditional church attendance and tithing, two concepts I find incongruous with the organic God, but both can be accepted in the context that these are her personal convictions.
There are no one-size-fits-all edicts in her book, unless you count the simple importance placed on focussing on your relationship with God, and the responsibility to question.
"Jesus calls us to the impossible. He doesn't just challenge our actions, but our attitudes and the very nature of our being - the stuff that only God can transform and redeem. He calls us to the places where we are unable to change on our own. At that place, he introduces God."
A per-chapter appendix and discussion questions are also included at the back of the book.
[I received an epub copy of this book from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com programme in exchange for my honest review.]
I was surfing Youtube today, looking for ideas, support and whatever there was on Parenting.
The first I came across was a Ted talk and it is simply superb.
The second was a hoot!
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