Saturday, October 13, 2012

When You Don't Want to "Go" to Church

Yes, this is the church and the people in divorce court.
So many people are leaving the church. Why? Because they are experiencing emotional abuse, psychological abuse, spiritual abuse, and intellectual abuse. And neglect. More and more people are becoming post church people.  David Hayward of

For some reason, this week I've heard from a number of people who are fed up with organized religions, church buildings, tithing, authoritarian pastors, and the whole charade that some churches have become. Some are okay with not going to church for a time, but would like to have some kind of teaching available to them.   I wanted to be sure to mention a couple other safe options for church in non-traditional settings.

I've mentioned EChurch before.  Wade Burleson, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist in Enid, Oklahoma, teamed together with my blogger friends, Dee and Deb of Wartburg Watch blog and offer EChurch each Saturday.  Associated Baptist Press did a nice write-up on EChurch below:

Online community as missions field 
Keeping it simple was the whole idea behind EChurch, an online worship experience launched in March by two bloggers intent on reaching the unchurched.
Won't step foot in church
“Worse than unchurched, it’s people who just won’t step foot in a church,” said Dee Parsons, co-founder of EChurch and The Wartburg Watch, a blog that tracks controversial Christian trends.
Parsons said she and blog partner Wanda Martin discerned from posted comments the need for an online spiritual community for those who feel alienated from church. Some cited pedophilia and financial scandals, or feeling ostracized for questioning religious dogma, behind their unwillingness to enter churches.
Restoring trust in church
EChurch is not a live worship streaming event, but rather contains prayers, Christian music of varying styles and an embedded video of Burleson preaching at Emmanuel in Enid.
The format allows participants to watch when they can and then to comment on the experience. The back-and-forth between readers tells Parsons EChurch is providing much-needed fellowship for its participants.
“The seeker churches are getting the seekers,” she said. “These people are not seeking – they know what they believe, but they just don’t want to come to church.” 
Burleson said he jumped at the invitation to have his sermons imbedded at EChurch because that demographic needs ministry. “It’s amazing,” he said. “I have people contact me who said EChurch is restoring a little trust in the church.”

The current EChurch "gathering" is here.  

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Ken and his wife, Sharon

Another option that came to mind is my friend and pastor, Ken Garrett, who has audios of his sermons located here.  Ken understands spiritual abuse as he and his family experienced it in their cult/church for 12 years, so he is especially sensitive to that topic when he preaches.  Here is one of Ken's articles I featured here:   Fingerprints of a False Teacher   And here is Ken's blog:  Downtown Pastor.


  1. I was going through some boxes recently, and I found some notes from Chuck's sermons... those went into the burn pile, along with a box of muslim and evangelism books/pamphlets I'd collected. I couldn't bring myself to get rid of my Bibles - but every other religious thing is out of my apartment. I can't stand organized religion, it gives me the shivers. Who knows if I'll ever be able to crack open a bible again, but for now, I know I'm really happy where I am right now. That's all that matters to me.

    1. I get it Hannah. I love you. You will not get and judgment from me; however if you lived nearby, you'd get a hug and a date with me to the coffee shop with cozy chairs to knit with your mama.

      I still find sermon notes in odd places. I remember the day I grabbed a pile of sermons on cd and put them in the shredder. Because I was going thru my photo-journalist phase, I even took a picture of it. I still have that picture. I also do not care for NKJV translation. I changed the Bible I read.

    2. ***get ANY judgment

      And this would be why I do not like leaving comments using my phone. I can play piano but fail at texting. Lol

  2. Julie Anne

    Here’s one explanation - Why I can NEVER “Go” to “Church” again. ;-)

    When someone asks - Hey Amos - Where do you “Go To Church?”
    I often reply with - I can’t “Go To” some place I am... Some place we ARE...

    Mostly I get a quizzical look. Then I continue...
    You might NOT realize it but, you Just asked: Where does Amos “Go To” Amos?
    More strange looks - And you can see the gears in their brain grinding to a halt???

    I continue. In the Bible folks did NOT “go to church.” Or tell anyone “go to church.”
    In the Bible folks became The Church of God. In the Bible, Believers, ARE His Church.
    His habitation. His body. Where God lives, and moves, and has His being.
    God NO longer dwells in temples made with the hands of man. He wants to live in you.
    The Kingdom of God comes NOT with observation - The Kingdom of God is within.

    I love the body of Christ - The Church - And talking about it to unbelievers and believers.
    Most today think “church” is a building with a steeple on it. Or...
    A Pastor, in a Pulpit, Preaching, to People, in Pews. BUT - That’s NOT in the Bible.

    How many, still in the world, still dead in their tresspasses and sins, will know “church” in the Bible refers to us, you and me, believers, God’s kids, Kings and Priests, Brides, Servants, Sons of God, Ambassordors of Christ, Disciples of Jesus? And they, the unbeliever, can become the Ekklesia of God? Become a son of God, led by the spirit?

    One reason they don’t know is because of the way “Believers” use the word “Church.”
    We’re taught to invite folks to “Our Church.” But - that’s NOT in the Bible.
    We tell them - Go to a good Bible believing Church. But - that’s NOT in the Bible.

    What if we asked some one to a meeting of - the sons of God - who are “Led” by the Spirt. And then tell them - Yes, you can become a son of God,”Led” by God. And, you can “Hear His Voice,” the voice of the creator, and “Follow Jesus.” You can be His Disciple - learning from Jesus directly. He wants to be your friend. You can be a King and  Priest unto God. You can be - An ambassodor for Christ - delivering His Message of Love to a broken world. You can lay hands on the sick and see them recover. This is available to ALL who believe. NOT just to a special clergy class. NOT just to those who have taken “Titles” NOT found in the Bible. Available to ALL who believe.

    IMO - We have deceived the very people we are trying to reach out to.

    The world has NO idea what “Church” really means. Neither do most believers.
    Go ahead - ask some folks to describe the word “church.” See what you get. ;-)

    Jesus - He is the head of the body, (the ekklesia, the called out ones.) The Church.

    The Church of God, The Ekklesia of God, in the Bible are...

    Kings and preist’s unto God.
    The Bride of Christ.
    Servants of Christ.
    Sons of God.
    Disciples of Christ.
    Ambassadors of Christ.

    Instead of asking people to go to church - Why not ask them to become the church?

    God loves me and forgives me all my sin.:-)

    1. Amos - - I get you. And I fondly recall the times you have personally e-mailed and we experienced "church". You shared the love of Christ with me, encouraged me, gave me scripture to help. That was wonderful and I greatly appreciated it. Yes, I agree, that is real church - cyber e-mail church :)

      But I also want to be careful and not diss on Ken and Craig and Eric Starkey and so many others who have a shepherd's heart to preach in a "church" building of some kind. I am fairly certain that if I walked into either of those guys' church buildings and I connected with them and the people there, and heard great preaching, I would experience real "church". But I hear you that church is not the building. The people are the church.

  3. Thanks, Amos, for sharing your thoughts. Yes, I agree that the true 'church' is the spiritual assembly of those who understand that Jesus Christ is God's Son, who was born as a man, who lived, died, and rose again, and who has authority with God in all things.

    When it comes to the word/definition of 'church' then there is a broader understanding of the word for today. Most dictionaries define church as a group of believers in Christ--along with the fact that it can be a building dedicated to Christian worship and teaching.

    If you come to a small town anywhere and ask where the church is, the answer might be, we have several churches in town. Churches are known to everyone since they are places for Christian worship, public ceremonies, and other community gatherings.

    We may also have issues with the use of other words like 'love' and 'missionary' for example. Someone could say: I love my family, I love God, I love icecream and I love hiking. Most people know how to interpret the meaning of the word 'love' even if it is not the best use of it.

    When it comes to the word 'missionary', most of us think of a Christian who is called to a foreign country to share the Gospel. They get a plane ticket and a passport, some support, and off they go. In actuality, the NT designates every true believer as a missionary, or a believer on a mission to share about Christ.
    I can and should say: I am a Christian 'missionary'--and not have to leave my small town.

    All that to say is that yes, as Christians we need to have a clearer/deeper understanding of the meaning of the word 'church' from the NT, but we should also understand that the use of the word 'church' today does include places of worship and teaching for Christians to gather.

    Such a gathering place is designated 'church', my church, the church I am going to, the address of my church is ..., etc. This helps when we have family and pals who would like to join us in our fellowship and they need an address and a time in order to show up. This also helps when we have a family wedding to celebrate. :)

    I would conclude that the two meanings of the word 'church' are here to stay. This actuality can also provide an opportunity to clarify further with those who we meet in our day to day activities.

    1. Barb

      If I was in your town and someone asked “where the church is?”

      I would point to you. ;-)

  4. Such a helpful post and discussion... this discussion about the meaning of "church" really is central to what has gone so wrong in American evangelical church culture.
    Somewhere along the road, the idea that those who go regularly on Sundays to a particular building are true believers, and those who don't go aren't became the norm. How dangerous this thinking is. I used to evaluate people's spiritual state by their involvement in church. How arrogant of me.

    Now I'm realizing like Amos what the authentic church is, more so by experience than word study-I've simply been finding fellowiship in the most unique and unlikely places, and am experiencing "church" with many people outside those four walls. And at the same time, like Barb pointed out, true fellowship is happening within those walls at some church buildings. It's really hard having been a part of an unhealthy church to even want to set foot in another.
    For me, understanding this concept that I am already secure in Christ, that I can find fellowship in or outside of a building, that my spiritual wellbeing does not depend whatsoever on how "faithful" I appear to others based on outward things, has freed me to continue exploring traditional three dimensional churches because I WANT to, not because I must prove my level of sanctification.

    I also love the idea of echurch offering a nonthreatening environment. In my neck of the woods, there are a few churches doing things like meeting in bars and actually having genuine conversations with people literally where they are at. I have heard suchy church models heavily criticised by those who ascribe to the local church attendance= salvation mindset. But when I read my Bible, I see a Jesus who drank wine with real people and hung out with sinners on their turf.

    1. It really is a new way of thinking, isn't it? I had a bad headache yesterday and I still felt the tinge of guilt from skipping church. Look at that - - I just said "skipping church" hahaha. You know what, I was engaging in great communication with people yesterday regarding God. I was having "church".

      My daughter plays club volleyball on a traveling club team. Because our area is somewhat isolated, it usually takes a 4-6 hours to drive to a tournament and requires hotel stays on the weekends. We miss a lot of church on Sundays. If we were back at our old church, I don't think we ever would have done club volleyball because of the pressure to be at church every single Sunday, every Wednesday night, etc. They took attendance, for goodness sake! The message I heard/felt was that if you were not there at church every time there was a teaching/sermon, you were not a good and obedient Christian.

  5. I wanted to chime in on the topic of preaching--now that could be a can of worms from the collective experience of many! On the other hand, it is a biblical practice and people know when they have heard good/biblical preaching. It is full, rich, encouraging, and resonates in the heart of the listeners.

    No doubt, the host of people represented here have 'heard' countless sermons over time. It is often after many have had muddy tunnel church experiences that individuals examine their experience of church life under the microscope. We begin to discern what was good and what was harmful.

    My pal just posted two articles on my website. Both have to do with my take on a couple of preaching topics. Here are the titles:
    Preaching and What I Need to Hear: Sinner or King’s Kid? and Colossians and What Kind of Gospel Have You Heard? Feedback welcome.

  6. Perhaps a key problem here has to do with the use of structure. The purpose of structure is to enable and free greater service to our Lord and all that He calls us to do. I read an article this morning where that structure worked well. Two mission groups combined to free young women from a life of forced prostitution. You can read about it here, though I warn you it made this grown man cry like a baby. Without structure it's hard to imagine these kinds of accomplishments. I think we can justify structure Biblically because we do find it in the Scriptures. Churches had elders and deacons and in Acts 15 we see a church meeting. The problem comes when the church starts serving the structures rather than the structures serving the church. Notice in Julie Anne's example she "feels guilty" not because she missed life giving instruction but because she broke a rule (a structure). When you add spiritual abuse to this its deadliness is multiplied. Spiritual abuse thrives when we serve structures rather than structures serving us because the misused structure "justifies" the abuse.

  7. Julie Anne

    Best I can figure, “Church,” in the Bible, always refers to people.

    The Greek word in the Bible is always “ekklesia” which in Strongs Concordance means “a calling out” and “an assemby.” “Ekklesia” comes from two Greek words, “ek” which means “out of.” And “kaleo” which means “to call.” Thayers Lexicon says “ekklesia” a gathering of citizens called out from their homes into some public place, an assembly.

    “Church” to me now is both, “called out ones” and “an assembly.”
    And always refers to “The Body of Christ.” “Home Alone” or “Assembled.”

    Jesus, He is the head of the body, (the ekklesia, the called out ones) the church. Col 1:18.

    “Church’ in the Bible, NEVER refers to a building, an institution, an organization,
    a denomination, or a 501 (c) 3, Religious Corporation. The IRS calls church.

    When Paul wrote, Unto “the church of God” which is at Corinth... 1 Cor 1:2.
    Was he writing to One Assembly? - First Baptist Church, Trinity Prespertyrian, etc?
    Or, was he writing to the ekklesia of God, the “called out ones” of God at Corinth?
    “The Body of Christ?” “Home Alone” or “Assembled?”

    “ekklesia” a gathering of citizens “called out” from their homes into some public place.

    Jesu warned us about “Tradtions” that nullify “The Word of God. Mk 7:13.

    If we do NOT know or understand what “Church” refers to...
    What else are we missing?

    Thought you might enjoy this - Skipping Church - Skipping Ekklesia - Video.

  8. Julie Anne

    NO disrespect meant, my utmost respect for Ken, Craig and Eric. I was ordained. I was there.

    And, some of my best friends are pastors. No, really. ;-)
    Just spent the morning with a friend who now lives in Canada, getting paid to pastor.
    Go figure. We had breakfast, prayed together for the waitress, and a man down by the ocean.

    When we met about 8 years ago he was an ex-pastor. He resigned from his denomination because he was seeing where their “I Believes” written and un-written, were NOT matching up with the Bible and it became to uncomfortable for him.

    Then a few years ago he was back visiting in his home town in Canada and some folks asked him to fill in while they were looking for a new pastor. He prayed about it and felt he should do it. Well that’s 4 years ago. He knows there is NO one in the Bible with the “Title” pastor and the System is corrupt. He has explained this to the folks in different more gentle ways over the years, some get it some don’t. And they haven’t fired him yet. And God hasn’t told him to go.

    He is just trying to be obedient to the Lord. And wants others to hear directly from Jesus.
    He NO longer takes on the burdens that most of todays paid professional pastors live with.

    I believe he hears from God. We have, in the past, spent a lot of time together ministering to folks and we enjoy each others company.

    I also met a pastor 3 years ago at the local Barnes & Nobles book store. I see him 4-6 times a month. He’s hurting. He’s been doing this over thirty years and it’s NOT working. People come and go. Many he pours his life and his heart into. And he says one thing they dont like and they’re gone. He can’t talk to the congregation about it or his hurts, because - He’s the Pastor - The Spiritual Giant - He can’t share his hurts and pains with them so he dumps on me. And he knows what I believe about todays pastors and churches. He doesn’t dis-agree. He’s tried all the special programs, read all the books, put up tents, brought in Celerity pastors to preach, hung out with the famous guys passing through. And NOTHING is working. He just doesn’t know what else to do. He’s trapped.

    He can NO longer share with the pastors he meets with. When he tried telling them what he was seeing in the scriptures - NO one with the “title” pastor, What are we doing? He lost his friends and others avoided him when they saw him coming. So, he dumps on me.

    Then we pray for folks together at Barnes & Nobls. And we withness together sharing the love of Christ. And he has a few hours where he can talk about Jesus and pray for foks. Which is where it all started for him over 30 years ago. But that’s way too simple for most - So they join “The Religious System.” Oy Vey :-(

    All that to say...
    What I understand Jesus saying in my life is...
    “Trust and Obey” NOT “Think and Decide.”

    Everyone is responsible for hearing from Jesus for themselves. And follow Him.

    Out of heaven he made thee *to hear his voice,*
    that *he might instruct thee:*
    Deut 4:36


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