Why it took us so long to leave. {Leaving the church – Part 3}


It took us a long time (years) to leave the institutional church after we clearly felt God calling us in that direction.  Today I’m going to explain a bit why.


First though, I just want to say thank you to all the overwhelming emails and comments of support.  There are so many cries of, “Thank you!  It’s not just me!” going out.  The positive affirmation I’ve received has far outweighed the negative.


If you’re just stumbling onto this series you may want to read my posts about leaving the church and how the church almost killed my faith.



So what took us so long to leave?  If we were miserable and unedified inside of the institution and we clearly felt God heralding us in a different direction, why did we drag our feet?  Why didn’t we sprint toward that new, freeing goal?


Well, remember those people I’ve been surrounded by in church who seem to love Jesus but not understand how to follow him?  The ones that greatly affected my faith in God?  The truth is, I love those people.  I like them a lot and I want to help them and teach them how to die to themselves and follow God.


Honestly, we haven’t had any great and terrible thing happen to us by members of a congregation (though we have had great disappointments and frustrations with pastors/leadership).  They’ve been nice to us.  Granted, they haven’t gotten to know us in an intimate way – ever.  They’ve hardly ever invited us to their home or accepted invitations to our home.  And there are a few passive aggressive folks thrown in who smile to our face but who we know bicker behind backs.


But even so, it’s hard to abandon someone who smiles and asks you how it’s going week upon week.  Even superficial relationships are sometimes difficult to walk away from.  And, also … I want people to like me.  More than that, I want them to understand me.  I want them to completely get our reasons for not feeling like traditional church is right for us (and many others).


And we knew that (particularly where we live deep in the bible belt) people would not understand our leaving the church.  The approval of others can be a powerful prison.


It’s just so so hard to leave a group of people who’ve been perfectly cordial to you, knowing that they will disapprove of, and not understand your decision.  It’s even harder for those who have grown up in one church (or been there a great many years) and for those who’s family also attends the same gathering.


There’s a second reason we stalled so long.  We feel strongly called to work in South Asia.  And being supported and sent by large institutions and organizations seemed like the easiest way.  We couldn’t figure out a way to pursue God’s calling on our life outside of traditional means – maybe we didn’t have the faith to step out and just trust that God can send us where he wants us.  We still don’t know how that desire will be fulfilled.


So we stayed much longer than we should have.  Afraid of not fulfilling our calling, afraid of what people would say, afraid of what people would think, afraid of people’s disapproval, afraid of being deemed rebels or bad attitudes, or unfit for ministry.


But in the end, staying didn’t do us any favors.  I think people tended to give us those labels from within the institution anyway (even if not to our face).


So it finally reached a point where God made it clear that we could not serve him from within the church.  Every avenue we tried kept closing to us – almost as if God kept slamming windows just so we’d admit there was a big fat door right in front of us that we were resisting walking through…


So finally, we gave in.


I’m participating in Joy in this Journy’s Life: Unmasked today.

Photo by Anna Sedysheva  via Dreamstime.


  1. Homechurch (not church-at-home) with true fellowship sounds so amazingly wonderful and fulfilling to me. Congratulations to you on stepping out in faith! My husband is not in that place so I won’t be able to join you any time soon, but I’ll be there in spirit.

  2. So I’m just wondering- did anyone chase after you? I know if we left our church and told them we were not going to another one they would come to our house and invite us over to theirs and pray with us and be concerned. Not in a “we want to control you” way but just in a edifying, graceful way. KWIM?

    I guess I’m sad along with you guys. Grieving over the superficial relationships with you. AND- (and) rejoicing that you have found that in home church. Because that is just awesome.

    • No, no one chased after me. Although a few people from the last couple of traditional churches we’ve been a part of have heard what we’re doing an joined us. Honestly, I think most traditional churches are glad to be rid of us. Lol.

  3. I feel sure I am going to enjoy reading your journey from here.

    Also, I highly recommend the workbook “Experiencing God.” I did it alone, years ago, just me and God. It changed my life; so powerful. http://amzn.to/yPWIRx

    In any event, I wish you blessings and peace, and a really keen ear. ;) You’re on the right path.

  4. Yay so happy for you guys!!!

  5. Matt Strickland says:

    I left the traditional church around 2001 and I’ve been doing the small group home church thing ever since. Reading Acts was good inspiration. We are currently reading “Not a fan” by Kyle Edelman which sounds in line with what you’re talking about. Good luck to you guys.

    • You are so lucky you got out at 18, before all the pressures of staying as an adult took hold!

      • Matt Strickland says:

        Oh man I had people asking me all the time where I went and what was I doing. They didn’t believe in what I was doing. I’ve been told so many times that I “needed” a pastor. It wasn’t until I left the traditional church that I saw my faith really “come alive”.

  6. A brave decision and a brave post. I’m part of a church community that makes me wonder why i punished myself by being part of churches (i’ve lived in a lot of different places) in the past that acted like dessicants, drawing out the living water and drying me out like a desert. Never again.

  7. How sad to hear of churches like that :(

    Have you ever read Tim Chester’s excellent book “Total Church”? It really shifted paradigms for me..

  8. Glad to hear that you are walking in freedom, we are just starting on the journey of organic church, although we still attend a large very traditional congregation. I want to encourage you and your husband to keep following Jesus. I have not had a full time job, that paid wages, since 1994. I have been living in a foreign country since 1998, WITHOUT the support of any congregation from my home country, which is the USA. He WILL provide for you all, and trust me you have a lot more freedom as a missionary without the mission board that sent you. I read newsletters and blogs of other missionaries in the country where I live and serve. Those newsletters and blogs have the same name as the missionaries that I know, but often don’t resemble what those same people are actually doing. The monthly, quarterly reports are mostly about numbers and the game is always one of how to inflate those numbers and keep the mission board happy. These missionaries talk to me and talk about their frustrations on how things work for them, but feel like they are trapped. Many of them are envious of my freedom from all that stuff. Yet, here we are believing that very soon we will leave this large institutional church to go back to meeting the way the earliest believers met. In these past 18 years we have never missed a meal and never failed to have a roof over our head at night. No congregation anywhere has ever supported us. He will provide for you as you continue to follow Him. Abundant GRACE to you all!

    • That’s very encouraging, Ron! I would love to talk to you more privately about your work. Please feel free to email me.

  9. My favorite line: “The approval of others can be a powerful prison.” So, so true. Praying for peace and God’s grace in all of this for you!

  10. I’ll echo Anna’s words – what a brave post, and a brave decision. I hope that God gives you peace, and joy as you move into the next part of the journey. And just as He’s opened the door and waited for you to walk through it, He will keep throwing open windows and hallways and doors, always leading to Him. I’m excited to read more about your journey!

  11. Wow, we had the same experience. We wanted so badly for real, meaningful fellowship but were for the most part unable to find it. We were in church leadership and in the almost 4 years we served, we were never even invited over to the homes of the other two leaders, even after bringing this fact up. We finally realized that people like the idea of community, but that’s about where it stops. Community requires shared sacrifice, opening your lives up to one another, and ACTUALLY SPENDING TIME WITH ONE ANOTHER. And no, time spent IN CHURCH doesn’t count. If Jesus says that our church family actually has a closer relationship with us than our own flesh and blood (“Who are my mother and brothers?”), how is it that we are fine never seeing these people outside of the confines of the “church” setting? I’m glad to see God moving in the same way across the country. It gives me hope for the church. But don’t misunderstand me when I say church. The institution of church is beyond hope in my mind, because it’s a human construction. People are the church, not the building or bureaucracy. We have strayed from the Bible in things as fundamental as leadership structure. Read the New Testament. You won’t find a “Pastor” over a church, you find a group of elders. “The reason I left you in Crete was that you might put in order what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you.” Titus1:5. Elders in every town, not a Pastor. Pastor is only translated once in the New Testament, and it’s translated as a spiritual gift, not an office. But I digress. The fact that God is speaking the same message to his people, the church, is encouraging.

  12. Connie Oliver says:

    2012 marks the 15 year anniversary of our leaving the institutional church. It has been quite a journey but one that we would take all over again because for us it was and is the right thing to do. We have had to unlearn more than learn but we continue on as pioneers in a somewhat unknown land. I encourage you and our “gathering” that meets organically is praying for you.

  13. I can’t imagine getting over the guilt if I left the institution of the church. (Catholics are good at guilt!) But it’s not really a soul-growing experience for me. I go out of duty. And in order to be a good role model for my son. And because my husband is disappointed in me when I don’t go. So your earlier comment, “The approval of others can be a powerful prison” really struck home.

    I totally get your differentiation between Christ’s church/the Christian church and the man-made structures and rules and rituals that make up most churches today. If you and your husband are in agreement, and you both feel God calling you to do this, it’s the right choice. Period.

  14. Thank you…I’m in such a struggle to leave…this is very helpful.