Why I'm Leaving Church

1:44 PMHeather

Like a lot of good little girls born to Bible belt parents, I grew up in the church.  Was there in-utero even.  I made the decision that I wanted to be a Jesus follower when I was four.  Or, as we say in Christian-ese, I "asked Jesus into my heart."  My parents were skeptical I knew what this was all about at that age.  So they asked our pastor to come have a chat with me.  His name was Billy Graham.

Oh, not THAT Billy Graham.

But, Billy Graham, nonetheless.  And after he talked to me for a while, he confidently declared to my parents that I knew what I was doing as much as anyone he'd ever known.  Or, I was as "saved" as anyone he knew.

I did the GA thing.  The gold star chart for memorizing your Bible verse from the previous week AND bringing your Bible with you.  Did Sunday night and Wednesday night services and even the monthly Singspiration.  Church pot lucks, Psalty records and my first bona fide concert was indeed Amy Grant with her not-yet-famous keyboard player, Michael W. Smith.  Sang Dallas Holms praise songs, went to Carmen concerts, and never ever ever was allowed to watch HBO.

Been there, done that.  Got the t-shirt.  

And honestly, I've never waivered really.  I never "back slid" or rebelled really badly and I was certainly not invited to many the high school pasture parties because the kids loudly exclaimed that I thought BYOB meant Bring Your Own Bible.  I was a certified goody two shoes.  

The thing was, I really did love Jesus.  I really did want to do the right thing.  Always have, truth be told.  

But lately, things have been sorta turned on their head for me and I've realized something.  I've pretty much always wanted to do the right thing for the right thing's sake.  Not because I was so passionately motivated by a genuine understanding of God's love for me.  I've known he loves me.  I've sung the song my whole life.  Yes, Jesus loves me.  Yes, Jesus loves me.  Yes, Jesus loves me.  The Bible tells me so.  

I've known it in my head.  But I'm coming to realize I've only experienced faint moments of near recognition to really truly getting the gospel.  And what it means for me. I think I'm really beginning to GET IT.  To soak it in to the depths of my soul, on a deep experiential level.  That I am so nothing and undeserving and sinful and awful without Him.  No matter how goody two shoes I've always been.

I've never really been disgusted enough with my sinful nature to be humbled and awed and changed by the authentic freedom of the gospel.  I've hung my hat on my performance for too long.  Never really being as amazed as I should be for what He's done for me.  Because I've been too focused on what I've done for Him.  And to be honest--not even for Him, really.  Because my selfish ambition was to prove my worth.  

But, I'm getting it.  I'm worthless.  I'm nothing.  I'm the sorriest sinner who's been trying to cover it all with my own filthy rags of performance.  I'm just beginning to realize how naked I am with my complete lack of anything good or worthwhile.  To know how desperately I have needed a Savior.  To realize how awestruck I should be at what the gospel message means for me.  To be humbled to tears at the totality and sufficiency and depth and height and width of God's love for me.  For ME.  Because I never have been and never will be good enough on my own.  

And He knew it.  So He came.  For me.

Not so that I could sit in the pretty pews behind my facade of goodness.  Living in my holy huddle and feeling pretty good and righteous about all I had to offer.  What an asset I am to the kingdom.

Because I'm not.  I'm not an asset at all.  All my striving and goodness is still nothing.  Nothing at all.

But He is everything.  He loves me in a way I'm only beginning to unravel.  His heart is for me.  All He's ever wanted was me, sitting at His feet.  Postured in awe and humility.  To listen to His love songs that humble me to the point of bubbling over with that love.  A love I could never conjure up in my best moment ever.  But a love that sees people the way He sees them.

Precious.  Valuable.  Worthwhile.  Needy.  Desperate.

After a weekend in Orlando recently, I found myself all Debbie Downer about the rude, shoving crowds and selfishness of the dog-eat-dog people who were bumping into me and cutting me off and jumping in front of me.  

And on the plane home, I plugged in my favorite iTunes playlist and realized something.  My feelings were so indicative of the state of my heart.  I was so self-righteous.  And I don't love God's people near enough.  Because every single person who bumped into me had a story.  Woundedness.  Brokenness.  Flaws.  And every single one of them were loved so completely by a Savior who came for each and every single one of them.  

So like a toddler on new shaky legs, I'm focusing on one thing and one thing only.  And it's the one thing that's needed.  It's the only thing necessary.  To sit at the feet of my Savior.  To continually, all day, practice the discipline of posturing myself to listen.  And be loved.  And in so doing, be changed.

Which means I'm leaving the church.  



Oh, I'll still be there to assemble together and sing and worship and be taught and discipled and to learn.  But, I'm leaving denominationalism.  Every Jesus follower is part of the Church.  And, we, together, need to stand as one to impact the world around us.  We gotta join hands and talents and skill sets and be world changers together.  We gotta see beyond our buildings and take church to the community.  To the world.  Take the gospel to the least of these.

I'm leaving man's traditions.  And judgement.  And criticism.  And political agendas that drown out the love and grace of Christ.  I'm desperate to teach my children how to throw themselves on the scandalous grace of their Savior rather than just be rule followers caught up in legalism. I want them to really GET relationship.  Abiding in his love.  Remaining on the Vine.  Seeking Him first.  Thirsting for Him. 

I'm no longer considering church to be where I sit for an hour on Sunday.  Not at all.  Church is every moment of every day.  Abiding in His love.  And surrendering to how it will contagiously spill over to those around me. Being willing.  Having your heart broken for what breaks His.  And doing something about it.  

I'm not leaving the fellowship of broken people desperate for salvation and grace and love only God can provide through His beloved only Son.  I'm just leaving the little boxed in version of how I've tended to define church.  

Because church happens when you see a homeless person and buy them a meal.  Church happens when I put down my phone and connect with my kids.  Church happens when I allow myself to be inconvenienced for the sake of blessing someone else's day.  Church happens when I am generous with my time and money and talents and abilities.  And I grasp how very rich I am.  How very undeserving I am.  And how privileged I am to answer the call and responsibility to go where He sends and love as He loves.  

Church.  It's so much more than a 9:00 Sunday morning service.   

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