Thursday, July 05, 2007

www.madchurchdisease.com


click on logo to visit the site...
if you have seen it before, sorry, but it was very interesting to me...
check out the topic, surveys and links... but warning, if you are really into church and defending it as it is today, you will probably not like it, so STOP READING HERE.

Mad Church Disease -
I am glad I no longer suffer from it... and I feel for those who still do.

Wow... this is a very insightful and tremendous project. I related to the logo - 'Beat Up. Burned Out.' At the point where we left church, I really felt that way. We weren't angry, we weren't hurt... well, ok, we were hurt, but we have since been healed and are no longer hurt.

We have been gone for 3 years now. For some time now, when I drive by the church we used to attend, I feel nothing at all - not anger, not hurt, not numb, just NOTHING. It has really become completely foreign and irrelevant to my life, which is surprising, considering I spent most of my 38 years in one church or another, with it being such a huge part of my life. I was in so many different lay-leadership, volunteer positions, outreach and ministry positions, and was also a deacon. I saw the best and the worst at different times, but one thing that broke my heart was when the best was squelched and killed by controlling leadership.

Since leaving, one thing that has changed significantly is my heart... specifically, how my love for Christ, relationships in my life, and my acceptance and love for others (espcially those I don't agree with), has continued to grow by leaps and bounds. Being able to be free to love and not judge has been a tremendous gift. Our children have quickly adapted away from the legalism and 'religious' mindsets, and have developed so much compassion and love for people. Our giving since that time has been directed into the lives of those in need that God reveals to us. Most recently, we also are receiving help from others, as the financial burdens of my wife's illness have been staggering, and the Lord has prompted them to help. What a blessing to be so cared for and prayed for - prayer with action.

Honestly, between the weekly verbal battering over the demand for giving more and more (we were giving 23% at that time, by the way), and the guilt trips over every missed services, we felt that what God had been speaking to us was so very different from the church's message, that the church's message had become irrelevant. Seemed to me that the church system as we knew it was completely 'mad'. Probably not what they meant by Mad Church, but anyway...

From all appearances, it had become little more than a combination between a country club and a reptilian (think of a crocodile) corporate entity - abusive to employees and members alike. The leadership seemed to be filled with building their own legacy and kingdom than God's, and it seemed they saw themselves as accountable and answerable to nobody. Even in the face of questions and several mass-exoduses, it did not change or alter their approach or attitudes, except perhaps to demonstrate even more dictatorial and harsh behavior. The promises that were made 'on behalf of God' were always 'right around the corner', but never arrived, year after year. It wasn't for lack of believing... but hope deferred made the heart sick. It got to where I couldn't even attend a service without being nauseated.

Also, knowing every staff member personally, the consistent message and expectation of staff members and lay leaders was that church ministry was more important than family. Although never spoken in this way, the implication was clear. I have since come to realize that all of the busyness, programs, and such, take away from our time to really get to know each other, to develop deep and lasting 'keeping' relationships, and pull us away from having this development time with friends and family. All the while, our family was going through so much with family illness, and while the church was aware, and we let our needs and situations be known, we were pretty much completely ignored. I believe in prayer, but when it is accompanied by judgement or gossip, rather than assistance, I think it has no real value. Real prayer and real love mean real concern, real reaching out, and often, real action.

Since leaving, we have had much more time available to develop relationships. We now know many more of our neighbors, and have developed true, transparent, deep relationships with some. In these relationships, rather than church, we have found the truest definitions of fellowship, ministry, relationship, depth, having things in common (sharing what we have as each one needs), and in the development and raising of our children. We have been cared for by both those who attend church and those who don't - some believers, some not. God told us at the start that He would meet our needs in 'a most unusual way', and He has. I am more in love with Him now than ever. He has been everything to me during the darkest of days, as well as the brightest, and has never left us.

Don't get me wrong - I am not 'against' church. I am just 'for' relationships of depth and meaning - both with God and with people. Many people we love are still in church. We aren't trying to pull them out. We just know that until we see gatherings that are really centered around caring for one another and loving God, hearing His voice and ministering to people, without the hierarchy, the 'system' and the controlling leadership, we aren't really interested, and it will not be a part of our lives.

Another thing that impressed me about the site link above was the depth and rawness of the survey questions on the website (www.madchurchdisease.com). The questions hit at real issues that exist, which are often ignored or even buried in most church settings. Church should be a place to heal, learn, prepare, and then be launched out into the world, and should be a safe place to open up, sharing needs and hurts - but the truth is, most, nearly all, are NOT safe. Sharing an issue that is one of the 'bad' ones can cost you your reputation, position, job (if you work for the church), relationships... it can be devastating, to be sure.

When we get real, and develop real relationships, they can be life-transforming. They can also carry us through the most difficult times of our lives. I am so thankful for those who have come along beside us and held us together when our circumstances were tearing us completely apart. You guys know who you are....

J.

9 comments:

In_spired said...

Jeff, I agree that changes must be made in the 'traditional' church if we are to reach our young adults,such as yourself; but more importantly, our teen agers.
But do you think that not attending a worship service is the answer?
"Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching". Hebrews 10:25 (NIV)
I'm not disagreeing with you...only asking. This has been a "hot" subject in my circles lately.
Also, do you have a scheduled, purposeful Bible Study whereby you grow (spiritually) in God's Word?

Wow! I would love to sit down and have a visit with you...along with my list of questions!!

You have a great post here, and one that should make people re-evaluate their relationship with God and their 'church'.

I know this is much too lengthy for a comment, but believe me when I say....IT COULD BE MUCH LONGER! (if I asked as many questions as I have) Looking forward to your next post, although I'll probably read this one several more times.

GoteeMan said...

In-Spired -

Thanks for your encouragements and response. Let me be clear that we have not in any way given up fellowship or meeting together - in fact, we meet together, encourage each other, read, pray and continue to grow.

All of this, however, is outside of traditional church. It is not "scheduled", it is as the Lord leads, and He determines the "purposeful" component. I would not call it a Bible Study. It is deeper, more intimate and more beneficial than anything we ever had before through a structured gathering or Bible study. We are all equal, we all bring something, we all contribute, we all minister to each other and have "keeping" relationships, where there is love, acceptance, accountability, but no judgement, no manipulation, and no attempt to control. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

If you want to understand where we are coming from, a good place to start is George Barna's book, Revolution. In researching people just like us, George documented pretty well where we are, why we left, and where our heart is. In fact, in the end, he became like-minded. It isn't that any of us are anti-church. We are just pro-relationship, pro-God, pro His Kingdom, His heart and His desires, and we often find that church as we have known it, for us, has hindered those things in our lives.

I would also like to draw a clear line of distinction between the words in the earlier (Greek/ Hebrew) Bible and the English words they have been translated into in the Bibles we read today. For example, Koinenea ("Spirit-birthed fellowship")and Ekklesia ("gathering of the called-out ones") have both been translated "church", but the word church does not really capture the essense of either one. A church is an association of people who share a particular belief system (there are even bodies that call themselves "satanic churches" today). The term church originated from the pre-Christian Germanic kirika, meaning "of the lord", in reference to pagan dieties. The term later began to replace the Greek ekklesia ("gathering of the called-out ones") and Basilicae (today, basillica, or building) within Christendom, c300 AD.

This is significant, because c300 AD was the time of Constantine, when religion became dictated, those who did not submit to it were persecuted or killed, and huge, ornate buildings became the focus. Prior to this time, gatherings were in homes and public areas (outdoors, by lakes, etc) and rarely did they meet at the synogogues. Huge, ornate, cathedrals and corporately owned buildings came during Constantine's reign. With this came budgets, bills, corporate entities, "top-down" dictatorial leadership, and the overlaying of "man-made" systems. This was a significant deviation from the example set by Christ and His early followers.

It is interesting to me how many today believe that somehow having the structure of timed spiritual activity (a regularly scheduled time for something that has to be kept), or having to have it in a brick and mortar building called a local church, is in any way the sole Biblical definition for fellowship. In fact, I believe there is much evidence to the contrary... Not that we shouldn't meet, not that it shouldn't be planned sometimes... But I don't believe that "regularly scheduled" ANYTHING makes us any more spiritual, righteous, holy, accountable or anything of the sort.

Are we paying dues, making appearanaces, impressing others by our activities? Are we somehow spiritually obligated to membership in a structured, traditional church? I believe we are not. I believe it is all about relationship and not about a building, or a program, or a service or a system or a structure. Yes, God created order, but he also created freedom and creativity, and they are not chaos. Since the creation of man, God has been about relationships. His yoke is easy and His burden is light...

Luke 11:46 Jesus replied, "And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.", and John 13:34 "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.", and Acts 4:32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had.

The definition of what we are experiencing today is much more like the type of fellowship described in these passages than most of what I have seen in a lifetime of church. If the only definition of fellowship is going to a local church, then what about those who are sick, homebound, in prison, or otherwise unable to attend? Does that mean that they have "given up meeting together"?

Perhaps what sums it up for me is Micah 6:8 He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

J.

In_spired said...

I appreciate you so much, Jeff! My goodness, you spent much more time in response than any other person would have!

First of all, let me say, I agree with all you said. It bothers me that we've lost so many of our young adults and teenagers from them "not wanting what the church has to offer". But my question is..."What do they want?" They're not out seeking any sort of relationship with God or friends. For the most part, they're just drifting around like dead people.

If they were like you and your friends I would say "YEA"!!

I want what you have described but I want it within the confines of our 'church building'. See? That's my age telling on me. We have a wonderful facility that dates back to when I was a young child. I met God there, I grew up with Him in that building, my husband and I were married in that building. It holds very special and spiritual meaning in my life. In essence..I'm just not ready to let it go.

A group of us have been meeting as a cell group on Monday mornings for discussion and prayer. Every time we meet, we are praying for these same issues...that God will lead us into His will regarding the spiritual welfare of our community...even if that means closing the doors of our church and meeting in the streets. We are ready for His answer!

Thank you again for your response in such detail. In one of your prayer groups, I would request that you lift First Baptist Church, Munday, Texas up to God, that He will show us the way.

Terri@SteelMagnolia said...

I was raised a strict Catholic...
but I am bored to tears in the Catholic Church.. I'm sorry to say...

and then we've tried a couple other non denominational churches.. but they don't really get the REAL AND TRUE message out...
they do little skits and lots of singing...

What Mike and I have discussed and will most likely do is:

HOMECHURCH!!! I learn more sitting with Mike, reading from a study bible...

We love Focus on the Family, Raul Ruiz (he's awesome) and...
Kirk Cameron....
now he tells the real truth on how to get to Heaven...

GoteeMan said...

In_Spired -
Thanks, again, for taking the time to respond. I really understand where you are coming from. We didn't arrive at the decision to leave overnight, and we were uncomfortable for a while with not "going somewhere". I understand your desire to see God do something awesome and touch those in your community through your church, and the frustration of not seeing it happen.

I think, for us, we were looking for somewhere to belong where we could really just be us... we had come into really understanding who we are, as the beloved of Christ. So much of our lives had been spent being told that we were so much less, and that God was displeased or even angry with us... ugh! so far from the truth!

I spend a good bit of time with folks ranging in age from 20 to over 70. Most of the people we hang with on a regular basis have a few things in common. First, they want real, open and transparent relationships, where they are accepted and loved, and can reciprocate that to others. Second, they love God very much, but have drawn a huge distinction between God and man-made religious structure. Third, they long to have "keeping" relationships, where we are safe and open with each other, to not only share our own issues, but to raise issues we see in each other, and to care enough for each other and have a stong enough basis to not be offended, but instead to recieve it. Fourth, they don't have room for superficial, irrelevant or argumentative relationships, where others seek to entangle or drain them in worthless or frivolous "pet" religious topics (ones purely for the sake of dividing or debating). Fifth, they are very generous and giving, and would gladly offer themselves and all they have to those God has placed in their lives. They have given all relationships in their lives to God, to bring people in or take people out or change the relationship in any way. Sixth, they see all people, regardless of age, sex, title or position, status, wealth, race or any other demographic differences, as completely equal, and detest systems and environments where there is hierarchy or superiority of one group or individual "over" others. And finally, they recongnize authority, but believe that most models today of "church government" tend to lend themselves to abuse, control and conforming people to it's OWN image instead of the image of the full measure and stature of Christ.

I don't know how to even explain how this came together (the people we became really close to), except that God did it. These folks have been closer than family, and have walked with us through the most difficult days of our lives so far. They have laughed with us, cried with us, been there for us, and so much more...

I will pray for your church and your family, for God to lead you all into the fullness of all He has for you.

Jeff

GoteeMan said...

Terri -

I appreciate your comments. It never ceases to amaze me how so many people from so many different backgrounds and upbringings can come to so many of the same conclusions.

I will be praying for you, Mike & Matthew, as you continue to grow and learn and love. You guys will have such an impact on each other and on Matthew as you live the Word of God before each other and him. Two scriptures came to mind as I read your post -
Proverbs 20:7
The just man walketh in his integrity: his children are blessed after him.
and
Deuteronomy 6:6 “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.
I can see the value of traditional church, in some cases, for learning and beginning one's walk with God. One of the scriptures I found quite some time ago that meant alot to me was
1 John 2:24 Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is the promise that He has promised us—eternal life.
26 These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you. 27 But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.

To me, that means that the anointed one, the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit is our teacher, who abides in us teaches us as we abide in Him, so we no longer need that anyone apart from the Holy Spirit teach us.

Jeff

In_spired said...

Jeff,

Thanks again! I will be looking forward to further posts and continuing interaction!!

I did post Anne Jackson's, Flower Dust blog on my link list. It is so good and, with her being a good old West Texas girl, I feel 'connected'.

I hope it catches on.

Blessings...

handling olympus said...

hey jeff,
connected to your blog through bottled blonde. interesting reads. i'm ADD so i couldn't read all the way through...
i'm a church staff guy. it's an interesting contradiction to work in the church and be a follower of Christ - my current situation is more country club than i am comfortable but i know it's where i am supposed to work for this time. i have a huge opportunity to influence the entire church body in their purpose and thinking. i'll check in on your site more in the future.
God bless
john

GoteeMan said...

John - I understand completely, and it is encouraging that a man with your perspective is there, making a difference. I also know that is a difficult situation to be in, especially if the other staff members are aware of your views...

A friend of mine just got "called out" by his church for not "supporting the church vision" because he sees things that are not right and tries to help change the thinking. As a result, his family is now looking to move on, because the environment toward his family has become hostile. Two other friends were let go from long-time staff positions in a local church here, because they didn't agree with some of the decisions by the pastor. They weren't being overly verbal about it - it just came through in staff meetings and other discussions.

Sad when "other" views are seen as threats to the "system"....
Hang in there. I appreciate you dropping by, and am praying for you in your current position, that you will be salt and light to those around you, and a refreshing drink to those in need...

Jeff