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Sunday, November 24, 2019

"Why I quit going to church." (and R.E.M.'s misunderstood lyrics)

I quit going to church in the fall of 2009. It was a beautiful day.

Heathen? Heretic? Unbeliever? Backslider? Nope. Nope. Nope. And, nope. Just the opposite—Frontslider.

I quit going to church because God was sliding me forward in my relationship with Him. He slid me to a place that was exterior to the local Christian meeting hall, and out of orthodox, or rather, orthobox Christianity. Yes, I like to make up words if they make sense to me. But what I don't like to do is make up, or promote, false teachings about my heavenly Father and my Savior, Christ Jesus.

I loved Orthodox Christianity (OC; The Box) when I was in it. I had a lot of friends in that tiny box. All I knew about God and Jesus came from orthobox teaching. I was content in there, only able to see what I could see from inside The Box. Because of OC's limited teachings, I believed with all my heart that most of the people who Christ died for would end up tormented forever in a very hot and very unpleasant place called "hell." One of my life's missions was to rescue people from this horrible end, as I had been rescued.

Rescued from The Box


But, after about 17 years in The Box, I began to see things in the Scriptures that directly contradicted OC. God was bringing teachers across my path with messages that were very different from what I believed at the time. Radically different. Heretically different (at least from the viewpoint of orthoboxy).

But the new teachings I encountered were Scriptural, unlike my long-held beliefs. The teachings I had gotten in The Box were, in reality, just the teachings of men which were devoid of power to help, but filled with power to deceive. Jesus spoke about these kinds of false teachings in Mark 7,
6 Yet [Jesus], answering, said to [the Pharisees and scribes] that "Ideally prophesies Isaiah concerning you hypocrites, as it is written, that 'This people with their lips is honoring Me, Yet their heart is away at a distance from Me.7 Yet in vain are they revering Me, teaching for teachings the directions of men.' 8 For, leaving the precept of God, you are holding the tradition of men ... ."
These people Jesus confronted did honor and revere God ... with their lips. But all of their honoring and revering was empty because they left the true teachings of God for the worthless teachings of men.

Because the new teachings I was encountering were so radically different from what I had believed for so long, I examined the Scriptures as never before to see if these amazing teachings were true. Through this process, God was sharpening my Scripture-studying skills. And He was opening my eyes to see simple, life-changing truths right in the Scriptures. I had read past these truths dozens of times before, but with Satanic blinders on.

It seemed I now had an important choice to make: continue in Orthobox Christianity (where my wife and I and our kids had been for so long), or get out and continue to search for the truth of God outside of The Box. I knew leaving The Box would mean leaving friends also. This was a big decision that would immediately impact me and my family, probably for the rest of our lives.

Even though it was a big decision, it was not a hard decision.

Why it was an easy decision to leave The Box


I knew that teachers in The Box were saying things about my heavenly Father and Savior that were flat out lies. Regrettably, I had spouted these same demonic lies for many years from pulpits, in bible studies, and in Sunday School classes. My biggest regret is teaching these lies to young kids, including my own.

Here's the question I asked myself that made leaving The Box an easy decision: "Why would I want to stick around in, and participate in, a system where people are telling horrible lies about my Father?" I had no good answer to this "Why?". "God, strap a rocket to my back and get me the hell out of here!"

I have ZERO regrets about leaving.

Imagine what you would do in the following scenario: You're part of a social club that is loving and kind. And the people in the club are helpful to you. But, using a PA system, they continually tell damaging lies about your earthly father, who, in fact, is a great guy. Would you continue to hang around and be a part of that club? Would the good things they do, even for you personally, outweigh the fact that they are lying about your good father?

"Do you even hear their words?"


I like good music. I didn't think that this habit of mine was odd, but I actually listen to the words in songs. The words are the heart of the song—the message the writer wants to get across. The music is just the clothing. Though not everyone listens closely to the words of songs, everyone listens to the music. The music is what hooks you.

The other day I was singing some words along with a song on the radio to my wife. It was a song that was popular and had been on the radio for quite a while. My wife said she didn't know that those were the words in the song. The music had hooked her, but she hadn't grasped the meaning of the song.

Some words in some very popular songs are quite disturbing. But you'll often find humans dancing to these songs. The catchy music hooks us. And we're often not aware of the dark message we're grooving to.

I'm a huge fan of the band R.E.M. Years ago they had a hit called The One I Love. Lead singer and writer Michael Stipe called the song "real violent and awful" in Rolling Stone magazine. He said later in Mojo, "I didn't like the song to begin with. It was too brutal. ... But people misunderstood it, so it was fine. Now it's a love song, so that's fine." I recall stories of Stipe being on stage singing this song, looking out at couples embracing and singing along, clueless to the true awfulness of the song's lyrics.

The title of the song, "The One I Love," and its opening line, "This one goes out to the one I love," led people to believe that this was a true love song. But they didn't listen to the whole song. If you're a lovebird, try crooning some of these lines from the song to your lover (be prepared to duck),
♪♫"This one goes out to the one I've left behind
A simple prop to occupy my time"♫♪
Love song, my ass!

It's the same with Orthodox Christianity. People fall in love with the music, the fellowship, and some of their good deeds. But they fail to hear the God-damning and Savior-denying words streaming from OC's multiple avenues of teaching. Satan truly is the Master Distractor. If you're in The Box, I encourage you to listen closely to the entire message they are proclaiming. Ask your Pastor or leaders what they truly believe. Words matter. Beliefs matter. God and Jesus matter.

A few questions to ask your Pastor


Do you really know what your church believes and teaches? Most churches today have websites that tell you exactly what they believe about God and Jesus. Check the sites out. Some of their teachings may be obvious, but some you may have to dig a little bit to find.

Or, you could just ask your leaders what they believe. It's OK to ask your pastor questions. In fact, your pastor should welcome your questions. But be prepared, he might not welcome inquiring minds. His reaction will  have a lot to do with the questions you ask.

I've been in churches that don't preach from the pulpit what they truly believe about God because they know it makes Him look bad. The teaching that God torments unbelievers forever in hell is the main teaching some shy away from publicly proclaiming. They don't like bringing their listener's (and tithe-payer's) attention to the dark side of their twisted version of the "good news."

If you choose to remain in The Box, I think you should at least know what your Box's beliefs are.

The main issues concerning any church's beliefs are their teachings about God and His Son. If the church you meet with is teaching errors about God and Jesus, do you really want to hang with them?

A few questions you can ask:

  • Did Jesus save all people when He died on the cross?
  • Does God offer us salvation, or does He simply save us with zero assistance from us?
  • Will Jesus undo all of Satan's works? If they say "No," ask them which of the Adversary's works will remain forever.
  • Will Jesus undo all the condemnation that came through Adam's sin? (see Romans 5, especially verse 18)
  • If God is love, and He loves His enemies, how is it loving for Him to torment His unbelieving enemies forever?

And there may be more questions you've had for a long time, but haven't yet asked. Go ahead and ask them. What've you got to lose?

Big Truths you won't hear in The Box


Here's a quick list of Scriptural truths that OC denies. Maybe some of these will spark questions you can ask your leaders if you're in The Box:

  • God is the only being that has free will
  • God is the only being that has, or will ever have, eternal life (life with no beginning or end)
  • God will pour out the fullness of His love and grace on all people
  • God will use His power, sovereignty and love to accomplish all of His will (1 Timothy 2:4; Acts 13:22–23)
  • Christ justified all people through His death and resurrection (Romans 5:18)
  • God will reconcile all things to Himself through Christ's work (Colossians 1:16–20)
  • Christ will completely undo all of Satan's works (1 John 3:8)
  • The Lamb of God removed the sin of the world on the cross (John 1:29)
  • Jesus saved (past tense) the world (John 3:17)
  • God is the Savior of all mankind (1 Timothy 4:10)
  • The resurrected Christ's message through Paul is bigger than His message to Israel through Peter and the other apostles
  • The dead are truly dead (they're not currently alive in any form) 
  • Jesus will rescue all people from death (1 Corinthians 15:26)
  • Jesus' death and resurrection undoes all the effects of Adam's sin (Romans 5:18)
  • God's mission for Christ will be accomplished through time periods called eons (Greek: aion)
  • The eons will end when Christ successfully finishes all of God's will and God is All in all (1 Corinthians 15:20–28)

If you choose to remain in The Box ...


I have enough trouble living my own life, so I will never tell you how to live yours. But, if you believe the big truths about God that are denied in The Box, please be honest with yourself about why you choose to remain bound in The Box.

God's words through Paul come to mind. 2 Corinthians 6:14–7:1,
Do not become diversely yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness? Or what communion has light with darkness? 15 Now what agreement has Christ with Belial? Or what part a believer with an unbeliever? 16 Now what concurrence has a temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God, according as God said, that I will be making My home and will be walking in them, and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 17 Wherefore, Come out of their midst and be severed, the Lord is saying. And touch not the unclean, and I will admit you, 18 and I will be a Father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me, says the Lord Almighty. 7:1 Having, then, these promises, beloved, we should be cleansing ourselves from every pollution of flesh and spirit, completing holiness in the fear of God.
Are you going to continue to fellowship in a system that blasphemes your Father? Will you hang in a system that paints a false, weak image of your Savior to the world?

How to quit church without quitting God


http://martinzender.com/books/htqc_pb_enlarged.htmMy friend, Martin  Zender, wrote a great book on the subject of a believer quitting church. I read this book long after God rescued me out of The Box. Yes, it's true, a believer can quit church without quitting God. In fact, when a believer quits church, and continues to grow with God, their growth is no longer limited by The Box.

You might fear feeling alone if you quit church. And you may very well feel alone if you quit your church. But you're never truly alone. Jesus won't leave you. God won't leave you. And there are many people who've left The Box that have found unique ways to fellowship.

Following are some links where you can get encouragement, fellowship and learnin' that you'll not hear in The Box:

  • Subscribe to new posts from The Biggest Jesus (see the right-side column ➔➔)
  • Comment at the bottom of this post. I'll be notified, and we can start a discussion.
  • MartinZender.com: decades of solid, humorous, and deep teaching about God. Books, essays, newsletters, video and audio. There's so much on Martin's site that you'll need to take drinks often or you'll choke.
  • Martin Zender's fat YouTube playlists: over 1400 videos and growing
  • MortalFury YouTube channel: 2 buddies, Chris and Dean, spittin' truth
  • Concordant.org: properly translated Scriptures that you can read online. 100+ years of solid Scripture teaching that is too big for The Box.
  • Concordant.org/Unsearchable Riches: Published continuously since 1909, this is one of my go-to study tools. Download the digital version and search just about every Scripture topic imaginable.

Grow in grace and in the knowledge of God and Jesus.
_______
Images
"Huge Blinders" by Emilio Labrador; CC BY 2.0
"Man and Woman Dancing"; https://www.piqsels.com/en/public-domain-photo-scihg; Creative Commons 0 - CC0 voice bubble and words added
"How to Quit Church Without Quitting God"; Martin Zender; http://martinzender.com/books/htqc_pb_enlarged.htm