You have been set free to serve: liberated from Churchianity, free to follow Jesus, free to love God and to love your neighbor, without being bound by the Spirit of Religion.
Or so it would appear…
Because just as the newly liberated Hebrews wandered the desert for forty years without entering the Promised Land, it is possible for newly liberated Christians to wander in the wilderness for years and never discover the purpose to which they are called.
Or like the Galatians, you can easily find yourself being set free in Christ, only to become entangled again by the yoke of bondage to Churchianity.
My heart’s desire is to help you STAND FAST in the liberty wherein Christ has made you free.
To do that, I have identified Five Critical Needs for those who have escaped Churchianity and endeavor to follow Jesus “outside the camp.”
These Five Critical Needs are the conclusions we have come to after traveling thousands of miles, communicating with thousands of Christians, and observing first hand nearly every variety of church, denomination, home group, and even a few cults over nearly 30 years of ministry to people, both inside and outside of Churchianity – the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Let’s talk about the most obvious one first…
It is the #1 reason why people say they attend church.
It is the #1 reason given for why people who don’t attend church should attend.
And it is the #1 reason why some people who say God called them out of church will later change their minds and go right back into the very thing they said God set them free from.
It’s a powerful force!
What is it?
The need to interact with others and walk together with them is deeply rooted in every person.
Here’s the problem…
We have a “fellowship fantasy” playing around in our head about how life will be wonderful once we find fellowship.
In real life, there is no perfect fellowship, and even if we find it, it’s not as wonderful as we thought (it’s actually rather messy).
Really, fellowship is EASY.
You can get fellowship at the local bar (or pub).
You can get fellowship at the country club or the football stadium.
Fellowship occurs when people are united together by a common interest.
Fellowship among Christians isn’t really the difficulty; the challenge is agreeing on what the common interest is going to be.
You may have discovered that not all Christians are united together by a common interest; therefore, it is not possible to have fellowship with all Christians.
“But brother, JESUS is what unites all Christians!”
Theoretically, yes, that is what SHOULD unite all Christians.
But practically, you know as well as I do that Christians are motivated by many different things – and some of them have nothing to do with Jesus.
So whatever fellowship is, fellowship has to be more than starting a group or having some meetings.
In my experience, that kind of fellowship is fleeting and rather flimsy.
Same thing with “like-mindedness.” What are the odds of finding perfect agreement on everything?
Even so, we still need fellowship with others.
But it has to be the RIGHT KIND of fellowship.
For Christians called to follow God outside the camp, going back to church will not yield the fellowship you seek – or the fellowship you need – to take your faith-walk with God to the next level.
What does the RIGHT KIND of fellowship with out-of-church Christians provide?
But even these things won’t be enough.
That’s because you also need…
Being crucified by Christians hurts!
Well, it’s supposed to hurt.
Pain gets our attention and motivates us to make difficult but necessary decisions – decisions like: leaving church, saying “no more” to spiritual abuse, letting go of old “friends” who are convinced of your backslidden, rebellious condition.
Yes, we understand pain.
In our travels and in our interactions with people, we see a lot of Wounded. We have also been through our share of hurts.
I have seen a lot of the Wounded gathered together into home groups, re-living their past experiences, comparing battle scars the way the fishermen compared shark bite scars in the movie Jaws…
(Rolls up his pants leg…) “See that? Got that one from the pastor. Vineyard Fellowship, 1979.”
“Oh yeah?” (Pulls up his shirt…) “Got this one in the First Baptist Church, 1962. Deacon Board. Ain’t it a beaut?”
So they sit in a circle, picking apart their wounds, infecting one another with the deadly bacteria of bitterness.
Yes, pain is a natural, unavoidable consequence of life.
So is healing.
As sure as sunrise follows after darkness, as sure as Life comes out of Death, so Healing comes out of Hurt.
How could it be otherwise?
As the Scriptures say, there is a time, a purpose, and a season for everything.
There is a time to be wounded and hurt…
Followed by a time to be healed and to get on with your life: to get busy living, loving, learning.
God seeks a company of “Wounded Healers” who can truly minister to those who have been hurt by Churchianity.
Once you have begun the process of Healing, you have simultaneously begun the process of…
A middle-aged man came up to me during the lunch break at one of our day-long workshops.
His eyes were moist and he grasped one of my hands between his two hands.
“Brother,” he said, “I just want you to know that I learned more from you this morning than I learned going to church for twenty years.”
There was a mixture of emotions in the man: joy, for having discovered so many new treasures to be explored; sadness, for all the years wasted warming a pew, making no progress.
That incident has repeated itself over many years and many workshops with many different people who each expressed the same thing.
Is it because I’m such a wonderful teacher?
Not at all.
It’s due to the fact that Churchianity is content with the status quo.
I will never, ever, ever be content with the status quo.
I know the status quo all too well: don’t ruffle feathers, don’t go too far, just give people a nice, warm, fuzzy, positive, encouraging devotional talk and be sure to get them out the door by noon.
Spiritual growth and maturity is NOT the goal of Churchianity.
Churchianity has made Christianity into a passive spectator sport for the spiritually obese.
In the meantime, “My people are destroyed for a lack of knowledge” (Hos. 4:6).
I believe God calls all of us to grow, to mature, to make progress, to advance.
Living things GROW.
If you aren’t growing then you’re dying.
When God sets you free from Churchianity, you have two choices: get busy living, or get busy dying.
I want you to grow, to live, and to prosper in every spiritual blessing.
Do not set your sights on merely “surviving” when you can be “thriving.”
Your spiritual growth towards Christ-centered maturity allows you to discard the unnecessary things you accumulated in the church system, which means you are finally moving towards…
“Brother Chip, I’ve searched all over your website for thoughts on [insert theological controversy here], but I can’t find it. Why don’t you talk about it? How could you not address this most important issue of all time?”
Probably because theological controversies and deep doctrinal debates aren’t relevant to anyone but theologians.
I’m not a theologian, and I’m not trying to reach theologians.
The Faith doesn’t so much need to be defended, or explained, as much as it needs to be practiced.
Churchianity has long divided the world with its petty disputes and religious wrangling over issues that have no relevance to a dying world or to most Christians.
We have gotten off-track and off-message from the original mission Jesus gave us.
If you have been set free from Churchianity then you have an opportunity to finally become relevant – to be real, to be honest, to live, to love, to learn, and to be accessible to people who couldn’t even find you before.
The people dressed in blue jeans who used to watch you from a distance as you dined with your church buddies, dressed in your Sunday best.
I know you’ve done it, because I’ve done it.
“I thank you, God, that I am not as other men are… or even as those people over there who obviously didn’t go to church today…”
When you are set free from Religion, you can start talking with people about Relationship.
You can start loving and reaching people that Churchianity tends to forget about.
You can finally fulfill the original mandate to “Go into all the world” and stop trying to get the world to come to you.
When people object that “the church is full of hypocrites” you don’t have to defend your church anymore, you can just smile and agree – and then point them to Jesus.
As Churchianity collapses, small groups of out-of-church followers of Jesus will carry out the unrealized goal of bringing the simplicity of Christ to the world.
You have an important part to play in that.
And once you become relevant to the world around you, you can begin to clearly see your…
For the church-addicted, church defines your purpose: who you are, your reason for living, your reason for being.
And when church isn’t there anymore, it leaves a great big hole where your purpose used to be.
Some will wander away from one church and find another church to fill the void.
Some will wander from group to group, movement to movement, house church to house church, trying to fill the void within the context of their fellowship fantasy.
Some will wander away from God and look for carnal, worldly, fleshly pursuits to fill the void.
Others will come out of Churchianity and discover a whole new reason for living: a new identity, a new calling, a new mission, a new way of seeing the world and one another.
You have been taught that the only place God can use a person is within the narrow confines of the local church establishment.
But you will discover a new identity that is based on Christ.
And you will learn how to find and fulfill God’s Purpose for your life.
A Purpose that transcends who you meet with, where you meet, or what you do when you meet.
A Purpose that transforms you from Passive Spectator into Active Participant in the great Plan of God.
A Purpose that makes sense of all the pain you have suffered, and for which you are willing to suffer all over again, if necessary.
A “Joseph” moment, when you realize that God permitted the pain of rejection in order to prepare you for saving the lives of the very ones who rejected you.
A “David” moment, when you realize that God blessed you to be a blessing, and made you a king, not so you could be served, but so you could serve.
An “Esther” moment, when you realize that you were brought into the kingdom “for such a time as this.”
A “Paul” moment, when your personal religious pursuits are interrupted by the Living Lord, and you cry, “Lord, what would YOU have me to do?”
In those moments you will find a Purpose that is bigger than you, bigger than the meeting of your own needs.
A Purpose that makes following Jesus “outside the camp” all worthwhile.