Commonsense Christianity

Commonsense Christianity


The Wrong Gospel and How It’s Chasing People out of Church

posted by Carolyn Henderson

An increasing number of people are opting to walk a different, truly narrow path, as they search for the truth. Cadence, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas, iCanvasART, and amazon.com.

I know a lot — a LOT — of people who were raised in a church, no longer attend, and want nothing to do with God.

Baptist, Catholic, Pentecostal, Methodist — it doesn’t matter the appellation, these people are on the run from memories and experiences unrelated to any form of hope, peace, joy, or love. The stories are different, but one commonality is a desire to have nothing to do with the God they were raised with — He’s never satisfied with anything they do or say, and since He’s so hard to please, why bother?

A Survivor’s Story

Recently, I talked with a survivor from this experience — this man is unusual because, while he walked away from his religious background, he didn’t walk away from God. It has taken years, and there are years yet to go, he says, but slowly he has been separating the God of church from the God of the Gospel.

“When I was growing up, it was all God, and that was the problem,” he told me. “God was everywhere, all the time, and we couldn’t get away from Him.

“I took notes to school excusing me from dancing in P.E. because God disapproved. He didn’t want us to go to movies. We couldn’t play cards. Women couldn’t wear make up, cut their hair, or wear pants. Laughing too much was wrong.

“The only thing we could do was go to church — Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night, Thursday afternoon, and then we cleaned the church Saturdays for services the next day. We passed out tracts. We only read ‘Christian’ books and listened to ‘Christian’ music.

“Life was all God, and yet it wasn’t God at all.”

The God of Guilt

For many people, the God of the Gospel is the God of Guilt, and the essence of the good news is that those who follow Him won’t burn eternally in Hell. Until they utter a swear word, that is, or think a bad thought, or deliberately miss a church service, at which point their salvation is on hold until they repent and God accepts them back into His arms.

Is it any wonder that people reject this message?

The good thing is that they do. The bad thing is that, so entwined is God with this message, when they walk away from the falseness of man’s teaching, they run away from God. Many of the people I know, deeply spiritual, seek to fill their soul by the latest self-help book, or viral Facebook post about someone coming back from a near death experience and telling them about the Love they encountered.

They are desperate to know that there is some form of Loving Presence out there, and that this Presence cares about them.

Seeking Elsewhere

Because the Bible has been mis-used and misquoted, they rarely look there, depending, instead, upon the words of others — others who are making a lot of money with their words. These prolific writers and pop-positive-speakers encourage acolytes to look within, tap into the power of self, connect with the cosmic consciousness, more of the wrong gospel, but one that at least promises a shot at acceptance.

Human nature is such that we will keep looking, and looking, and looking until we find what we crave. Many who crave God have been given the wrong impression of who He is. Girl in a Copper Dress 2, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas, iCanvasART, and amazon.com.

I was fortunate. Raised in a home with Catholicism on one side and atheism on the other, I spent little time in church, and what I learned about God I found in a series of booklets that put Biblical history in story form. As a young adult, I read about God in a Bible written in contemporary English, and I liked what I saw.

When I left Catholicism to become a Protestant (my uncle told me I would burn in hell), I was alert to rules and regulations in my new church home. In Catholicism, the rules are many, varied, and vast, but pretty clearly stated (go to mass, go to confession, bless the pope); in Protestantism they are more subtle, but similar (go to Bible study, be “accountable” to others, obey the pastor).

Either Way, I Go to Hell

Years later, and after too many Sundays of trying to conform, I left establishment Protestantism’s weekly obligations — revolted by the system’s increasing  similarity to the cubicle world of contemporary business culture. “Brothers” and “sisters” shook their heads and said I was heading to hell, because I obviously was never a Christian. I walked away from their rules and regulations and picked up the Bible, determined to read it for myself.

And I walked straight into the arms of God.

My friend, if you left church because your experience mirrors that of the man I quoted above, you’ve done an understandable thing: you rejected what was false because you’re looking for what is true.

Finish the job: look for God, the real one you didn’t find.

An excellent resource to find out more about Him is in the book He wrote. Read it for yourself. Ask Him to explain it to you. Don’t give up.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity. Jesus tells us in John 8: 31-32,

“If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

I am experiencing that promise of freedom. I write to encourage others to seek it out, demand it, and experience it, too.

Posts similar to this one are

Unchurched, or Church Free?

We Say It All the Time, but What Does It Mean to “Follow Jesus”?

5 “Sins” That Aren’t Sins

 

 



  • http://www.beliefnet.com/columnists/commonsensechristianity/ Carolyn Henderson

    You are on an adventure, Zachary — and the road you travel is a narrow one. I know we use that to differentiate “Christians” from “non-Christians,” but there are a lot of people convinced that they are on the narrow road, when really, they’re on a wide, comfortable one. It sounds like you’re not liking this wide, comfortable one, and something in your heart is stirring for more.

    Yes — in all my writing I advocate individual believers and seekers finding the answers for themselves through prayer, reading of Scripture, and listening to the voice of God. I can guarantee that, when you do this, you will find yourselves at cross purposes within any group that you are in, and how much at cross purposes determines what you will do next.

    Regarding finding out that what you are learning does not coincide with what is being taught at a local or even national level — there is a temptation to think that, just because a lot of people say something is true, that it is true. At some point, as you walk, you will walk away from certain situations, because to stay there will violate what you are learning.

    In Genesis 12, God called Abraham out. It wasn’t that Abraham’s family or circumstances or town were necessarily bad or wrong — but it was that God wanted Abraham in another place. Continue your seeking and searching and listening, my friend, and ask God to show you where to walk, and how.

  • Zachary J Kramer

    Wow, great article and unbelievable close to what I am going through. Differentiating the church from the institution is difficult for me, and while I want to be in one accord and have unity in my place of worship I find inconsistencies in what I read and what is taught. From reading your article it seems that you suggest to find the answers for yourself. Here is my question…when you find these answers and realize what you are finding doesn’t match what is being taught either at a local or even national level what do you do? I am not a rebel, I don’t want to force people to believe or understand what I believe to be as truth, but I have found life in the liberating freedom of the true gospel of Jesus and His grace and mercy He has toward us. How does one stay in a place that he doesn’t really believe what they are saying as truth? Not to say that my church is heretical…they are not. It is a great place with great people. But there are chains that need to broken to live in the freedom Jesus offers.

  • http://www.coachbrown.org/ Coach Brown

    Thank you Carolyn… keep writing and inspiring as you do.

  • http://www.beliefnet.com/columnists/commonsensechristianity/ Carolyn Henderson

    The underground church is emerging — only it’s hard to tell because it’s not an organized movement, but a one-by-one matter of individual Christians saying, “I’m not satisfied with the status quo. I truly want to find, and know, Christ, and what I’ve been doing for so long, hasn’t been working.”

  • http://www.beliefnet.com/columnists/commonsensechristianity/ Carolyn Henderson

    He is the true answer, Tema. And it is amazing how He honors that deep felt cry for truth, and meaning, and need — in a way, as you say, that we have never seen Him before! I pray for your continued discovery as you continue walking the path, side by side with Christ.

  • http://www.beliefnet.com/columnists/commonsensechristianity/ Carolyn Henderson

    “Why do you believe what you believe?” What a superb question, Coach Brown, and in seeking the answer for it, believers transcend the dogmas and decrees of whatever church, if any, they are attending.

    I love your checkered past — it looks like that of mine and my Norwegian Artist husband, only with different denominational names. The end result is the same — there is a lot of “untraining” that needs to be done as we seek, demand, insist upon, truth.

  • http://www.beliefnet.com/columnists/commonsensechristianity/ Carolyn Henderson

    I am finding, increasingly, that people are questioning the options for “assembling ourselves together,” and I have recently written an article on this for my Christian Post blog, Is It Time to Take a Break from Church? http://blogs.christianpost.com/thiswomanwrites/is-it-time-to-take-a-break-from-church-23570/

    I’m not so much bothered by hypocrisy in others, since, as you observe, it’s something we all battle with. I am concerned with finding true fellowship, true teaching, true meaning in meeting together — and am not convinced that there is a one-size-fits-all answer, like conventional church. The homeschooling movement grew out of a small, but vocal, minority of people who wanted different options for their children’s education, and they moved toward it. The various alternatives people look to for established church, as well, are an outgrowth — and a healthy outgrowth — of this same frustration.

  • http://saltoftheearthflorida.org/ Linda Buchelt Spaulding

    I am thrilled that I have found other Christians discussing these issues. I would appreciate your thoughts on my blog, as well, at:
    http://saltoftheearthflorida.org/2014/10/24/lets-talk-about-religion/

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  • http://wellawakened.com Tema Best

    After abandoning my church upbringing, I went on a 20 year quest for answers which took me to places I had no business being. A little over a year and a half ago, emptiness was eating away at me and I “had it out” with God and as I sought him wholeheartedly for the first time in my life – putting aside any outside influences – He answered my cry and showed Himself to me like I had never seen Him before!

    Seek Him my friends and let Him make you whole again!

    “If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever.” (1 Chronicles 28:9)

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  • http://www.coachbrown.org/ Coach Brown

    Until we understand the why of our beliefs they are nothing but hollow teachings not built upon faith but fear. I agree with Carolyn. Great sharing of thoughts. I relate in that my mentor when I was my young was my Irish Catholic grandmother – one of most devote Christians I ever knew – while I was raised in a Presbyterian culture by my parents. I was confirmed in the Methodist church as a young 13 year old, returned to the Presbyterian orthodoxy until college and then went to the Academy and as a active member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and active in Protestant Chapel I saw the common bonds and the beliefs that divided. When I got married my wife was more comfortable in the Lutheran Church for many years until we moved South and joined a Southern Baptist church. I went to seminary late in life under the Baptist flag, but studied Church History and Theology to grasp common bonds and divisive beliefs once again. Today I teach Bible study to adults and simply ask them to discover the answer to a simple question: Why do you believe what you believe? That question begins the peeling back of the onion to discover the truth of God’s Word. This is more than a simple response but I wanted you to know I understand.

  • Scale Lily

    I don’t think we should forsake the assembling of ourselves together, but his story is compelling because it is my own also. God’s house is not a house made with hands and the point of the church is to be the body of Christ, so Christ as the head. I am already a part of that body, but I would like to return to a place where i can hear good Bible teaching, and work on my own hypocrisy. If I leave because of the hypocrisy of others and the regiment of their return to the law, yet am not humble enough to forgive and let go then the pew is an uncomfortable seat. You are not saved by an organization, but you can learn much about yourself there. Make sure it is God’s word that is being taught, and that the pastor is punting you to a relationship with God rather than pointing to himself or some special knowledge that he has. We have a High Priest, and there is need for no other.

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