You are faithful. Every Sunday, you meander in to the “Church in any City, on any corner.” You mingle with a few people in the lobby before heading in to the sanctuary. If you are really spiritual, you will walk around the sanctuary and pray that the Lord would “have His way” during the service. Depending on which auxiliary you serve in, you take your post and you seek to do it wholeheartedly; as unto the Lord. The service begins the same as it has last Sunday and the Sunday before that and the Sunday before that. A prayer to open the service, praise & worship, some church announcements, the choir sings, another prayer, then tithes & offering, the choirs sings again before the preacher, the preaching, invitation to “accept Christ” and join the church and maybe another song to wrap things up. Depending on how long you’ve been a member there you will either head straight on out the door after service or you might stay and mingle a bit with those that you know. Some services are better than others. Some songs are better than others. The preaching might be better this time than the last. The Spirit (or a "spirit") might move a bit which causes more people to join the church or some might have quite emotional outbursts, but for the most part it’s the same ole routine.
Throughout the week you will probably attend some sort of mid-week service or a ministry meeting or two if you have become more involved with the church. Your church may even have cell groups focusing on a certain predetermined curriculum. You may or may not have relationships with other members outside of these services or meetings but there usually isn’t much significance to them unless you have really become friends or if the church has assigned you a mentor or accountability partner.
It all seems good until one day you feel stagnant. Stuck. You're not growing spiritually. You feel like you aren’t enjoying church very much anymore and you can’t seem to “tap in to God’s presence” during the worship portion of the service. And the sermons, well, haven’t I heard this before? You don’t really feel much of anything anymore and the harder you try to “press in”, the further it seems God gets. You just can’t seem to get yourself hyped for these things and you feel like you need a break from it all so you take a week or two off from the weekly activities, but you wouldn’t dare miss church on a Sunday because that would only speak for your lack of dedication and doesn’t the Bible say that we should not become weary in well doing or forsake the assembly?
This is all you have known since you’ve become a Christian, but what else is there? With a pure desire to please the Lord, you earnestly serve your church believing this is the pinnacle of your Christian existence and the key to breaking out of your spiritual rut so to speak. You never learn much of the pure basics of the faith and you struggle with things that you probably shouldn’t be struggling with at this point in your walk but don’t feel comfortable enough with your "brothers and sisters" to tell them you need help. After all, you don’t want them to judge you (or spreading your business) and they definitely don’t want you judging them. You notice many struggles (dare I say blatant and unrepentant sin) in the life of your pastor and other ministry leaders as well which spills over to the members, but who are you to say that they need deliverance or anything else from the Lord. It is not your place…the Lord will deal with them. You just continue to lift them up in prayer. Besides, you don’t really know them anyway and it’s not your responsibility. So long as you do what you are supposed to do and that is go to church and give them your ALL! (I mean give the Lord your all). This is ministry…..probably about as good as it may get.
You are dying on the inside. The very environment that you are in does not foster any spiritual growth and it is painful. You don’t know what to do but seek another church to fill the void that this one has left you with. Finally, one day, you find a church that seems to have all the right things going for them. Loving people with a heart set on serving and pleasing the Lord, and a pastor that seems caring and interactive. The teachings seem to be a bit more challenging spiritually and you think this is the spot. You even do a bit of outreach here and there. Your relationship with the Lord could very well sky rocket here and you will reach the proverbial “next level in God” that you and everybody else have been trying to get to. The last church wasn’t as spiritual as this one. They sinned a lot and made a lot of excuses for their sin. This one calls out sin and has even set parameters (fear tactics) for you to follow so you don't fall into sin. Most importantly, they have taught you how to submit to leadership. (Make sure you don't put your mouth on the man of God. That's rebellion and witchcraft and the Lord just might kill you for that). Finally, something new. Something fresh. This is right where you need to be.
After some time, when the high has worn off, you realize this is no different. The details may vary but you are left in the same state. Sure, you’ve learned a few more things and met some really cool new people, but it is all the same. There has got to be a problem with you. The last place wasn’t good enough and now this place isn’t either. You have strayed from God. You are rebellious in your heart and don’t want to submit to authority. That’s what you have been convinced of. You’ve heard it preached from the pulpit so many times. The man or the woman who is no longer “on fire for the Lord” in services is a sure sign of a backslidden state. Woe unto you!
Again, your desire to please the Lord has failed. You are not steadfast. You have no endurance. What do you do?
Well, I don’t know what you should do but I will tell you what I did.
First, I started to ask the Lord questions without fear. Lord, why do I feel this way? What is the issue with me? Why can’t I just “get with the program”? Is it okay for me to feel this way? Are these teachings what you taught?
Ultimately, it was revealed to me (by the Lord Himself) that I was looking to church to fulfill what only the He could fill. I had the incorrect view of what church really was and what it was supposed to be. I was also shown that Christ's teachings were at conflict with this “system” and it would be impossible to reconcile being free from it and being a part of it at the same time. My desire for Christ had surpassed what these churches and services could offer me, but I didn’t know any other way. My pursuit of Christ had always been confined by the church and its beliefs and not by the Spirit or the Scriptures. In essence, there was nothing wrong with me. Everything was right and going exactly as planned to help me make my great escape! Escape from Churchianity and into the bosom of Christ! And that was the beginning of a long, and admittedly, hard road.
What I have described above is ritual and routine that stems from religion. Pretty much all religions. It may be packaged differently depending on the religion and even denomination within Churchianity. Trust me…this will get you nowhere with God. It will be as if you are walking in circles. It is quite insane and you know what the definition of insanity is. We serve a God that wants us to know Him just as He knows us. No ritual, no routine, no performance or man pleasing required.
Do not wait for the pastor or preacher to tell you what to do nor should you allow the environment of whatever ministry you attend to determine or set the standard for your walk with God. Pursue the Lord first and foremost with your whole heart. The Lord WILL connect you with like-minded believers when He sees fit. Sit as His feet, let Him teach you, cry out to Him. Trust Him in the wilderness. He will provide for your food. He will answer your questions and wipe your tears. It will all come to make sense as you continue to seek Him for His perfect will. You will see what the Church truly is and Christ's direct role in and above the Church and everything will flow from there. You MUST start with Christ as the head and allow things to be worked out from there. You cannot begin with man and think it will get you to Christ. And do not become weary in well doing for you will reap a harvest if you do not faint.
Look to Jesus, the AUTHOR and FINISHER, of our faith. He will never lead you astray.