Welp. Here you are.
Looking out into the great abyss and thinking, “Yeah, I’m going there.”
Deep down though, you’re also thinking, “I have absolutely lost my mind” because essentially, you are abandoning a cruise ship and boarding a life boat.
Why on earth would anybody go through with this? Why not just stay in the comfort of the ship? Would it be possible to simply hold to the good and discard the bad?
Here’s the problem. At this point, you have seen too much. You know things are not right. You’ve witnessed the commandments of men preached as doctrine. You seen the overregulation of freedom in Christ. You are not permitted to ask real questions. You can’t be honest about who you are the areas where you are struggling.
The real you knows… it’s time to leave your church.
But the problem is, it’s everything you’ve ever known.
You’re scared. You are really scared. And you seriously doubt you’ll be able to go through with it. You wonder if you will survive. You think the probability is high you will land right back where you started, only then, you’ll be humiliated for trying and failing. You wonder then if you should even give this a go?
I’m here to say, YES, you DEFINITELY should.
Because, while setting out on your own is frightening, it’s also part of your big adventure. And you’re here. Now. In this place. At this time. And God’s been watching the whole way. This may just be the start of something most beautiful. Don’t fool yourself, there is great risk in this endeavor. But if you are willing, the potential reward far outweighs the risk.
That said, you need to prepare. After all, you don’t want to be casualty here. When you first leave your church, you will feel a huge sense of relief, but after some time, you will find yourself running on empty and possibly resentful. This is something you obviously want to avoid. But how?
Load up on the sermons
This is so exciting! Except when it’s not. Once out on your own, you will discover how much you need food. If you don’t forage for your family and you, you will find yourself fit-to-be-tied. That’s southern for “quite cranky.”
Do you remember those Snickers’ “Don’t be a diva” commercials from a few years back?
“Hangry” is definitely a thing, both physically and spiritually. If you don’t seek out some spiritual food, you will wear down. In addition to daily Bible reading, prayer, and meditation, you need to seek out some sound, doctrinal preaching to supplement you. The good news is… there’s soooooo much content out there! Between podcasts, YouTube, local church websites, and (old school) sermonaudio.com, there’s a lot to choose from. My go-to’s for spiritual meat are Joel Osteen, T.D. Jakes, and Joseph Prince.
Just seeing if you were paying attention (go ahead forgive my cynicism if you feel so inclined). On a serious note, Alistair Begg and John McArthur have been great for me as of late. Matt Chandler and Andy Stanley helped me in the early days. Don’t take my word for it though. You get to start making your own decisions here. Can you believe it? You… choosing who you listen to. Isn’t it amazing?
That’s where you are in life now. And hey, just as a reminder, if you know the Lord, and you are truly seeking His guidance, He will help you. He promised (Matthew 5:6, James 1:5).
The perfect church doesn’t exi…
There are quite a few nothingburger churches in America.
There. I said it.
The church-search can be exhausting. It can also be discouraging. You will oft times feel like a square peg in a round hole because of where you come from. Go ahead and prepare yourself (and your family) that you very well may head out on any given Sunday to try something new, and in fact come home empty-handed. Trust me, this one really stinks. If you want to save yourself some frustration here, you could take some time and watch old live services of the churches you are considering. It’d be worth your while for sure.
Check the grumblies at the door
Admit or not, there’s still a little fundy that lives inside you. He may be in a deep, dark corner somewhere living like a little troll, but make no mistake, he’s there. You’ll have to consistently remind yourself that you have been programmed (and I mean that fully) to accept and reject certain things based on your past experiences. For better or worse, those traditions are still there (even those you dislike), and we tend to default to what is familiar. New experiences can be anxiety-inducing (especially for the introverts in the room). Remember though, just because something is new/foreign to you doesn’t necessarily mean that’s it’s wrong. As a counter-point, go ahead and grant yourself the freedom to like and dislike things. You are a human being and you’re allowed to have preferences. Just don’t allow those surface-level preferences stonewall potentially good things.
Hold a home service or two
Use your new-found freedom and do some early New Testament-style church… which is at home!
Does that make you nervous? It really shouldn’t. If you are a parent, it can be one of the mist fulfilling experiences you’ve ever had. Back when the quarantines started last year, we did home-church quite a bit, and it was so much fun. We actually recorded one of our our little “services” here if you’d like to watch how we do it.
With home-church, you need to do three simple things…
Read the Bible. doesn’t need to be a lengthy or difficult portion of Scripture. A short story from the gospels, Paul’s letters, or even the Old Testament would be great. Read it, talk about it, and maybe ask some questions. You won’t believe what you and your family will come up with on the fly!
Pray. Revolutionary, right? You could say that a family that prays together stays together (cheesy, I know, but good nonetheless). Children need to hear their parents praying for them, their needs, and their salvation (if they’ve not yet accepted Christ). There is truly nothing like a parent praying over their home, or a spouse praying for their marriage. Truly precious!
Sing. This is honestly my favorite part (don’t judge me)! You don’t have to be a great singer either, you just need to be “spirited.” Okay, so maybe it does help if you can carry a tune, but still, musical ability is not the main thing here. What is the main thing though is singing the praises of God together! Get on the internet and look up a meaningful (or fun) Jesus song and let it rip. You’ll have a blast and your close neighbors may or may not thank you.
Now, back to it. In summary, you need to remember one last thing, and that is…
You are not alone
When you depart from what you’ve always known, you’ll be surprised at how fast that Elijah complex sets in – “God, I’m the only one left?!” You probably know by now that there are actually quite a few of us out here. It may take us a while to find each other, but we exist.
You CAN do this.
It is going to be difficult, for sure. But what is more difficult is pretending to go along with doctrines and dogma you don’t believe. It’s too late for you. You can’t put the cat back in the bag. At this point, you must either move forward into the unknown, or wither away right there until you die.
Scary, yes. But remember, the same God that called Abraham out from everything he ever knew is doing something similar with you. There’s some perspective for you, aye? You may be an awkward duck for a while, but you will land somewhere.
You will survive.
So, what did you think? Am I on? Am I off? Do you pioneers have any other valuable insight you could share with others just starting out on their journey? Feel free to comment here on this blog. I’d love to interact with you. Also, if you want to be notified each time I post something new, plug in your email address here, and it’ll magically happen.