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Are you a Christian? Do you go to church? If you’re anything like most Christians I know, you probably go to church… a lot. But what if you were like Tom Hanks in Cast Away, stranded on a remote island, far removed from society and its helps? What if your only company was a volleyball named Wilson? What kind of Christian would you be in that situation?
That’s the situation I’ve placed myself in by abandoning my church membership. For any group of people, there is the temptation to put your best foot forward just in case the focus falls on you. It’s human nature to portray yourself ideally. But apart from having an audience to perform for, I come face to face with what God has to look at every day: the kind of Christian I actually am.
Without the constant support of people who believe what I believe, will my beliefs change? Can I still be a Christian all alone? Frankly, if I need a bunch of Christians around me in order to be one, then I’m not one at all. I’ll be honest. I’m a little scared and I’m trying this out even though I’m not entirely sure if it’s possible for me. It could happen. But let’s see how I do.
Deuteronomy 30:17 says “This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life…”
This should be easy, right? Life is good. Death is bad. But if given a choice, where “life” is difficult, and “death” is easy, I may very well choose death. I’ve damn sure done it before. I’ll tell you now: if I’m at a restaurant and “life” tastes like beans, I’ll probably order death. I HATE beans. Clearly my logic is flawed. And this is the type of moral fortitude I’m walking into the wilderness with. [If you have any inroads with Jesus and his people, you should be praying for me RIGHT NOW.]
If you wonder how you might do in my situation, take a moment to really consider the answers to these questions:
How would you know God was pleased with you if no one was around to validate it?
If a majority of people vocally opposed what you thought you knew, you might change what you believe in order to feel socially accepted. This could easily happen in the workplace when religious and political affiliations clash. Or if no one opposed you at all, you may not have a reason to care whether God is pleased or not.
How would you manage to worship if no one lead a group sing along?
Would you remember all the words? Maybe just the choruses? Would you try to make up something sincere and hope God was satisfied with it? If you had a horrible singing voice, would you just skip that part altogether?
What about “sin management”?
Some only go to a “house of worship” to feel absolved of feelings of guilt and shame. They may feel attendance buys the forgiveness of their sin. Unable to clean yourself, would we eventually find you somewhere caked in layers of your own spiritual filth? (Be honest!)
How would you cope without basic human contact?
For many church attendees, the hug, handshake, or touch they might receive during a welcome greeting or typical altar call is the only human connection they may have.
What could substitute for the psychological needs church attendance fills?
If you’re Catholic, the cathartic feeling of being absolved of wrongdoing after confessing to a priest may be irreplaceable. If you’re a Charismatic Christian, you may need the emotional release that comes from dancing, crying, or shouting in public. How else could that need be fulfilled if a church or other religious organization didn’t establish a culture where that was deemed okay?
So look. If this goes well, I will emerge from the bush much like Tom Hanks, clothed in third world couture declaring “I have made FIRE!” I promise I will do a victory dance around the homemade grill and tell you all about it.
On the other hand, if this attempt turns out to be a miserable, miserable… miserable failure. I do have a Plan B to tuck my tail between my legs and go running back to a traditional church. The system may have flaws, but like Murphy’s Law states “if it’s stupid but it works, it’s not stupid.”
Now that I think about it, I’d like to rename this course of action Plan G. …or possibly Q.
Wish me luck.
What kind of Christian would you be without a church?
Please leave your answer in a comment below. (Use a fake name if you need to. LOL)
Three years after posting this piece, I wrote a follow-up to it:
Cast Away II: Life After Leaving Church
My present day faith is due, in large part, to a prolonged period of isolation. If you need human interaction and social acceptance to feel validated, this is a dangerous path to take. Otherwise, I say go for it. As long as you have a strong mind and a zeal for God’s word, you have everything you need to begin the journey. Eventually, prayer will become your first language. The Holy Spirit will give you the heebie jeebies when something isn’t right. Explore that feeling until you understand what it’s telling you. You’ll start to rely on instincts that you wouldn’t have otherwise known were there. In the end, you’ll be a pro at tuning out the distortion of society in order to hear God’s message. No need to place bets, because I’m sure you’ll survive. Godspeed, Mark!
As someone who adores you like a fat kid adores cake, please hear me: I love your journey. It’s amazing. As a friend, please remember to be careful not to move into your head. No one can survive there but you and I don’t know if I am strong enough to come get your out. In other words, don’t let this become total isolation from the outside world. Get some sun. Love you.
I thought you should know I’ve been taking your advice to heart. Mixing equal parts of “getting out of my head” with “letting people in.” Between the two, I’m not trapped, and I’ve got help. Love you back.
The church was never intended to be a building, a doctrine, or even a cultural/ political epicenter, it was intended to be a movement. The fact that you have reached this very valid place in your journey with God underscores the dysfunctional state of the body. However, I will say this, no believer was expected or intended to walk the journey of faith alone. Hebrews 10:25 states ”
Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” Do I believe this means being a part of a “church” assembly? No, but it does mean coming together from time to time with people who share your faith, your best interest, and God’s heart. That could be one or two people though. I also am a firm believer of spending time alone with God in Nature. There is a special connection there. It’s not a coincidence that Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gadsemede. I do pray you the best on your quest to find your truth within the confines of God’s Truth. Hey I made a rhyme! Lol
Rhyming truth with truth? Don’t waste your good material on me. LOL All signs point to this period in my walk being absolutely necessary. I think of it as an opportunity to put into practice what I know. I’ve had some successes and some failures. It’s probably time I revisit this topic too. Thanks for reminding me!
Sorry, I need my peoples. You can have the whole wide world, but give me the people of God. I love hearing the word (although sometimes it hurts, but I got to take it if I want to make it), I love the fellowship. We worship together, sing together, and I get a great joy in hearing how some were tested and God gave them the victory because they held it. It helps me. Every little bit helps me. NOW! Even when I’m not around anyone, I STILL pray. When I’m alone, I STILL give God a song (in fact, those are some of my best ones, because I add lyrics that I may not want the congregation to hear (rather personal), but God already knows my life so He understands). I’m pretty much the same way all around. I just try to do better, because I really want God to be pleased. I have to live a life for God. I need all the help that I can get. With God’s help, I believe I’ll make it.
Listen, dear. I don’t mean to poo-poo your love for God’s people, but I’m gonna have to poo-poo your love for God’s people. My issue is that even though they are called by God’s name, when put under pressure, they still act like regular people. Their propensity towards working my nerves and doing so with the strength of a mob… is HIGH.
Bless God for the support they provide you. But just know there is a downside. Because if you make the mistake of thinking that your people, even though not perfect, are above certain things, and would “NEVER do” other things, please believe me… The let down that happens when they do those things can be devastating.
That’s like people who say “Oh MY dog? No. My dog is friendly. He would never hurt a fly!” Ma’am, please. YOUR dog has teeth and like every other dog, has the ability to wig the hell out and snatch a chunk out of the mailman’s left leg. Just because you haven’t seen him do it doesn’t mean he can’t. And just because he’s NEVER done it, doesn’t mean he won’t.
I’m not saying don’t enjoy God’s people. I’m just saying please be aware. Keep your eyes open and guard your heart. Always! 🙂
How has this been going? Interested in hearing some of the answers to the questions you have posed. Maybe you have answered some of them, but I haven’t been keeping up.
I should probably write a proper follow-up since it’s been one of the more popular posts. I’ve circled back to the topic a couple times. Try these:
Now that I go back and skim this article, there are several follow-ups that need to be written. And some that have been written, I’ve just been timid about publishing them. I also wrote about not tithing to a church for a year and the effect that’s had.
Thanks for checking in though, Vic. I think I needed the kick in the pants!