For those who have been in the Church of Christ for a long time or even a lifetime, it can be difficult leaving. For many of us the constant teaching theme In the Church of Christ is that we can’t trust the teaching of others. To be quite fair, this should be a concern for we don’t want to go from one cult like assembly to another fellowship where someone else is twisting the Scriptures to suit their needs.
Now this is written to those who are in, what I call, the “hard core Church of Christ.” Those are churches with the teaching that one can ONLY go to heaven if they are a member of the Church of Christ. Some other descriptions of the hard core Church of Christ can be found HERE in this article. There are some Church of Christ assemblies that don’t teach like this.
This is the first article in a three part series on Leaving the Church of Christ. I would like to humbly share my story. It would be best to give a picture on what might happen to others who might also want to leave the Church of Christ. I would also like to give practical advice and insights on what worked for me. Some may have it worse and some maybe might not. It would be safe to say if you have family and friends who have been in this denomination for a longtime or a lifetime, it will be difficult to keep the normalcy in your relationship, for they will now think you are hell bound.
In 1996 I had decided to leave the Church of Christ. I was working in what most would call a NON—legalistic Church of Christ. Now there were some members, a few, who did think we were the ONLY ones going to heaven, but most of the church did not feel this way. It was a congregation of about 400 and the leadership was horrible for they led by compromise on every issue.
The church where I was working was full of people who did not think instrumental worship music was sinful. Through college and into this career I also knew that it was not a sin to have instrumental music in worship. Leaving the Church of Christ was easy for me to PERSONALLY do, however, for those close to me it was hard for them to accept.
I had been offered a job at a Christian Church nearby. I prayed over this matter much. I had no problem taking on the job but I did not want to hurt the relationships in my life if this was NOT where God wanted me. So, I asked God for a very specific sign and He provided.
The Family Reaction
First I told my parents. We sat down and had several hours of conversations over a few day period. They were not accepting even after the conversation was complete. I reasoned with them on the many topics they brought forth. I was well educated and prepared for this conversation and welcomed their questions with humility. They AGREED with my on every single point until a conclusion was reached.
Even though they agreed on EVERY point they could NOT bring themselves to seeing the conclusion. It went in circles over and again. However, because they had heard the same messages preached and taught over and again for decades, they could not see a different conclusion EVEN THOUGH IT WAS OBVIOUS. My parents had been taught that white was blue for decades. They could not understand their error.
They then proceeded to call everyone who had ever been in my life that they thought MAY have had some sort of influence in my new direction. They called old college professors, old work associates, old friends and grilled them. They blamed radio preachers and they blamed Christian Rock. Essentially they felt that I could not come to this on my own but rather I was weak minded and weak willed and would simply follow any and every little message that would come along.
At one point a friend called me after talking to my father on the phone. He shared with me that my father said, “I would rather him never go to church again than go to a ‘denominational’ church.” I forgave my father immediately. Even though almost 20 years later the words still sting slightly I have forgiven him.
The Old Friends Reaction
Next came the letters from past elders and other family members. My sisters accepted the change for even though they still remain in the Church of Christ denomination, they have no problem with other denominations. They are not hard core. But my brother had great difficulty. I received a letter from him condemning my decision and equating me to Lot of the Old Testament. I had taken phone calls from previous elders who had condemned my decision.
Though the years my parents and I have taken a “let’s just not talk about religion” stance. There have been a few times this has been breached but most often it is respected. This hurts a little because theology plays such a HUGE role in my life now and to be unable to share what the Spirit is teaching is like wearing a muzzle.
Because we are followers of Christ we MUST take on a Christ like attitude. Be humble. Not a fake humility but a true humility. Do not boast how much knowledge you have. Do not have actions or attitudes which make people feel inferior to you. Be humble.
Accept the fact that you will have critics and some of them share your last name. While Jesus was on earth, his own brother James thought he was nuts (Mark 3:21). This puts you in good company. Pray for those who treat you with spite. Bless those who curse, revile you and say all kinds of evil against you (Matthew 5:11). Be patient with people who are not on a level of Bible knowledge as you.
Having MORE knowledge does not make you more righteous not does it make you closer to Jesus. Be humble and find areas to serve. Be prepared to be disappointed and hurt at the ignorant things family and friends will say.
This is part of my story. I hope that you, the reader, can find some benefit in my experiences. God bless you in your journey.