Freedom From “Church”

True freedom is scary. Many Christians are threatened by it. I suppose their response can be justified. Freedom disturbs and often dismantles our absolutes, certainties and securities. Freedom has no regard for our presuppositions, achievements and laws. Let’s be honest: we don’t like what true freedom entails.

Maybe we like to be told what to do and what to think. We don’t want our certainties questioned. We don’t want our securities threatened. We want a manual to follow, a set of expectations to meet for our validation. We thrive on a system of achievements and failure, on brownie points and star stickers. We want people to be kept in check, to conform to the status quo; we reward them when they conform and punish them when they do not. This is our Christianity. This is our church. And all of this to the glory of God.

True freedom frees us from this system of achievement, scorekeeping and validation. It frees us from its rules and obligations. It frees us from the church institution.

True freedom frees us from Christianity. It redirects all of our focus to God alone. It prompts us to find our purpose in Him, not in the church institution; to follow Christ, not Christianity. Freedom sets us free from any system of obligation, oppression and legalism. It sets us free from having to meet man’s expectations.

For years, I attended church institutions because it was required of me. I was taught attending Sunday morning worship services was my duty. When I met a Christian who did not go to church, I would quickly judge him or her to be lazy, spiritually weak or, I’m ashamed to admit, unsaved. Perhaps I was jealous that this non-church-going Christian was free and I wasn’t.

As I’ve observed in my life, the church institution has done very little to affect my faith. In fact, the true church I experienced was outside of the institution, outside of Sunday morning. I grew in my faith through experiencing life with close friends of mine. I’ve been convicted and encouraged through relational interaction. And I’ve learned that these experiences, these realities, are the church I was called to be a part of. There are no set rules or doctrines in this church; no ministries or a status quo to conform to. This is a church where freedom reigns.

I suspect not many Christians are fond of this kind of church, of this kind of freedom. But it is the very church the New Testament speaks of. It is a church that doesn’t need an institution; a church that simply is. It has no set doctrine. It rewards no one who maintains the status quo or punishes anyone who doesn’t. All questions are allowed. Authority is respected but not glorified.

This church does not have a set place or set time because it is a reality we constantly live, not temporarily attend. Within this church, believers experience a kind of freedom that other Christians will never taste if they do not escape an institutional mentality that is built around success and achievements rather than being and living the presence of God.

Can we be honest and say that we are truly free? If we are, why do we feel like we need to constantly perform to be accepted? Why do we feel like we must do our devotional every morning, attend all Sunday worship concerts and lectures, go to small group every week, get involved in some kind of church ministry, just so that we can feel closer to God or feel connected to a church? We perform so much that we can’t possibly be successful at all these things while we are trying to work a full-time job, tend to our family responsibilities at home, and have a life. Is it any wonder why we feel so guilty when we fail to perform or succeed? And all the while, we feel like God is disappointed with us, even though He requires none of it.

God requires none of it. Where did we get the idea that we need to perform all the things we’ve invented in order to be in good relationship with Him? God’s freedom releases us from this distracting and sometimes destructive behavior. We are to simply be who we are, to know God and live out His presence. This may include being involved in some type of institution ministry, but it doesn’t mean it is a requirement to be a good Christian. That’s the brilliance of God’s freedom. We are not obligated to do what we do. We simply act out of God’s prompting and love.

Worship service on a Sunday isn’t a Biblical rule; it’s something people should want to do if they are led by God to do so. It is not a requirement to be a Christian; it is just an expression of Christians that want to worship God in that manner. Making it an obligation obliterates its beauty.

Freedom is beautiful.