Annette’s Story (changed name )
I had a great start to my Christian walk with lots of one-on-one discipling, love, people helping me find my spiritual gifts and then encouraging me to take a part in using them. I was encouraged to study the bible and apply it and understand about evangelism and constantly be encouraged to think who am I reaching out to and discipling. But having moved area my experiences in church went downhill from there, being subjected to little support in applying my gifts or people knowing where I felt called , suspicion or just lack of interest. I was only offered a sermon and a small group which was often more preaching or a DVD. I had little opportunity to build quality relationships as most was content orientated. If we set something up as a ministry it often did not get the support from top leaders and so often fizzled. I kept believing there was a different form out there but each one focused on one thing whereas I wanted all the aspects that I found in the bible. I wanted to pray with my leaders, be encouraged to evangelize in the workplace, help them find my gifts and provide an opportunity for mentoring / coaching that would have kept me engaged. I also wanted leaders of departments to serve the bigger need by bringing in others not taking control of their dept in the way that suited them. I wanted the church to share clearly where it felt God was leading us in the next year and what is what seeking to achieve in more detail than broad mission statements ( not keep that hidden to avoid accountability) and to place more emphasis round people development I still believe church can provide all this and with a lot of quick changes we can bring it back to more of a biblical model . I don’t know how much more I can stand from what I see in church today. I love God passionately and want to see leaders understand there are lots of us who feel this way and to understand it is their responsibility to change something.
Andrew’s Story (name changed)
I have been a Christian over 30 years with a short spell in ministry. Most of my career has been in a secular sphere where I rose to the highest level affording me the privilege to choose not to work. My church experience has left me disengaged with the church. I honestly believe business works in a more honoring and trusting way than any church I have been to. In business a new starter is quickly brought in, trusted and past experience valued and sought. Roles are given appropriate to the person and individual development plans created. Feedback and coaching are the norm. Now, I am not so naive as to say all business is like that , but I do wish the church would have honored me in that way . We have a great god who wants us to show more to the world of his love and transforming power.
My experiences of church leadership and governance leave me in no doubt which form of government operates almost universally in Australian churches. I have found that church leaders to some degree or another:
• expect their congregation to commit to the vision either the head pastor/minister or the inner core of leaders determines for the church;
• tend to make decisions concerning the church for and on behalf of the congregation without full congregational involvement and approval, even where churches are supposed to be governed by congregations democratically;
• tend to resist the giftedness of the whole congregation which leads to the question are they building up their own ministry
• determine in advance how each meeting should be conducted and ordered not leaving much space for the holy spirit;
• seriously struggle to facilitate the supernatural manifestation of the Spirit in church meetings so that church members are genuinely built up and matured into Christlikeness; and
• have absolutely no idea how the greater church community can ever come to one mind on any one thing, let alone all things (note 1 Corinthians 1:10; Philippians 2:2 and 1 Peter 3:8 in the light of Romans 12:1-2; 1 Corinthians 2:16).
Furthermore, it is rather obvious to me that this present democratic-style rule of the church by privileged office-bearers within the various church leadership structures is not causing the church to impact our nation in any significant way, hence the contemporary church right across the Western World has been in a serious and steady decline, despite the mega-church phenomenon. Burnout and depression among Christian leaders/ministers throughout the Western World is at epidemic levels — this is not the rest Jesus offers us. Things need to change!
For me, personally, the way forward is to restructure how we do church so that Jesus Himself personally guides and directs us as the Head of His Body through the charismatic giftings across the whole local Christian community, which is facilitated and safe-guarded by all five ministry giftings, not just pastors and teachers. This is, in my understanding, the clear meaning of Ephesians 4:11-16, Ephesians 2:19-22 and Colossians 2:19 in tandem with passages like 1 Corinthians 14:26-33 and 1 Thessalonians 5:19-21. I have experienced such a manifest, supernatural presence of Jesus in the midst of the congregation on some rare occasions where Jesus Himself dynamically, in person, in the here and now, speaks and acts in the midst of His people.
Carey’s story ( name changed)
I am a new Christian under 5 years, I was radically saved which means I was someone who was leading a destructive life and very unrighteous then filled with the Holy Spirit and a great transformation took place instantly. I know longer wanted anything to do with my past ways of living my life, I was in love with Jesus and I wanted all things new. However, all things don’t change so fast, some things changed instantly while other things I created in my life over 30 years needed some work, some understanding of the bible and Jesus to set me free in that area so I could know the truth and lead a righteous life.
In my first church which I really loved, I was sadly instructed that I could not serve Jesus where I wanted to in the church because of a situation that according to the Pastors was ‘not right’ and until my situation changed, I would have to stay serving where they would have me to serve. My situation was in-fact biblically correct, I did not know that at the time and I felt really bad and condemned, if I did not have a close relationship with Jesus I would have walked out of all church. I later attended a second church, that did not mind me serving Jesus where I felt I was being lead to, but they really could offer no support or help with my situation biblically other than ‘get it sorted out asap’ which was no help at all, of course I wanted it sorted out but I was new and looking for support and guidance. I later again attended another church and this time my Pastor understood my situation and supported me on my journey and showed me the truth of my situation in the bible. My point is this: had I not pressed into Jesus with a close relationship through my own prayer time, study time and listening to Him I would have left the church feeling very torn apart and in a worse state than before. It was a very long 2.5 years of feeling bad about my situation with no support from my earlier churches, people were quicker to judge than to help me in love and in truth, allowing the Holy Spirit to do what was needed. This needs to change, we all come to church with ‘something’ not one person is perfect, we need love and support to help us in our situation not judgement’s or being left to ‘sort it out yourself’ or we will see more people leave the church than ever before.
Life outside the church –Richard’s story
It’s a long story but in 2008 after twenty-three years of pastoral ministry, I unexpectedly found myself working in the community development sector of local government. In Council, my institutionalised church mind was stretched as I observed God’s work in the world being implemented by agencies other than the church through the development and delivery of policies and programs that were contributing to a more just, equitable and livable society. Up until then, I’d seen the church as the sole facilitator of the missio Dei (the mission of God).
The change in career also ushered me into the long forgotten world of the congregation member. Gracing the pews was a disconcerting experience. I was alarmed to find how disempowering, uninspiring and theologically inept the average church service could be when you weren’t the leader. I regularly found myself saying to my wife , “Please tell me we didn’t do this to people”. Disillusioned, I stopped attending church as I’d traditionally known it.
The decision to re-engage with pastoral ministry after two years working at Council wasn’t easy. But I felt compelled to help curate a space centred around God as a relational community; somewhere inclusive in which people were given a voice; where we weren’t too quick to provide answers but gave room for questions and doubt; where love was more important than everyone believing the right thing; light on programs but big on encouraging people to see themselves as carriers of God’s kingdom wherever they went.
Carey’s Story(name changed)
Why I have moved away from Christian Churches.
I really believed with all my heart I am called by God to preach and teach His Word and for the last few years that has been by aim to lead a church. I volunteered countless hours in church, gave thousands to church, attend bible College and leadership programs all to head towards my dream of running a church. I now realise that none of what I had done is biblical including all the money spent within the church. I had a stirring in my heart that what I was hearing and seeing in Christian churches was not biblical and this stirring began after reading in the bible and how the early church began and I sort out to investigate more about the early church, through scripture, books and websites. Since my studies on the early church I now see that where I was heading was not at all biblical, I was heading straight into a manmade system of religion and most of which is stardom, fame and attraction to be the top preacher in town with the best looking building. Thankfully that’s not my direction anymore; to teach and preach is and we are all called to this however it will be in an Ecclesia group. I want to encourage you to read the book, Pagan Christianity by Viola and Barna, you will read what you already know to be true in your heart.
How does contemporary preaching help us today? Are we growing spiritually or does it stagnate us?
I believe it stagnates us and stops the spiritual growth in our lives and all the evidence is in the bible to support this, and the way in which preaching is done today has not been authored by God. It all began with Pagan Christianity and then stardom preaching and buildings become popular with the reign of Constantine. Preaching today is very different from the early church it does not resemble how church was if we look through scripture.
Ecclesia is the original church, the called out ones of God who came together in a group in their houses to worship, preach, teach, exalt and encourage each other all together and there is no hierarchy of leadership. Ecclesia is all of us experience Jesus Christ together, we are each called out by God and are equal with each other, and we are each there to present our gifting from God to help grow the body which is us the believer. Everyone has an opportunity to share Christ together as we are inspired by God to talk and present Him in the group. We each are able to talk, discuss, open questions and allow the Holy Spirit to move freely, by coming together in the original form of Ecclesia we are able to grow spiritually. We are all active participants, there are no set agenda’s, no Pastor, no worship team and communion is a meal that we have together to be joyful in what Christ has done for us.
Today it seems Ecclesia is lost, we attend church like a lower ranked minister of Christ, we do not need to be ordained or gone to bible college to be able to stand up on the stage and preach. I know I felt many times not good enough to be like the Pastor or visiting Pastors, that they are so much more blessed by God than me, you could say I looked at them like they are God. I felt I had to ask permission to speak up if the Spirit of God had laid something on my heart, and then in no way did I want to approach the front where all the super leaders are and if I did would they let me speak? I felt like everything was a Sunday motion that you go through, its ‘Super Spiritual Sunday’ I get to dress up, be god like and I tried to fit in with all the top leaders so that I can move up in the ranks. What I was seeing and being taught within my church made me feel like this, that I had to prove myself to be someone before I could get to the next level. This is exactly what Jesus came to abolish; religion a manmade system of rules and making people feel they are less in God.
I’m not being hard, I love all my Christian brothers and sisters although I don’t have to agree with what they do. Please read all about the early church and scripture so that you can fully understand how it has become a religion. Here is a little from the ‘Pagan Christianity’:
‘Is Preaching and teaching the Word of God scriptural? Yes, But the contemporary pulpit sermon is not the equivalent of the preaching and teaching that is found in the Scriptures. It cannot be found in Judaism of the Old Testament, the Ministry of Jesus or the life of the primitive church. What is more, Paul told his Greek converts that he refused to be influenced by the communication patters of his pagan contemporaries (1 Corinthians 1:17, 22, 2:1-5)….The sermon was conceived in the womb of Greek rhetoric. It was born into the Christian community when pagans-turned Christians began to bring their oratorical styles of speaking into the church’….
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