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Growing my spiritual life: Why loving God, making friends and serving others aren’t good reasons for me to go to church

1 Peter 2:2 Be like newborn babies, crying out for spiritual milk that will help you grow into salvation 3 if you have tasted and found the Lord to be good.

I love living in a diverse eclectic, urban neighborhood on one of the most iconic streets in my town. At least 12 or more houses of worship of all types coexist with tall concrete buildings, stores, schools, one single-family home, multi-family dwellings and funeral homes are located in a two-block area. My block is bound by a Lutheran and a Methodist church. I’m sure they are wonderful congregations. The Lutheran pastor is a kind man who invited me to visit the church when I sent him a note thanking him because the church bells always seem to ring at the right time. I've visited the Methodist Church on the opposite side of the block and they are fine folks. 

But today, I take issue with their ADVERTISING sign: Love God. Make Friends. Serve Others.

I no longer believe that I have to go to church to do that effectively.  

You see, I stopped going to church on Sundays because I always left the service, meeting, gathering or activity with a huge hole in my soul. 

Something was missing.

Let me make it perfectly clear: I have absolutely nothing against the church where I married and raised my daughter. It is a large Protestant denomination church with two campuses that serve distinct target markets – and I love people at both locations. I miss seeing the wonderful pastors who have a heart for God. I miss the ladies in my Sunday school class. I shared life with them for a few years. I miss the many people who were wonderful to my daughter during her student years. I am eternally grateful to them. 

It took me a while to fit in at that church (it helped that a friend and my daughter attended), but I found a good Sunday school class. I found my spiritual mentor, a woman who is crazy about the Lord. I was talked into leading a women’s ministry program, which I did. I taught a young women’s class and I also mentored a group of young women. And, I also facilitated a small Bible study group at our downtown church during the week.

I fit into the church culture extremely well. If you read my blog posts from 2009, you’ll see that I was on the leadership path. I even considered going to seminary thinking that maybe God was calling me to become ordained.

But the right church, pastor and people are not enough when your soul seeks an intimate connection to Jesus Christ. I wanted more of the Lord; I want to know His heart and soul. I wanted a revelation of His heart.

I got that revelation last year.

It was mind-boggling and it has taken months of processing to be able to tell you that I am a friend of God.

I know God as a friend.

I never imagined it could be true. But He revealed his vulnerable “heart of a friend” to me at a time I desperately needed to know it.

Never in a million years could I ever imagine God loving and trusting me enough to show me His friendship. 

The fact is that God loves. God loves deeply.

And my life is whole because he revealed that deep love.  

I did nothing to deserve that revelation except that I kept pushing wanting to know Him more.

I want the things of God. 

I did not want to remain a spiritual baby.

Church kept me spiritually immature. I kept searching for what they did not have. I did not need more opportunities to serve aka ministry or administrative board involvement. 

I was already an award-winning volunteer.  Giving back is part of our family history. I grew up with people who had generous servant hearts.

I kept thinking that surely there was more. I was grasping, reaching for God. Church provided many Bible studies and opportunities to gather. 

But there wasn't anything to satisfy my hunger for God.

Even in a giant church with great resources, I could not find God.

Eventually I realized that relegating God to my Sunday experiences had to stop. God stopped church attendance for me.

Now I live with God all the time. I worship Him freely, passionately. I talk to other believers.  I’m taught by those who are also free from the institution of church and religion.  I am careful who I listen to.

My relationship with God is my existence. I eat, live and sleep God. I love the Lord more than my life.

My life with God is my religion.

The things that matter in my life are aimed at God and the people he puts in my path. My life is an extension of God’s work, tailor-made for me.

God wants me. He wants all of my life. That’s my ministry: To Love God completely.

I trust God completely. Not man. Not religion.



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Scriptures for life

Compiled December 2011
These are a few of my favorite Scriptures. I cannot live my life without God and his word. I keep a 3x5 wire bound note diary of verses that pop off the pages of my Bibles. This helps me in case I need to comfort someone with a specific verse. Start your own collection!


Comfort

Psalm 119:76 Comfort me with your love, as you promised me, your servant.
Job 4:4 Your words have comforted those who fell, and you have strengthened those who could not stand.
Strength

Psalm 18:1 I love you, LORD. You give me strength.
Psalm 29:11 The Lord gives his people strength. The Lord blesses them with peace.
Psalm 118:14 The Lord gives me strength and a song. He has saved me.
Isaiah 40:29 The LORD gives strength to those who are weary.
Deuteronomy 33:27 The eternal God is your shelter, and his everlasting arms support you.
1 Corinthians 15:58 … don’t let anyone move you off the foundation of your faith.
Psalm 31:24 Be strong, all who wait with hope for the LORD, and let your heart be courag…

Sin on the journey

Before I know it, sin drips from my mouth and floods my mind. Oh the struggle.
Romans 7:22-23 I love to do God’s will so far as my new nature is concerned; but there is something else deep within me, in my lower nature, that is at war with my mind and wins the fight and makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. In my mind I want to be God’s willing servant, but instead I find myself still enslaved to sin. So you see how it is: my new life tells me to do right, but the old nature that is still inside me loves to sin. Oh, what a terrible predicament I’m in! Who will free me from my slavery to this deadly lower nature? Thank God! It has been done by Jesus Christ our Lord. He has set me free. 
My current struggle is in not easily recognizing the extent of my sinfulness. I can easily preach it, but continuous righteous living eludes me.
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