I’m standing at the edge. Ready to make the next step. Terrified but determined. A call, simple and quiet, beckons me to leave. I face the unknown. The vast before me. I fear this place. So why would I be standing at the edge, willingly heading into this place? Some say I’m foolish. Some say I’m lost. Some say I’ll die out here. I only know that His voice calls me. To make the journey into this place. To leave all I know behind and wander the landscape. Like the pioneers before me I begin the journey into the wilderness.
It’s been 8 years since I left the church. I’ve only begun to examine some deep hurts, the result of the place I grew up. I’ve been tempted to return at least a dozen times. I’ve screamed at Abba at least a hundred times. Yet, I can’t return. I’ve been called to walk this path. I’m beginning to discover that I’m not alone. There are hundreds…thousands…of us. Pioneers who have been asked to leave the structured system of church community to discover a new community. Living free. Listening only to the voice of the Shepherd leading us into the wilderness. Like Abraham we must rely on faith to continue to follow his lead. We know not where we are going, we know not the path. We only know His voice.
A friend posted a blog piece written by John Pavlovitz titled “What Church People Really Need To Know About Once-Churched People.” It resonated with me and I shared it on Facebook. Many of my friends, some closet un-churched pioneers, responded a hearty amen. Yet, there’s still an element of “you are missing the point” in this article.
There’s this idea that in order to be a once-churched person one or more of the following things must have happened:
- We have experienced a crisis which rocked our faith;
- We let our faith fade as life beat us up;
- We were hurt or abused by the church;
- We’ve been disappointed by those in leadership
- We have unanswered prayers;
- We have unanswered questions; or
- We simply quit believing.
I’d like to propose that possibly, just possibly, those of us who are the “Once-Churched People” left the church because the Shepherd called us out. Yes, the catalyst that caused us to leave may have been trauma, abuse, disappointment or apathy. People who leave under those circumstances usually end up leaving faith altogether. When you talk to them they are bitter, angry or cynical. They want NOTHING to do with God, Jesus or this whole spiritual thing. We are not these type of people.
Walking into the wilderness, creating a community, having only the voice of the Shepherd as our guide is HARD work. Our faith has grown stronger not dimmer. We no longer settle for a simple “This is the way it is.” answer to our questions. We cannot settle for a Go-to-Church on Sunday approach to living. The further we walk into this wilderness the more we desperately seek for the Kingdom to come bursting into this world. We begin to understand that the God of the Universe is far bigger and powerful than we imagine and it takes us humbly to our knees.
Christianity has 2,000 years of tradition. A tradition that has developed the gospel of Jesus into a religious system that looks more like a corporation than the living, breathing body of Christ. I grew up in the system and I still miss some benefits of being a church community. But I no longer hear His voice there. I no longer see his arms and feet. I no longer can recognize his face. So I walk in the wilderness because at least there, the one I love, who fills my soul, is alive.
I don’t pretend that everyone is called to be an un-churched pioneer. I am called to be one. I am following the call on my life. I know not where I’m going. What will happen. I know the adventure will never be dull. I KNOW where my Shepherd is…as long as He is with me I need not fear.
So, love us, the wild adventurers of the Kingdom. If you listen closely, you can hear us sing the hymn of the Pioneers.
Where are we going
Oh I don’t know
But still I’ve got to go
What will become of us
Oh I don’t care
All I know is I’ll go anywhere
– The Band Perry
Writer(s): Clara Henningsen, Aaron Henningsen, Brian Henningsen, Neil Perry, Kimberly Perry, Reid Perry
Copyright: Pearlfeather Publishing, Emi Blackwood Music Inc., Famdamily Music, Rainbow Skyline Music, When I Go To The Moon Music, Cactus Moser Music, Sony/ATV Countryside