to leave the church but not leave Christ

 **disclaimer: if you still want to like me then you might want to skip this post. fyi ;) **

So apparently Donald Miller,
whom I love,
wrote a couple posts about not going to church
to which a whole bunch of Christian bloggers responded negatively
saying he is wrong, he's lost, he's blah blah blah.
Personally, my favorite response was this totally pharisaical post
called Leaving the church means leaving Christ.

I don't really like making waves, I prefer to stay out of controversy,
I want this space to be a welcoming, peaceful place.  But this one just
hit home and I can't help but respond.  I tried to comment on the post but
the author actually rejected my comment.  So I'm writing about it here.

See, there's this one thing that the author of the leaving church post and
many other churchgoers in general just don't get: by leaving the
institutional church we are not leaving The Church.  Those of us who no longer
attend a church service believe, just as the rest of you do, that

a. The Church is the Bride of Christ
b. The Church is made up of many different members and we all need each other
c. Believers should not forsake meeting together, worshipping, praying, etc.

What we don't believe is that the institutional church and The Church are one and the same.
Or that meeting together has to mean sitting next to each other on pews in a service. 
Or that the structure we have designed in our churches today is the "right way."
By not attending church we are not "leaving Christ," and someone making such a broad,
judgmental, blanket statement is totally disturbing. 

As Christians, we are a part of The Church but that has absolutely nothing to do with
attending institutional church services and it is really doing a disservice to the unity and
fellowship of The Church when it is taught and believed that church attendance is a requirement
for following Christ.

I leave you with this, a post from my defunct blog Feathers and Hope that explains our decision to leave the institutional church:

We come from church.
From hip, young, “relevant,”
“come as you are,”
lift up your hands, lay hands,
“everybody gets to play,”
worship at a rock concert,
being the cool pastor,
laughter, hang outs,
It was our life,
our home, our comfort.
It gave us vision, gave us purpose.
It opened doors and spoke affirming words.

We left the church. Contrary to popular belief,
we were not hurt by the institutional church.
We are not frustrated because we can’t find perfection or
a place that shares all of our views.
We have not been burnt out, abused, disillusioned or
any of that stuff that the church thinks
typically accompanies those who leave their institution.
We have always loved church and been warmly welcomed
into the church family everywhere we have been.
We have been embraced and helped by church family in our darkest times.
We have been housed and supported during unthinkable trials.
My husband, a single father at 15, who worked full time to
support his son and had no education, but was
gifted in wisdom and teaching,
was supported and lifted up by church family, and
welcomed as a pastor.
We have been taken in, though strangers, as family.
Loved, supported and trained to church plant.
People have poured themselves, their time,
energy and resources out
for us.
We have lifted hands and laid hands on,
we have served and been served,
worshiped, laughed, loved.
We have long been in the institutional church and
have experienced family.

So no, we were not hurt and we were not disappointed by people.
We loved church.
And yet, still, we left.
We left in order to hear God.
We left because the performance that the institution put on was so loud,
so distracting,
that the simple beauty which is the gospel,
the Love of God,
was drowned out.
We left because we looked around at the stage,
the rules,
the requirements and expectations,
the masquerading,
the pastor’s weekly performance,
the various focuses of various churches,
the putting away of children,
the bells and whistles.
We looked at them and couldn’t imagine the first Christians,
couldn’t imagine Christ,

“I can’t stand your religious meetings. I’m fed up with your conferences and conventions. I want nothing to do with your religion projects, your pretentious slogans and goals. I’m sick of your fund-raising schemes, your public relations and image making. I’ve had all I can take of your noisy ego-music. When was the last time you sang to me? Do you know what I want? I want justice -oceans of it. I want fairness -rivers of it. That’s what I want. That’s all I want.” Amos 5:21-24
The first Christians were family, they lived life together.
I imagine these early Christians would prefer gathering as often
as possible, in
various homes. I imagine one such home where
there is tri tip on the grill and
some people praying in the living room,
where a discussion is happening out back about the second coming and
no idea is shunned, not even that of the nine year old who is joining in,
where the Bible is read and talked about and there is laughter,
spontaneous music, children playing loudly and needs met. This is every day.
This is life. This is family.
And this is the Church as we see it.

So, we are not running away, not quitting,
not sulking or reacting.
We are merely pressing in, digging deeper, stripping away
everything that man has added to God’s message,
stripping down to bare bones, to the organic.
We are focused on Christ and Christ alone.

*if you are interested in really learning the roots of the modern church practices and considering a new {but old} way to be the church, please check out frank viola.


  1. amy i loved your post the first time i saw it back then, and i love it just so now, too. my husband and i are unchruched and it seems the people around us see this as some inherent flaw on our parts, not taking into any consideration how much we love the lord and each other. we were hurt by the church we attended, and for a few ppl who know of that hurt, i think they only see our so-called bitterness, but it goes beyond that, so much beyond that. anyway. just stopping to say i get it, still. misty

    1. thanks misty! it's really hard to be walking this path and have people you care about not understand, isn't it? but you are doing great and you're right where you should be :)

  2. i am glad that you have found what works for you and your family and that you state your beliefs and stand up for them so passionately. bravo! church is not a place, it's a people. absolutely. you should visit a catholic church mass sometime though if you never have ;) your opinion may change. mine did. 1 million percent. I am only offering this because i have a feeling we kinda have the same sort of way we see the world. I felt the same as you on many things and i wouldn't go to church. catholic church doesn't have any modern "nonsense" which bothered me so much too. it became sort of like a popularity show. of course, you have been a christian wayyy longer than me and know so much more about this faith than i do so you seem to be on the right track with how you guys go about it. but i want everybody to become catholic with me, of course. haha! and i know so many people have been hurt by the catholic church (and protestant church) in the past too, but pope frances was born onto this earth to change all that in my opinion. bottom line amy - do what works for you and brings you as close as you can be to God, no matter what that looks like or what form it takes and that's exactly what you are doing! xo

    1. thanks for your comment vicki. i'm so happy you have found somewhere to call home. i adore pope francis. seriously. love you.

  3. I think this is fine as long as you get outside of your four walls and do what the church did for you one time or another and serve where there is a need. Jesus was love with action when He walked this earth. He saw a need and took care of it and this is when people 'saw' Jesus for who He is,

    1. Well of course. Showing love, meeting needs... that's what it's all about. For me personally, I have found more service outside the institutional church anyway. More willingness to lay down self, possessions, time, desires. It's a beautiful thing, this Christ following :)

  4. After reading your disclaimer, I read this post because I had a feeling I would like you MORE! We recently left the church, for pretty much the same reasons. It is radical, yes, but He called us and we knew we had to answer. I'm grateful for your boldness and sharing. I pray people understand your heart, His call, when they read your words here... and that you are rewarded with his Grace as a result! Blessings to you!

  5. Thank you Amy. I love this space. You are so encouraging and I love reading your words. Quite motivating and ultimately gets me thinking-I like that, I need that :) We are going through some rough stuff and just laying it out before the Lord right now. I have no idea if we will stay in our current church building. I am trusting God's leading.


  6. Hi Amy! I just came over to check out your blog after reading Sara Janssen's. I really love what you have to say. My husband and I gave our lives to Christ only 5 years ago. We immediately started going to a nearby non denominational church called First Christian :) It's truly our second family! We've grown so much and have amazing wonderful friends and community! I also totally get how blessed we are. I have friends who have gone through some pretty crazy stuff at thier churches and left. So I totally get you :) It makes me sad that some people just give up on God, Jesus all together because of "religion" and "rules" :( I'll be sticking around to read more for sure ;) Thanks!! Colleen