WHERE TO FROM HERE? Irene Frances
I HAVE COME to accept that I may never attend church again. Given what I have been through, it is understandable. However, this decision did not fit comfortably. Some time ago I came across Greg Albrecht’s book Rejecting Religion – Embracing Grace, a book that was so timely for me. Based on Jesus’s message about religious leaders (Matthew 23), it helped me comprehend what I was going through, particularly the way many church leaders mislead and abuse their faith communities and prevent them from knowing the reality of God’s love, joy, peace, acceptance, kindness and care. However, Albrecht does not leave the message there. He is keen to have readers embrace God’s grace, and in so doing have a “dynamic relationship with God”.
As I began to re-read this book, I felt guilty for not wanting to go to church and wondered how I could be a Christian, a follower of Christ, on my own in my small community. I decided to contact the publishers of Rejecting Religion – Embracing Grace for their comment. I was grateful to have a response from the author, Greg Albrecht, and thought I would share this interaction with my followers.
In my first email, I wrote:
JUST OVER THREE YEARS ago I finally realised that the reason I could not find a spiritual home was not my supposed rebellion, but that I was seeing through the sham of religion. I am in a similar position as Greg, loving God – hating religion (and with very serious reasons). My query is – can I do this faith journey on my own? I am 73 years old and live alone. I have a precious, very close relationship with God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – but I feel guilty for not being “in fellowship”, but the thought of church makes me physically ill (please don’t judge me for saying that, there is a very serious reason for that reaction). Greg’s book Rejecting Religion – Embracing Grace has been so helpful for me to work through the many issues that came with the realisation I had been well and truly duped by fundamental evangelicalism.
It’s been a huge journey these past three years. I would appreciate your response.
I was grateful for Greg Albrecht’s response was:
While religious traditions, buildings, rituals and ceremonies are not fundamental and necessary in the life of a Christ follower, loving God and loving neighbor are central products of the life of our risen Lord – products of the love he lives in us. We are not alone because he is in us, and his life in us will spread his light into the lives of others. Others we positively effect are those most naturally in our lives – as basic and common as people we meet shopping, at doctor’s offices, commuting to and from destinations, etc. Our Christ-centered dispositions then lead us to exude his love, to be kind, gentle and patient. While such a Spirit-led life does not guarantee deep and lasting friendships, it will produce friendship and relationship at one level or another – as simple as having a cup of coffee or tea with another.
Your faith journey then may be shared with others informally, with or without the benefit of an organization. One may discuss and share their faith in a variety of ways – we speak of this mutuality as fellowship. If you never attend or join a church again, you still might find, share and give such fellowship through joining and serving in and with a charitable group, volunteer work to help others … does this provide a few thoughts for your consideration?
And to this I replied:
Thank you so much for your response to my email. Your words certainly make sense and resonate with this journey I am on.
While living alone, I must add that I live in what is called here an “over-50s active lifestyle resort”, a community of about 200 people within a small semi-rural community south of Brisbane. Since moving here about 20 months ago I have sought out residents who claim to be “Christian”. What an interesting exercise! None of them want to move from their particular brand so each one remains separate. Given your comments on how I can live for God and be an expression of God’s love for and acceptance of all people, I understand now why I can relate so well to each of them, regardless of their brand, as well as those who have no desire for God. I relate as a follower of Jesus. Here in my community I also have the privilege of being the editor of our monthly newsletter; through that I have been sharing something of God’s love and joy as much as appropriately possible for our diverse people. The response has been quite positive and it has been encouraging to have meaningful conversations with many people about the tough times they are going through and their understanding of God.
As part of my “coming out” from fundamental evangelicalism, I have become much more relaxed talking with those who give little thought to God – the wretched sinners we had to avoid like the plague unless we planned to convert them to Jesus – something my church would frown upon. But those people are far more accepting of me, and respectful, than those I tried so hard to connect with in churches. And they are open in their conversations with me. It’s as though God has been working with me in ways I had not known, but in keeping with his promises that he knows what he is doing with me. After chatting the other night with a few people from the bowls club, I was a little concerned about mixing with those so far removed from church. And then God reminded me that that was exactly what Jesus did, and he was accused of being a glutton and drunkard, friend of sinners (Matthew 11:18, 19), and he went on doing just what he was doing. My question has always been, “How on earth can those who need to know Jesus – all of us, in and out of the church – come to know Jesus if we’re afraid to talk about him?
I have been going through massive changes these past three years, particularly this past year as I’ve come to embrace what God is doing in, with and through me, and not fighting it. It is an exciting phase of my journey; I have made mistakes, but God and I are doing okay.
Once again, thank you for your response. I appreciate your understanding of what I have been experiencing.
Sometimes all it takes is for one person who understands the journey we are on to make an enormous difference to how we live it out. Greg’s words resonated so much with me and have shown me that I am on the right track—very different from what had held me captive for decades—but so very right, at long, long last. Our God is great, so very great! And awesome, and incredibly wonderful!
THIS blog, courtesy of Irene Frances, first appeared at https://irenefrances.wordpress.com/2018/12/08/where-to-from-here/