This is a follow up to I pledge my head to Christ Jesus (link).
A year ago last October, Karen and I relocated from IL to WA and for several months we attended a small independent country church. Though we intended to go only to meet other believers, we soon found ourselves ensnared by church politics and involved in a number of church programs. The church politics came to us as gossipers and busybodies tried to enlist our support for their church issues. Church programs were something we saw the need for and volunteered while others were at the request of church leaders.
On several occasions one of us informed the other that we’d have to cancel our personal plans because we’d been “volunteered” for a church job. It seemed like overnight that the peace and contentment we’ve known while involved in home fellowship these last 15 years turned to strife and contention with each other as various church jobs began to trump our time together. Blessed retirement turned to labor; in fact, people used scripture in manipulative ways or pleaded on our emotions to conscript us.
The issue came to a head 1 week before our wedding anniversary weekend when we realized we could not go away to celebrate like we do every year because we had signed up for 4 different church jobs between us.
“We’re stuck” Karen said. “Nope” said I and fired off several emails “UN-volunteering” us from every church job.
It’s difficult to describe the spirit of contention that brought such strife to our marriage home. Who were these people, this church, who could insert themselves between my wife and I, effectively putting the sheep of Jesus pasture to work in support of man’s traditional church? We experienced nothing like that during the 15 years we followed Jesus alone and came to know the joy of His easy yoke and light burden. There was nothing easy and light about the church work and politics that sought to ensnare us.
To restore the peace of our marriage relationship, we went to the Lord in prayer with fasting. The Lord brought to mind Ephesians 5 which says Christ is the head of the husband and the husband is head of the wife. He also reminded us of the pastor’s homily when we were married, referring to the strength of the 3 stranded cord (Ecclesiastes 4:12), while admonishing us to cleave to one another, and us to Jesus.
Nowhere in scripture does the church come between Christ and a husband and wife, yet man’s traditional church often asserts itself as an authority over or between married couples. And this from a church that teaches Ephesians 5!
If the church were to honor marriages and practice the precepts of Ephesians 5 like they teach and admonish married couples to do, should they not ask every potential volunteer to pray and discuss their service with their spouse before accepting? To assign one spouse to service without consent of the other is to dishonor the other spouse. How can this be anything other than a kind of spiritual adultery when the church comes between man and wife whom Paul refers to as “one flesh”?
When the Lord had shown me this, I became furious, even jealous for the affections of my wife which these uninvited suitors had encroached upon. About the time I loosed my inner “Rambo” on the vain works that sought to ensnare and divide us, my father called to relate a dream God had given him about the church we were attending. In it God instructed my father to warn me “not to repeat the mistakes of the past … and to … get out of the way and let it fail (link)”.
I was floored by God’s warning through my dad for I had never before told him about my similar dream and very same instruction God gave me 15 years earlier. Immediately I backed away from every church job and involvement while asking God to show me what getting “out of the way” was supposed to look like.
My only issue was whether or not it was possible to continue attending “worship services” without getting more involved? I pondered the question with prayer and concluded that it was not possible, since regular church attendance implies submission to church teaching and leadership together with the expectation of financial support. The church ‘Constitution and Bylaws’ convey that understanding by referring to those who attend but do not become full members as “associate members” (membership by association). Consequently I decided to leave that church altogether.
As quickly as the turmoil had invaded our marriage home, it fled when we left the church and resolved to follow and submit to Christ alone.
“Breaking bread from house to house” Acts 2:46
Of course our decision has left us alone to each other again, save for Christ Jesus and a few precious friends. More than me, my beloved desires the fellowship of friends. And so our hope is to fellowship with each other in our homes; several of our friends have expressed an interest. I can only pray that the Lord provides for fellowship and hope that people are hearing the Lord’s call to “Come out of her, My people!” (Revelation 18:4) unto genuine relationship with Christ Jesus and the sons of God in Christ.