Jim is the contributor for Done with Religion, a blog site about living for God in a non-religious way. Jim grew up being part of the Methodist church for several years, then was part of several non-denominational churches over the next few years before leaving the institution. He and his wife, after many years in the organized church, have been living for God outside the walls of the traditional church. They live in the central Ohio area. Along with his blog, you can connect with Jim on Facebook and Twitter.
My wife and I grew up in the organized church, spent many years involved and enjoyed it. At the time we thought this is what God intended and was the only way to obey the commands of the Bible about meeting together.
After years in the organization, we began to have an uneasy feeling about the way church was done. We were very unsatisfied each week going to a building, listening to one group of people lead the singing, then listening to one person do all the talking.
We started wondering why the pastor was the only person who had authority to speak for God and tell us how we were to act and believe. When we read verses such as I Corinthians 14:26 about each one of us having something to say, we wondered why that never happened.
After several years of questioning and being unhappy with the way church was performed, my wife and I made a decision to stop attending and see how we felt.
Of course the first thing many people told us was that we were wrong for staying away because the bible says not to forsake the assembling of yourselves together. After thinking about that verse for a while, I came to the conclusion that it was not talking about an organized meeting once a week in a building. We took this verse to mean that we needed our brothers and sisters in Christ on a daily basis in normal day to day living.
The first several months after leaving church as we knew it, the thing that seemed like a priority to us was finding something else to get involved in such as a small group or house church. After a short time we came to find that many house churches and small groups were actually nothing more than church on a smaller scale.
Now that we have been out of the organized system for a couple years, we are coming to realize we are having more meaningful fellowship without any type of organized group or meeting. Living for Christ is a daily lifestyle not a one day or now and then way of living. Jesus is living within us by the Holy Spirit and we fellowship with Him daily. He has been bringing people into our lives that share our thoughts about organized church, some for a long period, some for a short while, and others just on a one time basis.
We have found that since being out of the church system, we depend on God more and enjoy meaningful fellowship with others more than we did when it was at a set place on a set time frame with only a few select people in charge and doing all the teaching.
We believe that Church is a community of believers who get together anytime, anywhere, no matter if it is only 2 or 3 people. This is the assembling of the believers to us, fellowship time together anytime God brings it about realizing God is within us and we are the Church.
I am not going to say that the organized church is a bad thing, though I do believe it is not what God meant when He said He would build His Church. I have many happy memories in church, made many friends there and learned a lot about our Father. Yet at this point, neither my wife nor I would want to go back into the organized church with its many doctrines and religious ways of doing church. We have found so much more meaning and fellowship outside the walls and we are enjoying our walk down this path God has lead us too.
We also find it interesting that God leads us to people when we least expect it, even when it is someplace that no one would expect such as a restaurant, park, work or even a pub. We have also made a lot of friends that many religious people would not want to be around, yet the love of Christ within us draws us together in love and acceptance.
We were always taught in the church that we should separate ourselves from the non-believers and only talk to them when we could ‘witness’ for Christ. Basically that seems to mean talk to non-believers only when we can point out their mistakes or condemn them for their way of life. I never found in the bible where Jesus treated anyone that way.
If you are satisfied with the week to week services and religious ways of doing church that is OK. Stay there and enjoy the time you have with other like-minded believers. If you are questioning the way church is done, or if you are dissatisfied and looking to leave the organization then do so without feeling guilty. Seek God and ask Him to lead you, teach you and guide you in this new path outside the walls of religion.
Please note that as I point these out I am not trying to be critical of Christians. Instead, I am hoping to make us real. The watching world is tired of empty answers to important issues, and instead wants us to engage them in real conversations about the pressing questions of our day. We can never do this if we always resort to Christian Clichés
So here are a few more Christian Clichés to avoid like the plague:
You’re Covered in the Blood!
Eeewww. That sounds … terrible. It sounds like a Freddy Krueger movie. I really don’t want to take a bath in blood.
Just Press In to God
Press in to God? What does that mean? How do I do it? Where is God so that I can press in to Him?
And won’t He think that’s a little strange if I press myself up against Him?
God is Good? … All the Time! … All the Time? … God is Good!
Lots of Christians include this sort of chant in their Sunday services.
But what does it mean? Is it even true?
Well, of course it’s true, but when a person is facing trouble and trials in life, does chanting this do anything to help? No. Not really.
Brother … Sister
This is when Christians refer to each other as “Brother” and “Sister” as in “Brother Bob here …”
Unless I have heart problems, I am not sure my heart needs to be blessed.
It’s Good to Be in the House of the Lord
The house of the Lord? This building we’re in is God’s house?
Does He live here? Does He sleep here?
And what about the church down the road? Is that His House also? Why does He have so many houses? Does He really need them all?
Let Go and Let God
Let go of what? And let God do what? Are you saying I should just sit on my couch all day and let God run things for my life? I’m pretty sure that if I did this, I would lose my job, destroy my marriage, and die from starvation. So clearly there are numerous things God cannot do for me in my life. How can I know that God will actually do the things I am supposed to “Let go” of?
I’ve Got a Word for you from the Lord
Ironically, “a word” is usually hundreds of words. And the words are usually so vague, they could apply to anyone. They are often sort of like a fortune teller’s predictions about the future.
And even when the message from God is specific, it tends to benefit the person giving me “a word from the Lord” more than it benefits God or me. This makes me very suspicious that “a word from the Lord” is actually a word from you, and you are saying it came from God so that you can manipulate me into doing what you want.
Someone once told my parents “God told me to tell you to that you are supposed to give me your house.” My mother’s response was perfect. She said “Ok. As soon as God tells us the same thing, I will do it.”
I said this recently in a conversation with a non-Christian and he did a double-take at me and said, “Amen? As in the Egyptian Amen-Ra? Why would you say that?”
I had to explain that “Amen” is old way of stating agreement, and it means “Truly” or “That’s the truth!” A modern equivalent might be “Right!” or “Yes!”
He said, “Oh. Well, why don’t you just say that then?”
The Spirit is Moving
He is? Moving where? Moving how? How can you tell? Does He need a U-Haul?
Isn’t God everywhere? If so, how can He move?
I’m going to lift you up in prayer
Lift me up? How? Do you need to touch me? Lift me up to where?
Lord, Put a Hedge of Protection Around Us
A hedge? Like … bushes?
And the bushes are going to protect me from what exactly? Maybe from The Knights who Say Ni!
I think a wall might be better, but with the things I’m struggling with, I don’t think even a wall will help. I’m not trying to keep out immigrants.
The Bible Says It. I Believe It. That Settles It.
Yes, well, the Bible doesn’t actually say what you think it says, which means you don’t actually believe it, and so nothing whatsoever is settled.
There have been times when I have sat through Sunday sermons that were nothing but one long string of clichés like the ones above. The sermon went something like this:
Good morning! It’s good to be in the house of the Lord! Amen? (Audience: Amen!)
I’m Brother Bob! Wasn’t that song by Sister Mary just beautiful? Bless your heart, Sister Mary!
This morning, I’ve got a Word from the Lord for you. But before we get to that, I just want to say this: God is Good? (Audience: All the time!) All the time? (Audience: God is good!) Amen. Amen.
Can I get an Amen? (Audience: Amen!)
I am really excited about what the Lord has laid on my heart to share with you today. God just touched my Spirit this week, and I know that the Spirit is moving in this place today, and what I share with you is going to help you press in to God this week. Amen? Hallelujah!
What God wants you to do is just let go and let God. Whatever you’re facing in life, always remember that Jesus saves. That issue you are facing? That trouble, that trial? It’s covered in the blood! You’re covered in the blood. We’re all covered in the blood!
Can I get an amen? (Audience: Amen! Hallelujah!)
Now I got a Bible verse I’m gonna preach from today. But before I read it to you, I want to remind you that the Bible is the Word of God, and whatever it says, we can trust it. Remember, if the Bible says it, I believe it, and that settles it.
Amen? Amen and Amen.
This past week I was walking through town, and I passed Brother Jim back there – everybody turn around and say hello to brother Jim! (Audience: Hello Brother Jim!) – you know, Brother Jim’s been having a real hard time in life, and I told him I would lift him up in prayer, and I would invite all of you to lift him up in prayer as well – just pray that God will remind him that he is covered in the blood and that no matter what he’s facing, Jesus saves and that he should just press in to God. Anyway, I was talking with Brother Jim, and hearing about his problems, and right at that moment, the Lord gave me a Word to share with Brother Jim, and after I shared it with him, I realized God wanted me to share this word with all of you as well, and it comes from a verse in the Bible.
Let’s turn to [Fill in the blank here for ANY verse in the entire Bible] and read it.
[The speaker then reads a random verse.]
Now what we see here is that God is speaking to us, and this is His very word, and we know that if God says it, it can be trusted, and we can believe it.
[The sermon goes on from here, basically repeating everything that has already been said.]
Now, did the pastor actually say anything? Nope. He didn’t say a single thing. Go back and read it and see if you can figure out what he is saying.
A REAL Blog Post I Discovered:
As I was searching for images for my blog post above, I came across the following blog post from another blogger. Go ahead and read it, and when you are done ask yourself, “What exactly did I just read? What was the message? What did I learn? What should I do? How can I put this into practice?”
I’m dressed in red today. On fire for the Lord; covered by the blood of Jesus. God, you can do anything but fail. Your purpose will prevail.
The minute your feet hit the ground the devil’s rehearsing your past. Looking for anything to distract God’s purpose. Look to God on purpose.
The devil can do nothing to you without God’s permission. He won’t win. He may come in like a flood. God will lift up a standard against him (Isaiah 59:19).
When storms are raging around you and it seems nothing is working out, God is with you. He will calm the seas. He’ll make everything alright.
Be encouraged. You’re covered by the blood. Put on the whole armor of God. Don’t look to the right or to the left. Look to the hills from whence cometh your help.
No matter what comes today, glorify God in it. He’s able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that you can ask or think (Ephesians 3:20). Pray without ceasing. Walk by faith.
Devil you’ve been served notice today. God will have his way. No weapon formed against us shall prosper. Every assignment has been cancelled. It’s already done. We’re returning everything you sent signed, sealed, and undelivered! We are covered by the blood. In the name of Jesus. Glory. Hallelujah!
I read through several other blog posts on the blog that this one came from, and found that every single one of them was just like the one above. In fact, as I read, I discovered about 200 more Christian Clichés that lots of Christians say but which are completely meaningless. Here are some more I found on the site:
God is Working Things Out in Your Favor
God Will Never Leave You Where He Found You
Don’t Fit In; Stand Out!
Preparation Before Elevation
Your Breakthrough is Coming!
New Year; New You!
New Levels; New Devils
By His Stripes, You are Healed!
You Can Do All Things Through Christ Who Strengthens You
No Weapon Formed Against You Shall Prosper
Don’t Fight the Battle You’ve Already Won
Yes, I know that some of these statements come directly from Scripture. But when we just quote them without thinking about them and do not really understand what these statements mean, even Bible verses can become Christian Clichés.
Why do Christians use Christian Clichés
There are a couple reasons Christians talk this way.
First, Christians talk this way because … well, because Christians talk this way. There is no other reason. Nobody in real life talks this way, and the only reason some Christians talk this way is because they spend a lot of time with each other and learn the Christian lingo so that everybody talks this way.
Second, Christians talk this way because it makes us sound spiritual. Christian clichés make us sound like we know what we’re talking about even when we don’t, they make us sound like we care even when we don’t, they make us sound like we understand Scripture even when we don’t.
I have heard cliché sermons like the one above where the pastor says absolutely nothing for 30 minutes, but because he got the audience to shout “Amen! Hallelujah!” a lot, they walk out of the building thinking that they just heard a really great sermon.
The thing is, outside of Christian circles, talking this way just makes people think we’re crazy. It makes people think we’re shallow and empty. That we don’t have anything to say. They hear us talk this way and all they do is roll their eyes.
So give up on cliché Christianity, and start living real life with real people as we have real conversations using real words about real issues. Can I get an Amen?
I recently had a conversation with several guys about church and ministry, and we were talking about how there are so many people who seem to entering into a way of being the church outside of the four walls of institutional Christianity. By many estimates, there are now more people who follow Jesus outside of institutional Christianity than those who follow Him inside. I wrote about this a few weeks back.
As we were talking about this, one of the guys wondered why this is happening now … why we don’t see this sort of movement away from “Sunday morning congregational church” anywhere else in history.
My answer was “the internet.”
I believe that the movement away from Sunday morning congregational church has always been happening, but we only hear about it more today because of the internet.
There are three reasons the internet is helping us see what the Spirit of God is up to in the world today.
1. The internet helps us see the worldwide movement of God into a more relational Christianity.
Due to blogging and social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, we can now connect with people all around the world and see that what is happening in my heart and mind is something that seems to be occurring in the hearts and minds of millions of people elsewhere.
Have you ever had a thought or an idea about how to be the church, how to follow Jesus, or how a particular passage of Scripture can be understood in a way that undermines what religious Christianity has often taught? And then you get online and discover that someone on Great Britain or South Africa or Brazil has just posted exactly the same thing on Facebook?
It happens all the time! The only real way to explain this is to recognize that the Spirit of God is teaching similar things to similar people all around the world. The Spirit is fanning the flames of a worldwide movement, and the internet helps us see this movement of God in real time.
2. The internet helps those with doubts and fears know that they are not crazy, that they are hearing the Spirit correctly.
One exciting benefit to seeing that other people in other parts of the world have similar thoughts and ideas to our own is that it helps us realize that we are not crazy heretics.
When I first started to question and challenge everything I had been taught, I literally wondered if I was become an apostate. I started to ask “Why?” about everything I had ever been taught and everything I had ever done in the church. It scared me.
And that is one reason I started this blog. I started it to hopefully get feedback from other people around the world who might be able to either
(Option 1) Reign me back in to correct theology and sound doctrine, or
(Option 2) Confirm that they too were having similar thoughts and ideas and that these were okay.
In the past ten years of blogging, the response has overwhelmingly leaned toward that second option. I often get responses from people who lean toward Option 1 as well, but in my experience, most of these people are having thoughts and ideas about Option 2, and it scares them, so they fight against it by leaving comments on blogs like mine.
This is why it is always wise to responds to such people with as much grace and dignity as you can muster, for your response to them in this way might be just the thing that helps them see that it is okay to question tradition and follow the Spirit’s leading away from institutional religion. A soft answer helps them see that the people “out here” are not apostates and heretics and backslidden sinners the way those inside institutional religion often portray us.
Be a calm voice of reason and love to all people you interact with on the internet, because the internet is one way the Holy Spirit is inviting people to take a tentative step in following Jesus in a more relational way.
And that leads us to the third point.
3. The internet gives a voice to those who were traditionally silenced.
There have always been lots of people who followed Jesus outside of church, but we have little historical record of them. Why is this? Because institutional religion silenced them.
There have always been lots of people who knew that the institutional Christianity was not the only way of following Jesus, but those who were in positions of power never gave these people a platform or a pulpit from which to speak. They were not allowed to write books, teach sermons, or even ask questions. And so we have very little record of them.
If you read some of the ancient sermon texts, even from the very beginning of institutional Christianity in the fourth century, you can often read between the lines of these sermons and see that the Bishops and Priests had such people in their congregations, and were cajoling them and guilting them back into conformity, and even sometimes persecuting them for “abandoning Jesus and the church.” The exact same tactics and language is often used today by those in power against the people who want to follow Jesus differently.
But today, thankfully, we have the internet. People do not need to have a pulpit from which to speak. They do not need permission from the gatekeepers to publish a book. The barriers are very low to starting a podcast so that your voice and ideas can be heard around the world.
So Be Encouraged!
You are not crazy.
You are not insane.
You are not a heretic.
You have not fallen away.
You have not turned your back on God and Jesus.
Instead, you are part of an ever-growing, rapidly-expanding, Spirit-led, worldwide movement of God to show the world that in Jesus Christ, a new day has dawned, a new creation has come, and that all things are new.
You don’t need traditional power structures.
You don’t need the rules and regulations and rituals.
You don’t need the standards of conduct the codes of ethics and the doctrinal guidelines.
You just need to follow Jesus in love, as countless millions of people around the world are learning to do each and every day.
And the internet helps us see what God is up to in the world and that He is leading millions of people to follow Him in new and exciting ways. So thank God for the internet!
(If you want to become one of the voices on the internet, I highly recommend you start a blog, and I have created a video tutorial to help you along. Go here to get started.)
“You shouldn’t eat beef. It is forbidden by the ancient holy books, the Vedas. If you eat beef you will suffer eternal punishment.”
If my Hindu friend told me that, I would think it strange. Why? Because I’m not a Hindu, and don’t follow the teachings and beliefs of Hinduism. Since I am not Hindu, I do not believe that the commands of the Vedas apply to me.
The same is true for you. If you are not Hindu, you probably sense no need or desire to follow the teachings of the Hindu Vedas, and would probably be somewhat offended if a Hindu tried to force their beliefs and practices upon you.
But let’s turn this around.
Why do we Christians expect non-Christians to follow the teachings of the Bible?
Why should we expect people who are not Christians to think that Christian beliefs apply to them?
Why would they think that our holy book, the Bible, is anything more than a collection of ancient writings that has little or nothing to do with them?
Hopefully, you have some friends who are not Christians. If you do, most of those friends probably do not agree with all of the Christian beliefs and practices. Since they’re not Christians, they don’t think the teachings, beliefs, and moral values of Christianity apply to them.
Of course, they probably also see that many of the people who self-identify as Christians do not act as if the teachings of Jesus or the Bible apply to Christians either. As one of our friends said, “It’s something they like to spout off about. They want to tell me how to live my life, but they don’t follow their own rules. They say ‘hate the sin, love the sinner.’ I get it that they’re calling me a sinner. I also get it that they don’t love me. The only ones they’re fooling into believing that they love me is themselves.”
A well-respected businessman in the city in which we live, upon hearing someone in a group of about a dozen people say something that indicated we are Christians, immediately blurted out “You can’t be Christians. They hate us, but you love us.” Everyone else in the group, including an atheist, immediately agreed.
Do Christians Really Care?
I think even most people who are not Christians think that Christians do not love them or care about them. Why is that? Let’s allow some of our friends to speak to that issue:
“Jesus told them to love other people. Instead they judge other people. They think God appointed them to judge me because I don’t live by their rules. Why should I? It’s their rules, not mine.”
“Most church people don’t want to have anything to do with us. The ones who do are doing it to make them feel good about themselves. They don’t really care about us.”
“They all have an agenda. Do they think they get points with God for converting someone?”
“Religion is all about politics. They’re pushing their political agenda.”
“It’s a weird religion. They do stuff their religion says they shouldn’t do. Then they tell me not to do the same stuff because they feel guilty about what they’re doing. That seems to make them feel better about what they’re doing.”
“Everyone needs a crutch. Their religion is their crutch. Religion is not my crutch. I don’t need their religion.”
“They give a few dollars to some group that claims they’re fighting the evils of (fill in the blank with words like homelessness, drinking, drug addiction, prostitution, homosexuality) because they feel guilty, but they’re afraid to come near us. Or they don’t care enough to come near. Do you think we ever see them or their money? That money never makes it to us. Those people (the groups who receive the money) spend it on their own paychecks.”
My wife and I have heard every one of those sentiments and variations of them expressed dozens, sometimes hundreds, of times. Clearly, many people have a low opinion of Christians.
If you’ve read some of the other posts I’ve written in the past, you probably know that we have hundreds of homeless friends. We have hundreds of gay friends. We know hundreds of our neighbors and are friends with many of them. Which of these people have said the things above about Christians? All of them. People from every group: from the drunk lying on the sidewalk, the meth addict, and the prostitute, to the people I rarely mention, the college professor, the doctor, the attorney, the scientist and many others.
Accidentally Doing What Jesus Says
I’m a slow learner. I tried everything religion told me to do. I invited people to church. I headed church committees. I worked part time at a church. I witnessed. I told people what the Bible says. I cooked church dinners for thousands of people. I heard lots of whining. I heard lots of complaining. Few really cared what the Bible said. They did what they pleased, not just the “sinners”, but also the church people. Something was missing.
Almost by accident we started doing what Jesus said. Love God and neighbor. Who would have thought we should do that? Apparently no church we ever attended. It’s right there in the Bible, but we never heard anyone teach it. We never heard a sermon preached about it. We rarely saw anyone doing it. We rarely heard about anyone who really did it. Well, maybe Mother Theresa, but that was like her own personal thing or something.
“I’ve been living on the street for over ten years. I’ve watched all the people and groups who come and go down here. They all have an agenda. Usually it’s trying to get us to sign up for their religion, or they’re doing their annual do-a-good-deed to make them feel better about themselves. I’ve been watching the three of you for years, trying to figure out your agenda. You don’t have one do you? You’re the only people I’ve ever seen who don’t have an agenda.”
“You’re right,” I replied. “We have no agenda. We come because we love people.”
“I knew it!” she replied.
We’ve had many similar conversations. Once our friends know we care, that we love them, the relationship changes, in good ways. We talk about what is really going on in their lives and ours. We learn about each other and from each other. We’re frequently asked questions about why we do what we do, and questions about God and Jesus. Many people don’t care much for “Christians,” but are very curious about Jesus and people who act like Jesus.
I’m a slow learner. But I have finally learned that doing what Jesus said, loving others, is the way to live my life. I don’t need to tell people what they’re doing wrong, what my religion has to say about it, or quote Bible verses to them (most of them have already heard those verses many times), try to argue theology with them, avoid them or pretend to like them. (Everyone knows it’s pretending. Okay, my wife has a story about one person who fell for that. When she tells the story in any group, everyone thinks it’s funny.)
We love people and try to show it. If it’s genuine, most people figure it out almost immediately. We try to do what Jesus said. We try to love others with the love of Jesus, which points both us and them to Jesus.
The rest is up to God. Only God can convince them that if a person can love them in spite of anything and everything, then maybe God loves them too. Only God can help them realize “God does love me!”
So how then should we live? Well, it’s as Jesus said: “Love God with all your being” and “love your neighbor as yourself.”
It’s so simple, and yet so difficult for most of us to do.