Monday, April 19, 2010

Falling Down the Rabbit Hole

I'm sure many of you have seen Tim Burton's movie Alice In Wonderland which came out recently. I find the movie a remarkable analogy to my flight from the institutional church and my subsequent discovery of following Jesus outside of the church walls. After finally alluding the expectations placed on me by the church culture I've fallen down the rabbit hole and found myself on the strangest of journeys. I was raised in the church and have been involved in some kind of ministry for the past 20 years. Being removed from its structure and confines is quite a radical experience. You see, when a person falls down a hole without warning there is nothing to grab onto and no way to know how long the fall will be which is a most unsettling feeling. You hold your breath and hope it's not your last. I think I have just finally landed with a loud thud and am beginning to eye the little bottle on the table...

Since I was raised in church culture everything about God, Jesus, church, etc. was taught to me in strict rule format. "If you want to be a Christian you have to follow these rules." "Don't question what I'm saying; that would be rebellion. God hates rebellion." "Don't be depressed. Depression comes from Satan - don't give in to it." "Submit to your father, then submit to your husband. If you don't agree with them then follow along anyway", (i.e. you have no voice.) Choice was never an option for me. I moved from the church culture I was raised in straight into Bible school. Although I was already beginning to see some inconsistencies with the system I felt called into "the ministry." One day while sitting in my church growth class my teacher said something that I'll never forget. He said, "The state the church is in can be likened to fighting for deck seats on the Titanic." Those words kept coming back to me over and over again. I didn't fully understand what he had said yet, but my journey out of the system and down the rabbit hole had begun.

Fast forward fifteen years. The last church I attended was the third church in a string of confusing painful institutional church experiences, which I will go into more detail with eventually here. By the time I started going to my last church I now see that I had mastered going through the motions. I was involved with ministry and went on an international missions trip, but there was a part of me that realized things weren't working. Why? That answer is much longer than one blog post could hold. My hope is that in writing this blog I can help sort through the whys...

Anyway, back to the story. About six months before my departure I was beginning to feel done. I talked to my husband and told him something wasn't right. Some days I dreaded going to church and having to put on the happy church smile. We prayed, we talked, and the tension over my leaving increased. My last day there ended with me walking out mid sermon. I couldn't play the game anymore. I left crying and I looked at my husband and said, "I can't do this anymore." He finally agreed it was time for me to go. So I left, and I've never looked back once.

Since this time I've been falling down the rabbit hole. All of the rules, expectations and religion of church have been fading out of view. Some call it deprogramming, although I see it more as culture shock. I've come out of church culture and into freedom culture. I'm finding out that Jesus is a different person than I had constructed him to be. He is far more loving and accepting and much less judgmental and black and white. Organic church is the label many use for Jesus followers who have left the church. I prefer to say I'm on a journey to know Jesus more. I'm on an adventure following the white rabbit...where he's headed I'm not sure, but I'm going to follow.


  1. I love the "Free Falling" label that you are using.
    Very appropriate!

  2. Anna's dad talks about the organic church thing all the time. I'll have to ask him more what he means by that.

  3. Dave - From what I've gathered it's basically church outside the 4 walls without the leadership structure, etc. A lot of people meet together for meals and fellowship and let church happen naturally without it being a scheduled planned once a week event. Some are still pastors, encouragers, prophets etc. but not in the literal sense of the word aka sans title. I like to say "church happens" as I see it unfold in different ways relationally such as over tea, on fb, wherever we let it happen. Mike has some good stuff on his blog about organic church...

  4. Via my friend Andrea:

    In my humble opinion, God looooves rebels. David and Goliath come to mind as does Martin Luther, without whom we would have no denominational church and the bible's teachings would be out of our reach. I can see how free falling could be a nervous thing, but if you fall long enough I suppose it could be considered flying ;).

    The way I look at my journey is that God requires me to be uncomfortable, challenged and fierce...with a little joy mixed in to prevent all out rebellion. It's not easy or proscribed and I think (and have always thought) that church robs us of our use of his gifts to do his work. How can you go out in the world in his name when your hands and feet are bound by an institution that has more to do with Man's law than God's. Conversely, there are some who thrive and rely on the Church's guidance and cover. Personally, I have never been called to the church, but I really believe that I wasn't meant to be in any institution....didn't last long in high school either.

  5. Love the comment "How can you go out int the world in his name when your hands and feet are bound by and institution that has more to do with Man's law than God's." SO true!! Well put. Thanks for the encouragement Andrea. I think our journeys are very similar. It's nice to find a journey mate. :)

  6. "Flying is just falling with style." Woody from Toystory. In other words, those that seem to be soaring in the clouds have just learned the art of making falling look like flying. They know how to work the system.

  7. I aspire to that, I really do...I think I look awkward right now, but someday I hope to soar!