My Journey Leaving Organized Religion by Mike Donahoe

Leaving Organized Religion

Leaving Organized ReligionMy history with organized religion began back when I was just a little boy. My parents were active members of their church and once I was born, they started taking me and I’ve been a part of the organized church basically since that time. I was saved in the church when I was 10 years old during Vacation Bible School. I was active in one way or another for years and years, so when I say I’ve grown to see church in a different way, you will know I am not someone on the outside knocking church.

I grew up in a Christian family and was one of the kids who never got in trouble, didn’t smoke, didn’t drink, didn’t cuss, and was always in church whenever the doors were open. I actually got to thinking I might be one of God’s favorites….can you believe it?

Over the past several years, I’ve had a groaning deep inside about modern day church. I’ve been feeling that something just isn’t right. What we call church today just doesn’t seem like what God intended.

I began going to church out of habit because it was the thing Christians do to show they were different than the world. I felt that if I didn’t do certain things that were considered wrong, and if I did good things and attended church, I would be pleasing to God.

People seem to make so much out of going to church. I noticed that Christians, myself included, seemed more interested in finding out where others went to church. If they went to the same type of church as we did, we felt they were alright. We would make sure and invite friends or non-Christians to church rather than talk to them about what Christ did for us. We felt it was the place of the church to do all the evangelism and witnessing. We thought that if we got them into church, the pastor would take care of everything.

I also spent a lot of time, as do a lot of people, working around the church or doing ‘church’ activities. It seemed like the more I went to church, or the more things I did, I felt like a better Christian. This is a problem today. People get more involved in working for the church, or for the pastor, that they no longer are doing things out of love for Christ, but out of love for things about Christ. Many people feel the more things they do for the church, or the more often they attend services, the closer they are to God. They feel guilty if they miss a service or are asked to do something for the church and they say no.

I started realizing that going to church was not the answer. There was certainly more to sitting there letting someone else tell me what God was saying through His word. I became very dissatisfied with the church and I kept telling my wife that there is something wrong with the way things are being done. Something just isn’t right.

Over the years I’ve seen all the fighting and arguing among church goers. If you go to a different denomination than someone else, seems like you just can’t get along because of the differences in interpretation and understanding of the Bible. I would think about the verse ‘By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another’ (John 13:35 NASV) and wonder where is the love?

I see the mega-churches with all the glitz and glamour and  wonder why all that money is going into a building, the pastor’s car, house, and all the other expenses churches seem to require. I realize most churches give to other missions and other ministries, but it seems a very small percentage of the total giving actually go to ministries that help others.

All this has been weighing on me, and I’ve been more and more uncomfortable sitting in church for an hour every week, looking at the back of the head of the person in front of me, being entertained and preached too. Then I’m told that this is good Christian fellowship, although I haven’t really talked to anyone during the entire service.

I have been struggling for a long time with my feelings and wondering what was going on with me. Was something wrong with my fellowship with God? Was I getting tired of church and Christianity after all this time? I can’t say there was any one event that made me feel this way, but it was a progression of events, thoughts, praying, reading, searching.

After all these years, I just couldn’t make any sense out of sitting and being entertained for an hour and then going home thinking I had fulfilled my Christian obligation. So much of the teaching in the church today is more or less telling us what we need to do, and what we need to stay away from to make us ‘good’ Christians. While sitting in a service listening to this, it hit me that all this sounds a lot like the Law. I was feeling good about myself based on what I did or didn’t do, and how often I was in church. I got to thinking, didn’t Christ fulfill the Law? Wasn’t he the perfect sacrifice for us? Didn’t he put an end to the Old Covenant and begin a New Covenant of Grace? Why was the pastor still telling us we needed to follow the 10 Commandments and do things to earn God’s love? It just didn’t make any sense. Especially when reading verses such as Galatians 10: 23-26, “But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.”

For such a long time, I’ve wondered if the issue I was having about organized religion and modern day church was a spiritual problem or not, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized I had a legitimate complaint of how modern day church was going.

The way I see it, God said that we, His people, are the temple of the Holy Spirit. To me that says that God lives in me, not in a building. He says we are all sheep, and He is the Shepherd, not the person we call pastor that gets up each week and talks about what they think the Bible says.

Don’t get me wrong, a lot of good things have happened in church over the years, and a lot of sincere people who love God and want to please Him are a part of organized religion. I feel the organized church of today is over emphasized, making people think that everything happens in church. We have to wait until Sunday for God to show up and do something. What happened to the fact that we, His people, are the Church, and we have a relationship with God every day. We can have an impact on those we come in contact with each day by the Spirit of God loving them through us. Why do we feel we have to get people to wait until Sunday to come to a building for God to do something?

Christians will dress up and act differently, saying they are going to God’s house, but don’t realize that God’s house is within us. God lives within us every day of the week and we no longer have to go somewhere to meet Him.

I also wondered why so many events and teachings of the church still seemed to center around Old Covenant living. We are saved by grace, and nothing we do or don’t do makes a difference in our salvation. We can’t make God more pleased with us by doing things, and we can’t make him not love us for not doing anything.

After some time of wondering and praying, I finally started coming across various other people, through books and web sites, that were feeling the same way as myself. I would read something that really agreed with my spirit and think, wow, that is exactly the way I’ve been feeling.

I think for me three things really aggravated me with the church. One was how I saw the way people looked up to the pastor and the leaders of the church. It seemed like they were almost on a different level than the entire congregation. That didn’t fit in with the verse, “What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. 1 Corinthians 14:26 NASV).” Jesus is the head, we are the body. We should be letting the Spirit teach us and lead us, not another human being.

The second was the worship leader. I felt like he was telling me how to worship, when to raise my hands, when to do this and do that, and basically trying to make me feel guilty if I didn’t respond. What happened to people responding out of genuine love for God and not because someone is trying to pump it up to make the worship team look good.

And the third is tithing. Tithing is an Old Covenant law and is no longer a requirement for living in Grace. I agree, we give out of love and according to how we feel God is leading us, but tithing as part of the law is done. The way I see it, the clergy needs to get paid, the mortgage has to be paid, the staff has to be paid, so they lead people on by saying tithing is still required, and that just isn’t right.

Leaving Organized Religion

I have pretty much stopped attending services for now. I have come to realize that what we call church is a good place for Christian people to get together socially, but it is not God’s house, and it is not the Church. I know we need to continue to have fellowship with other believers, and pastors like to use the verse forsake not the assembling of yourselves together (Hebrews 10:25 NASV), but no where does the Bible say that has to be in a building on a certain day. Christians can fellowship anytime, anywhere. As the Bible says, “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” (Matthew 18:20 NASV). I’ve heard of Christian groups meeting for Bible study in a bar as a witness to those who normally go there, but who would not dream of walking into a church. Before we condemn this type of thing, we need to remember that Jesus, the Great Physician went to the sick. He didn’t wait for them to come to a building on a certain day. He went to the people that needed Him.

I still battle over completely leaving the church or to stay involved from time to time. I have so many friends that are part of the organized church, and they just don’t understand my feelings. It’s almost as if I am out on my own, when it comes to my friends, it makes me feel like it would be easier to keep my mouth shut and keep on attending services like normal. The problem with this feeling is, am I trying to please men, or am I trying to follow the leading of the Spirit? I am fortunate to have my wife and a couple good friends I meet with every other week who have the same feelings. I now know in my mind that I have not truly left church because I am a part of the Church, which is not a building we go to, but is the people of God who are saved by grace. I know that fellowship with other believers can take place anywhere and anytime. I am part of the Church every day no matter where I am.

If Jesus walked the earth today I’m not sure we would find him in church. He would be out meeting the people who most of the church crowd would not want to be associated with. It was the religious leaders who were His biggest enemies in times past. I’m not sure it wouldn’t be the same today.

Mike Donahoe

Leaving Organized Religion

By Mike @


    • Hi Rod,
      Your problem is common the prescription is to DETOX from the institution. Easier said than done. Many return willing to suffer the disgust with the system than to handle the rejection, loneliness and the effects of detoxification. Its doesn’t last forever thank God and the journey is worth the Destination! (CHRIST).

      • I am 47 and came to these conclusions many years ago.I too was born and raised in church.Ive even come to reconsider what a Christian really is…Yoy shall know they are my disciples (whether they realize they are or not) by thier Love.And who excercises perfect love? No one.Also, by thier fruits you shall know them (it doesnt say by thier religious title).And who puts out perfect fruits? No one.