Why do some disciples return to the system? That is a good question and one we hope to shed some light on. This article goes out to answer some of the questions as to why some of the brethren who leave the institutional church systems end up returning after a few months. At present it is estimated by Christian media and other sources that a million people are leaving the church yearly. As has been already stated in their exit interviews, these Christians are not leaving because they have lost their faith, but because they feel they have to leave to save their faith.
I believe the numbers for this second exodus to be correct. I just don’t believe they are leaving the Church the Lord Jesus Christ is building today. I believe in many cases they are leaving Egypt/Babylon, the religious system, that calls itself the church. The Old Testament exodus from Egypt closely resembles the struggles that most House/Simple/Organic church people experience when they leave the only thing they have known all their life.
As many of you know, you can move physically out of a system/Egypt without moving mentally out of the paradigm. As long as the religious system has its values intertwined around our hearts, they will never truly be free.
I wish I could say that all who begin the journey of being healed from the past, breaking free from the addiction of human traditions, and who begin to put Christ truly first make it, but such is not the case. The pull of this world and the peer pressure of the majority take their captives daily from among our groups and relationships.
I have asked the Lord many times why he permitted these relationships to even begin if He knew they would not end up fruitfully. His answer is always the same. “For My Testimony, so they may taste my love and know I sent them messengers of My Truth,” and “Results are my business. You just plant and water faithfully.” So we who serve these saints should not take their return to the religious system personal. We will still feel the pain because Christ’s compassion and mercy are inside of us.
I have seem many examples over the years of those that returned to the religious system. My initial response is a deep sadness because I know that it is easier to leave the first time than it is to leave after you have returned. They are trapped and they have chosen to quench the Holy Spirit. Only the patience of the Lord can renew them to life now. I know personally how hard it is to walk after Christ in the 21st century. I blame the very system they left for their shallowness and the weakness of their relationship with Christ. The foundation was wrong and their spiritual house crumbled. The worst part of all this is since they are walking with the majority, they have no concept that they have left their moorings and the ship is going out with the tide. For all they know all is well, until the Day they stand before Christ at the judgment seat and find out they were building with sub-par materials.
1 Cor 3:9-15
9 For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. 10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. 11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. 14 If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
Why do they Return to the System ?
Let’s look at some of the specific reasons that some disciples succumb and return to the religious system.
1. Difficulties of the rejection – Most of these Religious groups are vicious at slandering one of their own when they leave. Whether from the pulpit or through the political grapevine, words go out that the member who left is “persona-non-grata.” Members are told not to associate with them and they are labeled for their beliefs. Those who leave feel they can handle the rejection at first, but few really do. They must allow the Lord to do a great work in their hearts.
2. Loneliness – This is the power behind the rejection, whether it’s because you have been officially banned, ostracized, and blackballed, or whether it’s just hard to find others who think like you, loneliness plays a huge role in getting many to return. We were created for relationships, and we do not function well alone. Remember the addiction to the religious system has its own withdrawals. For some the immediate loneliness is more than they can bear.
3. The Need for Structure – The religious system is very much a system with its organized rituals and timed responses. Getting out of it can be as difficult for some as breaking a cocaine habit. Years of tradition and weekly services become a very serious part of who you are after a while. That is why they are called institutions because you follow established laws and practices instead of the voice of God. The religious system is an organization, an alternative universe to the real kingdom. The Lord’s Church is a living breathing organism connected to its Head, the Lord Jesus. Some people simply cannot operate without the scaffolding of bulletins, liturgies, and sermons. You cannot serve both.
4. Shallow Christians – The system keeps you dumbed down so it can control you. These disciples have no real roots in Christ, they have no understanding of how to live in the Spirit versus their own flesh (mind, will, and emotions). These saints don’t know how to handle the freedom once they have left. They have been getting a weekly “word’ from a preacher for years and simply cannot eat on their own. They can recite Bible verses, but they really don’t know the meaning of being led by the Spirit. They have no clue that the early church lived on a daily ration of Christ “Rhema” for the first 1500 years before Bibles even existed. Many of these saints return to their old worldly ways.
5. Ego Issues – Some return to the religious systems because the perceived lack of platform for their gifts (ministry). These are the same people who always want the microphone during the service. They want to be seen. They want to show off their gifts in front of others. Public ministry-like promotion can be dangerous to those who have a need to be needed. Well, take them out of the limelight and they feel useless since nobody is watching. They know how to perform weekly before the crowds, but they don’t know how to love the unlovely 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Ministry is their juice that keeps them going and they must return to it.
6. Looking for a group for the children – These parents believe that “church folk” will make better friends for their children. Some have misplaced the love for their children and made them their idols. They can’t trust God for things like finding a godly mate for their child. So they are willing to suffer through the Sunday services and the plastic people to help God. Their kids are happy, but they are dying inside.
7. Distraction and Deception – The religious system is the majority and it is visible, loud and noisy. Conferences, banquets, performances, shows, speakers, and revival meetings keep the average believer moving from happening to happening and few realize they are on the religious systems merry-go-round. I have actually heard a pastor say that he does it to keep them busy. He said it kept them from visiting other congregations or falling into sin. Folks, Christianity is not supposed to be a daycare service to keep you busy and amused. When you are in the vortex of the system it’s hard to realize how trapped you really are. If all your relationships are trapped too it will not be long before you will return.
8. Need for Affirmation and Acceptance – I can’t begin to tell you how many disciples I have seen return to the religious system to get an ordination, get a certificate, seminary degree, or a membership badge with their picture on it from some apostolic network. We want to be approved by the world and our friends. Having a peace from within is simply not enough because it is not visible by others. It not enough that Christ knows who we are, we need others to know and for that we need proof. Real Christianity doesn’t brag about itself, doesn’t believe in hierarchies or positions and only serves to bring glory to Christ. Many say I need it for government purposes. The day is almost upon us when we will wish we were not so close to the systems of this world.
9. Facing the Financial Difficulties – Imagine what it’s like for a Christian leader to leave behind a weekly check and live by Faith! Having to Trust the Lord for everything on a daily basis is no place for immaturity. Forget the Bible says that “the just will live by faith”. Stop lying to people about the tithe and quit passing the hat every time you serve people and you will quickly see how difficult living by faith really is. Yes, its true people don’t know how to give, but that doesn’t make it right to manipulate others for an offering. Prosperity psychology sells, but affliction and suffering like Paul talks about in the Bible is not well accepted. I have heard grown men with 30 plus years in the gospel say things like, “How will I live? I don’t know how to do anything else.” What they are saying is I don’t really trust God to take care of me, so they return or stay in the system knowing full well it’s not God’s way.
2 Tim 4:9-10
Be diligent to come to me quickly; 10 for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica
Can you hear the broken heart of a spiritual father in that verse?
Over the years and by God’s grace I have learned not to take their leaving personal. Their betrayal is against the Lord Jesus Christ, not against me. I know that a loving God will continue to speak to their hearts until they are fully bankrupt to the system. I have also found that as long as they feel that somehow the religious system can be repaired, they will waste their life building on sand. Christ will not fix what is not His. Christ as a foundation is more than words; it’s a lifestyle and the theme of all we do.
I want to share some words of encouragement to all my brothers who serve the church the Lord Jesus is building. As my brother Richard Broadbent from Canada says; “I challenge you to use the math Christ used! He lost all at the Cross to gain all of Humanity.” Amen!
Addendum from another brother Michael Rose of iamsignificant.ca
May the Lord illumine the heart of His Church, especially those who have had the courage to leave the religious systems of this world. May the Lord give them strength not to return to the system. May we who serve them remain loving and “may we not grow weary in well doing!”
What is the purpose of this incendiary article? It is decisive and rests on generalities.
In response to this article.The system does not allow the body to function the way God intended. In Ephesians 4:11 the gifts was given for the equipping of the saints.The problem is there are saints sitting in the pews and most don’t even know what their gift is.The system controls and strips you of your identity in Christ leaving saints to feel unequipped for service. I think most saints want to feel that God can use them,and look for validation from their leader to confirm what God has told them. There are times when the leader do not agree and it leaves doubt that God called them to function in that particular gift. Therefore, helping them remain in the same old system waiting on validation from man. Lastly in response to the financial difficulties. I am glad I read this article because facing financial issues is not easy when you have not learned to trust God in all areas of life. I have to remind myself God will provide all my need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
Continue in the call God has given you Brother Bosque.
Thank you Julia May the Lord continue to bless your spiritual growth!
Jose, I know your heart brother. The truth is that you can’t leave something when it is not a place or a meeting but a living entity that “Christ alone adds you to.” Christianity is not so much about where or with whom you gather but as the term implies CHRISTIANITY….iS jESUS Christ IS THE HEAD (i.e. SOURCE) OF YOUR LIFE AND EXISTANCE. OF COURSE IF HIS LIFE, HIS SEED IS IN YOU, you WILL AUTOMATICALLY BE ATTRACTED T0 OTHERS WHO ARE YOUR SPIRITUAL FAMILY..GOD’S .OFFSPRING OF …BROTHERS AND SISTERS IN CHRIST.. We gather whenever because we are HIS and we share his life – His spiritual DNA so to speak. The REAL acid test of Christianity is NOT “CHURCH” BUT HAVING THIS TREASURE, THE LIFE OF GOD IN YOU. TOO MANY (AS DID I) THINK THAT “CHURCH” MEMBERSHIP, CHURCH GATHERING, church attendance or CHURCH ALLEGIANCE IS THE ACID or litmus TEST OF Christianity. NOT SO!!!” Love and Bearing fruit is the litmus test of His life in you!
Many readers mistake articles such as this as being anti church rants. This one is not! Jose I know your heart and sense your frustrations with those who would see the institution or Christian religion as the proof that one belongs to Christ and is one of his. The real issue is NOT the importance of church but the centrality of Christ and His life expressed in and through us! We do not go to church as if it is a place, a meeting or God’s divine institution. As the scriptures attest: Christ adds us to His ekklesia (His church) such as are being saved. We are added to His “congregation” or the His “called out” ones as we respond to the gospel and answer the “call”. Only He adds to His congregation (church) such as are being saved or rescued from the world system of sin and death. We cannot add ourselves! The “Church” is not a place but a LIVING breathing spiritual organism – a spiritual edifice made up of living stones. Although The church will gather: the act of gathering does not make you a church. The church will give witness to the good news but witnessing does not make you a church. The church is a family! Families gather or used to gather together at special times (holidays etc.) to share a meal, to connect or reconnect with each other, to enjoy each others company, to love and care for each other, or to discuss family matters, etc. After all that is what families do (or used to do). However, the act of gathering together, sharing a meal together, living together, caring for each other, sharing with each other and even preferring each other does not make you a family. As Keith Greene used to say, “Going to church does not make you a Christian…any more than going to Burger King makes you a hamburger.”
Jose, brother, I know your heart. Thanks fore speaking the truth in love. I pray that those who listen will hear what you RE saying and not infer what you are NOT!
May we all learn to Jesus Christ be central to who we are and all that we do – first and foremost!
Thank you George this site and I really appreciate your wisdom and your input!
hi there Jose,
This is the first time I have seen this site, and am happy to find some common landscape with what you share. My only step back was when at the end of the article you expressed wanting to share with “brothers”. why is it you dont want to share with “sisters” as well ? Or do you see from the spiritual aspect of all being called brothers b/c their is no gender in the spiritual relm ?
First let me welcome you to the God’s Leader family. You are correct. We are all sons, brethren and at the same time we are the Bride of Christ in human language. AS you very well stated there are no genders in the spiritual realm.