Current favorite song: : Love Never Fails – by Brandon Heath
Now just a bit about me… For those of you interested who haven’t fallen asleep yet (and have another hour to spare for my long-winded novel – haha) – And please note: I’ve been working on updating this page since I got married, so bear with me…. My name is Dave. I’m a 43 year old guy from eastern Washington, USA. I’m happily married to a beautiful woman by the name of Tammy (that’s her in the pic at left). She really is wonderful too and I thank God so much for bringing our paths together. Believe it or not, I met her online (while playing a video game) – It was totally unexpected! She is from Australia (New South Wales). We were married on September 19th, 2009 (in Australia) and we discovered in August (2010) that we were expecting a new little addition to our family. The news was unexpected, but we were excited and started making preparations for the new addition to our family… Then, sadly, about 22 weeks later we lost the baby in miscarriage due to a neural tube defect called anencephaly. Tammy gave birth prematurely to our stillborn son and we both held him (little baby David Jr.) in our arms. Words cannot describe how heartbreaking it was to lose my son, but the Lord drew close to us through the ordeal and has brought our hearts healing and joy again. Through this experience the Lord has also helped to soften my heart in many areas, which has also caused me to slow down a bit and listen more intently. Naturally, both Tammy and I have a soft spot in our hearts for other couples who have gone through the heart-breaking loss of a loved-one, especially a child. I remain amazed at how, even through something so traumatic, the Lord can bring good and I will ever be grateful to Him for His watch over us and I pray that those of you reading this will know that, if you are suffering through something right now, you can cling tightly to Jesus. There will be sunshine again and God can work miracles in the heart! He has with us! God bless you!
I know Tammy would want to say hi to all my friends out there who visit the site so, “hi,” from Tammy! 🙂 As I mentioned before, we got married in Australia and then had to wait about 10 months on immigration paperwork to go through so I could bring her back to the States, but she is now here at home with me at last (though we’re still not finished with all of the process). If you’d like to see pics of our wedding or read our story you can visit our wedding page http://www.nobody777.com/davidandtammy/. It’s a little over-due for an update but all the details are there about how I met and fell in love with my lovely bride.
As you’ve probably figured by now, I author websites (like this one you’re looking at), articles and work in my profession as a computer technician. As a hobbie I love to work with computers, study the Bible and I read a lot (admittedly a little less since I got married – hehe). I love spending time with my awesome wife and also enjoy composing music and writing songs and love to gather with sincere bros and sistaahs in Christ when the opportunity presents itself. Currently, I do not consider myself as being directly affiliated with any particular denomination (or, in other words, a formal member of any particular “church/religious organization”), so I guess you may count me as part of the 17-23% of Americans (according to recent statistics by Gallup & Barna) who have nothing to do with organized religion at all (aah, feels nice actually – grin). Of course, in saying this, I am not at all suggesting that I consider myself to be separated from the body of Christ for indeed I am a believer and a brother in Jesus. I love the Lord with all my heart and I am blessed to consider myself a part of His Church; His body; His Bride; His people! From my view “the Church” is something spiritual and living and not something defined by buildings, programs or denominations. All of that simply to say that my personal choice to disconnect completely with traditional “church” as most people know it, is not a disconnect from true Christianity (i.e. following Jesus every day) at all or even to disconnect from other sincere followers of Jesus. I believe strongly in the family of God, of which I am, absolutely, a valid part!
It is true that I don’t really see myself becoming intricately involved with organized, institutional “ministry” at any time in the near future; though I do believe the Lord has placed a calling of service to the body of Christ on my life. But then, that’s nothing special, for all of us who claim to be His children have the same call to minister. In fact, “service” is all the term “ministry” means biblically anyway (it is the religious concepts we have been raised with that turn words that express loving service into official, even professional, religious duties with formal titles)… I believe that the details of the individual calling to serve will mature the more broken we become before the Lord and the more conformed to His nature we become. My sincere belief is that, whatever form of service I engage in (by His design) – even if it happens to involve connection with believers in various church organizations at various times, will flow out of a natural response to His love. This is VERY IMPORTANT to emphasize (and a little bit hard to explain because of the problem of years of traditional influence upon these kinds of terms). I’ve come to realize that my freedom in Christ permits me to serve members of the body of Christ no matter where they congregate. I belong to no “church” other than Christ’s Assembly of those called out of darkness into His light, but it is precisely because of this revelation that I am even able to serve among believers whether they affiliate with organized church groups or not (despite my own personal disgust with organized religion). At least this is the attitude of heart I am maturing in. I am inspired by the wisdom shared in the following quote by Kaspar von Schwenckfeld in 1526:
- Oh would to God we were truly the body of Christ, united in the bonds of love… but alas there is a yet no sign of anything that could be compared with the first church, where the believers were of one heart and of one mind… We will, however, stand fast in the liberty with which Christ has made us free, and not enter into any human sect, nor turn away from the universal Christian Church; we will not be bound by any yoke of bondage but only cling to the One divine sect of Jesus Christ… My desire and the which of my heart is that I might help everyone to the truth and unity of Christ and His Holy Spirit and not that I should be a cause of sectarianism, division, or falling way from Christ… As there are now four that are called churches, the Papal, Lutheran, Zwinglian, and Baptist or Pickard, and each condemns the other, as is to be seen, that Luther condemns the Zwinglian Church and the fanatics, one cannot help asking whether all of them are, or which of them is, the true assembly of the Church of Christ, where one ought to be found and where one may be blessed… We will answer the question in the words of Peter… ‘Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that feareth Him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with Him’ (Acts 10:34-35)… So the more these churches condemn one another, so much the more will those who fear God and live uprightly and Christianity, be, in the sight of God unexcluded and uncondemned… Although I have so far fully joined myself to no church… yet I have not despised any church, persons, leaders, or teachers. I desire to serve everyone in God, to be the friend and brother of each who has a zeal for God and loves Christ from the heart… Therefore I pray God to lead me aright in all things, to enable me, according to the Apostolic rule, rightly recognize all spirits, especially the Spirit of Jesus Christ; to teach me to prove all things and to distinguish, and to accept and hold what is good, so that in this present state of divisions and separations, I my attain, with a clear, sure conscience in Christ, to Truth and unity… My Liberty does not suit all… some call me an eccentric… and many look on me with suspicion… but God knows my heart… I am… no sectarian, and with God’s help, will not be a disturber of peace. Rather than destroy anything good, I would die. And therefore I have not fully attached myself to any party, sect, or church, so that I might, in the will of God, through His grace, apart from party serve all parties.
The kind of service I am talking about is not a guilty motivation to perform works for God to earn His blessing, favor, or any such thing. It is a desire to follow Him because I love Him. I already know that He is my Heavenly Father and accepts me even if I never do anything. I already know that His love is completely unconditional. This love has motivated me to follow Him and my desire is to obey every word He speaks. I already know that Jesus calls me His friend and not simply His servant. Because I engage my relationship with God on a personal level, with the understanding that He is my closest friend, I avoid the temptation to get “spooky spiritual” about anything because spirituality is simply life involved with Christ and should exist in a natural, normal flow. I am at peace to simply to enjoy this life, living freely, and no longer worry about agendas, spiritual benchmarks, or anxious religion.
To just expound on this point a little further, let me just say that I no longer believe in the traditional, religious concept of “entering the ministry” one day (and I personally reject all forms of presumed “professional ministry” – i.e. “the full time ministry”, etc.). I believe that the modern religious concept of “ministry” (and even “Christianity” in general) is so completely opposite to what the New Testament illustrates that, for many typical church goers today, a first century Christian mindset in action would be virtually unrecognizable… or perhaps even incomprehensible. If you will permit me a moment, I will try to explain. Serving one another (ministry) should be part of life itself for those who know Him. James said that, not only is it part of the Christian life, but it manifests evidence of our sincere faith in God (James 2:18). So I leave all the details of calling in His hands, and simply concentrate on serving as love motivates me, where the Lord leads and as the revelation of His grace compels me, and I do not seek to spend my human efforts to “pursue ministry” as though it were some “thing” apart from every day life itself and the way we engage our relationship with Christ and other people (with His life flowing through us) and I certainly will never regard ministry as a “profession”; the way it is commonly considered today by so many who find themselves about the business of religion. I just want to pursue the Lord. I believe all “ministry” (service) should flow FREELY out of sincere love and as a direct result of submission to Christ. The moment it is defined as a program, status, profession, identity, or religious vocation – then it ceases to be ministry as God intends it (in my opinion). I confess that I tend to be immediately suspect when I hear people use the terminology: “my ministry”, “so-and-so ministries”, “enter in the ministry”, “full-time ministry”, “office of ministry”, “left the ministry”, etc. I say suspect because I am interested primarily in what motivated this response. There is a severe corruption of this term in concept because of religious tradition, which has all but completely distracted most church-attending (and even many non-church-attending) Christians from a pure and simple Gospel mindset.
As far as “attending church” goes, I don’t – though I do sometimes tag along with my mom and sis (at their request) about once every few months when I visit them in Seattle and my wife and I have dropped in on occasion to a local gathering, but other than that I do not regularly (and certainly not religiously) attend meetings anywhere, nor am I looking for a “church” to attend or “belong” to – certainly not in the institutionalized sense as is common and popular today. It’s kind of funny I guess… I remember when I used to shake my head in disapproval of those who claimed to only attend services on holidays or rare occasions…… hehehe…. Now that’s me! …and even less. I do spend time frequently with other brothers and sisters in Christ (who are part of the same ONE body of Christ that I am a part of) as well as converse with some great Christian friends via telephone, Skype, and e-mail, but as a whole these days, I’m not the biggest participant or proponent of institutional Christianity for a number of reasons (and that’s probably putting it mildly). I love my brothers and sisters who yet attend institutional churches and I pray for the pastors I have been blessed to come to know as friends, but there is a deep work the Lord is doing in my heart in this season of my life and the place He has chosen to do it just happens to be outside of the institutional church. If this “testimony” I am sharing regarding how I approach the Christian faith strike anyone as uncomfortable or incomprehensible, please know that I stand by the belief “let each one be persuaded in his own mind” and I do not intend to force my opinions on anyone.
I certainly don’t expect everyone to relate to or understand my perspective on “church” initially and that’s ok. I remember well how I used to react to people who would tell me they served the Lord outside the four walls of a church. I thought most of them were crazy. 😉 (and maybe a few of them were, who knows, hehe)… I just didn’t understand how a person could actually be so deceived to think they could engage a healthy relationship with Christ (or other members of the body for that matter) without the support of and membership in a “local, institutional church” (consequently this is a term not found or demonstrated anywhere in Scripture). It’s not so great a surprise to me that people generally think this way. It’s the way most of us have been raised, myself included. I also remember (to my own regret now) the concerns that raised in my mind about other individuals’ perceived present spiritual condition; Generally I presumed they were probably in rebellion of some sort (likely having a problem with church leadership and authority), hurt, bitter, deceived, selfish, lazy, uncommitted, wanting to get out having to tithe their money, or just plain spiritually proud. I remember the tags I placed on such people too; Lone Ranger, Rambo, Maverick, isolationist, dissenter, a critical spirit, etc. Even if these labels weren’t spoken out loud, I remember the mindsets that were indeed present, however silent. It was quite humbling to one day find myself filling the shoes I had long despised of others… Others whom, in reality, I had thought myself to be more faithful and more spiritually mature than they, simply because of my submission to the weekly program (and/or a “pastor” figure)… I had much to learn, much to be humbled of and much to allow God to change (as I still do). Praise God, He is ever faithful, He is so good and so merciful to our short-comings!
God has been teaching me what it means to walk with Him in total sincerity without any distraction (even the distraction of religious activity – as “church” can often become). It’s not easy to always be confronted with the question, “where do you go to church?” and know exactly how to respond without getting into a big discussion or have people misunderstand me. Christians are so programmed to say that and then to respond with astonishment and sometimes criticism because most of us have been taught from a very young age that attending church is the most important part of being a Christian. For many years I have myself been a slave to that manner of thinking, and always have sought to define my calling, giftings, ministry, and even my relationships with other Christians and the Lord within that context, but in recent years the Lord has been opening my eyes to more clearly discern the body of Christ and not place emphasis on a building or program, which is built and maintained by man. I am not suggesting that meeting in a special place constitutes sin, so please don’t be offended at my expressed conviction; I simply mean to suggest that such is not essential, not expressed biblically and sometimes can be a distraction from a clear focus on the centrality of Jesus in our lives. Our common ground as Christians is based on the fact that we know HIM and it is only as we walk in HIS light that we have true fellowship one with another (1 John 1:7).
Matthew 18:20 – The Message Translation
I love the simplicity of Jesus’ words in the Matthew 18:20 passage. I’m glad He didn’t say, “when a hundred or more of you meet for two hours a week at a special building, wear fancy clothes, tote a large King James version of the Bible, perform religious routines, pay tithes and sit passively, listening to endless re-hashed sermons until you’re nodding off in the pew and falling on the floor from boredom, I will be there.” (hehe) No, He simply said that when as few as two or three come together because of Him, He’d be there! To that I say, “Amen!”
Where I am now is just wanting to know Him without all the distractions, without all the religious facades, without all the pressures of trying to please people and act like something else other than simply a disciple of the Lord. Most of all, I want “self” out of the way. What I’m finding out is that this requires death! John the baptist knew that in order for Christ to increase, he must first decrease (John 3:30)… and quite literally it meant death for John (talk about “losing your head” – grin). He had to be taken out of the way so Christ could become the focus; a very literal example of a parallel, spiritual truth. In a similar way we must die to all the distractions of the flesh, and yes I think sometimes the distraction of church world and “religion” in general, so that Christ may come into view, simply and purely.
it is simply more of Christ and less of me. He increases as I decrease.
This is what it means to be a disciple.“
Chip Brogden of Watchman.Net
In the months shortly before I left the institutional church I attended (back in 2001), I was standing next to my father’s hospital bed (he was dying of cancer). Dad took my arm firmly and looked me in the eyes and said, “Son, be wary of men who would set themselves up in your life as ‘spiritual fathers’.” He said, “I raised you to be a son of your Father in heaven!” I will never forget those strong and prophetic words he spoke to me. It almost brings tears to my eyes just remembering that moment and to regard how my dad knew that his primary purpose in life as my father was to release me to God my Father; to walk in His ways as His son. I also remember the day, when I was but a teenager (many years earlier of course), that dad shared with me how God had moved on his heart to release me fully to Him. He said this with tears running down his face. I can only imagine how impacting this revelation had been for him. My dad and I were always close. I had such an amazing father. I love and miss him so much. He was proud of me as his son and never ceased to show me off to everyone he met when I was with him. Mom tells me stories of how excited he was when I was born and how he even put a big sign out in the yard saying “it’s a boy!!!” Dad and mom were older than many of their friends at the time who were having children and so it was a joke among friends that Abraham and Sarah had been given their son by God… though this was not so much a “joke” to my father. He had been long convinced that God was going to give him a son and then here it came to pass. He dedicated me to the Lord and he and mom invested their lives to raise me (and my sister) to know Jesus. I remember times as a little child walking past my parent’s room and the door would be cracked open and I’d see dad on his knees weeping and praying for me. I share all of this so you can appreciate, as I do, how impacting it was for me to hear my dad (who loved being my dad) release me to the Father and then to have him take my arm in his last few days on earth and leave me with such a powerful truth.
At the time that my dad spoke these words to me, the institutional church I was attending was fully caught up in what I call the “fathering doctrine”. They would hold conferences and constantly preach how important it was to be submitted to a “spiritual father”. In leadership classes they taught a doctrine which suggested that, even if a pastor was in error, you should still follow his instruction because God would regard your obedience the same as being obedient to God because you submitted to pastoral authority. Of course, the truth is, this doctrine is nowhere present in Scripture and is heresy, but it is effectively persuasive none-the-less the way these false leaders present it. I sat in services where I heard visiting pastors say amazing things like, “members of the congregation should be baptized into the pastor!” This is obviously contrary to the truth that Paul reminded the believers about in 1 Corinthians 1:12-17. Another teacher came into the church and actually taught that you could not be a son or daughter of God unless you were first the son or daughter of a “spiritual father” (i.e. submitted to a local pastor of an institutional church). There was ceremony, illustrated sermons, even a table placed on the platform where the leaders of the church sat around and a sign that read, “the fathers table”. My “pastor” used to even call me his “spiritual son” – though he had no part in leading me to Jesus or discipling me. The other pastors also frequently used passages of Scripture in their sermons that were clear references to GOD the Father but interpreted them with dual meaning as though “pastors” were also “fathers” in like respect. On and on these kinds of doctrines were introduced… some of them more subtle than others. There were also times I challenged them and went to the pastor of the church and confronted issues. It didn’t help. It only got worse. My dad was not directly aware of many of these things going on in the “church” I attended. In fact, him and mom lived 250 miles west of my town (roughly a 4-hour drive). They did not attend my church or have any relationship with those people. Yet, for some reason, this was the urgent message dad felt necessary to leave me with in his parting days. I believe it was message motivated by the Holy Spirit. It is also a message that strongly came to define the convictions I hold concerning what passes for leadership in today’s so-called church. I am wholly disgusted by these kinds of mindsets that are 100% contrary to the doctrine and heart of Jesus.
I wish I could tell you that I immediately embraced the words my father shared with me that day, but I was still under the influence of religion at that point (not to mention these men who had postured themselves over me). It would take a few more months before things really started to sink in and the Lord started to open my eyes to the truth. I thank God constantly for giving me an earthly dad that loved Jesus and allowed God to speak through him and to raise up a son who would follow God as his Father above all else. It is my firm intention to honor my earthly father in this direction and my full conviction to submit my life to GOD my Heavenly Father and let no other voice sway me. To those of you visiting this site, I would like to encourage you with the same truth my dad encouraged me with; BE WARY OF MEN WHO WANT TO SET THEMSELVES UP IN YOUR LIFE AS FATHERS! You have one Father and one Shepherd and one Teacher, even the Holy Spirit of God that dwells in you. You are His holy Temple. Do not be enticed by religion and the schemes of men. Follow Him! Hear Him! Trust Him!
Matthew 23:9 (NLT)
If you are more interested in some of the details concerning my personal perspectives on “church,” I would like to invite you to browse a few websites that have become a source of encouragement to me personally and also explain some of the reasons why I feel so strongly that institutional Christianity misses the mark when it comes to aligning ourselves with the example God has ordained in His Word. In fact, I personally view it (organized religion) as little more than an enormous distraction. You can browse these sites and read some further comments about my personal perspective on this subject, if you are interested that is, by browsing the pages of this website. There’s also an article I wrote several years back that still expresses my heart in some of these areas, you can read it by clicking here. The article at the previously mentioned link is actually several years dated now and contains some outdated links, but still expresses a good measure of my perspective on these matters and it may be a good introduction – especially to those of you who are just starting on your journey outside the traditional religious church system or are considering it. At the time I wrote it, this site was still evolving into what is now it’s primary existence. As I said, some of the links on that page may no longer be active (I will get around to updating them one of these days and may clean it up to make it into a new article or blog post), but you can find a lot of helpful and encouraging articles and website links in the main pages of this site as well, which I do try to keep updated. God bless you!
I’ve been a Christian since I was about 4 years old and I suppose one could say that I have tread my share of miles in “church world” (more than 30 years in that environment). In other words, I’ve seen just about everything there is to see in the way of religious tradition in the institutional church system and the effect it has on people. I’ve witnessed the good, the bad, and the ugly (grin). I’ve been part of a few different denominational groups as well as non-denominational organizations over the years and continue to enjoy friendships with Christian brothers and sisters from a variety of denominational backgrounds. I’ve also taken part in my share of ministry-related work; teaching youth, working in street ministry outreach as well as a variety of other evangelistic events, leading worship, attending Bible school, playing in Christian rock bands, etc., but I do not boast in any of those things. In fact, much like Paul the apostle said about his former religious life, I count all that stuff as trash and have put it away completely in favor of a living, breathing relationship with Jesus Christ!
Philippians 3:7-10 (The Message)
I have come to the sincere conclusion that what is important is NOT the rituals most Christians follow every week in their scheduled services or even the mere attendance of those services, but what is important is the pursuit of intimacy with the Lord Jesus Christ, the desire to know His Word, and true fellowship with the body of Christ.
I also believe that Christians need to allow themselves the freedom to become real and honest with themselves and others when it comes to dealing with hardships, struggles, trials and other circumstances of life. Too often Christian brothers and sisters are not honest with each other and they put on phony smiles and religious facades in an attempt to try and cover their weaknesses and pain – not to mention their sin. Sometimes they even get offended if someone else happens to express blunt honesty about their struggles instead of maintaining a demeanor of unwavering strength in the face of their adversities. I have one word for this, it’s called PLASTIC! The plastic needs to melt! It’s time to burn away the facades of religiosity, pride and hypocrisy that keep us separate from one another (and sometimes God). Christians need to get honest about even the struggle to work out their faith. When we maintain our religious, phony acts we need to know that usually the only ones were fooling is ourselves (and we’re not really even good at that). Believe it or not, the world is wise to our stupid games! Why do you think they have no interest or concern about what we do within the four walls of our churches? They are waiting to see truth manifested. They want to see if this faith we talk about really works in (or should I rather say THROUGH) times of struggle. They want to see evidence of the hope that sustains us even when things do not go the way we planned or expected.
A lot of so-called “ministries” today (like we see on “Christian” television) are preaching a foreign Gospel; a Gospel that avoids the cross and too often denies the Scriptures. They will tell you that your faith is this powerful force that can be used to manipulate the hand of God to get blessings, wealth, health and material prosperity. I once heard a Lutheran preacher say so eloquently, “Jesus never used His faith to get off the cross.” How true! He endured the suffering and it is His strength that manifests through our struggle and weakness; not to mention that draws us closer to Him. This is not to say that God does not sometimes prosper His children in very open, tangible ways, but we should be content with what we have and trust Him to lead, protect and take care of our needs. It is this dependence on Christ that conditions us to hear Him clearly when He speaks and tells us to go where He wills and do what He commands. To much of what is preached today denies the sovereignty of God and focuses on an appeal to our flesh and, worst of all, it places man at the center, in charge and on the throne (instead of Christ). Such who teach and preach such things only have an appearance of godliness but they, by default, deny the power of the true Gospel of Jesus Christ and they lead many astray; into even deeper bondage that what they promised their hearers freedom from.
The world is looking to see a manifestation of the real power of God in our lives (one that is wrought from Gospel reality). They’ve heard our wild sermons and excited talk about our belief in the power of the Spirit of the Lord, but (for the most part) they have yet to really see it manifested at all through our lives. I think that, largely, this is because we are not broken enough and we have not truly learned what it means to believe God with childlike faith and to move beyond our insecurities and feelings of intimidation and inadequacy and realize that we are not “lay persons” placed under some artificial covering of men by whom we must first receive recognition from and approval by, but we are saints of God and we are priests and kings, heirs with Christ Jesus! We are all ministers (servants) of His, we all have the capacity to hear the voice of God and walk in obedience to that voice without the approval and permission of men. When the body of Christ truly understands and comes into a realization that God has made every one of us EQUALLY significant in our call to share Christ to and with one another, as well as to the lost, then I believe we will see God do amazing things through us! Perhaps we have seen glimpses from time to time, but I believe it will increase the more confident we become in whose children we are!
1 John 2:26-27 (NIV)
Ultimately, I believe that when these aspects of the Christian’s life come into focus and alignment (i.e. the pursuit of intimate relationship with God, the desire to know and apply the Word of God, the desire to have true fellowship with our Christian family, the willingness to be completely honest in every aspect of our faith, and the realization of who we really are in Jesus and that our faith is lit as a flame), then the lost will be drawn to a real, living expression of the joy of knowing Jesus manifested through our lives and they will want what we’ve got… not just because it looks good on the surface, but because it is something they recognize to be real and that they desperately need too.
This site is about real life relationship with God. Relationship and TRUTH is completely the focus! I’ll tell you the honest truth; I am completely uninterested in mere religion and just following the same ol’ routine every week of my life, stuck within the walls of a lifeless institution, pretending that somehow this what the real Christian life is all about. I don’t have all the answers and I don’t presume to think that only I am on the right track, for in all honesty, I am quite aware of my faults and my shortcomings and realize that I have yet plenty of maturing to do as a Christian. God’s grace is amazing and it motivates me to keep climbing, keep pressing, keep running to get closer to Him. I’ve had my share of dry spells and frustrations along this road. I’ve faced questions and struggle (and I’m sure there will more to come), but one thing has never changed; I WANT HIM!!!
Rather than create a site that merely argues points of doctrine or just rails exclusively on institutional Christianity, as certainly some sites do (and I have myself been tempted to do), I wanted to develop a site that goes beyond the point of just complaining about things… While I am certainly exhausted by the nonsense espoused by organized religion (as are many folks) the great reason for exposing its error is to highlight the fact that THERE IS A BETTER WAY! Still, people occasionally write me and say, “Dave, I read the complaints here about all the problems with organized religion, but I don’t see many solutions.” Unfortunately, many people are looking for someone to give them a simple answer; another program to get involved with, another “church” concept to embrace, or another leader to follow. It can be very difficult, those first few steps outside of organized religion, and people often look for something to replace the church attendance they’ve been used to for so long. Many dive right into the house church thing or any number of other “substitute” options. Rarely do they give themselves time to let those anxieties fade as they seek the Lord for His guidance.
It can be extremely hard to shake the notion that we, as followers of Jesus, think we are supposed to be busy about some kind of religious activity. The institutional church mindset has so heavily influenced our way of thinking that we often have an initial emotional reaction to the absence of church attendance and it can feel like we are doing something wrong by not doing… well… something. Other friends and religious leaders will often even interject that we must be careful not to isolate ourselves from the body of Christ. We are told that we should at least get involved with some kind of spiritual activity, like a home group or a bible study. They tell us, “You can’t just not go to church anymore”… To which I now respond, “Why not?” God NEVER at any time in Scripture commanded His people to busy themselves with organized religion or things like building or attending churches or religious programs. Part of the problem comes from people having been trained to think that attending a church service equals “fellowship”. Yet, even while I once attended church, I knew that the fellowship didn’t really start until church service got over with and everyone went out to eat. Around the table we would enjoy each others conversation, talk about our lives, about the Lord, and laugh, pray, and have a wonderful time in the presence of the Lord and each other. So why can’t this be the way we live out each day of our lives? Who says we need a religious routine to follow? The Scripture certainly gives no such directive! It really doesn’t.
As followers of Jesus, we have one Master and we are all brothers and sisters in the same family (no matter where we live, gather, or how often we gather). We don’t need to divide ourselves up into denominations and only meet on certain days where we participate in a formal service… It’s not that meeting together at a scheduled time on occasion is necessarily wrong either (or for that matter singing together, listening to a message, or praying together in corporate fashion). There may be times we can do that too if we desire. But to make such activities the central focus of our lives as some kind of religious routine we obligate ourselves to and to say that this defines us as believers, and to submit ourselves to human priests (whether we cleverly call them pastors instead of priests or not), is not the design of Christ for His people. In Him we are free and in Him we live and move and have our being! Not in the routine of playing church. As born-again believers we are all part of one family in God; the body of Christ. This is His Assembly! Church, in all truth, is the invention of man… Yes, the word “church” is found in our English Bibles, but most don’t realize that the word was never used by any of the first century believers, the apostles, or even Christ. Church was added hundreds of years later to the translations and, in reality, is not even a translation at all of the original Greek word! In fact, the actual Greek word that our English word “church” is derived from is NEVER used anywhere in Scripture! Still it’s the word we seem to be stuck with (and hard core church zealots will not be interested in this study any time soon I gather), so I must highlight it’s biblical meaning, which is the Family of God. That, if you will, is the Church!
So who is it that says “attending a local church organization” is the only prescribed way to enjoy fellowship with other believers? Who is it that has the authority to confirm the notion that you won’t grow spiritually if you’re not attending a local church? It is only people who are still captivated by a religious mindset that push such concepts on you. Let them rant and leave them alone. Many of them probably mean well, but just understand that they are still deceived (not unlike so many of us were for such a long time). God is able to deal with them. With the advent of Internet, telephone, automobile and airplane, you can find many ways to connect and interact in meaningful ways with other believers that are not limited to simply sitting in a pew looking at the back of some guys head each week. I’m not a big Twitter fan, but some people love to use mediums like that to communicate, so go for it! If you do Facebook, then have fun with it. Write letters, send email, make a phone call, take a little trip to go see someone. I personally love using Skype to talk with close friends and family because you can see them as well as hear them. Whatever you do, do it with a heart full of joy and without religious condemnation. You are FREE!!!
It’s true that it is not always easy or possible, even with modern technology at our disposal, to connect with like-minded folks but I think it’s very important that we first come to realize that our sufficiency is to rest fully in Christ. Through those times when we may not have the benefit of a lot of friends around, Christ really can sustain us and, yes, we can still grow spiritually. In fact, sometimes this separation unto Him only is necessary for God to shut out the other voices of religion to teach us to hear Him. It’s not so much the act of fellowship that is as important as realizing that we are in The Fellowship because we are connected to Christ. And, for some, God may be calling you to reach out to your unsaved neighbors in the absence of Christian friends. Perhaps He’s calling you to befriend someone that has no friends or that has been burned on religion. You could very well be the answer to that person’s prayer. Religion is often so one-sided and selfish in its focus. Let God live through you, no matter where you are or what your circumstance. God may fashion something together so beautiful and beyond what you were expecting or even thinking possible. Don’t limit the Lord to those traditional concepts your brain typically wants to operate in. Don’t shut out His voice from speaking to you in a way that, perhaps, you never even considered before. Don’t just look for books, articles and teachers to tell you what you’re supposed to do now that you’re “out of church”. Really give the Lord a chance to speak to you! He will! The fact of the matter is, if we truly believe that He is God and that we can trust Him to lead us, then we must believe that He will do exactly that! So if you let go of the world’s concepts, even of things like “church” and “churchianity” and religion and give all that to God, inviting Him to teach you and guide you, then you must believe that He will! I do believe that! I absolutely do! In fact, I KNOW He will!!!! He has been doing it in my life since I first trusted Him, and especially since I left behind religion in 2001 to follow Him without it. I have NEVER regretted it, even for a day!
While some religious folks like to cast warnings saying that you can’t grow spiritually in a vacuum and you need the support of a local body of believers, their warning implies that just because a person stops attending church they stop seeking the Lord or to connect with genuine followers of Jesus. They act like even God will forsake you if you’re not involved in some kind of religious routine. This is, flat out, ridiculous! Even worse, it’s a flat out lie! While managing this website over the last 15+ years, I have received letters from lots of people… Not one of them, that I can recall, ever expressed some attitude of wanted to be isolated from other believers or from a closer relationship with God. In fact, many of the letters are just the opposite; They want to know how they can connect with other people who are walking this same path outside the walls of religion, intending to follow the Lord with all their heart.
The point I wish to express is that the answer to all the corruption that exists in organized religion is not another program or method. It is simply to discard the old weights that hinder us and find our lives wholly rested in Christ Jesus and then follow wherever He leads us! I have no “pattern” to suggest to anyone! I’m not writing all this to promote “house churching” or any other kind of “church” thing. There is only one Church and YOU are that Church and Christ is the Leader of all of us who are part of it! As we follow Him, we will soon find our paths crossing with other people who are following Him as well. In this way we are become like a single house of living stones, all built upon one foundation; Jesus Christ.
My heart is to promote and encourage relationship with God and New Testament restoration concepts like what I have just been describing. I want to present a site that instills hope, excitement and anticipation for God to move within the earth and among His people and bring about revival… REAL REVIVAL – FREEDOM FROM DEAD RELIGION INTO THE JOY OF HIS ABUNDANT LIFE! It’s not a big deal to me if some of the featured writers and ministries presented through this site don’t agree perfectly in every single tiny detail with my opinions about ministry or minor doctrinal points of view (and, say, “organizational” versus “organic” church concepts)… What I find to be essential are the things that unite true believers; our relationship with Christ, our commitment to His Truth, our freedom to enjoy life in Him without being subject to religious condemnation, and a sincere passion to know the Lord and find His will for our lives and obey it.
There is something else I want to express here, just briefly… One of things I feared about creating this site was that it would give an “over-spiritualized” image of who the real Dave is. You might think TruthForFree.com (formerly the Prayer Shack) is some kind of formal ministry or that I am a skilled speaker who travels around and preaches at conferences. I wouldn’t even mention this part if it wasn’t that I have, on ocasion, received e-mails from folks who presume I’m a former pastor, an evangelist, or they have asked me to come speak at a conference (even to “minister” overseas). Some people approach me as though I were a spiritual advisor or counselor of some kind and sometimes it’s hard to know exactly how to respond because, on the one hand, I love people and my heart goes out to those who have been wounded by abusive church experiences and who are seeking truth and freedom. I want to encourage them and always point only to Jesus, though the drawback of having a website is that it can tend to put an “official” appeal on things when nothing “official” is intended whatsoever. Please hear my heart folks, I just want to know Jesus closely like so many of you and my intent is only to keep walking in the direction that will lead me to that ultimate goal. Perhaps one day, God will direct me to “minister” in some capacity other than merely sharing my heart on a website like this (which is just dandy as far as I’m concerned right now). I am open to whatever He desires of me…
Presently God is walking me through something that requires so much of my attentions resting on Him only. Anything else “ministry-related” I truly believe would be a distraction to that process (mostly because so many of my concepts of ministry have been instilled and influenced by religious mind-sets rather than Spirit-led, biblical, relational motivations). In fact, I’m not really even a fan of the word “ministry” anymore because of the way that it has been corrupted by the concepts that drive organized religion. I’d almost rather eliminate it from my vocabulary altogether, but alas, many people relate to the term and I understand that so I use it as a means of identifying with some. Believe it or not, I don’t walk around the house praying all day wearing a TruthForFree t-shirt while trying to figure out ways to finance a best-selling book or mega ministry organization to reach the masses. I simply love living each day, being a normal boring ordinary dude. I love spending time with my wife. I like to hang with good friends, see an ocassional movie, listen to some of my favorite bands (U2, Iona, King’s X and Julie Miller), go camping, fishing and enjoy a tastey micro-brew now and then (or as the Friar in the movie Robin Hood would say, “the Lord’s brew” heh heh). 😉 I love to laugh, spend time with my family whenever possible (that’s my mom and my sister along with Tammy and me in the picture) and just be honest and sincere in every relationship I have. I don’t see myself as some religious guru who knows (or thinks he knows) everything about how “church” is to be done (though I at least understand the “church”, biblically speaking, is about His people who are assembled in Christ Jesus as a SPIRITUAL house of LIVING stones and not some religious activity or building program). I hope that much will be made clear through what is presented on this site; because, to me, “church” is who I am (and who “we” are collectively) because of who I (we) know – that is the Lord Jesus (1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19-20; 1 John 1:7; etc.).
I’m sure it doesn’t even need to be said that I, like any other Christian, sometimes fail, I have sin in my life that needs to be expelled, and there is much about where I am in my walk with the Lord that leaves me (for lack of a better word) discontented; I am not as mature in Him as I desire to be. I am not always the quick-forgiving sort, but God is doing a real work in my life, as I know He is so many people. I want to associate with other people who are open to allowing this process to run its course in their lives and to give others the same grace in the process (including me). I am pretty down on “religiousness” and I’m not a fan of institutional Christianity, but I don’t hate anyone who is part of this. I don’t presume to know the reasons why everyone involves themselves as they do in various things but I trust that God is able to bring us all to maturity in Him as each of us just yield ourselves to Him each day.
I believe God is big enough to be God without my help (grin). Sometimes I think I try to help Him too much. While I’m sure some of my personal perspectives will emerge from time to time in the articles and even some of the other website links provided on this site, my hope is that the reader will be encouraged and motivated to pursue a closer, more meaningful, impacting relationship with Christ. A relationship that is not encumbered about by artificial religious behavior and rules, regulations, or motivations of works-righteousness, but a relationship where excitement for the Lord and being in Love with Him becomes the principle motivation for all Christian service. May you be blessed as you browse the pages of this website and I hope you’ll have some fun too! And, please, if the Lord has placed something on your own heart to share with the body of Christ and you feel compelled to perhaps write an article, please share it with me! I love it when Christians step out and minister the Lord to others. Perhaps I can post your article here (as I have often done) for others to be encouraged and blessed by! God bless you!
In His grip,
Dave (& Tammy too)
P.S. If you’d like to leave me a message about anything, feel free to use the Google Voice applet below. You will receive an automated call from the Google Voice computer, allowing you to leave your message, which will then be sent to my email. When you receive the call, just follow the instructions (usually you just press 1 to get to my voicemail). If you would also like me to reply to your message via e-mail please also state your email address in the voicemail (for best results, speak slowly and distinctly, as your voice message will be automatically transcribed into text). I look forward to hearing from you!