Leaving the Institutional Church

It’s now been about a year and 4 months since my wife and I left the institutional church. I thought it would be good and perhaps even beneficial to many to share in a little greater detail how and why we left the institutional form of church, what life has been like since we left and where we see God taking us. Please note that I do not want to discount the traditional church, I simply want to share my journey and what God has taught me during this journey.

From about the time I was six I grew up at a local church. I was in Sunday School, Childrens’ Church, Vacation Bible School, Youth Group and even took an interest in “Big Church” (this is what the adult service was known as to the kids). I grew up and was what I believe to be a typical church kid. I eventually lost interest and faith in God but stayed involved, putting on a nice face for everyone at church. About halfway through high school, the Lord used who is now one of my closest friends to show me who Christ really is. From that point on I stayed very involved in the church I grew up at. God did great things and really showed His grace to me and revealed Christ to me while I was there. I was in the youth’s worship band, I was a youth leader and at one point I even considered it may be God’s will for me to become a youth pastor. I’m not going to lie, God did great things with me and many others there at the time, but eventually something in me changed and the sweet excitement of being involved at this church quickly became bitter and I began questioning things I had never questioned before, not even when I was blatantly living in opposition toward Christ.

The age old statement that “there must be more to this” became prevalent in my mind. I began looking at and analyzing everything I experienced from the outside in and questioning it all, and of course as any good church going Christian, I kept it all to myself. I was nervous to even tell my closest friends that something wasn’t right, that I believed everything we were doing was all wrong, besides, it’s not like I had a solution. Finally, during a conversation with two close friends, it came up. Turns out that they had felt the same way I felt. They had even been struggling for about the same length of time that I had been, yet we all kept it to ourselves, I suppose for fear of judging one another. We then decided together to seek God about what were feeling through prayer and lots of reading of the New Testament, particularly the book of Acts. We quickly came across something Paul said in 1 Thessalonians:

…but test everything; hold fast what is good. – Paul 1 Thessalonians 5:21

Naturally, we began testing everything that we had known and grown up to believe. At times we would literally sit around, think of various church practices and then find out what it said about them in the New Testament, if anything. During this time we heard about a book called Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola and George Barna. Upon hearing some excerpts from Pagan Christianity I quickly went to Barnes and Noble to purchase the book because I believed I was in a place where it could very helpful. I must admit, at first it a hard read. The answers to questions I was looking for were difficult at times, much more difficult to digest than I had anticipated. After putting it down for a bit I picked it up again and started over from the beginning, it was finished in a week (I was working at a hotel at the time and had a lot of free time to read). The book answered many questions and excited me about exploring authentic Church life, one that is born of Christ and that isn’t man made.

After reading Pagan Christianity I quickly found a large amount of resources to better learn about this “organic church” thing that i kept hearing and reading about. Along with constant reading of the New Testament, I read many books concerning church life by Frank Viola, Watchman Nee, George Barna and many others.

I continued attending and being involved in ministry at this church for a while during all of this. Knowing for sure that I would eventually be leaving, I stayed for probably about another six months. I felt like God wasn’t ready for me to leave just yet, and I still believe I was there at that time for a purpose, even though I may never know exactly what that purpose was.

During all of this, about five and a half months before actually leaving all forms of the Institutional Church, I got engaged to my amazing wife. God couldn’t have brought her to me at a better time, we have shared this exciting journey together and I wouldn’t have it any other way. The wedding date was set for June. A couple weeks before the wedding, I met with the youth pastor, who was a good friend and was also the pastor that would be performing our wedding ceremony and told him that we would be leaving leadership in the youth group and leaving the church altogether. It was surprisingly a good meeting, it was nice to know that he trusted Jesus and saw Him in me enough to trust this decision and trust that it was God and not me. He still performed the ceremony and I still consider him a close brother.

So we left the church that I grew up at and haven’t been to a church service since then. I’m going to continue this in my next post by explaining what we have been doing since we left, struggles we’ve faced, our progression of mindsets, our changes of heart and where we foresee God taking us in the coming legs of this lifelong journey we have embarked on.

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4 thoughts on “Leaving the Institutional Church

  1. josephwesley says:

    Quincy, your post is awesome, and this is a very good journey to be taking. I agree that we need to check anything we do for the Lord with what is revealed in the Bible. We should always be able to point to the Bible to substantiate what we are doing. It’s also good to have more than one verse because the best way to understand the Bible is to use the Bible to interpret itself.

    Concerning our life in the church, the book of Acts is indispensable. It records the church at the earliest point in its history. That’s pretty awesome. Most people miss that the Bible is about Christ and the church. They know that it’s about Christ, but they miss the importance of the church. Actually, the entire New Testament is about Christ with the church. Christ died not only to produce redeemed people but to produce the church. God’s desire is for us, the believers, to be built up together as His spiritual house. In Matthew 16:18, Jesus says, “I will build my church.” His goal is the built up church, not just individual believers.

    Also, from God’s point of view, there is only one church. This is the universal church, and the church, according to Ephesians 1:22-23, is the Body of Christ. Additionally, Ephesians 4:4 and 1 Corinthians 1:13 show that there is only one Body. In this universe there is one Body of Christ and one church.

    However, Christ’s Body needs to be practically expressed on the earth. It’s not enough to be connected to an ethereal church, even though that in itself is awesome. Christ intends to be expressed through the church in a practical way on the earth. An illustration of this is that a carpenter may talk about how awesome a chair is, but until he actually makes a chair, people don’t have anywhere to sit. The same is true with Christ. Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her, but he also desires to be expressed practically through the church. In other words, He wants believers to meet together as the one Body of Christ and express Him corporately on the earth today.

    So what is God’s way for Christ’s Body to be expressed? What is His way for Christians to meet together as the church? This can be seen in the book of Acts. The early Christians met together from house to house breaking bread and praying (Acts 2:46). They also continued in the teaching and fellowship of the apostles (Acts 2:42). They didn’t merely “go to church,” sit in a pew, and listen to someone speak. They were meeting together from house to house, praying together, eating together, and continuing in the fellowship of the apostles.

    This can also be seen in the rest of the New Testament. 1 Corinthians 1:2 relates that the apostle Paul wrote this epistle to the “church of God which is in Corinth.” This church of God in Corinth is the practical manifestation of the reality of the universal church, and this practical manifestation is the local aspect of the church. Any time that a practical expression of a church is mentioned in the New Testament, it is mentioned as the church in whatever city is mentioned. This can be seen in Paul’s greetings to the churches in His epistles and in the Spirit’s speaking to the churches in Revelation 2 and 3. The only time it differs is when a group of churches are being spoken to, such as the churches in Galatia in the book of Galations.

    In summary, according to the revelation in the New Testament, there is the glorious universal aspect of the church and the practical local aspect of the church which is the meeting together of the believers in a city as the church in that city. This may be a lot for one reading, but I hope it makes more and more sense as you continue to consider it. If you ever have in depth questions and would like to email me, my address is putnamjw @ gmail.com. Amen. I look forward to more fellowship.

    • quincyzikmund says:

      This was a great read, thank you! I really appreciate the detail and depth you went into (which at the same is in a nut shell as the riches of Christ are so vast). I can honestly say that I don’t disagree with a single you wrote. An accurate view of what the church really is and her true nature is extremely important. What most people call “church” is scripturally inaccurate. It’s not a service, building or denomination, The church is the body of Christ whose life source is Christ himself. I wrote this post purposely leaving out a bunch of scripture because I simply wanted to share what happened and what we did rather than a detailed explanation of why. However, after my next post I plan to write about what, or rather who, the Church is and how she functions and the scriptural reasons why we left. Thank you again so much for encouragement!

  2. Rose says:

    I’m looking forward to you writing ‘the next chapter’ in this journey. Thank you for sharing.

  3. […] in America today. Here are a couple of their testimonies if you don’t believe me: Quincy Zikmund, Frank […]

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