This is a brief account of this man’s journey from being firmly rooted into the institutional church to leaving the institution and coming to know Christ in a real way for the first time in a very long time. It would seem to many that this concept of leaving “church” and truly finding Christ is backwards. Now, I didn’t leave the Church, because I am always a part or member of the body of Christ, thus I am the Church. But I did leave what is called the “institutional church”. Now I define the “institutional” church as those churches that are under the leadership of a pastor or priest and meet in a building on a weekly basis. The alternative, as I will explain later is “organic church”. This is a gathering of believers under the headship of Jesus Christ alone.
I have been a Christian since 1982. I was a sophomore in high school when I went to a New Year’s eve event at a small church I was attending. They were showing a Billy Graham film and I heard the Gospel message for the first time. Two days later I received the Lord into my life on a hill just off of a local beach in California. This is the very short version of my testimony. The pastor of this local church after interacting with me for a year told me he believed I was called to full time ministry. So after graduating high school, I set off for Bible college in Indiana. After one semester I decided it wasn’t for me and returned to California.
Then a few years later I returned to the same church and began my journey as a youth pastor. I volunteered and worked with junior high and high school students for a number of years. In 1999 I was given the opportunity to be a credentialed minister in the Church of God (Anderson, IN) and become the associate pastor of a church in San Jose, CA. I thought I was finally fulfilling the Lord’s call on my life by being an official pastor. This position also allowed me to team up with my former youth pastor and friend, who was the lead pastor of this particular church. It was a small congregation of about 150 people. The focus was on being a seeker sensitive church that modeled the principles of Saddleback Church, lead by Rick Warren.
After a few years at this church I came to realize that my own personal issues were getting in the way of effectively ministering to people, so I resigned. I attended a local seeker sensitive mega church for a few years. It was during this period that I decided to go back to school to finish my bachelors degree in Christian Leadership with the hopes of returning to vocational ministry. There was one course in particular that I can see was the catalyst for planting the seed of moving me out of the institutional church. It was a course of developing a Biblical worldview. The textbooks and discussions on this topic caused me to question how “church” was being done in the U.S. I had pastored in a seeker sensitive model, but I was coming to realize that this doesn’t line up with the model given in the new testament. I saw my need to repent of preaching messages and using scriptures out of their intended context. I was more interested in verses that fit my neat outline versus what those verses really meant.
(to be continued in Part 2)