Yes, I am a recovering Christian leader (to borrow from the 12-step lexicon). I was a pastor. I sought to get people to come to my church. I thought I was doing it for God, but I should have known better.
I told people that they needed God. That was true, and I believed it. What I wasn’t admitting to them, however, was that I needed them. I needed them in the church when I preached because I would be embarrassed if my church was empty or only had a few coming. I needed their tithes because without them I couldn’t pay the bills. I needed them to volunteer because without their time commitments we couldn’t have enough programs to attract more people.
I liked to think that I had surrendered my life to a calling to preach the good news of Jesus Christ, but there was so much I that I had to do to sustain the church that only a fraction of my time went to the original purpose. There was new member visitation, worship team practice, board meetings, and programs of every description: for youth, for women, for men, for couples, for singles, and on and on it went.
There are successful churches and there are struggling churches. I’ve been part of both. Those that do well operate on sound business principles, those that struggle don’t. In other words, church success has nothing to do with Divine presence and church failure has nothing to do with Divine absence. Church was an instrument of God in the New Testament, but it’s been a strictly human arrangement ever since – as evidenced by its divided nature (“A kingdom divided against itself cannot stand”). Any church’s success or failure today can be explained by sociological, not theological, principles.
The point is that church is a structure God has not used since New Testament times. He blesses faith wherever and whenever He finds it in a human heart. If that person happens to be in church, fine. If that person is somewhere else, fine. People pay attention to church structure, but God doesn’t care. He’s looking for faith in individual human hearts.
Once I realized that God had abandoned the structure of the church, I did, too. I have never regretted it. It is a beast that consumes the resources of people who want to serve God. I know this not just from the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit, but from my own personal experience.
Having repented of my pastoring, I am now free to praise His holy name – which is precisely what I was wanting to do all along. Only now, I don’t need people to give me anything or do anything for me in order to accomplish that.