Fourth Stage: We start to get tired of serving in ministry. It seems routine now and we only see it as fueling the big meeting that we don’t really like anymore. The leaders we once were in awe of now seem not only normal, but there is a suspicion of self-serving vs. serving the church in their motives. We lose excitement and wonder if church is even something we should be part of. We grow more disillusioned by the day.
Fifth Stage: Total disillusionment, begin feeling bitter towards church leaders, and wonder why people don’t question things more. We sit in the big meeting and feel very alone. We look at the crowds around us and don’t feel like we belong anymore. Is church just a produced big meeting? We are tired and it even angers us to see excited new people joining the church as we now know how it really works and how they too will eventually become tired like we are and see church is a program and organized religion.
Sixth Stage: We silently drop out of church. We read the Bible and early church history and see that they didn’t have bigger weekly meetings in the early church. We read “house church” literature and begin thinking this is the real New Testament church. We get excited about really doing church the right way and not the big organized way. We find a few other disillusioned Christians and either form or join some sort of small house church gathering. We want it to be simple and not “organized” or programmed or big, but pure like the early church. Everyone all sharing together, true community will happen here, unlike the bigger programmed meetings.
Seventh Stage: Fairly quickly, we realize it isn’t too easy leading people. Even in a small house church. People don’t show up, or you have people dominating conversations. There is the same bickering, some gossip, people whispering to others that they are not happy with how the meeting went etc. We sometimes try to sing worship songs with ten people and it feels very odd. So you don’t try to sing anymore, but do secretly miss the corporate singing that happens in a larger group. Eventually we find the same disappointments in the smaller house church that we did in the bigger programmed church, but at a different level. We get even more disillusioned, as we realize that even the key leaders (including ourselves) and the people of the house church are just as messed up as the big church leaders and people in those churches.
We also feel subtly uncomfortable that the house church feels a bit inward focused. It would be weird to have non-Christians break up the intimate dialog and prayer we have taken such a long time to establish together. But we know something has to be done, as we keep thinking about those who don’t know Jesus and that our house church might not be the best place to invite them. Plus dealing with little kids running around every week during your meeting certainly limits your full engagement into the Bible discussion. We get more disheartened as our 4 year old knocks the entire strawberry shortcake dessert onto the kitchen floor as he was trying to get at it early before it is served at the house church.
Ninth Stage: We begin missing other Christians, and regular fellowship. We do some introspection and eventually deal with the disappointments and high expectations that we had. We begin a new level of maturity and thinking about the church and church leaders.
We start thinking about our options. We don’t want to go to a preaching-driven church that just has everything revolve around the senior pastor or the preacher, as that subtly creates passive spectators who depend on the preacher to “feed” them weekly – rather than maturing as Christians whom should primarily be “feeding” ourselves (since we aren’t infants anymore). We don’t want to go to a hyper-Reformed church where we feel guilty all the time and get caught up in the everybody else is worldy and wrong but us mentality. We don’t feel good about the seeker-type of churches where everyone is so happy, the music is hyper-cheery and we fill in the blanks in the notes they give out. That excites us for a little while, when we fill in the blanks, because it feels like you are really learning. But after a while we see the stack thickening in our Bibles that we stuff them in and realize that we have never even looked at them since we filled them in. We look at our notes that we filled the blanks in on, and can’t remember a single thing from these sermons, even the one from two weeks ago.
Tenth Stage: So, we slowly go back to our original church that we at first felt good in because of the overall vision and mission that drew us to it in the first place. We find that the leaders do admit freely to you there are weaknesses and flaws and mess ups and ego issues, but still try their best to blend both the bigger meetings and smaller home meetings for the purpose of the mission. They try to be organized, without being “Organized”.