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Beyond the Gates of Christianity
Coming out of Christianity was not something I planned to do. It did not occur because of a grand scheme that I devised. It was a journey along a carved path perfectly designed by Jesus. The Spirit of God gently leading, speaking to my heart as it blazed a trail for me to follow.
In 1993, Pastor John Clark heard the voice of Jesus saying to him, ďCome out of ChristianityĒ. Through Pastor John, Jesus led us outside the gates of that great walled city.
Below are some of the details of our journey.
Many years ago, my wife Suzi and I were greatly involved with a Catholic Church in southern Indiana. I was a member of a guitar group that played at Sunday services, member of the Parish Council and participated in many other church activities. We loved the people there, including the pastor, and they loved us.
Our desire to be involved with these activities was driven by a hunger for the things of God. If I thought God was in it, I wanted it.
In the mid to late 1970s, the Catholic Charismatic Movement was going strong. This is when Suzi and I were baptized with the holy Ghost. We met regularly with a small group of people also filled with the Spirit, including my parents. Permission was granted to us by the pastor of the Catholic Church where we belonged to start a Charismatic prayer meeting. We met on Monday nights in the sanctuary amid the golden candle sticks and huge marble altar.
As I reflect on it now, I realize how innocent and naÔve we were, yet sincere and full of zeal.
The majority of those that attended were not Catholic but were from other denominations. Because of this, we had one major ruleóno doctrine was allowed. Our purpose and mission was to worship God with song and praise, pray for healing and comfort for those that needed it, and offer a place of fellowship for anyone that wanted the same things. My soul seemed satisfied during this time but the Spirit within me would only let me rest on the trail for a short while.
The motto most often heard by the leaders of the Charismatic movement at that time was ďbloom where you are plantedĒ. In other words, donít leave the church you are in but stay and try to change things. This instruction was easier said than done. From my limited perspective, the camp was split. There were the mainstream, diehard Catholics entrenched in tradition, and then there were a handful of hungry souls, full of Godís Spirit wishing everyone could feel the life of the Spirit. The house was divided. Didnít Jesus say that a divided house could not stand?
I remember one particular time when a spirit-filled priest whom we all loved and respected told us that we needed to continue to keep the traditions of the church. As an example, he said we should continue to go to confession whether we felt the need to or not. (Confession is a Catholic practice of meeting with a priest in private, usually behind a curtain where one confesses his or her sins.) Because I had a desire to do what was right, I did what he said. Consequently, it was difficult to come up with anything to confess because the Spirit inside me had already washed me clean. If I did happen to do something wrong, I felt conviction and repented as the Spirit led me. My soul couldnít wait for a scheduled time to see a priest. I needed immediate reliefóand got it!
As the decade of the Seventies came to an end, and for the next five years, events in our lives started to change. I quit my factory job and enrolled into college as a full-time student. That meant that I could no longer attend the Monday night prayer meetings because of the need to take evening classes. In 1984 Suzi and I moved to Louisville, KY, where she got a job at Hadley Pottery; however, we continued our involvement with the Catholic parish in southern Indiana.
A soulís hunger for the things of God is a precious gift, not be taken for granted.
Suzi and I both were hungry at this time, weighted down with work, going to school, raising children, and with normal everyday living. Most of all, our souls were empty. We thirsted for spiritual lifeóthen Jesus showed up.
Suzi worked a long side a young woman who invited us to a Friday night prayer meeting. Unknown to us, this would be a major event along the journey that eventually led us out side the gates of Christianity. Here we met Pastor John, along with many other Spirit-filled saints.
The meetings were held in a quaint building nestled in an old Louisville neighborhood barely visible to passers by. Inside, however, was life. There were no stained glass windows, statues, candles, not even an altar. None of the things that I had grown accustomed to were present, but the people were happy and full of joy.
The feelings I had from the start were different from what I had felt at other prayer meetings. Similar to most Spirit-filled prayer meetings, the people were free to shout, dance or testify; but unlike other places, there was authority and government. There was also much needed spiritual food that brought nourishment to our souls.
The more we attended the Friday night prayer meetings, our involvement with the Catholic Church became less. It wasnít because we didnít have time to be involved; it was because Jesus was transforming our hearts. He was teaching us the truth about what is acceptable concerning worship, living a life of holiness, the new birth, tithes and offerings, and discerning the body of Christ. At the same time, he was removing from our hearts and minds wrong ideas about God.
Eventually, there was no reason for us to continue our involvement with the Catholic Church. Leaving our family and friends was painful, but the choice had to be made. We had come to a crossroads. Did we want to continue to follow Jesus down the path that leads to life or suffer spiritual death? One cannot travel in both directions. Our hearts chose the path of life!
When the decision was finally made to leave, I asked the parish priest whom I loved and respected to eat lunch with me. I wanted to depart in good standing. I poured out my heart to him, letting him know why we were leaving. He had few words to say; he remained silent for the most part--there was nothing more to be said.
Our decision to leave the Catholic Church in the mid 1980s was not the same as leaving Christianity. It was a major step for Suzi and me, but we did not stop calling ourselves Christians until 1993 when Jesus revealed to Pastor John the truth about coming out. (See Pastor Johnís tract called Christ or Christianity - http://www.goingtojesus.com/site/php/christorchristianity.html.)
Until that time, none of us quite knew what to call ourselves. We just knew that we did not fit into any Christian denomination or religious organization. When Pastor John told us what Jesus had shown him about coming out, it brought relief to my soul. I no longer had to wonder why I could not fit into the religious system.
I am very thankful for the truth Jesus has shown Suzi and me. I pray for all my brothers and sisters in Christ, that they, too, will follow the voice of the Spirit and come out of the religious system called Christianity and live.
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