Guest post by, David, my husband, my comments are in blue.
A few months ago, we decided to leave the Corporate Church.
We left because of the many negative experiences we had.
We were tired of at least five different church experiences where we were never fully accepted as members with full relationships that would endure past membership within those particular churches.
We also never felt that we were accepted within those churches.
Although we were "open", (painfully so, often "airing the dirty laundry" of our families which is verboten in Southern Culture ) in the various small groups of these churches, our "openness" was often used against us in efforts to manipulate or control us.
We were not just bystanders at most of these churches. We were heavily involved.
At the last church we were members of, we opened our home to times of Corporate Prayer, Small Group Meetings, we even led a small group one summer, Home Made Pizza (just come hungry), and Pork Bar-be-que, Hamburgers, Hotdogs, Potato Salad, and Cole Slaw. We also had individual families over for a meal on many occasions.
I served by running sound (which included driving the church van, unloading the van, setting up the sound system, recording the morning message, tearing down the sound system, reloading the church van, and driving it back to the pastor's house). Susan served by working in the Nursery or Singing on the Praise Team.
Although leaving the corporate church may seem foolish, it has actually been a great time spiritually. Although we both are gifted with Service, we didn't need to work at church. This was no different from the last church we attended, however.
The big difference was that not going to church required me to step up the discussions that we had as a family since we weren't attending at a corporate church. So we have started to have "formal scheduled" times of discussion and Bible study, usually on Sunday morning (appropriately enough) and these sessions aren't a 15 minute quick session where we're just doing our "required time" for the week. They usually last about 1:45 -2:00 hours. And we don't limit the discussions to Sunday. We had a great discussion yesterday on Matthew 5 and 6:1-15 on how Jesus said we are to pray.
We've been studying Jesus' life, using the Narrated Bible (which claims to be a chronological sequence of the Bible) as a reference. We pray and then go over a section (either from my ancient copy of the New English Bible or from the ESV as defined in Matthew), discussing what we read and how it applies to the world in which we live.
Recently, Susan expressed a desire to go to a church where she'd been invited by one of the local homeschool Moms, whose husband is the pastor. Although I have other Christian friends, Susan said that she would like to go somewhere (with me along beside her) to try to find other Christian friends.
I realized this past Friday after crochet club was over that there are 4 Moms who come to crochet that I feel close to, that I can talk to and ask for their prayers. Even though we don't meet at a 'church' I value the time we can spend together. What I need to do is pursue these relationships. This can be difficult as we all homeschool and have to intentionally carve out time to spend with others. But relationships are important and I need to make the first move.
After a couple of days of sometimes contentious discussion (by me), including discussions with two dear Christian brothers, we came to a conclusion: As long as we continued to have our weekly discussions and I would not be required to take our teenage children to a church to which I would not go, when Susan did not feel like going, I would acompany her to a local church. Otherwise, I would go along with her to support her.
Susan agreed to this arrangement because of the richness of our discussions.
Our children, Daniel and Sarah Kate made a commitment to follow Jesus as Lord and Master one Sunday evening when we "skipped" church service. It was not an emotional decision made from guilt, but instead a sober conversation, initiated "out of the blue," by Sarah who asked about "bearing good fruit.". I was surprised that it happened and the GOD allowed Susan and me to be involved watching our children be born into the Kingdom of Heaven.
So, the lessons learned from this detour in life have been: (1) gathering at home to study and worship GOD can be MORE fruitful than corporate worship when you feel like an outsider and (2) that you don't need to have a preacher, elder, deacon, or Sunday school teacher in order for your children to know and make a decision to follow Christ.