We didn’t set out to separate ourselves from churchianity. But since we’ve moved away from religious institutions into a life of true freedom in Christ that we like to call “unchurching”, we can hardly recall what attracted us to attending religious meetings in the first place.

A newly-lit match, held steady -- representing the light of God in our hearts.
For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.


David grew up in a very religious family. His parents drove their four sons to church every Sabbath (Saturday) an hour-and-a-half away. They believed “their church” was the only true church, and they had to go a long distance to meet with like believers. Nevertheless, David was not really introduced to the Bible’s truths while he was at home, and was ruled with legalism.

I also grew up in a very religious family — “on the mission field”. My parents were missionaries in West Africa, and our goal was to “convert the lost”, backed up by the financial donations of churches and individuals back in Australia. I attended Christian boarding schools established by mission organisations specifically for their children.

So in two very different ways, David and I both grew up in churchianity.

When we met, we started attending the two churches we were comfortable with — the local Baptist and the local Pentecostal gatherings. Neither one seemed a perfect fit, but we were okay with both styles — we just wanted to learn more about God, find friends among other like-minded believers, and sing praise to God in the company of those believers.


Over the following years, our attitude to church didn’t change that much. We put up with the boredom, the politics, the loud sound-systems, the lack of meaningful relationships — all in the hopes of finding God and connecting with other other believers.

But at about this time last year, while listening to one man preach, twisting what was written in the Bible to suit him and his co-workers, I started to wake up. I realised that I was willingly coming and subjecting myself to one “educated” man’s perspective on God, and it was taking the place of my own journey.

And if I couldn’t question the man during his preaching, could we enter into a dialogue afterwards? Perhaps — if I could withstand his force of personality — but it wouldn’t benefit the majority of the listeners, who would go away, having been told “how it is” by an “expert”.

Part of building a successful church is making people dependent on it. And we were dependent on our church. We felt like if we weren’t sitting in our seats on Sunday, we weren’t going to make it with God. Of course, we could easily rationalise one or two Sundays “off”, but a permanent detachment from the well-organised fellowship of believers? It seemed risky — a sure way to start “back-sliding”.

We tried really hard with the various churches we attended. We submitted, we committed, we gave, we served. We invited people around for meals, we attended the church camps. And we kept turning up at the appointed time on Sundays.

Too often, we left church feeling disappointed. The fellowship hadn’t been that real, perhaps the sermon was lack-lustre or the music uninspiring. But we persisted because we believed that’s how we would grow closer to God!


Slowly we realised that institutional churches promote a culture of religious conformity where we are all trying to prevent others discovering who we really are. In our hearts, we know that we fail to conform. We feel that we don’t belong, even though we’d like to.

So we are left with this unpleasant realisation that we must shroud who we truly are lest anyone discover that we don’t actually fit in — that we aren’t actually as righteous as we appear. In doing so, our relationships with other church-goers are built around hiding our true selves and fashioned from the deceit necessary to pretend to be people we are not.

For us things took a turn. We started focusing on meeting with believers outside of church. Doing things with them. Travelling with them. Living with them. And we discovered what some of them were really like. They were human beings — just like us — holding in secret sins while striving hard to project an image of righteousness.

And this knowledge didn’t affect how we felt about them. On the contrary, we felt more love as we understood their struggles and shared our own.

But at the same time, we learned about the deep hypocrisies of the church. One could almost liken them to white-washed tombs. They sanction behaviours because of church politics, side with people for financial reasons and groom certain “chosen” individuals to the neglect of others. They dole out titles and positions in exchange for flattery and unpaid labour. Nepotism is rife.

Obvious sins are pounced on by the church leaders, but the more hidden ones — like gossip, malice, ambition and greed — are ignored. A woman can regularly threaten her husband with divorce and then on Sunday lead the congregation in a time of praise and worship to the One who ordained marriage and hates divorce.

Our church’s culture of conformity is killing the spirit of confession that leads to true repentance and revival. Small groups focus on reading through Bible-study books instead of reading Scripture and openly sharing sins, struggles and desires. The church’s programs suck the energy out of those with time and resources to donate so individuals can’t actually minister to those who have needs not covered by the programs.

I gradually realised that institutional church — mainstream, evangelical, Bible-believing, Jesus-loving as it was — is little more than a social club with regular get-togethers. We were making church life idolatrous. We were going to church to fill up on what only Father can fill up in us.

Church leaders have more to gain by making people insecure about their relationships with Father than they do by making them secure. If you believe that your relationship with God is boosted by church attendance, you’ll be there!

Instead of finding encouragement to fill up on Jesus, we are told to be in church. We will “miss out” if we aren’t there for a specific meeting. So many Christians have bought into the lie that “do not forsake of the gathering of yourselves” means you need to be in church on Sunday.

But life is found in Jesus and in no other — not in church, not in theological study, not in friendship with believers! The reality is that Jesus is big enough to hold you up and lead you into all truth — even without the backing of the religious institutions.

Getting out

As I’ve explained before, after all our realisations, we still didn’t leave the church. Despite our disquiet, we must have been too scared to move away from the religious practices that we’ve always known.

So Father gave us the nudge we needed. He led the leaders to kick us out. At first, they were polite. But they judged that David’s speaking out in church — disrupting the sermon — was sinful because it unsettled the church. David’s punishment was four weeks’ ban from church gatherings to allow things to cool down.

Four weeks passed and in the fifth week the leaders came to our house to determine if we were “eligible” for return. (We didn’t hear from them at all in the interim.) So the leaders came, judged David as unrepentant and refused to allow him to return until he showed sufficient remorse.

In defiance of them and as directed by the Holy Spirit (and you’ve got to believe me on this — it wasn’t something he wanted to do), David walked into church one Sunday and sat down on a chair. This was something that he had done many Sundays previously and for 18 months at this particular church. The only difference was the attitude of the church leaders. They did not want David there, and they had him forcibly removed from the building.

It was with a lot of regret that we moved on from that group of believers. I experimented in being friendly to people from that church — even the church leaders — but only one family cared enough to maintain any contact with us. It’s so sad. The body of Christ should be united in love, regardless of the religious leaders’ stance!

Living in freedom

We praise Father for how he is so good to us. We have experienced greater depths of Christian fellowship outside the institutional church than we ever found when we were committed church-goers.

David and I have grown exponentially in the knowledge of God and are pursuing Him with great passion —
away from the teachings of men. But more than that, Father has chosen to reveal Himself to us, to bless us abundantly, and to guide us into His truth.

I still have pangs of regret for the friendships that died when we left the institutional church. But I don’t miss the church meetings, the busy Sunday mornings, the white-washing of myself and my family so we presented ourselves well to all those other well-presented church-goers on Sunday mornings.

I’m so thankful that we’re free from church. I’m thankful that I will not bring my children up as Pharisees — thinking that they have the truth because they listen to sermons on Sundays.

I used to go to church because I either enjoyed it or because I felt obligated to go. Now I don’t. Now I’m free.