A Few Thoughts on Leaving the Church

Frank Viola author, on his official blog, has outlined several reasons for leaving the “institutional church.”

However, he acknowledges that the phrase, or even the term “church”, has developed some kind of vogue, and thus remains ill-defined for many people.

According to Frank, the term “institutional church” does not hold a sense of definitive equivalency to the word “church”. Instead of the two terms being synonymous, they must be considered as two separate entities; specifically, those who leave the institutional church continue their worship in ekklesias, which is best defined as a local or private gathering of individuals into a member’s home.

Therefore we must take into account the fact that those who leave the “institutional church” are increasingly opting for a style of worship that is more local than institutional.

In addition to identifying the difference between the “institutional church” and theekklesias, Viola makes a point of reminding the reader that he is neither post-church nor anti-church, for the ekklesias is simply a method of worship that heavily emphasizes participation and community. After Viola lays out the definitions and beliefs that have driven him to make the decision to leave the institutional church, he presents the ten reasons themselves. They are as follows:

  • The institutional church can be restrictive, so much so, that even in home groups that are part of a larger church, it can be almost impossible to share the gifts one is given.
  • That in an institutional church, only appointed clergy can minister to the people; other members of the congregation can not share their experiences and exegesis.
  • A realization that many practices that are sacred in the institutional church are adopted from ancient pagan or other non-Christian traditions, and that many of these practices  directly run counter to the teachings of the Christ.
  • The doctrine of universal priesthood was empty practice
  • The church should be a bastion of hope for the needy and impoverished, yet many churches misuse or misallocate the resources of the Benevolence Fund, or are otherwise ignorant to the plight of the poor.
  • Churches were unwilling or unable to exorcise or otherwise deal with possessed individuals; there was an air of exclusivity to the way churches handles those who were not members of that particular church.
  • “Spiritual Shallowness” i.e., the absence of practical advice related to Jesus and Christian living.
  • A sense of boredom, stemming from the conception that all church services from the institutional church are pretty much the same. This is opposed to the notion that the worship of Christ should be an organic and dynamic practice.
  • In a similar vein, the predictability of it all was as a marker of human institutionalism.
  • An inherent inability for the “fullness” of Christ to be expressed. That expression requires a full body of people to realize, and not one person in an authoritative role.