Doubling Down on Obligation (#479)

conformityIn the face of declining participation in traditional congregations, why are many religious leaders doubling down on the obligation card? Could it be an admission that their view of the New Testament community not compelling in its own right? After his appearance on Up For Debate on Moody Radio, Wayne has been drawn into ever-more conversations about why people are leaving traditional congregations and recognizing how the relationships between believers who go and those who don't is becoming increasingly hostile. He examines the twelve reasons some put forth as to why membership in a local congregation is mandatory for all and why it is based on a distorted view of Scripture and of his church in the world. He also shares more of his perspective that didn't get on the debate and why all of this is so important to help us define the true nature of Jesus' church in the world and participate freely in her reality in spite of those who seek to exclude us.

Podcast Links:
Up For Debate show on "Is Church Attendance Mandatory?"
Freeman's "Twelve Reasons Why Membership Matters"
Our latest update from Kenya
Add your voice to our question/comment line: (805) 539-6980 or Skype us at "TheGodJourney"


  1. When I tried to listen to this podcast on The God Journey site, not FB, my security system shut it down and a strange puzzle picture came up. Just fyi

    • Hi Nancy, I think you could right click on the puzzle and allow it to play.


  2. Fine here Nancy, I have McAfee provided by my cable company.

    Thanks again Wayne, for the podcast, and for agreeing to the Moody broadcast. I don’t think you were portrayed unfairly or negatively at all. The host seemed to let the show develop in both directions, until her closing statement which revealed her views which were sympathetic to church attendance, but didn’t come off as the Gospel according to Moody Radio.

    For me, there’s a simple solution: put the Blue Laws back into place, you will see many more people in Church, and the Church more relevant to God’s purpose. I would guess many people who would like to go to institutional church on a weekly basis (and are probably needed there), simply can’t, because they are part of a working class that requires them to be at work on a Sunday. Economic reality supercedes a spiritual one.

    It’s well-known children’s ministry is at the bottom of the totem pole of Church hierarchy, although we are called to serve ‘the least of us’, it is seen in the Church as the least of the jobs. That is why people don’t accept the jobs. Everyone wants to be worship leader, elder, or senior pastor.

    I think what is most tragic about the Church-No Church divide is not the hostility, but the indifference. You made the point in the podcast, Wayne, that those outside the Church are often portrayed as Atheists that are not worthy of a Christ-follower’s time. When I tried to initate a dialogue using ‘Finding Church’ as the subject, I was not met with anger, but silence, left to wallow in my own confusions about how I was perceived by people who I thought truly cared about me, but only were looking to satisfy their selfish ambitions.

  3. I wanted to comment regarding the debate on how the other pastor kept trying to hammer home that our church attendance is the only thing we have to show the world that we are Christians. The whole time, my spirit (or possibly God’s) kept crying out Jesus’s words of how the world will know that we are his, by our LOVE for one another! I also wished for more of a discussion and for the host to allow both views to define what church actually is. It feel like a number of topics were all jumbled together..

  4. Wayne I think you may have had a transformation in your journey through our religiously prideful bible belt. I have been wishing you would state in more uncertain terms, the delicate points that you are so wise to realize and bold to share, but I believe you have only been willing to carefully imply many of them in previous messages. Your podcast today just carried me away in peace that the Truth is not restricted by the ways of the world, and though the Truth can be offensive, it is a message of love. I just finished listening to John Lynch’s “Two Roads”. Both messages have lifted my spirits to a level that I have not been for a long time. Thank you. Richard H

  5. WOW Wayne, spot on!

    You just went through my journey. I thought it flowed well through the topics and points. I am so glad my children are free of the lies now and am saddened that they had to go through it because of my involvement. At least now I know the truth because I asked God for the truth and He told me to follow Jesus’s teaching only and rely on the Holy Spirit to show me. Since then it has flowed on like a crystal river!

    Thanks for sharing your path to the freedom in Jesus of LOVE.

  6. Love this podcast! It is really helpful to hear this because I know I am where God wants me and discovering his awesomeness and love for me since I have stopped going to a church building and am away from the teachings there which was poison to me personally. I do feel a certain amount of pressure and some no longer communicate with me because of my new found freedom.

    So thanks for being a voice to share the true gospel. It is helpful for me as I am trying to stay in the light and escape the clutches of a religion that doesn’t work for me but crushed my heart and pulled me into death with it’s harping on law and it’s fear and control tactics. I know that in order to be fully over it’s devastating effects, I need to be away from it.

    I continue to rediscover myself in light of my new understanding that God sees me in a good way and not as a disgusting servant who is always trying his patience and can never get “it” right. Away from this obligation to doing things at the church building while they teach this message I no longer believe because it is centered in MY works, MY worship, Me, Me, Me and not the finished work of Christ. It uses words relating to law and not relationship. It takes words and scripture and makes them point to morality when the text is really talking about relationship. It is a warped Christianity that judges and excludes those it should be loving.

    I hope to live as you talk about, the relational journey — to love on people without agenda. I am excited to see where God leads me!

    Blessings, Holly

  7. Perfectly said Holly.

    Jesus came to us to show us its all about the RELATIONSHIP between God and people, to do away with man’s law.
    Mans law as religion is used to rule over and control people, which actually stops the Holy Spirit from doing His work and flowing through us so we can share the Gospel of Love that Jesus taught. A lot of time, money and effort is wasted and it becomes so detrimental to the followers of many “churches”.
    Most people are put off by those who rant hollow scriptural words to them that have no meaning when not in context and trying to appear “holier than thou” and you are a just lowly sinner. This repels people who are truly looking for what Jesus has to offer. ( and makes “believers” appear loony by the way.)
    MATTHEW 23 pretty much sums it all up and is the scripture He led me straight to after leaving my church. It was all correct to the tee!

    • Hi Aunt M, Mat 23 is such a powerful passage! I haven’t read that in a while and wow, it has so much more meaning now!

      Hugs to you! Glad to be out of the snake and viper pit! 🙂

      • Holly, sadly they are all blinded and cannot see the truth, but many of the hearts still under the blanket are there with good intentions and will hopefully eventually see the light.

        When they put Jesus first and not the twisted self interest agenda of a “leader” they will see.
        When they realise they are committing idolatry and repent The Holy Spirit can truly show them that they go to God first not a human “go between”. This is what gives them, the leaders power and takes His away, the lie that they cannot hear God and need the leader for this and direction.

        We are supposed to have Elders as in a “community” of people who work together for the interest of all and the uplifting and encouragement of the gifts God has given them. We are all individuals that combine our talents for glory of God. I think a great example of this was the humble Dami Im who won the X Factor and in front of millions of viewers beautifully thanked God for the whole thing!
        In my old church talents were put down as self interest and promotion when in fact they are an opportunity to be able to work and share with people outside. Basically the leader just got jealous if the attention was not on them. Very sad. They always said terrible things with a lovely smile! So inside you are thinking omg. did they just say that hurtful, hateful, cursing, boasting, demanding, demeaning, ungrateful, flirtatious, awful etc. thing!? And as you look around no one else seems to notice so you think it is you imagining it, or that it is ok to do that because it is coming from a God loving leader. In fact if anyone outside had said it you would be straight onto it!

        You will find that most of the worst cultish leaders have had a sad past of some abuse as a child. They have the need to gain control now as an adult, that which they could not as a child. Many will also have committed an offence to God and will then focus the whole group around that issue. An example is marriage, divorce and adultery.
        Turns out the leader of our group left their partner to follow their own agenda and also had an affair (PS still boasting how they are “married” yet living in different cities and the partner still financing them, the group still do not know about the affair, which I worked out myself and found out to be true). They were always focused on these issues constantly going around in circles and getting nowhere. The leader was always a disaster if they came near a marriage even if they did not actually realise they were doing it and always putting the blame for everything on females and no responsibility on the males. This leader was informed of what they were doing wrong against their flock but chose not to listen as this meant their whole self interested lifestyle agenda would be torn down. Sad for everyone.

        Glad we are free from MATT 23. I have to admit I was really scared for this leader after reading it as they had done everything in it and also sad realising how detrimental it had been for their children to have grown up under it and how it has also been for those children who are still under the stifling life sucking lies.

        Love the people, hate the lie. 😉

  8. I listened to the show, “Is church attendance mandatory” and a regular listener to your podcasts for five years.

    I will start out saying I am one who still walks the fence on this topic. I cannot disagree with almost all of your disagreements with “the corporate church” I believe that if you put on the so called “Rose color glasses” he see rose color and you can find evidence all over to support your cause(Rose Color). I have been involved in church my whole life and have been on the councils and cannot disagree with some of that stuff you listed as happening, I could easily add fuel to the fire on this with some things I have seen.

    I was in several of those churches and always felt something wrong. I have since found a church that is more concerned with teaching individuals to grow and finding the relationship with Christ than withholding this information to keep control. They even comment that being here on Sunday is not what is going to save you. I drive 2 hours to church when I can, and when I can’t, I listen online, but still go to a local church. The local church I could never join and I have explained that for many of the reason you have talked about. I go because to me I still find God talking to me through the message or praise, and I still find friendships with many of the members, it is that bound to find spiritual strength at times. I feel no obligation at all to attend church, like in the past; I find I want to be there. I do find that I get far more out of my small group studies then I do attending church.

    I know this will be hard for you to grasp because no matter which small group you ever become a part of you will tend to be the dominate one in the knowledge. However, for the same reason you blast the churches for misinterpreting scriptures is one of the main reasons for me that not having some type of church foundation would not work. Small groups start to interrupt scriptures the way they want to see it, similar to churches but without a church body they have no structural reference to go back to. Many of the groups are not fortunate enough to have a strong member like you. The scripture becomes even more watered down to fit the group.

    We are reading 1 John in our group this week, and I find that I have to admit that it is hard to be honest with our sins. Human nature likes to rationalize why it is ok. You have talked about this in some way in several of your engaged videos, where we start to make it ok because we are doing it for God.
    As humans we tend to surround our self with people who agree with us and what we think. I would be so afraid that my small groups would begin to have the same feel over time, these are the same conversions over time you talk about in a church, especially without a strong leader in either. The church enables me to meet and form friendships with people I would have never meet or come across in my life. It is incredible how sitting with a variety of people studying God’s word enlightens you to other views of the same passages. This is one reason I agree with you on small groups being so impactful.

    The church enabled me to find a support group for my divorce, one centered of God’s love. It also has enabled me to help others going through similar issues.

    Now I know God could have put other people in my path to help, and He does deliver complete strangers into my life, with whom I have had some great conversations about God. I know firsthand what you talk about works wonderfully.

    However, I still find I need the church. I need the church for, now don’t scream, but structure. The structure I find from the church is someone more knowledgeable at times to bounce those things I am having a hard time grasping and interrupting. I need what I call that someone to hold the mirror up to me so I take a look at myself, we as humans so much want to ignore our self. I don’t know how without structures do you find God, we have the human tenancy to make god into what we want.

    I am sorry but I think for someone like you, Wayne, who has had a great deal of background and knowledge it becomes so much easier. You have a foundation, built by church and now you are building or remodeling the structure which enables you to grow even more. I have to admit the more freedom in God I find from church in others the more I continue to grow. I have a solid foundation, through church; I cannot see how this works without a foundation.

    We are all on own journey, and church can add to it if done right or take from it, if in the wrong manner. The same can also be said and seen in trying to find your journey outside the church. It too will depend on the strength of those who you might find support in.

    PS: I know that my situation works for me and not everyone. I am a member in a church 2 hours away, the local more traditional controlling church they know I will never join, so I am always a guest. I never fall into the so called requirements of the church. There is another huge story there but some other time.

  9. Hi Randy. Thanks for sharing part of your story and insights about this journey. It seems a bit pointed, however, and I just wanted to clarify that we may be using the term “church” differently. I use the word “church” to talk about Jesus’ bride in the world, however she takes expression. I don’t use it for the Sunday morning structures alone, though I know she takes expression there too as people live in his love and share it freely with others. I’m not unsupportive of those who feel like a traditional congregation is serving them well in helping them come to know Jesus and to meet others on a similar journey. The podcast was about the idea that such attendance is mandatory and distorting Scripture to try to compel others to either come or feel condemned.

    If a congregation is healthy, as yours seems to be it can be a great place to set the foundation. But I don’t believe it is the only place people can learn this journey. There are lots of other ways too, even for newer believers. And I’m not against structure. Structure is valuable for anything we humans do tougher. We just have to be careful when that structure morphs from serving our relationship with Jesus, to actually supplanting it as many congregations seem to encourage.

    I’m for expressions of the body of Christ that allow believers to connect in freedom and authenticity and are encouraged to grow closer to him in the reality of his affection. I trust Jesus’ ability to be the prime mover in our hearts individually as well as shaping his church corporately. Please don’t think I’m opposed to what you’ve written. And I’m not always the most knowledgable in the groups I have been a part of. There are ways Jesus takes expression in me and it is not the same as he takes expression in others. We only get a more developed picture of him as we share in the insights that others have into his glory as well. We are each a facet of an incredible God that takes all of us together to make himself known in the world.

    I find his church a valuable treasure that I will explore the rest of my life and hope people through this podcast find the freedom to do so as well, whether that is in more “structured” settings that encourages that journey, or in more wild terrain where that body also takes expression as Jesus links people together in ever-deepening friendships of those passionate to see him as he is and live in his reality.

    I hope that makes sense, Randy. I’m not at all hostile to your point of view or some of your concerns. While they may express some of the reality you’re living in, they are making some assumptions about me and my views that aren’t true. Enjoy where God has planted you.

  10. Hi Randy,

    That is so wonderful that you have found a good support group and I am really happy for you! If we could all find something similar we would probably not be writing to this forum.

    It is, in the end a wonderful thing that we are all searching for God and what it all means through Jesus in some way. I am so glad to have found Wayne as this for me is another form of community. In the end we all do search for others to share our journey and learn with. The support, if you can find it is invaluable. Everyone needs something different and for some, church groups work and they need this. I just wish they would not get pushy about it all when you decide it is not for you.

    I had a conversation with someone who has been trying to get me to join their church as I “need to” and they did admit a lot of money and effort was going into trying to keep an old building going and getting pastors. So I asked, what’s wrong with meeting at the pub in the function room!? No outlay and you are supporting someone else’s business, best of all someone else there may join in! (I admit I am a fan of historical architecture though)

    If I had not gone through my experience with a smaller sect, I would never have learnt what God had to show me and grown where I needed to. I appreciate it now and I have come out the other side with my eyes wide open but also know there is so much more to see! I also see now that “Gods body” as Wayne points out is far bigger than just a small group and their personal views. Which is fine as long as they are open to God showing them more from outside of this as well. (thus:outside the box)

    Some of these “leaders” as mine was, are very cunning in telling you that anything from outside is from the devil or sinners and they are the only experts on this. That all their information is coming from what God tells them. They know anything else will be detrimental to their control if they have to try to explain it. Stay away from those those who shut you down or belittle your contribution!

    As Wayne said we just have to beware of those congregations and leaders who make you serve them or their personal agendas as they replace Jesus and Gods intentions with institution. There is nothing wrong with serving as that’s what Jesus is all about, just do it for the right master.

  11. Wayne, no offense taken. I enjoy your comments. I do not think we are different on our view of church. I believe church is where two or three are gathered, I just thought it would be hard to seperate traditional church from our view of church, so I used church as tradiontional and small group as that meeting with several outside tradiontal church, still I view that as the church because two or three are gathered.

    Like I said I get far more growth and improvement in my small group meetings. I meet in several small groups and would love to give some examples where these very solid “christians” ended up off base from what the Bible taught because they tend to want to get it to comform to their personal believes. To do so would just create rabbit holes, other items for people to debate, and off the real subject. So I agree with small groups of people meeting, God can use these greatly just as he does the tradional church.

    Do I believe church attendance is mandatory of course not. I have argued this in tradional church before. However, I do believe that you need some type of tradiontal church within your mix. I do not even believe it has to be in the top three. I would tell you being in the word, The Bible, followed by prayer, followed by supportive chirstian firends, to be the top three. All three essential to finding and building that relationship with Christ. I have argued that if your church does not teach you how to grow in these three areas, but instead just preaches about them, then you need to leave. I believe many churches preach about them but are afraid to teach you how to grow in these areas because then you might find you do not need them. I fins the opposite to be true I think the church grows and blossums even more, but fear prevents churches from accepting this.

    I still believe that in my mix I need some church structure, because I know how easy it is to justify everything to fit into my world and my personal belief. I need some type of mirror, I need to find those outside my world with different views to help me grow, and challenge my thinking. Growth only happens when we get out of our comfort zones and many times this can be the challenge. Finding the right church is a huge challenge, especially because it can be so easy to write them all off to being the same, or not fitting what I think.

    To me I go to the Bible when it says you shold be able to see your growth, when I look down that vine am I seeing new fruit growing. If not it is time for a change, a reflection, time for a challenge and growth. Just like fruit on a vine you can not see it there and watch it gorw, but after a period of time you should be able to see some of it there.

  12. Hi Randy! I enjoyed your comments. I come from a Very conservative religious background That I became very dissolutioned With!!!!! I find it quite interesting that your list of top three essentials Were part of what I laid down So that I could find out Who God really was outside of all these things we do to find him . He is winning me into an increadable love based relationship with Him Without the Help of any institution group or structure of any Kind . After 4 years I see The church Jesus is building all around Me and enjoy Great conversations where Jesus makes Himself known More days of the week than not. I understand your fears of making God into our own image and watering down scripture so that it mean what we want it to mean…. I have lived most of my life with those fears… It’s just that This over abundance of Love working transformation in me Is Fast overcoming those fears and setting Me at rest In his ability To Keep My heart engaged in relationship with Him so the structures that used to be “needed”become irrelevant…. If they are needed to farther His Kingdom for a season Great ! If they are not Great! I am convinced Father will use Whatever Is best suited to reach each one of us … And I am becoming fine with That. Thanks for sharing!

  13. Hi Wayne,
    Thanks for a great podcast. I could identify with all that you said and am thankful for your ministry.

    Just as a note, Jesus came to the Jews ( the circumcised Romans 15:8 ) to fulfill prophesy that he was their the long awaited Messiah. The Bride is Israel.

    The church is the body, a heavenly people ( a mystery ) that started with Paul. So as you said there will be no evidence of Jesus starting any church as we know it.

    Love in Christ.

  14. Hi Emily,

    I find it interesting that you say the church body started with Paul.

    Jesus chose His Apostle Peter to build His church. Paul was a self proclaimed apostle who did not walk with Jesus, but did a wide ministry to many of the gospel in his own way. He even tells us in his letters that this was he wanted people to do but Jesus did not say this, to a few things he taught.
    See what Peter has to say.

    Thanks to Wayne for taking up the position of Elder. Something sadly lacking in the body of Christ today and a place of much importance. “Leaders” seem to have taken over this role as it is some sort of business not a living, where they think they are the important one not Jesus.

    All the best on your journey

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