Big Fish Vomit
here’s my comment dropped today beneath a most worthy post at Crossroad Junction:
“Abandoning man-made traditions is hard,” said Jim Wright.
And abandoning man-made traditions is nigh impossible until we’re able to discern these traditions as man-made and not divinely instituted.
I’ve only recently come out of the institutional church. And my heartbreaking exit was not of my own accord. In the last two instances I was displaced by men—ruling elders (of a small, struggling Presbyterian church) and then a founding elder (of a church plant)—who held such positions of headship over our assemblies that they effectively squeezed out of fellowship those who would (lovingly and faithfully) attempt to hold them to account for how they were leading.
Ultimately, they were strangulating the life from the body. Yet, these elders couldn’t be checked for having assumed for themselves autonomous control over their operations.
FYI: I’m presently in the process of pursuing and holding these men to open accountability for their abuses against the body of Christ (in the Presbyterian case), and for—get this—killing our ekklesia (in the church plant case).
That being said, let me share with you how inversely ironic Jim’s killing of ekklesia is to the single handed killing of ours by our young pastor who planted our now defunct church:
Where Jim’s home fellowship against his contrary intent “became an extension of him, his gifts, his vision, his ministry”. . . Our pastor against the resources he had at hand (i.e. other gifted shepherds and teachers) with full intent became, himself, the central head of our ekklesia.
He was the gifted bus driver, with the rented bus being his personal ministry. And apparently if he perceived anyone to be “off vision,” they were left off the moving bus. Until, of course, he had left so many of us behind that all who remained onboard were nearly just he and his family. So then the young pastor turned in the keys, thus officially killing our fellowship, but only really after having already strangulated the life from our body.
Proof that our pastor made himself the central head of our ekklesia is that I was displaced from the body. If he didn’t have full control on that account, I’m certain we’d still have a gathering of saints coming together under the banner of East End Ekklesia (E3), and I’d still be a vital member of her fellowship.
Jim writes, “Some might protest that I had no right to unilaterally kill that fellowship—but the fact that I could is the best evidence I can offer about the underlying problem . . . which was the focus on me, my vision, and my good intentions. . . .
“In shutting it down, I finally had to surrender all pre-conceptions about what the Lord wanted to do in us and through us. I had to die to my vision, and in so doing, let God burn out of me the impulse to make it happen as a reflection of my own gifts, calling and motivations.”
I’d love for our young visionary pastor to read Jim’s confession. See, our fellowship was resource deep with extremely gifted men—so ever willing and only waiting for the green light to serve. However, in the end, these men amounted to being basically props in the pastor’s personal production.
And because the life and health of the church had been so completely bound up with the health and life of the pastor—E3 was his baby, no one else’s—I found it (with tears and deep regret) a good thing that the young pastor would kill it. For if he hadn’t (and for the way that he had bent everyone in the body) the church would have grown up sick and deformed. . . and, actually, something other than a true ekklesia of God. As structured, E3 had to die.
There’s so much to say on this, but I want to come back full circle to the idea of “abandoning man-made traditions.” For this is an ENORMOUS issue (both for the founding elder of E3, and for we who have since gone “organic”)—discerning the ecclesiastical difference between divinely-ordained tradition from that of man-made traditions that embody our so-called churches.
I’m a 45 year old man who grew up (a PK) and spent his entire life inside the church. . . yes, up until our founding elder displaced me from his E3 operation in February of 2012, which has given me two and a half years on the outside. Yet, my lungs, I have to imagine, are still being cleansed from a life build-up of church toxins (i.e. ecclesiastical assumptions). More scales than I’d like to admit has since fallen from my eyes.
The deception of the church is quite marvelous. And even though I consider myself a man of keen discernment, it wasn’t until the Big Fish had vomited me from her belly that I was able to more properly discern the difference between the faithful bride of Christ and the idolatrous whore of Babylon.
I read these words of prophecy as applying to the institutional church today, “Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues” (Rev 18:4).
Jim, I appreciated reading what you wrote.
David from Pittsburgh