Monday, September 5, 2016

A Bad Reason for Returning to the Institution: Family-Induced Guilt

When you depart institutional Christianity many within your biological family will not understand. Those who are not Christians will not care, but those who are followers of Christ will not be able to comprehend the significant step you have taken.

Since you are reading this blog, my guess is that you are either outside the institutional bubble or are considering it. You may know from experience what I’m talking about when I use the term “family-induced guilt.” This particular form of guilt comes not from within self, but rather from those closest to us. It stems from family telling you that you are wrong for “not being in church.”

I’ve talked to many Christians over the past several years who have moved into some form of simple church life. This is a monumental step for most people in part because they are bucking/rejecting many of the traditions that their families hold dear. While they still agree with their families on the Gospel, they now have vastly different views on what the church is and how it ought to function.

One massive problem is that lots of Christians think that “to be a good Christian you have to go to church.” This specifically means that in order to show you are a believer you must regularly attend worship services. When simple church folks stop doing this their families begin to fret about their spiritual conditions. Some even think salvation is at stake.

With good intentions (but with a faulty view of ecclesiology), the family begins to confront those who departed about said departure. What this amounts to is a guilt trip for not being in church and Sunday School. The family just cannot see its own equating of salvation with its own very narrow view of church.

Please let me encourage you in three things. First, just because your extended family doesn’t understand what you have done, this doesn’t mean you are wrong. If you’ve taken the step to leave the institution, chances are that you have studied the church far more than your family has. I guarantee that you’ve looked for descriptions of the body of Christ in scripture more than they have.

Second, the problem actually lies with your family, not with you. Without knowing it, they have adopted a model of church life that is based more in Roman Catholic traditions than in scripture. You’ve taken a step toward what God desires for his church.

Third, know that many others are going through the same thing you are. I hope you find some of these folks near you. Family-induced guilt is something we all face. I encourage you to love on your family, pray for them, and talk with them if they will listen, but reject the guilt they are trying to foist upon you. In the end the best thing to do is to live and let live.

As it pertains to this particular blog series, family-induced guilt is a horrible reason for returning to institutional Christianity. If you follow that dark path you will be miserable. It’s far better to remain on the outside whether or not your family understands.


Peter Horvatin said...

Hi Eric,

One of the things that I've gotten after I've talked up home church is "well, it's been x amount of time, so why haven't you started up a home church yet? I confess that the spirit desired this way, but the flesh was weak. I didn't realize that this would be a journey that is not directed by my wants, but by the Holy Spirit.


Eric said...


It is indeed often a lonely road full of potholes. However, as we know it remains worth it. Better to follow Christ's desire for His church than to fall into the trap of looking to man's ideas.