This wonderful feeling is often accompanied by an expectation that it will be relatively simple to find like-minded believers. Not so fast. Sometimes it's very difficult to come in contact with Christians who hold to a simple view of the body of Christ. After leaving the institution, believers frequently wander in the wilderness attempting to locate a small group with which to meet. After a while some of these believers even return to the institution due to the lack of fellowship.
The struggle is real.
(This is part three of my ten part series entitled Ten Bad Reasons for Returning to the Institution.)
One of the primary reasons Christians leave institutional trappings behind is that they desire true fellowship and community. Worship services, Sunday School, potluck dinners, etc. fail to provide people with the opportunity to truly get to know one another. Because of this, they depart. Departure does not, however, necessarily lead to a quick finding of community. For many the search takes quite some time.
One reason for this is that simple church does not advertise itself. People who gather simply generally do so without much fanfare. These groups can be very difficult to locate. Therefore, when other Christians say good-bye to the institution, they sometimes cannot find anybody to meet with (even if they happen to live right down the street).
Failure to find a small group can be frustrating and depressing. After a while, some Christians even drag themselves back to the institution (often very unhappily). Let me be clear: this is not a good idea. It will only lead to misery.
But what if you leave and cannot find anybody to meet with? My suggestion is to continue to pray about it and continue to look. Also, pray that God would give you opportunity to share your faith. New believers are often extremely open to meeting simply; they do not have tradition-based hangups. Invite new believers over to your home. It's amazing what can happen when Christians eat together. Food and fellowship truly do go together.
Fact: it is not fun at all when you cannot locate other believers to gather with. It can be a very dark time. This does not mean, however, that you were incorrect to leave the institution. Rather, it may simply be a time that God uses to test your faith. Rely on the Lord and keep looking. Use your own home as a place to gather. Invite new believers. Meet days other than Sundays.
Don't go back to the institution. That decision will only lead to regret, pain, and sorrow. Rather, keep looking for others. And then look some more.