In the wake of a large Presbyterian Church deciding to leave the denomination, Matthew L. Skinner writes on Odyssey Networks about why one should leave, using Jesus and a Samaritan woman as a model. From his blog post:
People of faith ought to leave their churches every now and then — not to abandon their communities or religious institutions, but to venture out in expectation that God will appear in a different setting. This passage in John 4 gives no support to views that say a person must come inside a church’s walls and traditions to meet God. It speaks against any community that shields itself from the mysteries of a God who operates freely in all sorts of places, not exclusively on this particular mountain or in that specific temple.
When a pastor takes up residence in a tent city, dwelling with people to share fully in their needs, he provides a tangible expression of God’s presence. He makes a bold statement that God can be found in person-to-person interactions. He meets God there. The ground he and the other residents occupy is no less sacred than the interior of a church sanctuary. In fact, it could be even more so.
If God is not confined to churches, or to gatherings of like-minded individuals, then we may need to reassess who God is and what a life of faith looks like. A God encountered outside the walls, encountered “in spirit and truth,” must be a God who dwells among flesh and blood. No grumpy old man in the sky who refuses to take us and our disappointments seriously, no dispassionate supercomputer-like mind that cannot be affected by love and rejection or progress and loss — this is a God we risk losing sight of if we cut ourselves off from our neighbors and if we define too tightly the terms of what it means to belong to “God’s people.”
Jesus insists that God has come to be with us. All of us. And this God will stay.