There has been lots of conversation lately about evangelicals leaving the church, and those who stay…but instead of talking about “ THOSE” who do have done this, I am going to share a little of my story and how I have come to the church I have now, and the walk of faith I have now…To the place Grace found me.
I’ve done a lot of leaving and a lot of staying too in the past churches I’ve been part of….
I was raised Catholic, and though I did appreciate some of the traditions such as the white dresses for communion and confirmation, and the stories I read that I found in the giftshop of “ Saint Joan…
it just wasn’t a place I called home. I never knew anyone who went there either, except before confirmation I had a few people from middle school there with me….but no relationship was truly ever made, and nothing kept me going…
When I was in high school, I really had no desire for church, and not much of a respect for God either, but I think that is normal as a teen. The thoughts I have were constant wonders of my adequacy to the rest of the kids around me…I was in Drama and writing deep, and sometimes dark poetry in English.
Church was furthest from my mind…but then I needed to find something for on the job training elective, and my mom found a church in the pennysaver needing an infant caregiver.
I was not thrilled at the opportunity, but I went for the interview, and I got the position.
Eventually, I became part of the church, because there was something MORE there and I wanted to figure out what that was…
Later in the years I was part of that church I did a lot of going and coming, and I was welcomed back each time, but one of the times I left…I almost did not come back.
I have always loved the Bible, and I wanted so much to have indepth study, not just small groups, I wanted to really get down to the nitty gritty of it, I wanted to learn Greek and Hebrew translation, I wanted to learn the history…..and because I had this craving…it got me into trouble, and I ended up in throws of false teaching. To make that long story short, I will simply say false teachers will manipulate you, will make you feel like you are 1.5 feet tall, will alienate you from everyone you love, will control your mindset and everything you believe…will make you feel like you are not worth being loved by God.
I ended up losing my job due to this religion but it moved me back to my old church…
I was comfortable after that, because of what I had gone through I just thought it would be best to just take in whatever I was being taught, and to just force myself to have relationship with people, and to put on the happy face…But that could only go on for so long. Without going through the story of all of it, I will just say there was a situation that happened that finally forced me to leave for good, and this was under advice of my pastors wife that had moved to another city.
I moved to a place closer to my job, I did the church hopping thing too, I wasn’t happy that I couldn’t go back to my old church, but knew it was not safe for me under the circumstances.
I tried three different churches, and the one I thought I would not have ever walked into again, became the church I go to now. I judged them the first time I walked in. There was a man on stage that spoke broken English and no one had bibles open…but I made the mistake of writing out a prayer request and my phone number on a visitor card…and I was called to meet the pastor and his wife…
My most memorable words from my pastor’s wife were, “ Honey, that was a visitor, believe me, you will not meet a man that knows the bible better than my husband does. I suggest you give it another try.”
And I did.
And I grew to have such a love for this church, and the people there. I got to be part of choir, and had responsibilities in the office, and worked with the youth…but it was about a year ago or so when I stepped away from all of it. Sometimes the only way you know God loves you is through His discipline, and in this time though I wanted to so much continue all I was doing at the church, I had to be obedient and know God needed me to just listen and submit to His authority.
A real church will support not what you want, but what God is speaking to your heart to do.
A real church will tell you that you need to stop and pray and seek God on your decision, A real church will notice that there is an issue that you need to be concerned with and go before the Lord about it,
A real church will not just help you to heal from the past, but to be restored.
I did have a few times where I wanted to “Go,” because I dropped everything that was keeping me there, if I wasn’t in choir, working with youth or working in office…why would I need to go?
But there is something more that happened in all of this, and that was I found my real reason for going to church in the first place. I found the reason I go is because I love Jesus, and I want to learn everything I can about the Word. I wanted to learn to the deep , that “ the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:1-5)
And you know what happened when I took my focus for going to church for being more than the people I saw every Sunday, for being more than the songs we sang, for being more than the message given by pastor… I left behind me the past pain from the false teachers, I left all those times I felt that I didn’t, ” fit in,”, I left all those times where people told me, ” I wasn’t spiritual enough to do this or do that,” I left those thoughts of being rejected, and focused on God alone…and I started to have a deeper love for people then I ever have in my life. God’s discipline really does show us how much He loves us. He needs us to see that we are nothing without Him, not so it will discourage us, but so that it will encourage us.
Encourage us to know we don’t have to do this life on our own, and it is much safer if we give him the steering wheel.
I know I don’t have a ” Perfect,” church, none of us do, but I do have a Perfect God, and because of that, I know my church and I will continue to fall for a deeper relationship with God, and will continue to share and reach out to others His love as well as we all know how…as well as we know His love.
He has this master plan behind the scenes at each moment, and He desires a relationship with us that goes further than any relationship we can have with people on this earth…He pursues us, He will pull us out of the pit, and He will heal us so deep that the wound becomes a beautiful memory of His goodness, instead of a past to look back on with shame.
“ My sins are gone, I’ve been set free, My God my Savior has ransomed me, and like a flood, His mercy reigns, amazing love, Amazing Grace.”