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What would we do without “us”?
In 2003, I found a group of amazing people and together we started a church. These people were especially helpful through my twenties. Peers could commiserate with me about challenges encountered in a life of faith. Middle aged members helped guide us through missteps and unfamiliar territory. Elders with a wealth of life experience sailed out ahead of us all to offer wisdom.
As long as I had them, I felt sure to win! Not only were they great resources, I also came to genuinely love and respect them. When someone becomes that dear to me, I often tell them, “I don’t know what I would have ever done without you.” And then I thought “what if I HAD to do without them?” As strong as we felt together, I always believed we should have a plan… just in case we were ever apart.
I felt I should know how to be a Christian with or without community support, just like you might take a self-defense course in case you’re attacked while alone. I wanted to know I could “survive in the wild” if necessary. Though a fleeting thought, it was my premonition that such a day would come. True enough, it came for me in June 2011 when, after much consideration, I decided to leave my church.
Though I marveled at how much our organization had grown since its humble start in the pastor’s living room, it began to feel uncomfortable. Our church experienced rapid growth for many years. The more it grew, the harder it was to keep the intimate, familial feeling that made it a home. We had to institute more and more rules and guidelines to prevent utter chaos. That process makes for a very stable structure.
I was very proud of it all, but in the growth it seemed something was lost. The good thing about a strong structure is that it doesn’t move easily. The bad thing about a strong structure is that it doesn’t move easily. A large animal can’t be very quick on its feet when it has so much weight to carry. Because of our “weight gain” in membership and attendance, we were developing an intricate network of policies, procedures, authority, and hierarchy.
This would have been a fascinating and stimulating environment where someone’s best gifts could come to the forefront and shine, but not so much for me. A distance from the surrogate family it once was, it began to feel starched and political. And I hate politics.
Is that all there is?
While there is immense security in churches and other communities of faith, an unexpected side effect was that mine became a crutch. I felt too safe. I was too used to our church culture, our perspective, our people, and our God in our way. The place that used to host a steady parade of new experiences had become too familiar, too predictable. I started to stagnate and disengage.
With capable leaders doing the heavy lifting of communicating with God and then preaching a one-hour sermon on what he said, it took away the urgency of my need to do some lifting on my own. Basics like reading the Bible and praying regularly had fallen by the wayside. I atrophied and needed to shock myself back into action.
I had seen a bit too much church service, church activity, church people, and I was honestly rather churched out. I was beginning to think, “Is this it? Is this all there is to God? I’ve seen all of this before. There’s got to be more.” Perhaps what I experienced was about all there was to church. But in my heart, I was certain that it wasn’t all there was to God.
That church today is still a place where people can encounter and get to know God. There are great things ahead for them. But as for me, my season had come to an end. So I decided I was going to take a risk and see if I could locate God in some other place outside the house I grew up in… and I left.
I left my convenience, I left my security, and I left my history… searching for God… without a map, without a plan, and without a church.
I left my church last year, I know how hard of a decision it is. But getting out of my comfort zone was the best thing I could’ve ever done for myself, spiritually as well as socially.
I grew up in Haitian churches all my life, surrounded by the gospel as it appealed to my own ethnicity. I always hated the fact that it was all I knew, and I wanted a relationship with God that extended outside of just Haitians.
When I read my bible and examined my life, I saw no part of the great commision being done. How could I invite my friends to a church where the language being spoken wasn’t their own, and would have an adverse affect on them?
I’m at a different church now, a place where I feel I can truly share the gospel with my friends and invite them, knowing they won’t feel alienated.
I’m going to end my little story. Before my “comment” becomes a blog on your blog lol. But I encourage you in your walk, to find that true relationship with Christ that is independent of your surroundings, people and groups, etc. That secret place where you meet with God, and you are just you….can’t be found in any church.
God bless 🙂
Wow. I didn’t know you were coming from that angle. It looks like you’re already a step ahead in the process I just started. Thanks, Rose! Maybe you SHOULD blog that whole process out. I would love to take it in while I’m processing mine. Aren’t you just the gift that keeps on giving…
Yes I’m reading this a bit late but that being said I just love how Rose deconstructed her experience and encouraged yours. Both of you are on the right path God is not located in an edifice, his spirit is in YOU – your heart and mind.
I find your blog very interesting because perspective is always well taken in hand. I didn’t grow up in church but I went to a Christian school from 1st – 3rd grade, then to public school I went & I stopped praying when I saw the other children weren’t blessing their food…I was embarrassed, and didn’t know anything about being a “Light” so I stopped. Then in the 12th grade a friend invited me to her church, it was a C.O.G.I.C church and had all of these rules, I really wanted to be her friend, she was the head cheerleader, so I thought joining the church would be cool…but when my other friends who weren’t in church started ragging on me, I didn’t like how it felt, so I left the church. Went to college and I was nearly Atheist, but I don’t think I was because I would start conversations with people while I was high about God and if He is real.
It brought me to a place to once I had my son and I was with his father, he was a bad boy…actually a gangster in the real sense because I believe he drove a get away car in some drive-bys anyway, I begin to feel the presence of evil & kept saying that I need to get to a church. But I wouldn’t go. It wasn’t until one day while my son’s dad was in jail & I was on the phone with a friend of mine who went to see a psychic. The psychic told her that she sent some spirits with her to get rid of the commotion of the bad boys at the juvenile hall she was working at. She told me how when she began to talk to them they would open their mouths but couldn’t talk. It scared the living mess out of me! I told her to stay on the phone until daylight and that I was going to church the next day! Needless to say, since I wasn’t hanging out with any Christians, I turned on the Radio to find a church to go to…LoL
When my son’s dad got out of jail, I told him about the church he came with me and didn’t like it. We then visited a church that his aunt went to. It was a Mega-Church. I liked it because I saw everyone praising God (didn’t know that’s what it was at the time) and dancing and shouting, I told him, “Wow these people are partying for Jesus! How amazing!” I never knew that God could be fun! Lol
I ended up joining the church, being baptized and filled with the Holy Ghost 3 weeks later! But our church got bigger and bigger and we moved to a larger building. In the move, we lost many members, the anointing in the new building wasn’t the same. I wanted to stick with where I started so I stayed there until after I got married (not to my son’s father, someone who attended the church) but because he didn’t like what was happening in the church, I felt the same way, but I kept going..we stopped going to that church. But I didn’t feel right not going to church, because I did that my whole childhood and I was depressed. Church made me feel like I could be better and it lifted me and I always heard the answer to my questions, or confirmations to what God already said to my spirit. We got into another church, a small church, I liked the community, but I didn’t. It felt very cliquish…and I just couldn’t fit in.
We ended up separating, and during the separation I stopped church again!
I went to some bible studies at a few churches here and there, then I began going regularly to another Mega Church, but I kept praying before I could make a decision to join. In 2011, after my father died, I asked God to send me to a church where I could serve. God answered my prayer and I joined in late April 2011. It is a small church but has been growing and growing. I don’t know if the same thing will happen that the growth will be so high to where I can’t be used, but I don’t think so because we’re generating ideas. Leadership is important though and we need to continually pray for the leaders not to get stagnate and set in ways, and not to keep things going the same way…there has to be a freshness in the atmosphere & always move according to the Spirit…but it’s lost when ppl need to organize, plus when ppl are invited who don’t know Christ, they may not understand if there is no structure.
I don’t know why I find church organization such an interesting topic, but I do think it’s important because of the simple fact, I spent a lot of time outside the church trying to figure things out for myself. But my conclusion is that I’m best when I’m going, every time that I wasn’t in church, my life was not well.
Hey Tiff, thanks for reading and thanks for sharing your testimony. It can be really hard to find a church that fits you. But I can easily see where you’re coming from. Even I’ve been attending church even though minimally. We do need community one way or another. I’m glad you found a place that fits you through all your ups and downs. I hope I do too!