|Posted by God Loves Women on December 8, 2011 at 5:15 PM|
So I was born into the traditional “Sunday morning, singing, sermon and coffee” type of Church and I loved it! If we missed a week of church I would insist that my parents did it at home, with a Vitalite tub for the collection, of course! From about 8 years old I started to help in church, firstly handing out the notice sheets and most wonderful Mission Praise books, moving onto helping in Sunday School and other such typical young person helping in church type activities and it was wonderful. I was part of a fantastic youth group and the most evangelistic, naïve teenager you could possible meet. It was an amazing place to grow up as a Christian.
However (ah! There is always a however…I never truly knew what it meant to be sold out for Jesus. To love Him and give up anything for Him, no matter what.
Until (yes, there is always an until… at 17 I began four years of what I can only describe as hell, which culminated in me having a two year old daughter and giving birth to a premature baby boy having been assaulted by my then husband and living in a hospital, with my daughter, miles from any family or friends. And this is where I learnt what it really meant to be sold out for God; when He said to me that loving Him could not be dependant on whether my son lived or died, or how things went. I had lost everything, including myself and at the bottom the only thing there was Him.
So four years after God bringing me through the most painful recovery from the hell I had lived in, I was remarried to an amazing man (who incidentally had also been born into “Sunday morning, singing, sermon and coffee” type of church and had loved it) with a happy 7 year old daughter and a healthy and happy four year old son, going to a church that should have been great for us. Lively worship, nice people, great challenging sermons, and yet (there’s always a yet… something was wrong. It was still the same expression of “Sunday morning, singing, sermon and coffee” Church. I felt like it was a wonderful brightly coloured box, with nothing inside. I felt like it was kind of empty. The lively worship was a performance, the half an hour of coffee afterwards didn’t enable any type of relationship to be built with the nice people and the great, challenging sermons were coming week after week and it was like I had to work through each challenge in 6 days and then I would have a new challenge and then work through that in 6 days and then get a new challenge.
I began to feel like I couldn’t bear another ‘service’ (what is a service anyway…?) and the question me and my husband began to have was, do we do church this way because it’s the best way, or because it’s the only way. You see I really want to relate on the deepest level I can with God and with other people, but I began to realise “Sunday morning, singing, sermon and coffee” church wasn’t going to enable me to do that. I’m not saying it doesn’t work for other people, it surely and most definitely does, but I felt my integrity wouldn’t remain intact if I didn’t stop.
However (another however…!) we were born into church and love church, and surely God never asks people to ‘leave’ church, and most importantly what would our children do without Sunday School?! How could we let our spiritual dilemma affect their spiritual growth!! How could we let the church down? After all, we had started out with the Pastor planting the church two years previously and we couldn’t rock the boat…could we?
So it was in this place we attended Greenbelt, I had never been before and found the whole thing fascinating. I found my way to a Spirited Exchanges meeting (my husband was babysitting) and there God confirmed a few things to me:
1. Sometimes God does call people to leave church
2. It is okay to leave church and the guilt and fear isn’t from God
3. There’s other people out there trying to figure this out
4. There’s such a thing as having different stages of faith and me and my husband weren’t at the same stage as the rest of my church
I sat afterwards chatting to a very nice man about my main concern, how would my children not suffer from me and my husband leaving church and dragging them away from their friends, Sunday School and fellowship with children their own age? And he was truly very wise and helpful and through talking to him I figured out, if I didn’t believe in the expression of church I knew, should I really being growing the kids into that way of doing stuff and surely if God was moving us on, He would sort out the kids.
And so through this meeting and a seminar with Dave Andrews who, through his seminar confirmed much of what I had felt God was saying, me and my husband left Greenbelt knowing we must speak to our pastor and leave the church.
So we did, and he was wonderfully understanding, to the point that we wondered if we had made the right decision, and we left immediately.
So that was just over three weeks ago and it has been a wonderful but hard few weeks. We have related on a deeper level with so many people and have had some wonderful conversations with our children about God. God has placed some people in our life who are in a similar situation and He has given me my first non-Christian friend in four years (until now I was too busy with church friends to have time to connect anyone else). It has been hard and I miss church and keep losing track of the days with no church service to mark Sundays. However (yes, another however…it has been such a revelation to me. I finally realised why “Sunday morning, singing, sermon and coffee” church had become so empty for me. It’s because for me, church took away my responsibility, by going to church I could tick the following boxes:
1. Met with God and got to know Him better
2. Met with other Christians and got to know them better
3. Children’s spiritual walk deepened
4. My walk with God deepened
5. Have been challenged
6. Have worshipped
And yet in reality I wasn’t doing any of those things, I was just going to a building, singing some songs, listening to a sermon and having coffee. It wasn’t deepening anything and my children’s spiritual development is mine and my husband’s responsibility and actually this whole journey with God shouldn’t have tick boxes anyway!
So now we’ve left church, we’re not really sure what we’re going to do next, we’re praying and spending lots of time with people, getting to know them and we’re spending Sundays being a family and praising God in our house. And I’m sure we’ll know at some point, but what I realised is, I haven’t left church, because as I got taught in Sunday School, church isn’t the building, it’s the people. And I’m a person, so I’m still part of church.
N.B. I found this piece I had written in September 2010 and thought I'd pop it up. I may do a follow up as we are back in Church now and that's a whole other story ;-)
Categories: The Church