Posted by Catherine | church refugees, done with church

I wasn’t raised in a Christian home and only attended church with my family on Easter or when we were visiting my believing grandmother. Even with such limited exposure, I was continually drawn to thoughts of God and had experiences that made me certain He was real, but it wasn’t until my husband and I were in our late 20’s that we found Christ. Although we began following Him at the same time, God had been speaking to us individually and without the other one knowing until we confessed it to one another.

The church we started attending quickly introduced us to all the different spoken and unspoken rules that came with being part of an organized church. One older church member even mentioned our enthusiasm for Christ and told us we’d get over it eventually. We were restless and dissatisfied in each of the different churches we attended over a period of 30+ years. Although they were different denominations, we found much of the same thing in each one: They were run like a business, most members had no voice at all, the budget and programs were more important than people, the well-to-do were practically courted, those in need had less value, and cliques abounded. In the middle of this, we experienced nine very difficult years of what we eventually recognized to be spiritual abuse, and it took quite some time for us to find real healing. In addition, I always felt like I was never really accepted, and that I was always on the fringes, on the outside looking in, despite the fact that both my husband and I were leaders in the churches we attended.

Remember the church member who told us we’d get over our enthusiasm for Christ? He’s right — those experiences quenched our passion quite thoroughly. However, the desire for Christ never left us. We were certain that our experience wasn’t what God intended for the body of Christ, and everything we read in the New Testament about the church confirmed that in our spirits.

In the last organized church we attended, I had been asked to teach in adult Sunday School on a portion of the book of Acts. The more I studied the passages and read of the life of Christ the early church had, the more depressed and dissatisfied I became. There was a fullness of Christ’s life described in those pages that I had never experienced in church. On the way home from the last Sunday service, I told my husband that I was convinced that God never intended for me to leave church more depressed than when I got there, and that I was done. He agreed and supported me in my decision to leave, although he wasn’t ready to leave and remained in the church for a while after that.

About this time, the wife of a couple we had known from the time when we had been under spiritual abuse invited me to gather with them. She told me some about the organic church and suggested some books to read that explained it further. I was intrigued and agreed to get together with them at least once. I admit I was somewhat hesitant to meet with this couple, partly because there had been a break in relationship with them while we were all under the spiritual abuse, but also because it would be pretty noticeable if I didn’t go back.

The first time I sat down in their home and they began sharing what little they knew about the organic church, a great sense of relief swept over me, and I knew I had finally found the spiritual family my spirit had been craving all those years. We embarked on that journey together several years ago, with my husband joining us after a little over a year. (I’m glad to be able to say that my husband and I were not only completely reconciled with this couple, but we’ve grown into a richer and sweeter relationship with them than we’d ever had before.) Others have also joined us on this journey. It’s not been easy, but we’ve seen clearly that the fullness of life in Christ involves being in deep relationship with Him AND His body.

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