OK, so I lied! I said I would continue this story tomorrow but now it is 9 days after tomorrow. Sorry about that, but this is musing of a “not so good” Christian!
I had mentioned in my previous post that beginning to understand the depth of God’s love and grace was both a blessing and a curse. It was back in 1994 when I first began to discover this truth and it remains deeply rooted in me today. It also has brought me to my dilemma with organized “church”.
In the early 2000’s, having been in the same Baptist church for 19 years, I was given the opportunity to preach. We had been without a pastor for over a year and during this interim we had different people coming to speak every Sunday. One particular Sunday the person scheduled failed to show up so I was asked to fill in. I was afraid but the second I stepped up to the pulpit I felt a sense that this was where I should be. Shortly after that I was asked to preach until a pastor was hired.
My preaching focused on God’s sovereignty over all things and how our purpose in life was bound by two commands. The commands to love God with all of our being and to love others as unconditionally as we could. Amazingly, scripture has a lot to say about those two things. Things went well for a little while and then I began to hear from some people that they thought that I was becoming too liberal, that I was being too soft on the sin of others, and that there was more to the Gospel than God’s unconditional love and grace. Some people didn’t like the idea that I had begun to embrace Reformed theology either so they went from”loving” my preaching to disliking it in a matter of months “Ah, the fickle christian heart.”
While some people were becoming negative, others, mostly the people not part of the church “in group” were telling me that they, for the first time, were understanding God’s love and grace. But soon that was all going to change. The new pastor arrived.
He began his ministry by slowly removing from me the ministries that I had done for years, taking over all the counseling, changing things in the praise and worship ministry, changing the Sunday School class so that I could no longer teach. He did offer to let me begin to develop a drama ministry but he was going to ask me to resign from the board because in his words “I needed a break”, but I had resigned before that happened. He wanted to control the church and that is what he was doing. We tried to stay, we had been there a long time, 20 years. But is seemed that some friends we had known and shared live with turned against us, spread rumors, and lies about me, my family and my ministry. So we finally had to leave.
Can I tell you that, outside of the pain of losing a child, I had never experienced such pain and grief. The worst part was that it was not at the hands of unbelievers, but Christians. I hated some of them so much because they had turned their backs on us and lied. I cried for many nights during this time, almost every night, as I took lonely walks through our neighborhood feeling so alone, so rejected, so confused. I was deeply depressed once again. For several months I could not even go into the church to get my stuff out of my office because I would become physically sick entering the church.
At the same time I was let go from my full-time job at a Christian counseling agency over “philosophical differences” with the owner, director. There was no indication that this was coming either, I came into work one day and was told I was being let go.
It seemed as if my world was falling apart, and it was falling apart at the hands of people who claimed to be lovers of God and lovers of others.
It took me many months of hating until, through the grace of God and the work of the Holy Spirit, I was convicted of the need to extend grace and forgiveness, just as grace had been extended to me through the cross, in the end I was able to forgive.
God had lead us to a Presbyterian Church during this time and in the first meeting I had with the pastor I told him I hated Christians and I would never, ever be involved in any church ministry. I was only going because I did not feel like I should give up on church. But in my heart I was cold toward the church’s claims of love.
Tomorrows (hopefully) blog…..how a new start turns into stepping in the same old pile of s*** and why I am at a crossroads.