Day 10 – A Journey

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… a new start turns into stepping in the same old pile of s*** and why I am at a crossroads.

4 thoughts on “Day 10 – A Journey

  1. Not long after you left, I was involved in a group study with one of the “leaders” there, I tried to make a comment about God’s grace and he cut me off in mid-sentence. He said they had heard enough about grace to last a lifetime! I knew then I was in trouble!

  2. Hi Mark..well I’ve read through your journey..and it didn’t freak me out as you thought it might…We know God works in strange ways..he places difficult obstacles in our path to test us. We can only overcome difficulties by leaning soley on him to direct our path . You story tells the great love God has for you and he brings you through all those storms and plants you firmly on the ground! As you said by the grace of the Holy Spirit you were able to forgive. It is unfortunate that those whom you thought were friends turned on you and your family..that is a very sad thing. But I am encouraged by your journey because I see God working in you…all around me I see His awesome love for us and our families and friends. He is an awesome God.I’m sorry that you have had to go through so many struggles but perhaps you telling your journey is God’s way of reaching others through you. I’ve had a few of the same struggles in my life..loss of a child, divorce, not being such a good parent at times…and I’ve questioned God on so many aspects of my life. But I finally get it and I accept Jesus as my Savior who will always be there for me–do we as humans still quesion our Savior and God..absolutely, its part of our sinful nature. And yes, I’ve had that thought : what if the bible IS just a story…well I’d rather bet that it’s true and rejoice in the end than suffer the consequences..but really, how can one look around at the stars, moon, sun, all of creation and not believe in God. I’m not sure if I’m making any sense or rambling. I agree with your comments that many “christians” appear to be someone they really are not.. masks are worn by many in all walks of life because they are afraid of who they really are…removing their mask reveals too much. They are not true friends and will have to answer for their actions in the end.I hope your telling of your journey helps to heal you along with Gods grace. I will pray for you that you find peace with yourself and with your church

  3. Mark…buddy, and Lou…buddy…I too, question and struggle with my relationship with God and especially how the church fits into this. I will say this, however,as it relates to our church body… As you know, I still attend the church where many of your issues and ill treatment occurred and this saddens me and I am sorry about that. We are all on a journey and perhaps someday those people who betrayed and offended you may realize what they did and make amends or they may not. I believe at some point in my walk with God and still now I may offend others and act in a way that is not pleasing and sinful…but as a father of young children I value our church body for what it offers them. They love our church and when they think about their heavenly Father, they make connections through their experiences there…a place where they feel safe, accepted, and have fun. I value this…I lean on this as a Father who often struggles with how to communicate Christ’s love to my children. I also liked the point AMW made…when I start to doubt the existence of God or the fact that He cares for me, or how one of my least favorite things I like to do which is reading the Bible, I look at God’s creation, and think about friendships and also my wife and realize that God has spoken to me and blessed me in many different ways over my lifetime…not just through scripture. We all struggle and probably will forever…it’s that whole working out our salvation concept. Anyway…When I remember to pray, I will think of the both of you

  4. Hi Jay, I’m glad your girls are getting something out of church and its wonderful to “count your blessings”! I also see value in being honest about the things that are not so good in church. Not because I hate church, but in the hope that being honest will help others who have been hurt to be honest about their own struggles. There seems to be a lot of “spin doctors” in church, but it isn’t “spin” that sets us free, only the truth does that!

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