Contrary to Popular Belief . . .

Posted: June 10, 2015 in Uncategorized, When Church Hurts
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Before we left our church, I would hear comments about other people who were no longer attending there:

“She’s trouble!  Stay away from her!”

“He was bitter because things didn’t go his way.”

“She left because she wasn’t going to be allowed to be in charge of the ministry she pioneered here.”

“They weren’t good enough to be on the worship team here, so they went to the new church plant.”

Always, the people who left were painted as bitter, angry, hurt, upset, unhappy, and, well, wrong.  No one ever said, “Wow, he has so much energy and is such a great asset to the ministry here!  We need to go after him and make sure there isn’t something we can do to encourage him to stay and use his gifts and ideas here.”

And yet, when I think about those people, they were integral in the ministry of the church – right up until the moment they weren’t anymore.  

There was the woman – a teacher in the local school district – who volunteered in the church cafe on a regular basis.

There was the custodian who, before he was hired, was instrumental in manning and maintaining the sound system.  And his wife who was immersed in children’s ministry activities.

And the woman who pioneered the “creative worship” (worship dance) in the church – a ministry that floundered and died soon after she was told she could no longer participate and subsequently left for a church that would allow her to use her very unique gifting.

And the couple who regularly ran the technology for the projections during the worship services.  They played in a country/blue grass band and traveled around the area performing.  But they weren’t good enough for leading worship  in the church.

I can only imagine some of the things that have been said about my husband and I since leaving our church.  He volunteered in children’s ministry for years and volunteered in the cafe from it’s inception – probably ten years or more.  And we both invested thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours caring for a large area of the landscape.  And I, early on, gave many hours to the worship ministry – until I was told I could no longer participate.  And the last couple of years we were at the church, I taught adult classes.

When I think about it, we were all – my husband and I and all of the people mentioned above – highly involved, giving the church our time, money, energy, experience, and physical labor over and above many of the other people in our circle of “friends.”  Some of us, the church had invested in with training, seminars, trips to conferences, etc.  Yet, we all became refugees – having to leave the church we called “home” because we couldn’t continue to stay in a place that was spiritually stifling.  

Because, the way that we are all wired is to believe that our faith is synonymous with our actions.  Worship dance was an action that demonstrated Kyra’s faith (names have been changed).  Though the country/blue grass musicians served in other capacities, their heart was in leading worship.  The custodian and his wife were servant-hearted.  The teacher discovered that her communications with the pastor were not confidential.  

And for my husband and me, we just wanted an apology for all of the years that I was told I couldn’t serve and was refused an explanation.  We stuck around all of those years – over a decade – believing that all could be fixed, especially if we continued to demonstrate dedication and devotion to the church and leadership.

Unfortunately, as Josh Packard and Ashleigh Hope have written about in their book, Church Refugees, many people are just like us – leaving churches because they aren’t allowed to function within their giftings, to use their passions and talents within the church.  The political landscape simply doesn’t make room for the church to function as the church was meant to be.  In our situations, pedigree, income, neighborhood, social status, giving ability, etc., all played in to who made it onto boards and committees and staff and who had the final say on whether or not people were valuable enough to support or allow to serve.

And so, people like us move on.  Some to new churches where they may or may not find the kind of acceptance and support they need to be spiritually vibrant.  Many, like us, step away from the institutional church altogether and choose, instead, to develop a community of friends and comrades who do what the church has not been able to do:  love, support, encourage, accept, build up, and join together in serving our fellow man in ways that God has called us to – ways that the church would not condone or allow.

  1. AM says:

    Although I was able to participate in church activity, I always felt that I wasn’t good enough. I would feel like I’m doing something wrong. I know somethings have been said about me since I left the church because there were some people texting me and asking me personal questions and then running back to the church to tell them what I said. Thank God it was nothing personal. At least all of us gave time to God and that’s all that matters. I’m starting to learn that now since reading your 21 day healing process. Thank you! 😀

  2. Dear Ellen,

    To quote a Non Biblical source, Yogi Berra, “It is Déjà vu all over again.”

    It is amazing the strands of corruption that run almost through everyone’s story.
    • Moral cowardice of the abuser in leadership to address the issues directly.
    • A well established institutional rumor and slander system designed for maximum impact on the integrity of the victim.
    • A solid core of deceived idolaters that worship leaders instead of Jesus. They are willing to role out demeaning statements like “get over it”, minimalize the assault on people and their family, throw out the forgiveness card, believe that their leaders have some special dispensation to sin, replace the word “mistake” for the word “sin” when it comes to leadership and even question your salvation.
    • If you think you were a first in the attack phase of Corrupt Leadership, you are wrong. You will later find more brothers and sisters that were abused from the same church. You are not alone.

    But you ended dear sister with an observation that I have asked about with the only result of blank stares from leaders during the trials I have been in the last couple of years. You mention the two words “community” and “institution”. Which is leading to the question to all church leadership: Are you building a “community of believers” or an “institution of programs”?

    You see the modern narcissist leader is afraid of “community”, it implies mutual accountability. They love “institutions” where they only have to manipulate a few. They do not understand the concept of repentance and the freedom that comes with it. They see it as a hindrance to power. They know not Jesus and see Him as King. They will never know the true love of Christ, because they can’t embrace his Truth. It is sad to see.

    Two scriptures come to mind off the top of my head. Both from the First Epistle of John

    1 John 3:18 18 Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. (NASB)

    1 John 4:20 20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. (NASB)

    The “Wolf” or modern day “Pharisee” does not know His love or truth, so how can they love the sheep? The answer is they can’t. That is why we expose them. We pray for them. But we still do what we can to separate them from the flock. When we think of it that way our anger subsides and peace reigns within us. We will never forget though.

    Good post saint. God bless you and your family.

    Exiled sheep and recovering Pentecostal
    Sheepville, NY

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