An ominous pain still lingers.
I talked to 2 of my friends yesterday who also were effected by the same sketchy church system I had fallen prey to. I know this church well. I know it too well, but I didn’t know how it was effecting me while I was in the middle of it. This same effect I heard coming from my friends. They did not participate, or seek to participate in ministry opportunities any more, but had resigned themselves to being no more than “pew warmers.”
“Shame on them,” I said to my one friend, “for making you feel so bad about participating, and trying your best to serve God.” As it turns out, she had been “disciplined” by the church on many occasions, for things she had done wrong by them, and asked to step down from a leadership position. Based on what she told me, all matters could have been handled in a more humane and less discouraging manner.
I am the type to not stand for these types of things for very long. My friend whom I had the 2nd conversation with yesterday was of the same mindset, and we talked about the freedom we had now to be able to make our own adult choices, as we sought God for how to live the life we had given to Him, now that we had, thankfully, departed from this highly flawed and controlling church system.
But what about my other friend and the many like her? I could see clearly she was in the place where I had been. She was down-trodden, and did not understand her worth or her value to God. She had been saved at this church, and so felt loyal to it, but she was viewed by them as a disobedient child, who could not get it right. She didn’t see her leadership gifts and gift of hospitality as valuable to the church. Although, she was doing a great job entertaining Christian friends in her home on every possible occasion.
Like me, when I had attended this church, the ministry she sought to do had to be done on the down-low. If it were integrated with the church, the church system would seek to have too much control, and the Holy Spirit would not be allowed to move. The church leaders trusted the system, but not the members.
This was the problem I had with this cult-like church. I felt like a fugitive for being involved in my own ministries as I felt God was leading me. Being called to sing, I couldn’t wait while this church waited 6 months or more to even return an email, the end result being that I was not allowed to audition for their worship team, as they deemed me unfit. I was even told that I could not participate in the church at all, as they were unaware I was currently leading music in the nursing home ministry for them once a month. Apparently, they did not try to disallow this, since I had not in actuality done anything wrong.
The next church I attended, under the same name, began to show the same patterns of control, inappropriate judgment of the members, and simply lack of love (which is clearly taught in the Bible as the correct approach under God, and as followers of Jesus). I could cite many Scriptures about love from the Bible. Suffice it to say, the greatest commandment, according to Jesus, is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 32:26-40)
So what does it mean when a church reads scripture from the pulpit, and professes to follow it and be exemplary Christians, but does none of what the Bible says, in actuality? Can one believe her own perception, and move on? Or does one assume that somehow these people are more knowledgeable and stay put to her own detriment?
In my second conversation with a friend yesterday, it came to light that one could not exist adequately within the confines of this church system, and also be a faithful follower of God. To follow God in spirit and in truth, meant nothing more or less than to be a rebel in the eyes of such self aggrandizing leaders.
This I have felt to be strangely akin to trying to live for Christ during the reign of the Nazi regime in Germany, where they seemed to be so convinced that following Hitler as the great Father was the right thing. I always wondered how it could be that so many followed something so obviously false.
For the first time in my life, I have my answer. In order to be on the “right” side in such a society, one must accept an extremely negative judgment upon oneself, by this same society. But to attempt to exist in such a church is to accept a position of being stagnant and living below the joyful life which Jesus came for us to have (John 15:11).
I am still connected with this church in some ways, as I have friends who either attend now, or have attended services. I have a wonderful home group associated with this church, and I carefully am telling them what I know, and what I have discovered on the internet, but quietly as not to be disruptive to their fragile allegiance to a system where they do not know, or acknowledge all the facts. Slowly and carefully I am getting the truth out, like an underground worker during the 3rd Reich. I feel this is some kind of preparation for me, for the strange days we are living in, and the stranger days we are no doubt about to enter into.