Resting in Grace
Experiences change you! They really do! They can either change you for the better or for the worse. The choice is yours! We had that opportunity to make that choice within the last couple of years.
My husband is an ordained minister. Many people that we have known for years do not even know this. There are a lot of things that these people do not know.
They do not know that he has been a paid minister in 2 churches. They do not know that these 2 church experiences ended in total heartbreak for us as we were basically pushed out of both churches because of man’s power and the abuse of it.
After these 2 “blows” to our ministries, we decided to step out of the paid ministry. We attended, and were quite involved in, the next church for 14 years. This church also had power issues within the leadership and eventually that church split. We proceeded to attend and get involved in the next church with people that we had known for years, only to be told by someone who we had only known for a handful of weeks, that we had too much baggage and that it was probably best if we moved along elsewhere. This man was in leadership and obviously had control issues of his own that reared their ugly head to us. The reason that he told us this is because we had some questions about how the leadership intended to lead in certain areas and he did not like the fact that we had questions, and he felt defensive for some reason. If something is truly God ordained, it should stand up to any and all questing! The most unfortunate part is that the other leaders went right along with him, even though they knew us longer and better than he did. In their eyes, I’m sure they were thinking, “He was put in leadership, he knows best, who are we to question him?” No man should have that kind of power, especially in a church!
I do not mention these experiences to receive any sympathy or to be judged by those who do not have a clue of what we have been through. I mention it to share our journey and the things that we have learned through these situations.
After our 4th nasty “church” experience (among other experiences and situations), we knew that the Lord was nudging our hearts and telling us to make a new start elsewhere and to trust Him. We did just that and we couldn’t be happier! It was one of the best things that we have ever done. We have been blessed by God, beyond measure. We have seen God’s hand move in ways that have left us in complete awe!
Our search for a church in our new homeland will look different than other people’s search, I guarantee it! We know that there will never be the perfect church. After all, when humans are in charge, there will always be conflict. We know that it is not a God problem, it is a people problem.
As we search for a church, we have found that almost every single church we have visited have had sermons that have spoken to our healing hearts. It may be years before we have a true church home. We are not in a hurry! We are going to tread lightly and carefully!
In a sermon a couple of weeks ago, the minister spoke about how some churches tend to get to the point where all of the members think the same, vote the same, dress the same and on and on. When a church gets to that point, how do they make an impact on the world, or even on each other? Worship starts to become all about pleasing the ones in charge, sticking to the legalistic rules, and giving total control to the leaders. Pleasing Christ seems to take a back seat to pleasing man! How very sad!!
In our search we have also realized that we don’t need to “belong” to a church to have an impact on people. There are hurting people everywhere from grocery stores to the workplace to our neighborhoods and even beyond that. I can make an impact on others without being affiliated with 1 particular church. Sometimes a person can make even more of an impact that way. Strangers should be able to see Christ through our actions and love for others. Our identity is in Christ, not in what church we belong to!
I know that some people will not agree with me and will think that I am looking at things wrong, but that is fine. They haven’t been where we have been or had our experiences. They can’t relate. Before we moved, we had someone recommend that we find a church before we moved so that we could know what area we should purchase a house in. We smiled and nodded but deep down, we were thinking, “obviously this person hasn’t been burned by a church before”. While we appreciated her words and trying to be a help to us, we knew that advice didn’t apply to us.
I guess what I am trying to say is that we all walk our own roads. Nobody can relate to what the next person has gone through unless they have walked that road, hand in hand with them. I will admit that Christians are some of the most judgmental people on the planet (which is so sad) and I AM A CHRISTIAN! My aim in life is to be the best person that I can be for Christ! God didn’t let us down in our experiences, PEOPLE DID! My family and I aren’t holding grudges, but I will admit that we are scarred. But we are healing! Every Sunday my husband and I have the hardest time making it through a church service without crying. Those emotions are all part of the healing process. When those bandaids come off of our hearts someday, we will be able to lend one to someone else as we see their hurts. Our scars will always be there, but scars are battle wounds that can lead to powerful testimonies if we continue to trust God and learn from the experiences that He has put before us, no matter how painful those experiences have been.
As Christians, we need to make sure that we don’t just “play” church. We need to be loving, kind, and helpful to those who are walking the hard road, without judgement and not only within the walls of the church. Our weekly aim should be to reach those that are having a hard time and show Christ to them. It is time for many church goers and those in leadership to take off their judgmental cloaks and become the hands and feet of Jesus!
After ministering with my husband in multiple churches, we have seen what man’s love of control and power can do to hundreds of people. My words of advice are that people need to ask questions of the leadership. If those in charge can’t handle the questions, then you are in the wrong church! Do not blindly follow anyone just because they are the one in the forefront. Satan has his way too many times in too many churches. Don’t give him that control. If you do, it will be your downfall in the end.
Breaking free from our “bad” church experiences has been so refreshing! The freedom that we feel is unexplainable! We will eventually find the church that fits our family but for now we will focus on healing and trying to positively impact those around us. I would not trade our bad past experiences because they have allowed us to grow in our walk with Christ and our pursuit of always trying to bring Him glory!
Written by Kathryn Conrad