8 Things I Learned From Leaving The Church: And then trying a new one

I left a church I attended for 10 years,  tired, confused, disillusioned, hurt and angry.  I still had children at home, and knew that I needed to keep them in church.  I didn’t want to keep them away from church at a vulnerable time in their life just because I was dealing with some emotions.

So we went on a find a new church journey, or a let’s at least keep going to church journey.  I felt I needed to attend church so wasn’t ready to quit going altogether.  I was a mess though, and needed time to figure things out.  Visiting churches seemed like the way to attend, and not make a commitment that I wasn’t ready for.

We visited churches on every side of the theological scale.  It was fun in fact to see the different views played out.  We went to some churches where we stood most of the service, some where we sat, some where we kneeled, and some with a combination.

We drank real communion wine, grape juice, and none at all.  There were hymns, original music, popular songs, and no songs at all.  There were churches that welcomed us with open arms, and others that wanted to be sure we understood their doctrine before attending.  Are you sure you want to be here?

I was kind of all over the place for a while.  My husband doesn’t even go to church and said, Marcy, just pick one and stick with it for a while.  That’s enough running around.  He was right.  We picked one close to our home.  I know the pastor, his sermons are solid, and they are a loving church.  It’s a place I can perch, heal, and figure out what I believe.

Here are some things that I have learned on my journey to get reconnected to the church.

  1. They are all messed up in some way or the other.  We never visited a church we thought was perfect.  We figured out in the end we would have to choose one that we could commit to.  Like in marriage, a commitment is a choice, not a feeling.
  2. Worship was possible in each church.  The music and worship styles were completely different, but we found if we concentrated on God we could worship despite what music they played, didn’t play, or how they worshipped.  It was about focusing on God.
  3. Each church had sinners.  It’s true.  Each church has some really messed up people.  When we went into it with that knowledge it made it easier.  We couldn’t hope to find perfection, but hopefully a group of sinners who were trying to follow God.
  4. We could be hurt again.  If we picked a new church, and became members we could be hurt again.  That’s what kind of happens when we go to church with other sinners. The reality is we can be hurt.  It’s why God gives us guidance to take care of things when we do hurt each other.  What we want to find is a church where the people admit sin (when a wrong is done), seek forgiveness, and turn from sin.  That’s all we can really hope for.
  5. The church as a whole isn’t what it should be.  The church as a whole isn’t effective, is too focused on building infrastructure and not disciples, doesn’t hold sway in the world, is weak, sways with the wind, doesn’t get it.  Ok.  All that is true and more, but as a believer, whether I attend church or not, I am still the church.  What I need to do, and can do, is concentrate on being what the church should be.  I can’t control everyone else, but I can start with me.
  6. In the end it’s about obedience.  I picked a church close to home to attend.  I did not feel like it.  I felt like staying home and sleeping in.  I mean why go through this again.  I was completely confused about my doctrine, hurt, disillusioned, and tired.  Why do this again?  In the end I went because I feel God commands us to, and because I have a husband and children who are watching what I do.  They want to see if I will do what I am supposed to do.  Even my husband knows Christians are supposed to be in church, and he will tell you he is an unbeliever.
  7. They each have their pet doctrines, forms of worship, and ministries.  If you attend our church this is our pet doctrine, this is “our” form of worship and here is your prescribed way of ministry.  Now I am being a bit facetious, but it’s not far off.  In the church I attend now they do a great job of not forcing down a pet doctrine, they combine different styles of music to appeal to different tastes, and they do not prescribe a way of ministry.  This way or the highway.  If you want to serve God, then you will do it in this ministry.  No.  The pastor believes that God calls us to serve in the church, and outside the church.  He only cares that we serve.  I can live with that.
  8. You don’t have to like everything to attend.  Perhaps it’s the part of the journey I am on, but I don’t believe it’s about liking everything in order to attend.  We don’t have to dot all the i’s.  I have some of my own pet doctrines that I miss, so I study those at home.  If the church is Christ centered, preaches the gospel, and seeks to understand what God’s Word says, and not tell it what it says, then we should be okay.  Don’t forsake the assembly.  I don’t think God is looking for us to attend where we like everything.  Can we attend where we can serve, learn and grow, and maybe not like a few things?

My great grandmother, Olive, was a wise and faithful Christian.  She attended the same church her entire life.  All 101 years of her life.  I asked her once about a situation in my church.  I told her I was considering leaving that church because I didn’t like some things.  I asked her, her opinion on that.  She said well, “I think when people keep leaving churches it says a lot about their faithfulness to God.”  She felt sticking with it was important.  It indicated our stick withedness to God.  Hard words, but truthful.

Church is an imperfect messed up place.  It’s what makes God’s glory stand out even more.  The fact that He can take that mess and make it beautiful.  Remember, those who are truly saved end up in the same place.  Somehow we will all make it work there.

Marcy Pedersen

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