Where Am I Going to Church?

I often get asked where I’m going to church, *smile* I’ll get to that.

When we left the church in 2000 that we had helped plant in 1996 (let me be completely honest, we were kicked out for disagreeing with the pastor and “causing discord”), I was so hurt. I felt discouraged, displaced, and completely destroyed.

I have to add here…there was a day when I couldn’t admit that we were kicked out, I was ashamed and I would feel the need to explain, but not anymore. I will explain if asked, but I just don’t need to anymore. I know that Mark and I stood for what our hearts believed and would do it again, only this time I wouldn’t be ashamed.

Six months later when the group we were meeting with in our home grew too large for our house we moved into a building and had ‘real church’ (meaning we were in an actual building).

Six years of pastoring a growing church and it was finally time to focus on our own lives. Mark’s business (the only one we actually took a paycheck from) needed him more and we had just brought Lauren home from China so she needed me. We knew that it was time to hand the church over to our leadership team.

I was peaceful, content, and knew that we made the right decision. Thankfully, there was no pain or heartbreak this time, but I still had so many questions and didn’t understand the road we were now traveling. Why did I feel we didn’t need to be in church every Sunday? How could I be a Christian and not “plugged in” to a local church? I was a very good church girl and could preach a persuasive message on why we all needed to be there, but now, strand by strand, the fabric of that was unraveling for me.

I started this blog and began exploring what living for/with God really meant and my questions led me to a book titled “So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore” and a podcast called “The God Journey.”

The unraveling continued and God begin a beautiful work of knitting me back together by showing me that His love has always been there, that HE’s always been there, even in the midst of betrayal, loss, and pain.

Now I look back with gratitude for all that we walked through on this journey. The dark times brought me to the light. His light, His love, His grace.

This past year I read this amazing book which also gave me freedom to be myself and embrace the life I chose and not the one I was told I should live: Present Over Perfect. 

I have no desire to convince anyone that they need to do what I did, or follow the footsteps I’ve taken with my faith and choices. I just want to encourage you to follow Him. Trust Him. All of our paths are unique and yet similar in that as we lean on and follow Him, they will draw us closer to the Father and His heart…however that looks in your life.

So when I am asked about “where” I go to church, I smile, because it’s not about a place, church is not a place, the church is people, people who’ve chosen to follow Him.

I used to believe that the building a person sat in on Sundays was an indication of their faith, now I feel that nothing could be farther from the truth. Now I believe that that kind of thinking is just linear, and my walk with God has become so much more dimensional as my relationship with Him grows.

He is a part of every bit of my life. The times I’m doing “good” things, the times I’m blowing it, and everything in between. His love never changes for me and His grace is what draws me closer to Him when I need Him most.

As I write this I hear my former Pharisee-self asking “so now what, you just go off and do whatever you want, pray, sin, act a fool, and God loves you so it’s ok?” That is exactly what I would have thought if someone said all this to me when I was deeply entrenched in performance Christianity. Back in the day when I thought I knew best and believed it was my job to correct those who had it wrong, I would have looked down on the Me of today.

Ugh, no!

Living in His love does not excuse sin and it certainly does not encourage it, but gives space to the fact that we are so flawed, and yet we are loved. That love calls me to walk closer to him not farther down a path away from Him, though at times on this journey I admit I have strayed from the peace which comes from fellowship with Him.

So to answer the question, where am I? I’m right here. You might find me in a church building occasionally on a Sunday but more likely home with my family. Thankfully, I now know that the body of Christ is not a building we call church. I don’t forsake gathering with believers, it just looks a little bit different now. Please understand, please, I’m not AGAINST church attendance, I’m FOR relationship with God, however that looks in your life today.

I admit that I considered writing this post for about 3-4 years now but didn’t have the courage to do it. I was worried that it would ostracize me from people I care about or stop the requests for speaking engagements, but now, I hope it opens doors for deeper conversations. I am so happy to be in a space of freedom about my faith/church life and if I never speak in front of a group again, I am ok with that. I just want to share life with whoever God brings alongside me on this journey.

I really love this quote:

“Jesus didn’t leave us with a system to manage, but a Spirit to follow.”

Wayne Jacobsen, Finding Church

It feels so good to not be ruled by “shoulds” but able to follow my heart and hopefully His Spirit each day.

Sue

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing Sue. It’s encouraging to hear about how God is leading you out side of “the walls.” We are in a similar (yet different) situation. Gathering with believers takes on many forms in our lives too. Sometimes it is in a church or a house, other times it is in a barn. Still other times it’s right here in our house with just my family. I’m glad you have found a place of peace in this path. It’s still something I’m working on.

  2. Love this, and you… Well said sweet friend.

  3. Stephanie Barker says:

    Thank you! Thank you! We, also, we’re asked to leave a church. (You know ; )) Too many people believe that if you don’t go to a building, you must not have a relationship with God. That is completely untrue. God is ever present. He speaks to me so often through different means. He is so faithful! I’m thankful for His love. Thank you for your honesty! Love and miss you, girl!

  4. You put into words exactly how I feel:) I understand how you had to work up the courage to write this. I didn’t even have the courage to “like” it on facebook for fear of the backlash but it means so much to know that I am not alone. Thank you for sharing.

    • I get it. I didn\’t want to expose myself like this for so long fearing how people would respond and that I may lose friends but I just came to the conclusion that I had to authentic and trust that the people God still wanted in my life would be there.
      Thanks for the encouragement 🙂

  5. Great post, Sue. My husband and I were talking with a pastor friend this past week and he was being raw and real and said, “I’m not too big on church at times.” So true. I remember hearing the late theologian, Dallas Williard, speak several years ago and he said “sometimes I think we should all stay home and be with our families on Sundays.” Yet, the church, with all it’s flaws (people) is a mighty thing, but it’s true….it doesn’t really have to look a certain way. It can take many forms. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  6. Laurie Andrus says:

    Amen Sue! Wonderfully written and Tim and I feel God has blessed us with you and Mark in our lives. I feel people can be spiritual without being in a “formal” worship setting. Sitting outside, feeling the breeze and listening to the birds sing on a Sunday morning while I enjoy a cup of coffee opens my heart to His word more than feeling self conscious in a church building. xoxo
    Laurie

  7. We haven’t “churched” in many years, for a variety of reasons, including health issues at different times. My husband and I watch church on TV every week from a solid Bible-based pastor, I participate in an online prayer group and do individual Bible studies, and we read the Bible together nightly. Our walk with the Lord is closer than ever before, yet I’ve been shamed into feeling like I’m “less than” because of this.

    In some professions, especially if a Christian desires to be employed by a Christian organization, the applications require evidence of church participation and letters from pastors.

    And who will perform our funerals when we die?

    Just some random thoughts that we’ve discussed due to our lack of church attendance.

    Thank you for sharing your journey.

    • Shame ate me up for a long time, the more I understood about what scripture said and the message that Jesus came to give us, the less shame had a grip on me. It feels really good to be in a place now that I have peace about my walk with God. Continue to dig into the Bible, knowledge brings freedom 🙂

  8. Vickilee Johnson says:

    I love this Sue. Thank you for your transparency and courage to step out and share your heart. It is a great collective piece and yet has many stand alone nuggets that are powerful in their own right. God’s continued Blessings to you.

  9. Cheryl S. says:

    Thank you for sharing! God actually “pulled us out” of church after decades of attendance! It has been a life-altering but amazing experience. We also would never suggest others follow the path He is leading us down and we still believe in the local church. I would like to read more posts and would also love to share my blog with you as well – if you’re interested…..thanks for your post!

    http://livingthegracefilledlife.simplesite.com/430283484/4655225/posting/

  10. Well, it certainly spoke to me also. Having been in church my entire life and for the last 16 years in the same church. We moved from Texas to California this past June and I have been looking for a “church.” I totally get what you are saying.

  11. Thank you for sharing. I have been on a very similar journey and your courage gives me courage.

  12. Hebrews 10:24-25. and let us consider how we may spur one another toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some have a habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the day approaching