I receive lots of emails from people who love the idea of following Jesus and being a light to their surroundings.
But, so many are paralyzed by a common theme: they are deeply wounded from experiences inside church.
For some of you, this is shocking. You’re like, what’s wrong with church? Mine is great!
Sadly, you may be one of the few who feels that way.
Let me explain:
I grew up in church.
And when I say that, I don’t mean one particular building or denomination. I have been actively involved in various non-denominationals, Methodist, Baptist, Apostolic – there’s been a wide variety.
I come at this topic from (what I consider to be) a pretty well rounded perspective.
I wish I could say I have warm fuzzies about each of those experiences. I wish I could tell you everyone was kind, forgiving, loving and acted like Jesus. I wish I could say I didn’t bear my own set of scars.
But I can’t.
Now, before you completely lump this blog into the anti-church category, hear me: I also had many WONDERFUL church experiences. So many that have shaped who I am today. I am tremendously thankful for being raised in church and for all of the people who fed my spiritual journey.
However, as with anything, a few severely painful experiences can outweigh a pot of good ones.
But, Anna, don’t you work at a church? Aren’t you in ministry?
I am and I do.
I know what it’s like to be judged before you even get a chance to show anyone who you are.
I know what it feels like to walk into a room and the talking immediately stops.
I know what it’s like to have something you’ve done discussed everywhere other than with you.
I know what it’s like to share the calling God has placed on your life and it be rejected because it doesn’t “fit the mold”.
I know what it’s like to serve (tirelessly) and not be appreciated.
I know what it’s like to have Bible verses used as a weapon against you.
I know what it’s like to be at your lowest and be shamed for being there.
I know what it’s like to be told you’re not enough.
I know what it’s like to have your “friends” quickly turn on you.
I know what it’s like to listen to people talk (A LOT) about how spiritual they are and then act nothing like Jesus.
I know ALL of this because of my experiences inside of church.
Am I surprised not many in my generation want to be involved inside of their local church?
Nope. Not at all.
I was one of them.
There was one experience that made me swear I’d never set foot inside a church again. It was (and still is) one of the most traumatic experiences I’ve lived through (and yes, I used the word trauma. I don’t use that word lightly).
In my lowest moment – like absolute lowest – I confided in people who I believed were my friends inside church. People who I had prayed with, lived life with and invested much of myself into.
But because we disagreed on one interpretation of scripture (divorce) I was excommunicated. Like, for real. I was even written a letter from the church explaining that I was no longer allowed to be a member. And (of course) that they were praying for me.
There was much that drove me to divorce (I won’t get into that here. It’s not a story that I share) but, let me just say I was nearly 85 lbs and on loads of antidepressants. I didn’t want to divorce; but I had to.
Without getting into the details of my marriage ending and my life completely turning upside down, I can share with you that what that church did to me (on top of other unpleasant church experiences) put the nail in the coffin.
I didn’t attend any church for a while after that. A LONG WHILE.
But, that didn’t halt my relationship with Jesus.
He continued to pursue me.
He continued to call me.
And He ALONE is the one who eventually healed me.
Through that process I fell hard core in love with scripture.
I read it for myself. I allowed the divine to teach me, to mold me and to direct me. It was baptism by fire (if you will) for ministry (or whatever you want to call what I do).
(FYI: I’m not against traditional seminary or other various forms of ministry training. My journey didn’t look like the norm, but if you read scripture, God’s ways don’t always fit the norm) 😉
He eventually led me to venture back inside church walls.
IT TERRIFIED ME.
But, by the grace of God, we landed in a pretty safe one. Hallelujah.
I treasure the relationships built there to this day and know that I would not be where I am without them (you know who you are!)
I was given the opportunity to be in leadership, but most importantly I was able to serve those there.
And, well, here I am today.
Writing and speaking. In a church.
People, it’s a freaking miracle.
If you have been hurt by the church or by people inside the church, I am so sorry.
I AM SO DEEPLY SORRY.
The church, as a whole, should do better. But, friends, I love the church. I champion the church and believe it can rise to be what it was intended to be.
This is exactly why you’re needed there.
When you feel discouraged and want to run as fast as you can out those doors, remember there is someone who knows better than any of us what it feels like to be on the outside of a religious organization: Jesus.
HE LIVED IT.
He didn’t fit the religious format (one that was more about controlling people rather than just simply embracing them).
He led with love, humility, grace, mercy and integrity. He honored those in authority while loving the ones who needed him the most.
If you know Jesus (like the loving, no judging, no controlling, embracing Jesus), now is your time to rise up.
You may not be listened to at first. You may be looked over. You may be put on the outside, heck you may be persecuted just like Jesus was by the religious in his day. But friends hear me, you are not alone.
The world is in DESPERATE need of legitimate Jesus followers to rise up.
Ones who are willing to be humble and serve.
Ones who rely solely on the divine and not their own strength.
Ones who are courageous enough to go against the grain and live a life of radical love and grace.
Ones who care more about the intricacies of their heart than of their outward appearance.
Ones who see what Jesus did and are crazy enough to believe we actually CAN do even greater things than he did (it’s in the Bible).
THIS IS WHAT THE WORLD NEEDS
THIS IS WHAT THE CHURCH NEEDS
Both are craving it.
It’s time to rise up.