#A Christian Reflection
In Sunday school we are discussing “What is a Healthy Church Member” by Thabiti M. Anyabwile. A few weeks back, we started off this discussion with an article,The Rise of the “Done With Church” Population, which talks about faithful Christians who decided they were done with going to church for various reasons, such as church routine, church folk, and church antics. I too have been turned off from going to church a few times in my life. Like most people, I was first introduced to Christianity in my childhood. As a child, I did not fully understand the purpose of church other than a place where believers go. I thought believers only went to church to stay in God’s good graces and thank Him for what He has done for them. I imagined God to be like a genie whom I make wishes to through my prayers. As I grew up, I learned that God was far from a make-believe genie.
In 1999, my sister invited me to a Pentecostal church in Savannah, GA. I remember walking into the sanctuary and immediately I was captivated by this unspeakable feeling. The best way that I can describe it is this warm presence hugging my soul. Immediately I became emotional because I didn’t fully understand what was happening. It also made me feel uncomfortable. As I sat through praise and worship, I tried to analyze what was happening “Is this the Holy Spirit everyone’s been talking about?” In this moment, I was spooked by this enchanting experience, but I couldn’t deny the presence of God was there. I later learned that “this feeling” was indeed the Holy Spirit. By the end of the service, the pastor prophesied to me (all this was new to me by the way). He said things that I shared with no one. I was convinced, the Lord was speaking through him. The part of the prophecy that spoke to me the most was when he said “God is waiting for you to exchange your idol God’s for Christ.” I knew that meant to give up my obsession over my heart-throb celebrity at the time, which was Ginuwine. Everyone who knew me, knew how crazy I was about him. After the prophecy, I thought the pastor was going to lay hands on me and to be honest…I wasn’t ready for all that. It would have been too much for one day. Fortunately, he didn’t, but he did do something unexpected. He said, “God is going to do an internal cleansing that will free you from your speculations and your past.” Then he begin to blow air from his mouth, standing 7 feet away from me. I know this is going to sound weird, but it felt like a gust of wind and grains of sand blowing “through” me. I lost my footing and fell back into my chair. Although, I felt spooked by the whole experience, I was challenged to no longer live according to my terms, but to seek the will of God for my life.
This encounter solidified my faith with the self-assurance that “God is really real.” I couldn’t deny the presence of the Holy Spirit. All of my speculations of God being a genie was gone. I visited this church often as I could during the summer, where I learned the basic biblical disciplines and spiritual gifts within Christianity. My thirst to learn more about Christ was quenched and my walk of discipleship began. This church was also the same church where my sister gave her life over to the Lord. Both of our lives were changed through this ministry sixteen years ago.
So, how did I end up a part of the “Dones” population from time to time? Again, there are various reasons why the “Dones” population leave church. As my Sunday School teacher pointed out, the article does not address one main question,”where do the “Dones” go or what do the “Dones” do after they leave their church?”
Well, I can only speak from my experiences of when I withdrew from being a part of a church membership. I was drawn into “home church” with God. These times were only for a season. In these instances, God called me away from these particular churches to preserve my relationship with Him. The churches that I departed from, initially contributed to my spiritual development, but later became a spiritual stronghold. My relationship with God was no longer a priority, but pleasing my pastors and others was the priority. Pretending to agree with things that was not necessary biblical nor demonstrated the love of Christ. I pretended to agree for the sake of appearing a faithful servant of God.
By any means, this post is not to tear down the notion of going to church, but rather share insight about my journey as a seasonal “Done with church” member. I won’t be able to pinpoint all the nuances of why I left previous churches because there are too many reasons. However, the main reason I would leave a church was because the vision of my pastors at the time no longer aligned with the vision where God was taking me (not to take anything from them – we all are human beings with different callings). In each instance, God not only showed me the flaws in the ministries I was a part of, but also the flaws within myself. For instance, God challenged me with this question, “why did you stay when you knew it was time to move on?” Well, I stayed for various reasons: perception; fear of being judged as being disobedient; and close relationships. All of those reasons had nothing to do with God, but all to do with validation I sought from people. As a babe in Christ, it was easy to revere my pastors and church family because they were my support system, and they also contributed to my spiritual development. However, during our one-on-one’s at “home church,” God begin to deal with me about my need for validation, not necessary about what I saw wrong in the church.
Yes, “church hurt” was another reason I left church. God had to heal my bitter heart before I could return to a church fellowship. God did not want me to return to church with a self-righteous spirit and making prideful accusations about fellow Christians. Now, with God’s help, I’ve accepted that people will disappoint me or hurt my feelings at times – even fellow Christians, but I have to be determined to want more out of life than remaining a victim.
During my time in “home church” it was like boot-camp. It wasn’t just on Sunday’s or Wednesday’s, it was everyday – a lifestyle. God had me to begin my day with prayer. In prayer, God would often convict me about withholding the hurt I harbored within my heart. He said, “How can you heal unless you face what you are pridefully holding back?” I felt compelled to confess my hurt and release it to Him. He also challenged me to confess my odds with Him. God counseled me during this time – through the Bible, sermons, random conversations with other believers, and during our quiet time together. God did not let me soak in my pain – He challenged me to “Christian-up” and realize that what I’ve come through was bigger than me. It was all a part of the process to make me a mature human being and an authentic Christian.
The longest I’ve stayed out of a church membership was for about 2 – 3 years. Some Christian friends and family felt I was out of the will of God because I was not a part of a local church. Although, I could understand their concern and possible assumptions about “home church,” however, I knew this was a period that God had me in. God’s tough love gave me liberating insights: compassion; not to be overly sensitive by taking things personal all the time (and when I am offended, deal with it and move on); not to be legalistic, but true in everything I do; seek God’s approval first and not people; stay humble and refrain from being self-righteous; see the big picture in what appears to be the obvious answer; constantly seek God’s wisdom and not my own; be slow to speak, but quick to listen (James 1:19); resist remaining a victim too long – feel the hurt, then press through it; be an open book to others and an open vessel to God; and love others unconditionally (you owe no man nothing but to love him – sincerely – Romans 13:8)
Once the season ended at “home church” God called me back to fellowship with at an actual church. This time I understood the purpose of attending a church from a holistic perspective – to receive and to give. I began to attend church because I knew God called me there. Returning back to the fellowship of believers helped me to strengthen my weakness in isolating myself. Isolation had been my defense mechanism to protect myself from being hurt. I’ve learned over time that I cannot obtain personal growth by always being alone. In addition, I can’t be a vessel of God by detaching myself from a church membership indefinitely. It’s a natural assumption that “home church” or “internet church” is a cop out for doing church your own way. Staying at home at “Bedside Baptist” watching your favorite preacher with a cup of coffee and your bible. For some, this may be true. If so, I challenge you to evaluate your disposition and how long you will engage in “home church. ”
God believes in unity, and wants us to fellowship together. God may call us in or out of church in various seasons of our lives. I’ve learned that God only calls us to a local church or home church when we are clear about our purpose in being there. As mature Christians, our reason for going to church should be intentional and led by the Holy Spirit. We should serve God on purpose – inside and outside of the church.
– Ms. Broadway Therapy
Scripture – James 1: 2- 4 “Trials and Temptations” 2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Article – The Rise of the “Done with Church” Population http://www.churchleaders.com/outreach-missions/outreach-missions-articles/177144-thom-schultz-rise-of-the-done-with-church-population.html
Book – What Is a Healthy Church Member by Thabiti M. Anyabwile http://www.amazon.com/What-Healthy-Church-Member-Marks/dp/1433502127
June 10, 2015 at 5:20 pm
Very interesting and enjoyable read! I think we can all identify here with the season of “done with church.” I think that we can take some time to be reminded that first and foremost the Church is a collective group of individuals transformed by the saving grace of Jesus Christ and whether or not you are in a physical church or not- we are the CHURCH of Christ. The local church, as you said, is the place where you will grow, sharpen your iron, exercise your gifts- its the headquarters of the spirtual community if you will. Its where Christians go to get fed, to strategize, to garner support, be around like-minded people, worship together and get launched to do God’s work! It is an institution (really its more than an institution) created by God and not matter our gripe with, we can never be truly done (if you are genuinely converted <— felt like I just dropped a bomb) with church. After all no matter how you slice it- whether its the local church or home church- its still church and we need God! You can however be done with "a" church and if that's the case there is "the" right church that God will lead you too.
P.S. I loved your description of your first experience with the Holy Spirit.. "warm presence hugging my soul."