An Experience that Caused Me to Leave a Church
Around 2008, I was in Barnes and Noble® looking at books on the bottom shelf of the self-help section. For some reason, a blue and gold book with the title: The Power of Your Subconscious Mind caught my attention. Though I had not heard of the author, Joseph Murphy, I was very interested in increasing my knowledge about my mind, my personal power, and using the information in the book to make a difference and change the world (after all that’s what we, Millennials want more than anything, right?).
I read the whole book. But as I reflected on what I read, I felt a lot of tension between what the book was teaching and what I learned in Sunday School and church growing up as a kid. The book did not talk much about Jesus or God; and when scriptures were referenced, they were interpreted in ways that made me feel less dependent on Jesus and the power of God and more dependent on myself and my personal abilities. I was secretly concerned for my salvation, and I was afraid of the unending barrage of questions ping ponging back and forth inside my head.
In my fear, I concluded that I needed to talk to someone. But who? I wanted to talk to someone who could relate to the unique situation I thought I was in –someone with an understanding of the Church, its expectations and teachings; someone with a theological education, not as ridged with interpretations and dogma; and someone with knowledge about “New Age Philosophy,” at least with the Law of Attraction and some the works that had become popular in recent years.
I thought and I thought about who to have this conversation with. I did not want to be dismissed. I did not want to be misunderstood. I did not want to be condemned to Hell. After careful thought and deliberation, I decided to ask the pastor of a church I was thinking about joining.
After service one Sunday, I told the pastor that I wanted to talk to him about a personal matter. He arranged a meeting with me later in the week. Apparently, sometime before our meeting, he realized he was double booked and we ended up talking briefly as he was on his way to his other appointment. I started the conversation as I had rehearsed in my head; but before I could fully get my thoughts and questions out, he interjected—assuring me he understood where I was coming from. Then, utilizing some form of the Socratic Method, he asked me a couple of questions.
“Do you feel confused?” I answered affirmatively.
“Who is the author of confusion?”, to which I replied, the Devil. After a few more churchy phrases, he rushed to his car.
I stood in the foyer of the church looking out the glass door that closed behind him. With only my thoughts of frustration and confusion to accompany me, I played his last words of advice over and over again in my mind, “Stick to the Bible.”
Disappointment doesn’t begin to convey what I was feeling. I hated what just happened. I hated feeling so dependent on someone else to give me advice and direction. I hated feeling misunderstood and dismissed and handled. I hated that the Christian mentor I so desperately needed—the one I thought I was gaining in him—was not who I puffed him up to be. I hated the fact that I was planning on joining his church the following Sunday.
Wiping the couple of tears that escaped my clouded efforts to hold back, I walked out the glass doors that closed a few moments before.
I never walked through them again.
Since this incident, I have met so many other people in my age bracket who could identify with my personal struggles; who too, felt little solace from the traditional church and left. Graduating to different levels of leadership, I decided stayed involved in the church and its ministry, but sometimes I honestly wonder if that was the best decision. I feel most fulfilled in other communities where questions are valued and where there is a common understanding that questions lead to a quest—a personal journey where one is able to discover answers for oneself.
Personally, I have asked many questions. Subsequently, I have been on many quests. And from them, I have learned several lessons that have been and will be highlighted in godstuffblog, but not elaborated upon on this particular post.
Lesson one: Perception of GOD and the church varies depending on the generation the perceiver was born into.
Lesson two: In this information age, the church has become less dependable source for practical ways to get to know Self, understand GOD, and navigate life.
Lesson three: GOD is not afraid of questions, though humans seem to be (and the superimpose that fear onto GOD).
Lesson four: If the church is going to have a healthy life in this new decade, it will largely depend on how Millennials and the generations after us are able to engage with the church in a productive and two-way conversation.
Lesson five: If GOD is everywhere, you can find GOD anywhere—even outside the church. And if some changes don’t genuinely occur that’s exactly where we (Millennials) will venture.
I started this blog to converse with people who are looking for different, yet authentic ways to discover GOD and in-so-doing, expand how we seek GOD, how we see GOD, and ultimately, how we serve GOD.
Will you be one of my conversation partners?*
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