Going to church

Many years ago, a girl at school invited me to visit her non-denominational Christian church and join her Bible study group on campus.  I did, and loved it so much that I decided to become a Christian.  I was baptized in a long metal trough when I was 18.  For many years, I spent a lot of time in studying the Bible, reaching out to people, praying with others, etc.  I was so involved in the church that when I graduated from SFU, I worked full-time for my church as the financial administrator.  In fact, it was at this church that I met and married Cliff.  Some of the best friends I’ve made in life are from this church–some still go, and some don’t anymore.

I don’t talk about church or religion much here, because the truth is I haven’t been to church for over 2 years now.  You may think to yourself, how can you be so devoted and yet not go to church for over 2 years?  Well, a lot of things happened during the 16 years of going to this church.  I must say it was mostly a positive experience in learning about God.  However, a part of working full time for a church, seeing some of the behind-the-scene operations, and going through changes in the church leadership and dynamic resulted in a lot of disappointment over time.  I then attributed the disappointment to God’s doing.  Then the last straw that broke this camel’s back is when I had a miscarriage in 2009.  I threw up my hands and decided I’ve had enough.  You can see that there may be no logic in my thinking here, but no one could have talked me into logic when I was emotionally devastated.

Was I just taking a break from attending church?  Or taking a break from God?  I was not sure.  I just felt that I needed some time to myself.  I felt that years of trying to please everyone made me realize I don’t really know who I am.  Am I really a zealous Christian like I once was?  Or am I just acting it because it was expected of me?  Do I really believe in the direction in which the church is lead?  Or do I just act supportive because that’s the right thing to do?  Do I spend another evening out for the sake of fellowship?  Or tell someone that I need some family time and be home that night?  Between a very demanding job during the day, and a very demanding church schedule in evenings and weekends, I burnt the candle on both ends for many years.  Many people at church always made me feel that I must choose between my career and church.

I had no set goal or timeline of needing time to myself when I stopped going.  I just knew that I needed to figure out where life is headed for me.

Over the last 2 years, I had sufficient distance from the church I once loved and threw my life into to gain some perspective.  I decided that I couldn’t really go back there in the current state it is in.  So I became a church-less Christian.  Or maybe some people may think I’m no longer Christian.  The truth is I don’t really give a rat’s ass about what people think of my religious status anymore.

I’ve been thinking about finding another church to attend for quite a while now.  I needed to go somewhere that my past experience isn’t judged and labeled, and I’m not burdened with unwanted responsibility and guilt.

This past weekend, a very good friend invited us to attend her church.  We went.  The service started with a song I sang for many years at my old church, and I just lost it.  I cried through the entire song, barely able to sing a note.  I turned to Cliff and told him how much I just miss going to church.  What I miss the most is being in the presence of other people with the same belief, singing a song about adoring and worshipping God, without a care in the world about what people think of your beliefs.

The sermon was good.  It wasn’t anything earth shattering, but that was the first time in many years I got to listen to a message and not feel like I don’t measure up to God’s expectations.  So in a way, it was very luxurious.  I almost felt a sense of freedom too that nobody knows who I am in that church other than my friend, and I wasn’t expected to say certain things or behave a certain way.

I don’t know where things will go from here on out.  I do want to visit this church again, and possibly others, and see where that leads us.  If you’re wondering what I’m getting at with this post, well, I wrote this post for myself, to sort through my thoughts.

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3 thoughts on “Going to church

  1. Hi,
    You are an inspiration to many people, Angela. I cannot imagine the feelings you experienced when you returned to church. That is wonderful. I hope you continue to go.

    It must have been so devastating when you had your miscarriage. There are so many couples who can relate to you…including us…we’ve had a few ourselves. Devastating is a word that doesnt seem to sum it up. It leaves you wondering a lot of things about yourself…about God. My heart goes out to you. And now you have an incredibly amazing son, and another one on the way. Congratulations.
    Angela, I want to assure you that no-one in your former church thinks of you as no longer a Christian. Your relationship with God is between you and Him and no-one else. That may have been taught long ago, but not anymore. And if anyone still thinks that, well, they’re wrong. You are a beautiful soul…you are missed very much…and we wish nothing but goodness for you.
    I sincerely wish you all the best in finding a “home” with which to worship God. May you draw closer to Him than ever before.
    Sincerely,
    Terri-Lynne

    • Terri-Lynne, thank you for taking your time to make those comments. You’ve been around longer than I have, I believe. I am sure you’ve seen a lot of things and have your share of disappointments too. I truly respect that through the years and your recent experience with cancer, you’ve stayed positive and faithful.

      It was a very difficult decision for me to not return to VCC. I practically “grew up” in the church. My parents weren’t around, so the church family was the only one I had through all the years in Vancouver. It’s not like I feel indebted to the church, but more that it’s such a large part of my life that I couldn’t imagine being without it.

      It is entirely possible that the judgement and guilt I feel are only in my head. I don’t say that in a sarcastic way. Many others go to the same church and listen to the same sermon, but don’t have the same feelings I do. I suppose after repeated interactions with certain people resulting in those feelings, I may have just attributed those feelings to these people’s doing. And if these people are in the position of authority or leadership, then I couldn’t distance myself from those feelings far enough to be at peace when I’m at church.

      My own family is not perfect, and I love all of them to bits and pieces. The church family is not perfect, and I still love it to bits and pieces. However, for my own sanity, sometimes I need a bit of distance. It doesn’t change the fact that I think about my family all the time and wish to be with them. I miss many of my friends there, and wish I have gotten to know people like you better.

      I am looking forward to finding a new “home” too. 🙂

      Angela

  2. It is a blessing to see the thoughts and feelings from someone being a real and not a plastic Christian. One thing that the Lord has shown me is that you do not go to what you are. We are the church. . Here are some things that I feel are worth looking at and praying about.

    Church Anyone?

    “Go; behold, I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. “Carry no money belt, no bag, no shoes; and greet no one on the way. “Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house.’ “If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you. “Stay in that house, eating and drinking what they give you; for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not keep moving from house to house. “Whatever city you enter and they receive you, eat what is set before you; and heal those in it who are sick, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ (Luk 10:3-9 NASB)

    Why would Jesus send His disciples into a city with the instructions to stay in one house eating and drinking whatever is set before them and not to go from house to house? Wouldn’t it have made more sense from Him to tell them to go into the various town synagogues, after all there are more people packed into a synagogue than can be fit in a house.

    Could it be that Jesus was showing His disciples what the church was supposed to look like? If you spend time in a family setting with people over a period of time, as Jesus commanded His disciples to do, eating and drinking with them, isn’t it probable that relationships will form? How was Jesus command in the great commission to make disciples and to teach all nations to be accomplished?

    Is it any coincidence that in the book of Acts that the church begins in a house?

    When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.(Act 2:1-2 NIV)

    Notice below that the “church” is not a building made of brick and mortar or wood but people, living stones, and these people met in various houses. Nowhere in the new testament will you find people going to a building called “church”. In Acts 7 it says the following, “However, the Most High doesn’t live in a house built by humans, as the prophet says: ‘The Lord says, “Heaven is my throne. The earth is my footstool. What kind of house are you going to build for me? Where will I rest? Didn’t I make all these things?” (Act 7:48-50 GW)

    Furthermore, you don’t go to what you are, “the church”.

    Take a look at the following scriptures that mention the gathering of the church.

    Rom_16:5 also greet the church that is in their house. Greet Epaenetus, my beloved, who is the first convert to Christ from Asia.

    1Co_16:19 The churches of Asia greet you. Aquila and Prisca greet you heartily in the Lord, with the church that is in their house.

    Col_4:15 Greet the brethren who are in Laodicea and also Nympha and the church that is in her house.

    When I looked up the word in the Greek for making disciples, here’s what I found:

    Mathēteúō – means not only to learn, but to become attached to one’s teacher and to become his follower in doctrine and conduct of life.

    When I looked up the Greek word for teaching, heres’s what I found:

    Didaskō – to hold discourse with others in order to instruct them, deliver didactic discourses

    What I see here is that both of these commands would be the direct result of having built very intimate relationships. These are not the type of relationships that are made from a once a week, hour long meeting one goes to on Sunday. Rather, these types of relationships have to do with a life long loving covenant commitment to one another in brotherly/sisterly love. Relationship is what gives one the ability to speak into another’s life and to disciple him/her .

    I did a word study on all the “one anothers” found in the New Testament. I would suggest that these be read in light of building intimate relationships.

    Joh_13:14 “If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.
    Joh_13:22 The disciples began looking at one another, at a loss to know of which one He was speaking.
    Joh_13:34 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
    Joh_13:35 “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
    Joh_15:12 “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.
    Joh_15:17 “This I command you, that you love one another.
    Rom_12:10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor;
    Rom_12:16 Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.
    Rom_13:8 Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.
    Rom_14:13 Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this–not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way.
    Rom_14:19 So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.
    Rom_15:5 Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus,
    Rom_15:7 Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.
    Rom_15:14 And concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able also to admonish one another.
    Rom_16:16 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you.

    1Co_11:33 So then, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another.
    1Co_12:25 so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.
    1Co_16:20 All the brethren greet you. Greet one another with a holy kiss.
    2Co_13:12 Greet one another with a holy kiss.
    Gal_5:13 For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
    Gal_5:15 But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.

    Gal_5:26 Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.
    Gal_6:2 Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.
    Eph_4:2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love,
    Eph_4:25 Therefore, laying aside falsehood, SPEAK TRUTH EACH ONE of you WITH HIS NEIGHBOR, for we are members of one another.
    Eph_4:32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
    Eph_5:19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord;
    Eph_5:21 and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.
    Php_2:3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;
    Col_3:9 Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices,
    Col_3:13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.
    Col_3:16 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
    1Th_3:12 and may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you;
    1Th_4:9 Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another;
    1Th_4:18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.
    1Th_5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.
    1Th_5:13 and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another.
    1Th_5:15 See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people.
    2Th_1:3 We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater;

    Heb_3:13 But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
    Heb_10:24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds,
    Heb_10:25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
    Jas_4:11 Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it.
    Jas_5:9 Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door.
    Jas_5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.
    1Pe_1:22 Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart,
    1Pe_4:8 Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.
    1Pe_4:9 Be hospitable to one another without complaint.
    1Pe_4:10 As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
    1Pe_5:5 You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.
    1Pe_5:14 Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace be to you all who are in Christ.
    1Jn_1:7 but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.
    1Jn_3:11 For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another;
    1Jn_3:23 This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us.
    1Jn_4:7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.
    1Jn_4:11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
    1Jn_4:12 No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us.
    2Jn_1:5 Now I ask you, lady, not as though I were writing to you a new commandment, but the one which we have had from the beginning, that we love one another.

    These are things that have been on my heart as of late that I am posting here.

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