As some of you know, I moved a year ago and again this year. Last time I never did really find a church, and this time I haven’t found anything yet either. After yet another really irritating situation (actually two) on Sunday, I’ve been thinking….

I’m bored with denominational churches. Not because there’s a lack of “anointing”, not because I miss the outward worship… truth be told, I was bored in FT, too-although whether or not there was much anointing in that is debatable-and even at conferences and camps (think day services, I’m not the only one who didn’t go because something else was more interesting, I think). The difference between FT and denominational churches, then, wasn’t anointing or outward worship or truth. What was the difference? Part of it was the fear of admitting that those supposedly “awesome”, “Holy Ghost filled” services were boring, and the lack of honesty or words to know they were boring… and the larger part may have been that I had the ability there to do something else if things got boring. So a Pentecostal service got boring? Try to figure out who the preacher is talking about. Get up and run the aisles, say amen, clap, dance, whatever. Think about what everyone will do after church. See what people are wearing. Watch the visitors. Start praying and moaning. Work yourself up.

It doesn’t work as well visiting denominational churches. And so I have time to think about how boring they are. Especially if they don’t have WiFi. (In WiFi churches I jump online and tune out for awhile.)

But why am I bored? I think there’s a mix of things. Too much “fluff”-feel good, self help speeches, a lack of interaction of people during services (no discussion, not even amens), a lack of thought at Bible studies. “Dumbing down” of theology, rather than deep discussions or sermons. A tendency to do three points and two illustrations rather than speak from the heart-and the irritating tendency revealed in that to neatly categorize people’s difficulties and Christ’s sacrifice.

Christianity isn’t a compartmentalized institution. Following Jesus isn’t nice and neat and tidy. It’s actually a bit chaotic and a lot messy at times from our perspectives. There aren’t easy answers for everything. Some things don’t even have hard answers. But ‘churchianity’ doesn’t seem very willing to acknowledge that.

Does that mean we should give up on church? No, maybe not. But I do think it’s the reason church is frustrating to me.

I picked up a book last night that was in my ‘to read’ pile. I couldn’t put it down. The book described me, describes most of us. We’ve asked some hard questions and realized that what we’ve been told about the Bible and God doesn’t answer the questions and doesn’t even fit what we’ve seen in the Bible, and that church isn’t what we were told or expected.

So if you’re looking for a church and finding it frustrating to find one, please realize you’ve been through and done something most people in ‘churchianity’ have never dreamed of-you asked the questions, faced a decision on whether or not you would believe and what you would believe, sorted through a lot of bad teaching, and come out on the other side. And as a result, at least for me, I can’t just “do church” or “have church” anymore. Not without a few yawns and a little time on the internet, at least.

What really made me realize how bored I was:
This past Sunday the church I went to had a nice, tidy three point sermon. I can’t remember what all the points were. The message was taken from James 2, but it only covered a couple verses and was very fluffy. Do this, do that, love Jesus, the end. *Yawn* I went from that to looking for a Sunday School class. I went to the first and asked what they were studying. The man I asked looked at me and said, “We’re all older here.” I went next door to the next class (both were for “mixed adults”) and asked the same thing. Two women told me they were all–I stopped them and said I didn’t ask WHO they were, but WHAT they were studying. They responded that they were all married. Huh???

So I did finally attend a class, though. And in that class, there was a lengthy discussion on whether we should give money to bums. I tuned out. I’ve had that discussion several times. I’ve looked into it myself, considered several perspectives, and arrived at conclusions. The discussion later turned toward whether God was biased for choosing Israel as His people. It wasn’t a “Let’s open the Bible and look into that” sort of thing. It was more of a “was not-was too!” type thing. Again, I tuned out. For awhile. Until they really started getting on my nerves and I looked up from the internet long enough to interject that we should keep in mind that the Bible was written by, for and about Israelites, but that didn’t mean that God didn’t have others serving him as well. Followed by deathly silence. I went back to the internet and they changed the subject.

So… I’m bored because I go sit inside a box with people who think inside even smaller boxes, but I’m still thinking outside the box, and even wondering why we’ve made the boxes at all.

A new article came out about Jordan’s hearing today, and someone who knows my past involvement with the church expressed concern that Jordan would get less time than he should.
I still think of Jordan as a sheltered, quiet, church boy who never raised his voice, laughed a lot, and was very reserved. He was one of the few in his position who didn’t put the women down or get violently or outwardly angry. To my memory of him, his worst danger to others would be his ability to manipulate and his overconfidence. Hopefully those would be severely hampered by his charges, no matter what his sentence would be. I don’t know, maybe I’m missing some part of his personality. I do hope he’s in jail long enough to get away from his dad’s influence and all the unhealthy teaching, but to me, real counselling-religious and psychological-and a lifetime with a tracker bracelet would do him and society a lot more good than jail. 
I wonder what he’d ever do if he got out? Secular music? I don’t think he’s talented enough. Preaching? With his history now, no way. Most of his “preaching engagements” and his popularity were based on people attempting to gain brownie points with his dad more than on his ability anyway, I suspect. He has a high school diploma from Apostolic Academy, not even a real accredited school. And he’s at least as much a victim of abuse as he was an abuser. His family’s still “in church” but rather than wanting him to hit the altar many may want to want to sweep him under the rug if they believe any of his charges. According to his dad he has disqualified himself from the ministry and even worse can’t even be saved because of his homosexual tendencies (if he molested boys). According to all he’s heard taught, he has nothing to look forward to but hell. And from everything I saw at FT, he believed all that his dad taught. If so, he’s already been through hell in a huge way, a hell where there’s no hope and God laughs and other guilty parties laughed, too. I don’t know. Maybe he could care less. But I know what I would be hearing echoing in my mind if I was him, and for that I pity him. I’m not sure if there’s a harsher sentence than he’s already had if he remembers some of the things his dad preached.
And yet no matter what Faith Tabernacle taught, there is mercy. I hope he finds that mercy, and knows it’s extended toward him as well as to everyone else. I hope he learns that no matter what people think or say, no matter what accusations or made or what we’ve done wrong, God extends mercy. And he watches, not laughing in our faces but with tears on his own.
God isn’t what was taught at Faith Tabernacle.

Taking Breaks

Sometimes it’s necessary to take a break for awhile. Hearing that we shouldn’t quit, shouldn’t back down, should press on and move forward… those things reinforced my perfectionistic personal demands on myself, but they didn’t give a very realistic impression of God or life. The thing is, even God took a break after creation, and Jesus often left the crowds and pulled aside for awhile to rest and to pray.

The thing is, there are some times that we should press forward, and other times that we should just relax. But even “pressing forward” shouldn’t cause us undue stress. When it does, it’s time to reconsider what we are doing and relax.

When I lived at home, my parents insisted on taking me to a church that my sister and I both strongly disliked. There was no youth group. There was one class for all the kids, combined. Mom taught it, and it was just basic Bible stories. There was no real doctrine taught, and no challenge at all for me, the oldest in the class (of 3-5 kids). But Mom thought the church was like the one she was raised in. One with THE Truth… as she knew it.

I wanted more than that. I wanted to go to a church where there were others my age, where I could learn, where there were activities and where others wanted to go, not just went because it was the thing to do on Sunday morning. Even my parents disliked going. Many Sundays we went to Sunday School and then went home rather than going to service. Dad skipped even Sunday School more times than I can count… and one Sunday while I was sick I discovered he preferred Tarzan to church. Or maybe he just thought his sick little girl would prefer that to cartoons.

When I got my license I was excited. I thought I might go somewhere else. Mom told me I would not be driving, that we would go to church as a family. To the church she chose. When I moved away to college, at the end of the day she handed me a phone book and told me they weren’t leaving until I chose a church to attend on Sunday. There was no discussion about trying out a few churches. Nothing about the possibility of going to chapel at the college. Just, “Here’s the phone book. We aren’t leaving til you choose a church.” And something about so many college kids quitting church entirely.

I had no intention of quitting, but I did want a better option than what I’d had growing up. A friend had told me about a visit to her grandmother’s Pentecostal church… and when I opened the phone book that day and saw that there was a Pentecostal church in town, I knew where I wanted to go.

Mom flipped. Suddenly I was informed that I needed to try several churches. It was clear they didn’t like my choice, but it was the end of the day and they had to go.

I visited one other church in town. None of the others appeared to be options for me at the time. And though I liked the other church, Pentecostal had my full attention from the first day I visited. There were others near my age. People wanted to be at church. They actually opened their Bibles at church. They could quote scripture rather than (as at my former church) taping the most familiar like the Lord’s prayer to the pulpit. There was an excitement there. So that’s where I chose to go.

My parents strongly disliked my decision. They came to visit. Dad brought me a copy of a book about why tongues was wrong. Mom argued. She told me she thought I had damned my soul by being rebaptized (a misinterpretation of “crucify the son of God afresh”). Dad tried to force me to wear pants to go to church when I was home (to cold for a skirt, looking out for my interests: “You will not leave this house!”). Dad threw fits about my new boyfriend, throwing some of the worst fits I had ever had directed at me. They argued and challenged… and everything they did only spurred me to continue going and solidified in my mind that I was right.

The fights have never stopped completely, sadly. I left two and a half years ago, but Dad still presses for where I go to church, what kind of church, and so forth. And if I ever told him it wasn’t Pentecostal? There would just be more that he would pressure me to do in that case, I’m fairly certain. Because if I’m not Pentecostal I should dress like he wants me to dress, marry who he wants me to marry, talk like he wants me to talk, do what he wants me to do. Sound familiar? Sure. Pastors insisted that I would do those things, and for years I didn’t question what they were doing, because Dad had always done the same thing. And Mom backed him, even on things that were wrong, harsh, and extremely disrespectful. “Honor thy father and mother” was quoted at me, but they never realized that ‘honor’ doesn’t mean ‘do everything they ask without question’.

We had another fight nearly a week ago. I haven’t called them since. We usually talk several times a week. But this time, with Dad blaming church and a request from the college for parents to stay away for awhile for rarely coming to visit, and then pressing and pressing-question after question: “Where do you go to church?” “What church?” “What’s the name of it?” “Where?” What church?” “Where are you going to church at?!” I finally had enough. I really don’t know what I’m going to do now. I wish they would respect me for who I am (or who they know me to be) because I don’t feel any desire to let them know who I’ve become when they continually refuse to accept who I’ve been.

They don’t even go to church themselves. Not even for the major holidays usually. Dad just within the last two years figured out that the priests who are mentioned in the New Testament weren’t Catholic priests, and that the Catholics weren’t the ones who wanted to kill Jesus. And then there’s the number of times that Dad has said that Pentecostal preachers are wrong for telling people what to wear (and do and so forth) while doing the same thing himself.

I’m conflicted. I’d like to just be myself. But no matter who I am, they have never been satisfied. At least this battle is familiar. Or was until last week. Now I’m not so certain. If I choose to stay in a hotel when I go home and not call them as much, it will hurt them. I love them and I don’t want to hurt them. But sometimes people are hurt because their own choices drive others to make decisions they won’t like. My parents may very well have done that.

I had someone recently inform me that someone in my new church had manipulated me. They didn’t ask whether I’d made a decision and followed through or if the other person had pressured me. They didn’t know the other person. They didn’t ask any of the particulars. They made a statement and I said that wasn’t always the case and gave that particular situation as example. Their immediate response was not a healthy “maybe things are different in different places” or “how did you feel about this statement”, but simply “they were manipulating you.”

The situation I had used as an example is one I’m particularly happy about. It was a good choice for me. I’ve not had one regret about the situation, and have actually become more pleased with it over time. But their statement still troubled me deeply. I was manipulated in my former church. I don’t want to be manipulated again. But more than that, what they said was manipulative, in that they didn’t take time to find out “the rest of the story” but simply shot that back at me out of the blue.

What is manipulation? Is it open discussion and dialogue, leading to a well informed opinion, or statements that are sly or twisted with an intent to deceive or meet their own end? It’s most definitely the latter.

There’ve been a whole lot of times in Pentecost that I’ve seen things twisted that way to silence, to wound, to block another way of thinking, to stop someone from doing a thing. I guess what took my breath away this time was that I wasn’t talking to a Pentecostal… and I’ve been in a healthy situation (the one the person attacked) long enough to realize just how unhealthy the person’s statement was.

Now, if I could just go ahead and get over “furious” and get to “forgiveness” maybe things could get back to normal for me.

“You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.” James D. Miles


I saw this on Facebook today. It brought back memories. In my former church, the men were expected to be “manly”… to laugh and be tough if others or themselves were hurt. One of the first indications I had that something was dreadfully wrong with my former pastor was that he sat and laughed while his son poked the eyes out of a live frog, then impaled the still living frog on a stick and continued playing with it. Both were laughing. The thought of it still turns my stomach.

Blood doesn’t bother me. Cruelty does. If he’d killed the frog and disemboweled it, I wouldn’t have been surprised. It was that the frog was still alive while he continued to abuse it that disgusted me.

I think of that situation that night several years ago, see this picture and quote, and think of the men I now know. Men who seem gentle and kind, who don’t see those as weakness or effeminate characteristics, but as strength, and as the fruit of the spirit.

For so many years I listened while my former pastor told me there was something wrong with me. I prayed that “something” would change, that whatever was wrong wouldn’t be anymore. And for years it seemed like I lived in fear that I would end up leaving or being kicked out and do my best to stay. It’s weird to wake up and realize that all the time you prayed for something, you fought the answer to the prayer. It’s strange to realize that I asked God to fix whatever was “wrong with me”, not realizing that the thing that was most wrong was that I would stay in that environment to begin with.

I’m thankful that God answers prayers… even when we don’t know what we’re asking, and even when we don’t want or are scared of the answer we’re given. He does know what’s best for us, He does care for us, and He did answer my prayers.

It’s very interesting how differently various denominations/churches interpret certain verses. This morning my church ordained four deacons. Something was said about ordaining and laying on of hands, and I’ve been thinking “this I gotta see!” The ordination seemed about like a wedding, vows and such. Laying on of hands was funny–the pastor had them kneel, and then the two pastors and the two deacons walked BEHIND them and put a hand on their shoulder and prayed for them. One at a time–first person prayed for first deacon, then moved to second deacon while the second prayed for the first. First time I’ve ever heard more than one person praying out loud at the same time in a Baptist church, though! Also one of the only times I’ve seen more than just one or two men there wear ties.