People immediately want to discredit me when they discover that I don’t go to church. In their minds, I am not qualified to speak about church issues because I do not belong. They are wrong. I am most certainly part of The Church—the larger body of Christ, as I am unequivocally secure in my salvation.
But in the moments when I am directly challenged, I am often unable to clearly articulate the reasons why I no longer attend church. I am unable to do so because my story—life—is complex, and I am unable to distill it down to a 30-second soundbite. My story isn’t an isolated incident that I can easily share. It is, in fact, a mixture of experiences, thoughts, and revelations. To fully describe why I left the church, I must tell at least 3 stories. Together, these stories create the foundation for this blog and help explain why I advocate adopting an educational model for church discipleship.
The complexity of my story also explains why I’m having difficulty putting legs to this blog. I know you need some background information—in education we call this context—to understand my perspective and why I believe an educational model is the best model for churches to adopt. In an earnest effort to accommodate your needs and to ensure we are beginning our discussion about educational models on the same page, I humbly askyou to bear with me over the next couple of blog posts, while I attempt to create a context from which we can move forward. You can expect to read how I was first introduced to church, why I left in order to reassess my faith outside of church, what brought me back to church, and, finally, why I am done with church.
It may be helpful to remember that God’s ways are not always linear. While we are busy doing one thing, He is orchestrating something different. I often think of God as a great chef. Many dishes must be prepared for one meal, and they all need to be ready at the same time. This is how God works in our lives. It is apparent when I reflect on the defining moments that brought me before His throne. I don’t necessarily remember when things happened, only that they happened, and it was done so marvelously that, at the right moment, everything came together perfectly timed.
Here is the first story.
I asked Jesus to be my Lord and Savior at the age of fourteen. Sitting in the basement of my best friend Kendra’s house, I followed along in my Bible as her father read aloud from John 3:16, “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
Kendra’s mom looked at me. “Do you believe Jesus is the only son of God?”
“Do you understand he died on the cross so you could go to heaven?”
“Would you like to accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior?”
We bowed our heads. Sandwiched on the sofa between Kendra’s mother and father I reverently repeated “the sinner’s prayer” professing faith in Christ Jesus by inviting Him into my life.
I meant that prayer.
How was it, then, my life from that time forward was anything but Christ-like? I was promised transformation and new desires of the heart. I was taught that becoming a Christian meant I was blameless before God. I understood I would no longer be a sinner. How then, could I, as a child of God, become the High Priestess of a Wiccan coven? How could I lie, cheat, and steal? And why, over time, would I run whole-heartedly into the arms of various men, rather than seeking love and comfort from Jesus?