#StoriesFromTheDechurched is a series with no end date in mind collecting stories from those who have left the church, are considering leaving the church, or are staying in the church but have deep frustrations with their church. [If you or anyone else has a story you’d like to share feel free to email it over to me at firstname.lastname@example.org/blogs/andygill]
I don’t know what it’s like to not go to church on a Sunday. I grew up in the church. My earliest social interactions were in the church nursery. In elementary school, I went to “Pioneer Girls” instead of Girl Scouts. Once I was old enough for youth group, I attended every cool Christian youth convention the East Coast had to offer. I grew up in the church, but the older I got, the less I wanted to be there.
I believe that I was an outsider because I was a young, ambitious woman…
When I was in high school, my church hurt me deeply. I can remember counting down the days until I could go away to college because then I would no longer have to step foot in that place. I hated going there because I felt like an outsider. I wasn’t an outsider because I was ugly. I wasn’t an outsider because I had particularly weird interests. I wasn’t an outsider because of my race. I believe that I was an outsider because I was a young, ambitious woman; I desired to go to college and to eventually pursue a career. I pushed myself to excel in school and I actually enjoyed my after school job. All of these things, surprisingly, made me an alien among my youth group peers, who didn’t care much about school and who all hated the idea of working. I spent my teenage years trying to fit into a group of people who refused to accept me. I watched as my parents and my two younger sisters struggled to find their place in our church too. The church, of all places, rejected us. And that broke my heart.
I write this not because I am bitter and not because I want to bash the church, but because I believe that many of you reading this can relate to my story. My story could very easily be a story of eternal heartache and rejection. But it’s not. While I held onto bitterness towards the church for years, God patiently moved in my heart, replacing my bitterness with compassion for others who have also been hurt or rejected by the church.
The church, of all places, rejected us. And that broke my heart.
Almost three years after leaving my high school church for good, my compassion has turned into a passion to plant a church in my community. After college, a job offer brought my back to my hometown. Since moving back, God has brought numerous people into my life who have in some way been hurt by the church. Many of them refuse to attend, not because they don’t believe in God, but because they have been hurt by God’s people. One man I know tried a church for several months and was never welcomed; he was invisible, slipping in and out of the church’s doors without ever being noticed. A woman I know is hesitant to go to church because she was told that she was required to pay them a certain amount of money to attend; she sees church as an organization out to get her money, but not to know her as a person. It pains me to know that friends and coworkers of mine, people who I care about, don’t know Jesus because church has turned them off to him.That’s why I’m so passionate about changing the way people see church. I believe that community with others is essential for our faith; we need fellow believers in our lives to pray for us, encourage us, believe in us, and sometimes even carry us.
I believe that the church should be an all-inclusive home for many, not an exclusive club for a few. I believe that the church does not need to be a broken religious establishment, but can be a thriving community of people passionate about reflecting the love of Jesus. I believe that the church should be a safe place for people to be authentically who God created them to be. I believe that the church should empower people, regardless of gender, race, or history, to live a life of excellence and to pursue the plan God has for them. I believe that the church should be a place for people to be heard and valued. I believe that the church SHOULD be all of these things and I believe the church CAN be all of these things. I’m not ready to give up on the church just because it hurt me; I’m ready to fight for a church that will rise up in my community, for a church that will break down misconceptions, for a church that change hearts, and for a church that is a total reflection of Jesus.
What is your experience with the church? If you have left it, why and what would make you try it again? If you’re still in it, but have been hurt by it, why did you stay? I would love to hear from you! Comment with your answers below.
[If you’d like to share your story you can submit your post here]