- I had been doing everything required of a “good Christian,” and I was still missing out on what it means to know Him and be involved in a best friend relationship with Him.
- This relationship would transform me to love as He loved, because I was coming to know Him in a personal way. Even after years of “working” within the structure of the church, including women’s ministries, which I started and in which I labored, resulting in much fruit, I was still so blinded to my own issues. But, again I realized I was just a vessel being used by the Holy Spirit to help His sheep. He was just beginning with me.
- It wasn’t until I lost all, that I conquered my addiction to ministry and gave it all up. Yes, I was addicted to ministry…I used my busy-ness in ministry to allow me to fill up my time that should have been served with me working on my issues of the time. I couldn’t get enough of ministry while my marriage was failing.
- But I was open for this new adventure with Jesus alone. He used this stage in my life to begin to teach me a few things. I had been performing repetitive rituals, thinking that this would bring me closer to God. How many of us embrace ethical rules or doctrinal issues, thinking that doing so ensures God’s blessings? I had let my control issues draw me right into this “club” of control.
At first, this period of my life was very disorienting. After years of being steeped in the rules and regulations of organized religion, I still fought with the pull of “I should be doing something.” I was angry at Christians in general. At first, I thought that many were phony in their so-called friendships. But I came to realize that I was judging them for judging me, which made me just as guilty.
- It was my choices that had brought me to the place of seclusion and aloneness. But even in that, God had a plan. He always has a plan. The Christians I had known had issues, too and were blinded or simply on a different walk than I now was. I needed to find forgiveness, and apply it in my life, and quit blaming my walk on others who had hurt me. They were operating out of their own misconceptions. The Lord works with each of us differently. Every time I would ask the Lord about someone else’s walk, I would hear Him say, “What is that to you? You follow Me, and don’t worry about them.”
When we stuff God into a box, we take away from His life and power, proclaiming that we are the only ones with the absolute truth, thus moving us into judging others.
- We begin to judge others’ spirituality and the truth they walk in by the denomination to which they belong. When I read about Jesus in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, I couldn’t find where He taught His disciples how to gain a following or build institutions. He didn’t teach them how to meet on Sundays at a certain time with a worship band and a leader to lecture the others. The early church met all over the place — in homes, outside, under arbors. They gathered for fellowship, to eat together, and to share the gifts that had been given to them by God. He didn’t give them a set of rules and behaviors to follow. He told them to build His church made up of those who have received Him, a community of believers from whom we can all earn and grow by sharing in each other’s callings.
- This was very different from my structured religious life. I cringed at the thought of how many people on whom I had probably imposed this set of rules, during my past “service” years. Lord, forgive my ignorance and acceptance of these teachings without really checking them out in Your words and teachings.
It was then that I came to know that I am a member of the church. If you know Him, you are a member of the church. It doesn’t matter where we gather with others who know Him. He said that where two or three gather together, there He would be in our midst. That is the church in motion.
- I realized this freedom could be threatening to those who found their security in a religious system. I know it was to me. I felt secure with all the rules, rituals, and organization. I felt important to be a part of it all. But it was all man-made. I had always been very intimidated by strong men in ministry, because of my background of having been abused by the most important man in my childhood.
- I wanted so much to be nurtured, loved, trusted, and accepted by them. But this excessive neediness was based on my constant need to fill that father role that my earthly father failed so miserably by repeatedly molesting me.
I had begun to think that I could trust no man. Unfortunately, the religious system fueled my need for nurturing by men by producing some leaders in ministry who needed to be in total control of others. I had a difficult time finding that acceptance from those authority figures.
- Eventually, I became the maverick in ministry, and would do my own thing in spite of what anyone thought. The positive result is that I was willing to risk disapproval by stepping out and doing the things I believed God was calling me to do. I was a risk-taker. Unfortunately, it also produced a hostile reaction from many of the church leaders. I had made a huge mistake by assuming that fellowship with believers took place just because we attended the same event together or belonged to the same local church.
Church happens when and where people share the journey of knowing Jesus together, because people are the church. It consists of open honest sharing, transparency, genuine concern about each other’s spiritual well-being, and encouragement for people to just follow Jesus, however He leads them.
- For me, this opened the door to so many new ways of thinking. I had been in a prison, and was just learning what it means to walk in freedom and grace. Think of the possibilities!
- If you really think about it, how can we be the light in the midst of darkness, if we don’t go out into that darkness? How can we be the salt that makes people thirsty for God, if we aren’t out there in the midst of these needy people? If we are only in our buildings each week and think that is enough, how does that get us — the church — out into the marketplace? So, why not take the church (us) out into the market place, so that others can see and desire to live in that kind of community?
For many people who don’t know Jesus, Christianity is a joke. They have witnessed Christians treating one another horribly. They watch us kick our wounded when they are down.
- They watch us judge other religions and what people are doing, as if we are God Himself, and they don’t want to have anything to do with it. Then we proclaim that we love one another and that God is love. No wonder so many people think it is all a lie, and look at Christians so negatively.
I think many of us have experienced much pain as we have tried to fit the life God intends for us into a box of our own making. Many, like myself, hang in there until the cows came home, thinking we could make it better. But eventually we learn that if we live according to the rules of men, and not the word of God, the freedom we need to grow in Him is in direct opposition, and we will not find that freedom.