A world of contradiction.
Thinking back to the church debacle of 2008.
Maybe that’s a strong word.
Only a couple hundred people even went to this church.
But, for our family?
Let me say this up front.
Reconciliation has happened between all parties.
Mistakes were made on all sides.
And more than any one person?
I blame the system.
Or lack there of.
We had such hope going in.
Moved our family to the big city of Columbus, Ohio.
It all felt too big for me.
I remember not even wanting to drive on I-270.
It just seemed so dangerous.
And I felt like we were jumping in way over our heads.
My faith was being tested.
All the way around.
But, man I was up for it.
Anything for you, Jesus.
Let’s do this.
And we did.
It went well for (maybe) the first year.
We were excited to be helping this little growing church.
They were excited to have us.
All of us, teaming up to spread God’s fame.
The bottom dropped out.
Long, ugly, sad, story.
Like church splits usually are.
The problem was?
I didn’t think we would ever be a part of one.
Church splits happen to other people.
There were just some issues that needed to be resolved.
And no-one to help in the resolving.
What I mean is, there were no elders in place.
See what I am saying about the system?
One pastor, and several us volunteering to lead.
Throwing our lives into the dream of this little church.
And when things went wrong?
My husband said in a meeting with the one pastor,
“It’s not you I don’t trust, it’s the system.”
He said back,
“Kevin, I am the system”.
We were being asked to submit to one man.
And not talk to anyone else about any of the red flags.
Shaking my head as I type.
It got ugly fast.
But here’s the thing ~
At the same time my husband was being told that he “wasn’t submissive” by our pastor?
He was being commended at his job outside of the church for being “so easy to work with”.
His boss was impressed by him.
Oh, and sidenote ~ his boss also loved Jesus.
It all just turned our world upside down.
Everything we had moved there for was taken away.
No really, nothing could get reconciled at the time.
No one was allowed to talk to our little group of college leaders.
All of us?
We were good people.
We loved Jesus and wanted what was best.
But nothing could move forward because no-one was allowed to ask us what happened.
And the men in our college leader’s group?
They were devastated.
What the heck was happening?
It was more than awful.
And things didn’t get reconciled until long after we went our separate ways.
Way too long after.
Ok, so why am I writing this?
Because I think I’m still mad at the system.
Or lack there of.
I’m mad at both.
A system where a man gets to be the head of an organization because he is “God’s anointed”.
We had better submit to him because he is on top of the pyramid.
He has a direct line to God.
Except, for real?
This man just decided to go to school to become a pastor.
Got a degree.
Declared himself the head.
And we all bow down.
If he says we aren’t good enough.
Well then, we just aren’t.
If he says, “Jump!”
We say, “How high?”
Oh, and if there is a board of elders?
There is some accountability for sure.
But, it still gets sticky.
When people can use God’s name to make a case?
When good people can be put in a place of superiority?
All in the name of Jesus?
People will get hurt.
Thrown under the bus.
Haha… my autocorrect isn’t saying that word is even a word.
I’m saying it is.
A state of not being allowed to “fellowship” with your friends and family.
All because you don’t agree?
It’s too much.
Over ten years later.
It’s still too much to wrap my head around.
Am I bitter?
Funny thing is, in those following years, I wasn’t cautious enough.
I still believed it was just simply a little glitch in the system.
One we all got caught up in.
I remember such feelings of shame.
How could this be happening to us?
What have we done?
Everyone must be staring at us.
Thinking about what losers we are.
And people on the inside of the church probably were.
Here’s the thing though,
Not the people on the outside.
The people outside the church had no idea what was going on.
It was inside of the machine where all hell had broken loose.
The ugliness of pride, jealousy, gossip, slander.
Again, on all sides.
We can look at it from all directions, all points of view.
Yes, we can say…
“Look at Jesus, not the people”.
“The church is made up of sinners”.
“Blah, blah, blah,”.
Those words now ring so hallow.
There are so many beautiful, wonderful, amazing people inside the church walls every Sunday morning.
Longing to know Jesus and follow his ways.
Singing about The Kingdom.
Praying, “Thy Kingdom come”.
I’m just asking?
Is it really the Kingdom of Jesus we are praying for?
Or is it our own little kingdoms?
Our own little special church?
Our own fame?
This is where I know I’ve been.
This is where I feel convicted when I even think about being part of a church.
To what end?
For God’s Glory?
Or for my own?
Or for the leadership’s?
I know, I know.
I am in counseling for this.
I also think everyone should be in counseling for this.
The people who have been hurt and the people who have done the hurting.
Ummm… which is all of us.
And all of us should be humbly asking what our role is in it.
There is a whole world out there.
And sometimes I have wondered…
Should this world be saved to “come to church”?
Or, should the world be saved “from the church”?
I’m just asking us to be careful.
Be on guard.
Jesus was even on guard with the religious people.
He wasn’t afraid to hang with the “sinners”.
It was the leaders he spent time admonishing.
The ones laying heavy burdens on his people.
Making up their own rules.
Jesus was standing right in front of them.
The Savior of the world.
And they couldn’t see it.
They knew the scriptures by heart.
They studied and taught them.
They gave their very lives to follow those scriptures.
The very scriptures that pointed to Jesus.
And they couldn’t see it.
Oh God, give us eyes to see.
To see your kingdom.
To humbly ask what you are doing in this world.
To bravely walk in your ways.
Even when those ways can seem to bump up against the systems we were taught.
When they bump up against the people who have taught them.
I want us to be real.
I don’t want us to look like we’ve got it all together on the outside when the inside is full of decay.
No idea how this all works anymore.
Every Sunday I ask myself if I should be going to a gathering of God’s people.
And when I ask?
Grace shows up.
God’s mercy and kindness show up.
Oh, I know there are church gatherings that would be good for us to be a part of.
Just being honest.
There is fear in all of it for me.
But I also know about the mercy.
God’s mercy and kindness will lead us to repentance.
Not another person’s judgement.
Not a system.
There is mercy for every single one of us.
Those who are on the inside, those who are on the outside, and those of us who are still trying to find our place.
Karen R Shock resides in Fort Wayne, IN with her husband and their youngest son. She had three more children who are married and four beautiful grandchildren. Oh, and a dog name JT Barrett (Go Bucks). She is a retired homeschool mom and is now a high school teacher at a public school and cheer coach. Life is hard, but fun. Learning, growing, and leaning in.