Today I was thinking about the brokenness of my church background. A lot of people have been hurt by church goers, church leadership, church hypocrites... need I say more? The other day I had a woman say to me, you have no idea what I've been through in my church. I thought, yeah, I have no idea, but I probably have a pretty good idea and I have been through a lot of crap too.
A conclusion I came to a long time ago: The Church (the body of Christ) is run by broken people. We live in a broken world and if Jesus had wanted everything to go perfectly he would have stayed and ran things himself. Instead, he sent the Holy Spirit who will guide us. The only problem is that we all sin. Let me say that again, we ALL sin. We are all broken, we are all prone to sin, no one is above it. No one. I have heard of many pastors falling into affairs, evangelists doing things for money, I have seen conflicts, I have seen junk that I never wanted to see.
So this is me telling my story of my church experience. This will all be from my point of view, so there are details that I don't know about, simply because they were kept from me. Some things I will not elaborate on because they are better left unsaid. But here is my story as best I can tell it.
I want to start with a preliminary note about my Dad. He is a faithful man. Mom says he doesn't like change, but I know it's because God has called my Dad to be a stability and pass that stability on to his children. He is the reason why we never changed churches after my church went through a bunch of stuff. Also, in the telling of this I want to bring home the two facts I have learned. Man is sinful, no matter how awesome you think he is and God is good. He is faithful and true and calls us to trust in Him.
When we moved to Little Rock I was eight years old. Mom and Dad told us that we were going to find a church here and when we found it, that would be the one we would stay at. We were not going to church-hop or anything like that. As an eight year old I took the process of finding a church very seriously. I loved our church from the day we first visited. Mom would tell you that it was because the children's church met at a school where all the rooms are little houses. But I liked it because of my Sunday school teachers. They were amazing. I liked the other kids in my class, I just loved the church. So after several visits to other churches we decided on this church.
I loved our church. Loved the people and just the feel of it. We eventually moved into a real church building and I loved it just as much. Throughout those elementary years I just grew to love the church and the people more and more. My faith in God was young and I was learning much.
I remember sometime in the fifth or sixth grade one of our pastors was called to leave and go to another church in another state. He didn't want to go, but the Lord was calling him and so he openly shared with the church the war in his heart and how he wanted to follow God in this. I was sad to see him and his family go. They had a daughter my age and we had become friends. I enjoyed his teaching (yeah, I was in sixth grade and enjoyed his teaching!) But the Lord called him somewhere else.
I came into youth group in the seventh grade. They had junior high and high school then. We had one of the most amazing youth pastors I have ever met. I don't want to exalt him or anything, because he is just human; but his passion for the Lord was compelling. He was also funny and a good musician/worship leader. I still remember the way he taught about Paul and following God through anything. I remember him teaching us to lead with servant leadership. He had us on a secret leadership team called the Ministry Team. He didn't want anyone else to know about it, we weren't supposed to talk about it. We were the ones who he would meet with every few weeks, we were to reach out to the kids who were on the fringe, the newcomers. Our first task was to go and clean up the highway outside of our church. He taught us that Jesus humbled himself and served and we needed to follow his example of servant leadership. I remember a phrase our youth pastor would say: When God says "jump" you say, "how high?"
To my knowledge things were going fine in our church. Everything was wonderful, I would have feelings of peace as I walked through the doors on a Sunday morning or Sunday night. I loved being there, we participated in everything.
Along about the middle of 8th grade a bombshell dropped on my faith. Our youth pastor was being called away to another church in another state. What were we going to do? Are we going to leave the church? I remember my brother asking this question the day our youth pastor made his announcement. I felt like a huge part of my foundation had been ripped out from under me.
He left in a very gracious, smooth way. Let me just say this for any pastors, especially youth pastors out there... if you are planning on leaving your church and going to a new one I would highly highly suggest you not leave suddenly. I have seen it done both ways, slowly and abruptly and I will say it is worth any kind of sacrifice to make transitions as smooth as possible. This gave me time to process, to love, to cry, to figure out what was going on.
That's when I realized I was trusting not just in Jesus, but in our youth pastor as well. I was using his faith as a crutch. Many of my friends had their speculations about why he had to leave, but my conclusion for my own heart is that God was teaching me to trust in Him, not my pastors and teachers. Pastors are teachers are good and necessary, but they are not there for us to place our faith in.
This is the first part of my story, I will continue with more later. It's late though and I need to go to bed.