This is the introduction to our series What to Do When the Church Lets You Down. You can see all the posts here.
I grew up in church until I was six years old. I don’t remember much about it except we got to run across to Dairy Queen on occasion, and we had to wear dresses and keep our hair long.
I prayed beside Mama as she knelt at the foot of my bed and sang gospel tunes with my Daddy as he strummed on his guitar.
Then it all changed.
We left and my Mama bought me a pair of 6x blue jeans and signed me up for gymnastics at the local gym.
I remember feeling so empty and so confused.
I remember trying to reconcile life apart from what we’d always known.
I remember the questions and the feeling of emptiness that was left in the wake of conflict, conflict among believers.
I was six and confused, but my Daddy said it was best for all of us, and Mama said we’d find another way.
We did, but it was painful.
In the Spring of 1997, I gave my life to Jesus. I heard the gospel for the very first time without any additions, and I said yes without reservation.
My life changed forever.
And it’s been a journey, a long one, one that I don’t know will ever make sense this side of Heaven.
I’ve been a part of three churches since giving my life to Christ. Now I don’t go to church. Instead my little family of 3.5 sit around the breakfast table and read Bible stories and do “Sunday School”.
Then we cart the toddler off to the couch for a video to go along with what he learned while Mommy and Daddy listen to a sermon on the iPhone.
We’ve done this for two Sundays in a row and it’s sort of like being back at my Daddy’s feet singing to Jesus.
But there’s a hole, a feeling of emptiness left in the wake of conflict, conflict among believers.
I am twenty nine and confused, but my husband says it’s what’s best, and I believe in my heart God has a plan.
Saying this aloud, like this, on the blog, it’s risky … and scary.
I’m not bashing churches, or the ones we’ve been apart of. My extended family is still at the first and my friends still go to the latter. I’m not bitter.
I was, but not anymore.
I am at a point of surrender. I am at a point of seeking.
The Word says if you seek you shall find, knock and Jesus will answer. I’m knocking.
No wait. I’m pounding!
Scripture doesn’t say anything about pounding, but it does say Jesus loves me. So I’ll stick with pounding for now. I think He can take it. I want answers. I want to know where I fit.
I want to know why Jesus loves His church so much He’d die for it and we forget that and think it belongs to us, the body.
I was reading in The Jesus Storybook Bible tonight (to my toddler of course, not at leisure … though I’m sure that would still be beneficial).
We were reading about the Tower of Babel. It was as if God was saying, “This is your answer! This is why you struggle among believers!”
You can read the full story in the big kid Bible in Genesis 11. But the idea is at the beginning of time there was only one language among the people. They talked to each other and understood one another. With time they got this brilliant idea, that wasn’t so brilliant, to build a tower to Heaven.
They thought they could get back to Heaven in their own strength and by their own works. Wrong.
They also wanted to be noticed and seen for their great works so they could say, “Look at me! Look at me!” In essence, they were looking for self glorification. Bad idea.
God had to cut this little plan off quickly before it got too out of control and so He made them all wake up one morning speaking a different language. They couldn’t finish the tower because they couldn’t understand one another. Hence the name Tower of Babel.
That’s when the Spirit whispered, “It’s the same today.”
We may speak the same written language, English in my case, but we speak a different language from one church to the next, from one Christian to the next. I don’t have to speak Swahili for the person in the pew next to me to totally misunderstand me, and the pastor doesn’t have to speak Spanish for me to miss the point altogether.
Sin divides. Bottom line. My sin. Your sin. The church is full of sinners who need the redeeming blood of Jesus.
I’m slowly seeing that I am the worst of them. I finally get Paul, the holy one who makes me want to smack him in all his contentment talk. I get this:
For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. ~1 Corinthians 15:9-10a
So what do we do with our modern day Tower of Babel?
I don’t go to church, but that’s not the end. It’s part of the journey, yes, but the end? No way.
Part of that journey is processing what to do when the church lets you down (when Christians let you down).
I’ve been on this journey of processing for 23 years. And I think I have a few answers, and a few more to learn along the way.
So will you join me in the journey? It’s painful one for me because I don’t really want to talk about it, but I think it needs to be discussed.
I’ve put together a ten part series on what to do when the church lets you down. We’ll start next Monday with Part 1 – Remember Who God Is.
Update 2014: Since writing this series, we have found a wonderful church home – the one we’ve been praying our whole life for. It’s not perfect, but it’s home. As you continue through this series, you’ll see the rest of the story unfold.
Update 2018: It’s interesting to re-read this so many years later and realize that this burn was the one that God used to set my feet on solid rock. The one that caused me to fall head over heels in love with His Church. My heart bleeds for the church, yearns for the church, and is eager to see His church thrive in the midst of this sin-torn world. Oh how my heart loves the church in a way it never would have if I had never walked through this trial.
P.S. We’ve moved clear across the country since writing this series, and … lo and behold, been burned by the church again before landing in a new church home. Oh glory hallelujah that my identity is no longer found in the people of Christ, but in Christ Himself. My heart longs for His return, but not until I’ve done all I can to tell people that His Church is beautiful and worth dying for because He said it was. Be encouraged, sisters and brothers. He is doing a new thing! Keep seeking Him through your pain and heart-ache, I promise He will meet you right where you are as you tuck into His arms and allow Him to soothe your wounds and kiss your head. He loves you with an everlasting love. And keep reading, please keep reading…Remember Who God Is.