Ten months ago I left Christian Assembly (CA), a church out in Eagle Rock. I simply one Sunday stopped attending and never went back. I did not have a falling out with the church or a negative experience that drove me away. In fact, my time at CA had been very positive. CA is a very honest church that deals with real life, has a heart for the poor, and I was touched by the Holy Spirit twice in worship there. (I even wrote a separate post about it.)
The reason I left CA was that I had lost all motivation to do any type of Christian behavior during the darkest of times I’ve ever had. I did not know if I believed in God, if I believed God loved me, and was considering my exit from Christianity and theism as a whole. Going to church, listening to Christian music, reading my Bible, and praying all were simply out of the question during this time.
After the dramatic healing I experienced in inner healing prayer I came back to a rather firm belief in Jesus Christ, who appeared to me in a number of visions and supernaturally healed a lot of spiritual and emotional wounds in my life. Things like that tend to settle the whole theism debate. However, I still did not know what I thought about Christianity, about the Bible, and about the Church. I thought I was going to go back to CA but I was re-directed by the Holy Spirit to receive ministry and eventually serve at Pihop. During this time I have thought seriously about what kind of future Church involvement I was going to participate in, if any. The closest thing I came to an official church service was supporting a friend’s ministry or my Potluck and Prayer nights.
I was encouraged to go back to a church by my internship leaders at Pihop but I was just not ready. I think one of my friends said it best and if you are going to join a church you really have to be fully committed to it and not half-in and half-out. The main problem was that the last time I fully committed to a church was when I hurt myself and other people. I was hiding in religious performance and the farther away I got from that church experience the more I recognized all of the problems, tensions and issues that I was perpetuating by my commitment and efforts. I say with all sincerity that I am for the most part ashamed of who I was in that church, how my faith functioned, and what I supported and led people into.
As I contemplated fully committing myself to CA, it seemed all to similar to my last church. The biggest issue is that CA, like my last church, is a large church. This fact was underscored after I left. I had dropped off the face of the map and no one noticed and a desperate email I had sent to the head pastor of CA got lost in the shuffle and he never saw it. The church was so big that in one of the darkest times of my life I simply slipped through the cracks. Now I know part of the reason no one noticed that I had left CA was because I was not fully engaged there, but it is also just par for the course when a community gets that big. So could I ever really get involved at another church again, especially one as big as CA, and hope that this time it would be different?
Around November I started seeing numerous threads in my life and experiences pointing me back towards CA. I was very hesitant. I had wanted to go back to CA and the Holy Spirit had stopped me. Was this now the Holy Spirit calling me back? Was I willing to go back? By this time I was pretty sure God had never meant for a church to be that big, small groups or no small groups. Things continued to add up and eventually it was confirmed that God was indeed calling me back to CA and was calling me to be obedient despite my reservations.
A month ago I attend my first church service in nine months.
It felt weird. Two things were highlighted that night for me. First, I have changed dramatically in the last several months. My time at Pihop especially has changed how I worship, how I pray and what I think are valuable endeavors. Two, if God is in fact calling me back to CA it is to sow into what is happening there much more than it is to be on the receiving end of things. I’m not saying I don’t have anything to learn from people at CA but I think I will be giving away a lot of what I have received in this last season.
This last week I met with two of the pastors at CA and talked with them about the vision for the church, my story, and where I could fit in. With the head pastor, Mark Pickerill, we talked about the email I had sent that had gotten lost, my propensity to question things, my stance on homosexuality, my desire to avoid a rebellious attitude and be teachable, and the general direction of my life. Both of these meetings went great and to me really confirmed this is the right decision.
So I am again going “all in” at a local church. Part of me fears that this is insanity and I am just doing the same thing over again and hoping for a different result. However, another part of me knows that I am following the Holy Spirit as best I can and I trust and hope that God has not called me back to a local church just to have more experiences that embitter me towards Christianity, Christians, and any sort of organized church.