My father was the chairman of the deacons, and my mom was a member of the Women’s Missionary Union in the small Southern Baptist church we attended when I was young. Daddy used to say if the doors of the church were open for any type of meeting, we would be there … and that’s exactly the way it was as long as I lived in my parents’ home.
We went to Sunday school and church on Sunday morning. We went to Baptist training union on Sunday night. We went to prayer meeting and choir rehearsal on Wednesday night. We went to church every night of the week when there was a revival. When there were special activities on Saturday, we went to those. I was in singing groups, Bible study groups, prayer groups and I was the head dog in youth group when I was a teenager. For as far back as I can remember, church was part of me … church was who I was … church was in me through and through.
Perhaps it’s the arrival of spring … the season of renewal and rebirth … but I’ve been thinking a great deal about the place (or non-place, as the case may be) that church now occupies in my life.
It’s been a little more than two years since I was actively involved in church, having been asked to step down from all areas in which I was serving and subsequently encouraged to find a different church to attend. The reason for my dismissal was simple … I ventured forth from the closet where I had been hiding my entire life and told the truth about my sexuality. I think there’s way more than a touch of irony to that, you know … that it was my honest and truthful confession that caused me to be rejected by a group of folks who claim to be followers of the God who is the ultimate source of all truth.
Church should never be a place that judges others because of illness or economics or marital status or clothing or past or present or future behavior … or sexual orientation. Church should not be a place of judgment, period. Church should not have cliques or exclusive groups. Church should not envy or boast. Church should not welcome some and not others. Church should not be unconcerned or unknowing about the needs of others, both within its walls and without. Church should not be divisive. Church should not worry more about money than people. Church should not be hypocritical. Church should not hate anyone.
Instead, church should be the place that welcomes all people regardless of health or finances or relationship status or what kind of clothing they wear or how they have behaved, are behaving or will behave or to whom they are attracted.
Church should be all-inclusive and never isolating. Church should be concerned about the welfare of others, both within its walls and without. Church should be honest and real and open and transparent in all things. Church, my friends, should radiate, exude and demonstrate love to all people without excuse and without exception.
I receive messages on a daily basis asking me how I feel about church and if I’m attending anywhere. I could probably write a book about that particular subject, and maybe I should one day. But for now, here’s what I’d like to say:
I love God.
And much to the surprise of some “Christians,” I know beyond the shadow of any doubt that He loves me as well.
I’m not sure at all, however, that the church loves me.
For the last couple of years, my church has been in my living room on cold or rainy days, or outside on my walking trail when the weather is nice. Again, I say … I love God, and He loves me. The love I have for God and His for me has little to nothing to do with what goes on inside the walls of a church building and everything in the universe to do with what goes on inside the walls of my heart.
But … but … but … there’s a reason why God instructed us in His Word not to forsake being in fellowship with other believers … there’s a big, huge reason. It’s important that we walk the journey of faith together … It’s too hard to do it alone. We need each other. We need community. God created us to walk the journey of faith together.
Spring … the season of renewal and rebirth … maybe it’s time, friends … maybe it’s time I trust God to protect me this time around when it comes to church. I don’t need to be careless or stupid about it; I don’t need to walk blindly into the lion’s den. But maybe it’s time I listen to Him when He whispers to my heart that He has already found a place for me … and be open to it. Maybe it’s time I try again … maybe it’s time I believe again … maybe it’s time I heal again.
She is an awarded public speaker, writer of the daily blog, The Tree House, mother to three adult children, and grandmother to the most beautiful, intelligent little girl ever!
Terrie is producer and co-director of Ears Wide Open?, a short 3-minute film that packs a powerful punch.