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Toxic Church Experience | God’s Plan?

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Yep.

It happened.

I learned what it meant to be on the other side of the fence.

The fence between hoping to be a part of a church, and being part of a church.

I learned what it was like to be the outsider. An outsider trying to find a church family.

Beyond feeling welcomed, but truly accepted.

There are probably a handful of you who can understand this because you’ve gone through it yourself. The other handful who have never experienced this hardship, I’m thankful you haven’t because it isn’t easy.

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Setting the Scene

My husband joined the Air Force in 2011, and it was his second year being in. After he joined, I usually only saw him two to three times a year. I graduated college in May, 2013. Spent the summer planning the wedding with my family.

He had surprised me a few weeks before our wedding to spend time with me in our hometown.

Our first week being married went like this.

Got married on a Sunday.

Packed things for the movers (from both of our parents’ houses) on Monday.

Movers came on Tuesday.

Went to one last Bible Study at my home church with my newlywed husband on Wednesday.

Thursday, we said goodbyes to our families and drove over 800 miles to a small apartment he found in Little Rock, AR. Little Rock was home to the base he was stationed at.

It would become my new home.

I had no friends, and no family there. It was a completely new area.

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Sights On A New Church

So right away when we were in town, I noticed a church that was the same doctrine of my home church in OH. I was ecstatic.

New friends. CHRISTIAN FRIENDS! Hope and excitement filled my heart. I thought surely this was meant to be. That God had this planned out for me.

(He had something planned out, but not what I set my hopes on. But that’s God for you. It isn’t always about us believe it or not.)

When we first visited the church, there were a lot of things that reminded me of my home church. But what stood to me the most, was that it reminded me of my church right before, what I am going to refer to as, “The Purge.”

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The Purge

You see, when I was a child, as I spoke of in my eczema post, my pastor had gotten in an accident and passed away. So around the time I was eight, almost nine, my church was searching for a new pastor. And eventually the church board decided on a man, who I believe was definitely selected by God.

But people…didn’t always like what he had to say.

In fact, majority of them didn’t like what he to say in sermons.

The Bible is not always bubbly and fluffy. There are some strong pieces of scriptures, specifically meant for believers that are hard to swallow.

As the blogger BeautyBeyondBones, I admire on here, has said, “God refines us.”

(Check out her blog post – Refining Process  )

Refining isn’t easy. This is why the Holy Spirit pricks us and convicts us when we need to change our ways, give up past activities or thoughts, etc.

But majority of Christians only want to hear the good stuff. Just Jesus loves you, not what He went through, or that we are to follow His footsteps, and take the hard road known as the narrow path.

They only wanted to hear the milk scriptures, not the meat.

Many of them conflicted in their hypocritical ways of being a believer, and being of the world as well. They didn’t want the Spirit to prick them anymore through the word of God, so they left the church.

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A Message For The Past Members Of That Church

Which brings me back to where I was in Little Rock. (Dear God, please fight against any feelings of bitterness that may arise from this retelling. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.)

Yeah…my experience sometimes still stirs up some darkness, which is why I’m leaving this prayer here. Cover my work through Jesus.

Everyone at the church, especially the first day, were extremely welcoming. This only further got my hopes up. I LOVED what the pastor preached. It was the same kind of material I would hear from my home church. Holiness. Sanctification. You get the picture.

What I was to learn, however, broke me into pieces.

Now, for anyone who knows me as a visitor of that church, who still remembers me, whatever the reason, and you are reading this. I do ask for an open mind because as believers we won’t get anywhere if we are constantly defensive without hearing another out.

And regardless of how anyone else feels of my situation, my emotions, and my experience, these are all valid because this is from my perspective.

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Purpose Of Sharing This Story

Furthermore, I am sharing my experience NOT to downgrade, and NOT to cause judgement. We will be judged as we judge, remember that.

Instead, I’m sharing this because there is a lack of understanding from those of us who have never been outsiders. (I used to be one of them) Those of us who don’t know what it is like visiting a new church, trying to find a place that is our community.

Those of you curious about how to make someone feel welcomed in the church need to understand it isn’t just about “feeling welcomed.” It’s about feeling like you belong. Being only courteous in the church will not give a sense of belonging. It can be very disheartening when people only speak to you, or want to see you in church. Especially if the newcomers were similar to my situation.

Which I will cover in next week’s blog…

~T.R.Noble

(All Images Are From Pexels)

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8 thoughts on “Toxic Church Experience | God’s Plan?

  1. In the past couple of years, I’ve tried going to five different churches…not for any length of time, just one or two visits…but I wasn’t welcomed at any of them. Some people were kind to be just to be friendly to the newcomer, but as a whole, I knew I was looked at as the outsider, and it was sickening. I was sweet to everyone I met, I participated in Sunday school discussions, I attempted to befriend a few people my age, but because I was trying to hop into a church situation at my age, instead of having gone there my whole life, the welcome committee was nowhere to be found. It was very disheartening, as I REALLY want to be part of a church … but I have to trust the Lord. Someday, I’ll have a church to go to, but as it as now, I have never been part of a loving church family. Even though I long for that, His will must be done, not mine.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Girl, I could just hug you, so imagine this hug crossing stateliness. 🙂 I completely understand what you are saying! I, too, was extremely let down, and I do believe God used the experience to open my eyes. He used my pain to help understand what it’s like for others. But it certainly was a painful road to travel. My husband and I got orders for Florida last year, and I’ve considered visiting some other churches here, but God has shut down most of my ideas before even traveling to the doors. And I really didn’t want to go through the experience again, only to leave soon. We move again next month. I hope my experience will help encourage you 🙂 You are not alone. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      1. This post definitely did encourage me; up until now, I didn’t know anyone else had been through such a similar church situation. And while it makes me sad that you went through all that, it is encouraging to know that I’m not alone. Thank you for sharing 🙂 We must continue to trust in God’s plans for us.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Most definitely 🙂 God has used my bad experiences to show me I’ll be able to reach out to others, and they won’t feel alone. Considering I feel my calling is especially to reach out to believers, I can see His hand at work ❤

        Liked by 1 person

    2. oh wow!!! and there i was on my blog thinking the welcome group in the church i attended were overdoing it till i felt uncomfortable…I know how members in a church throw gazes at newcomers and it can be so uncomfortable…You will eventually find a place where you can serve God in truth and also feel welcome. Hugss

      Liked by 2 people

  2. The first comment is directed at Maggie’s experience….And i agree that a lot of Christians do not like the raw word about sanctification and purity…unless it’s about prosperity. It’s even more sad that we decide what church to worship in based on these reasons. We all really need God’s grace when it comes to serving God

    Liked by 1 person

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