Welcome to part 2 of my toxic church experience. If you are unfamiliar with the beginning, I suggest reading the first part.
Alright? Okay, let’s start.
So last time I went over what lead up to going to the church, and the great hope I had of making Christian friends, especially peers.
Like I said, everyone was extremely welcoming. In fact, my husband and I visited the church for almost a full three months. From the middle of September to the end of November. I believe to get to know a church, you can’t just visit once or twice, unless of course you don’t feel welcomed at all.
We felt welcomed enough, but being part of a church isn’t about being welcomed. At least, not to me. No, I want to make sure God’s word is being taught the way Jesus and God both spoke/taught it. I don’t always want sermons to make me feel good, but rather convict me as well. We are to grow as believers. Sometimes, that means being uncomfortable so our eyes are opened.. But it should still be taught in an encouraging way.
All of these things this church had, or rather, the pastor (the shepherd) did. And I loved it! My husband always enjoyed the sermons. After each one, my husband and I would leave, and we would discuss what we thought.
What I had never experienced up to this point, however, dealt with the congregation.
There was a constant sinking feeling in my heart, I couldn’t quite place. You see, everyone was beyond welcoming. Be it, Southern hospitality, I don’t know. There were two girls in particular, a few years younger than me, who always smiled at me, talked to me, made me feel welcome…in the church.
One girl, the daughter of the pastor, every SINGLE time I saw her at church always mentioned how we should, “hang out”. And I can’t explain to you, dear reader, how desperately I wanted to have a friend, outside of church. But no.
She was always busy. She never contacted me first. The only time I saw her was at church. And that bothered me a little bit, but I strived at being understanding. I once was a college student, I knew it wasn’t always easy.
The other girl was a young wife like me, and she and her husband had so many activities in the church. Helping young teens, etc. She was too busy to hang out as well, even though she too encouraged the idea of spending time together outside of church.
With them always being nice to me at church, but not acting on their words, their actions confused me, and hurt me deeply. Though, I will say, I was VERY sensitive about the whole experience because I had no one, and I don’t think the girls realized this about their actions.
The other part was the majority of the members of the church. Remember, from my previous post I talked about, “The Purge?” Well, my old home church didn’t like what the pastor said, so they left. But this church…everyone nodded their heads at the pastor’s words. Everyone agreed with the word of God.
However, their actions reflected differently.
I got the sense the church members were very big on charitable work, and making a difference. Which, don’t get me wrong, this is good. Something as believers, we are called to do. But there was so much talk in the church about all the “good” being done. So much talk about physical decorations the church “needed” or “deserved” so that the house of God was presented well.
There’s a reason why my blog is titled, Inside Cup. It isn’t about the physical appearance of anything. I was also having an issue with the constant talk of blessings, which I have a blog coming up discussing this further. But the constant talk of blessings focused so much on the individual.
And my heart is cringing recalling this.
The reason is because God has taught me better. We don’t put focus on ourselves, and we don’t put focus on the sins of others. We put focus on God, and following Christ. But I was hearing so much talk about things individuals were doing, I wasn’t seeing the focus being put on God. The same people who acknowledged with nodding of their head, at the pastor’s words, showed a completely different side outside of the sermon. I saw so many people on their phones during the sermon too, and that shocked me.
There was a man also who constantly approached my husband and I at the end of every service. He did not have any sense of boundary space. There would be less than two inches between my body and his, and when I backed away from him, he would move in closer. My husband almost intervened.
But not one church member did anything about this. And every time we went to a service I dreaded this man approaching us…
So many mixed and confused feelings flooded my spirit and troubled my heart. No one in the church invited us out, aside from the pastor and his family the first night we visited. And there was lady who invited us to her home on Thanksgiving, which was very kind. I thought I became friends with her daughter, but that too, also was a failed attempt at friendship.
With everything failing around me with this church experience, weekly I was brought to tears in my prayers to God. I needed answers and God’s direction. I didn’t like the feeling of hypocrisy, and the constant feeling of being let down.
And when God knows us, He can use things to show us He is listening.
But that’s for next week’s blog.
~T. R. Noble
(All Images Used Are From Pexels)