I’m finding that I might have made a mistake in not explaining our departure from church. I just spoke with someone who attended the same church we did for years, and they didn’t know why we left. She was surprised to hear that we were asked to leave.
Let me first explain, my reason for sharing this now is simply to inform folks of where our heart has been and is today concerning our fellowship with those whom we attended church for over three years.
When we first started attending this particular church, we were looking for a church close to home that was Biblically-based and allowed for the move of the Holy Spirit. The first day we attended, we felt right at home with the praise & worship, and we liked the fact that the message was centered on Scripture.
We also felt very welcome by the members we met that day. We were invited back to a Wednesday night meal, and we went. At the time I was pregnant and had two small children and a preteen, and clearly this church welcomed children.
We decided right away this is where we would remain. We became involved immediately. About a year later we decided to formally join as members, which was a shock to most people because so many thought we were members already.
We did not take our commitment to membership lightly…in fact, we never imagined not being there any longer.
There were times when we didn’t always agree or like what was happening (or not happening) at this church, but we didn’t feel that was reason enough to end our commitment. In fact, I felt very strongly that we were there for a reason and that God did not want us to leave.
During the winter of 2009/2010 my husband and I started feeling convicted about not keeping the sabbath day holy. At the time the Pastor and his wife were on a sabbatical leave, so we were not able to discuss our conviction with them right away. But we as a family decided to start setting the 7th day apart by not doing any of our regular work on that day. We continued to attend church on Sundays and Wednesdays, and I continued to go to the Ladies’ Bible Study on Thursday mornings. We didn’t really share with anyone about our sabbath-keeping practice at first…we were just doing it for ourselves. We spent the time reading/studying the Bible, praying and worshiping with our family. It was wonderful.
After the pastor and his wife came back from their leave we met with them and discussed what we felt God had laid on our hearts concerning his Sabbath day. Since this topic came out of the blue to them, we agreed to get together again to discuss it further. Meanwhile, we continued to keep the Sabbath day set apart and fellowshiped on Sundays at that church.
Easter was quickly approaching and my husband and I had reservations about celebrating Easter, but we were interested in learning more about Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, especially since they were Biblical holidays and Jesus is considered to be the Passover Lamb. When Easter Sunday came and went, and we were not in church that day, many folks were concerned and expressed their concern over our absence.
When my husband explained to the Pastor as to why we chose not to celebrate Easter but rather the Passover & Feast of Unleavened Bread, he had a hard time understanding our position. There was a bit more discussion on the Sabbath day, but it was clear we did not agree.
During this time I started posting some of my thoughts on my Facebook page, particularly that Jesus never declared unclean animals as clean to eat. There was some healthy discussion including Scripture that occurred back and forth…pro and con regarding my initial statement.
This exchange led the Pastor to warn me about “teaching” on Facebook. I considered what he had to say, and although we thought his warning was a bit uncalled for (in his position as a pastor) as I was not doing anything wrong (or sinful), I was mindful of his advice (in his position as a friend). My desire was not to “teach” anyone, but rather it was to discuss particular issues. Those who chose to engage or disengage in the discussion were welcome…but it was completely optional. It was on my personal FB page and those who could read the discussion were only those who were on my personal friends list.
Time passed. We continued to attend each of the various services, however we still continued to have questions and thoughts that conflicted with the predominant teaching in Christian circles, let alone at that church. I became very frustrated because I felt like I was being avoided. I wanted to talk about the Bible to anyone willing to talk to me, but had a very difficult time finding anyone in leadership willing to do so.
During one of the ladies’ Bible study meetings I was very transparent in my feelings. There was concern expressed by someone that we might be leaving that church. I told everyone there I had absolutely no intention of leaving, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I was asked to leave. The reaction to my statement was laughter and disbelief…they didn’t think I was serious and never expected that anyone would do such a thing.
Toward the end of the summer we took an extended vacation (5 weeks). We drove cross country to Oregon to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles (an 8-day festival) with other believers who recognized Jesus as the Messiah and kept the seventh day Sabbath set apart. We also stopped off at our home in Tulsa, OK on both legs of the trip to visit my husband’s family and take care of issues concerning our home there.
When we returned, people seemed happy to see we were back, but nobody expressed an interest in hearing about our trip. I took the opportunity to share a little bit about the Feast in Sunday School, but I was surprised that folks were not interested in hearing about it. I didn’t say another word about it.
Shortly after, we discovered the church was doing another trunk-or-treat outreach on the weekend of Halloween. My husband and I had reservations the year before about the church being involved with Halloween, and although I expressed my concern to several ladies in leadership earlier that year, we never discussed our concern with the Pastor. So I wrote a letter to the Pastor and copied the Deacons and Elder expressing our concern with the church having an outreach event linked to Halloween, specifically, addressing the wickedness of Halloween. The Pastor appreciated our concern and said there were others who expressed concern as well and these concerns would be addressed following the event.
Unfortunately that email triggered a series of emails between various individuals (within leadership) and my husband and I. A question was asked of us by a deacon to the effect of whether we would persist in raising concerns over issues that didn’t sit well with us…or something to that effect. I imagine the message that was attempting to be conveyed had the purest of intentions, but I perceived it as antagonistic. I responded by saying I felt an obligation to address my concerns with leadership when I felt Spirit-led to do so.
I believe given the forum of communication (email/letter), there were things written by all those parties who chose to write something that may not have been received in the manner the sender had intended them to be. In retrospect, I wish we all had the opportunity to discuss in person the various issues that were raised directly/indirectly in the emails with all those involved in the exchange, but that did not happen. Instead, I felt further alienated.
When it became clear to me that I was not going to find anyone willing to discuss my thoughts/questions concerning Scripture at church (specifically amongst the leadership), I started blogging about it on my own personal website. I had already determined I would not take on any leadership position at church, especially given the difference between what I was seeing in Scripture and what the leadership was teaching. Plus, I wasn’t interested in hijacking any discussions either in a Sunday School setting or Bible Study knowing there might be newcomers in the faith present.
Between what was written in the email/letter exchanges and a series of posts I made on my blog between October 20 – November 7, 2010, the pastor and elder showed up at our home on a Saturday with a document in hand. The document was a written dissertation entitled, “The Covenant and the Law.” We were told this paper explained the doctrine espoused by that particular church concerning the Old Testament Law and the New Testament believer. I appreciated receiving the paper and was very interested in reading it. I asked if we could discuss it after reading through it. We were told it was not open for discussion.
My husband was not happy that the elders chose to hand us a peice of paper written by someone else in order to defend their faith rather than bringing out their Bibles to state their position themselves. Personally, I was just happy to have something to read to help me understand why they believe what they believe. After having read the document however, I was very disappointed with the premise used to form their doctrine. The writings of Paul and the author of Hebrews were used as the basis for dismissing what Jesus plainly said. Basically, since these other authors said such and such, Jesus couldn’t possibly have meant what he said when he said what he did. My position is: since Jesus said what he said, what these other authors wrote can’t possibly mean what we’ve been taught they mean. Unfortunately as far as the leadership was concerned this was not open for discussion.
So since I wasn’t able to discuss it with the leadership, I blogged about my own thoughts on what I read on my own personal blog. That was November 15th. I blogged a few more things over the course of the next week. Then the pastor showed up at my husband’s office. He told my husband that if I continued to write what I was blogging about that we weren’t welcome back at the church.
I believe the concern he expressed was that I was guilty of “false teaching”. But again, Scripture was not used to reprove us. Instead, we were just told to stop. After he left, my husband promptly told me to *not* stop writing. He was personally offended that we were being told to be quiet or don’t come back.
I didn’t know what to think. I was shocked. All the while we just wanted to sit down with somebody to discuss Biblical issues and nobody in leadership was willing to do so.
Instead we were handed our hat after 3+ years of faithful service. We were never reproved from Scripture. In essence we were told this is what the church believes, if we couldn’t accept that, then this wasn’t the place for us.
I really struggled…I can’t begin to tell you how much I struggled. I was shocked. I was hurt. I felt this was all handled unjustly, and I felt betrayed…by those I trusted, loved and thought loved me. If we were truly in error, then why didn’t our friends take the time to help us understand our error using Scripture?
I didn’t want to leave that way. I didn’t want people to think we abandoned them. I cared about the people at that church. We considered bringing this to the attention of the body, but we didn’t want to be responsible for a “church split”.
Several months later I tried to see if there might have been a misunderstanding, maybe we mistook what the pastor had said to my husband. So, my husband and I met with the pastor and his wife to discuss what ultimately happened. But clearly there was no misunderstanding, they confirmed that we were not welcome there any longer given our new understanding of Scripture.
Early on I was accused of bringing division to the body, but it wasn’t me that was causing the division. I was bringing up controversial subjects from the Bible. I wouldn’t settle for the doctrinal company line. I wanted answers from the Bible…answers that cleared up questions. Not answers that created more questions. When I started studying Scripture more on my own and discussing it with my husband, we were getting our questions answered…they weren’t the same answers coming from church, but they sure answered a whole lot of other seeming contradictions in Scripture.
Do we have it all figured out? No. Do we think we’re 100% right? No. Are we humble enough to recognize that we don’t have it all figured out? Yes. Are we humble enough to allow the authority of Scripture to stand in our lives, even if it means forsaking the religious authorities. Absolutely.
We believe the Holy Spirit was given as a counselor and a comforter, to lead us into Truth. We believe the Holy Spirit is real and he speaks today to those who will yield to him, and we must be careful to not quench the Spirit. We also believe the Word of God is living and active, powerful and rich. There is so much it has to say to us, if we’ll just take the time and energy to read and study it for ourselves. We cannot afford to leave it to the religious authorities to tell us what is truth and what is not, especially if they are unwilling to challenge their own doctrines and test it out against Scripture.
I pray that the folks at that church recognize who it is they serve. As for me and my house, we serve YHVH, the God of Abraham, Isaac & Jacob, and our master is the Messiah Jesus, spoken of in Scripture, the Son of God. Paul said if a man preaches another Jesus or another gospel that does not line up with the Law and the Prophets (which is what Paul preached from), then we are not to follow that man. This requires knowing what the Law and the Prophets say. The God of the Old Testament is the same God of the New Testament. If what we read in the New Testament seems to contradict the Old Testament, then we are not understanding something correctly. The enemy is real…he does not want us to know the truth…he seeks to steal, kill and destroy. He is a deceiver and masquerades as an angel of light. I believe it would behoove us all to continually seek the truth in all matters. Our future is at stake.
I love the folks at that church. That is why I’ve chosen to write about all this. I’m not looking for anyone to take sides. I’m not looking for things to go back to the way they were. I have forgiven those who’ve hurt me in the past, and I have sought reconciliation for those I may have hurt as well. My prayer is that all who are His will hear and obey His voice. My biggest reason for writing was that I wanted folks to know why we are no longer attending the church we committed to as members. We didn’t switch churches. We didn’t move. We didn’t cease believing in God or the Messiah. We didn’t seek to pursue works for salvation. Instead we chose to keep all of the 10 commandments, strengthen our relationship with our Heavenly Father and His Son by studying to show ourselves approved and doing the will of the Father.
We’re still at our same address. We have lots of farm animals and still have our wallpaper business. Our kids are growing fast and we’d love to maintain relationships. Folks are welcome to call, write or visit us anytime. We have no problem sharing our thoughts on the Biblical issues that were raised, but we’re also happy to just fellowship apart from all of that. We are not interested in gossip. We encourage folks to seek the other sides to our story to get a well-rounded understanding before establishing an opinion about what all happened. All in all, we don’t want the people we’ve come to love and care about to think we abandoned them…or our faith.