Monday, September 18, 2006

My chosen path


Not too long ago, I was in deep contemplation about a crossroad that I’ve been facing. Do I leave my church or do I stay?

Well, I think I’ve made my decision. Or, to put it another way: I think my decision was made for me.

Without getting in the explicit details, my pastor pulled a REALLY FOUL number yesterday; in the middle of worship service no less. He blatantly lied against someone and blasted him in front of the entire congregation. Interestingly, he did so immediately after he “apologized” to the guy for a previous scuff. Don’t get me wrong: I don't necessarily feel bad for the man whom my pastor attacked. He’ll be fine. He’s a big boy and is more than able to spiritually handle his affairs. What bothered me most was what this situation represented: an insecure pastor who has to validate and protect himself at other people’s expense. That, to me, is not a healthy body.
That’s why my decision has been made for me.

That’s why I’m leaving.

**Digression**

The truth is: if I hadn't grown up in my church (my whole family went there so it was a given that I’d be there too), I would've probably left a long time ago. While we're at it: I probably would not have ever chosen a place like this as my church home to begin with. I never put much thought into being there. I was really there because everybody else was. Simply put: being there seemed like the easy and appropriate thing to do.

Sadly, after being with this particular church for over 20 years, I can only remember a handful of important sermons, a few worship experiences, and a tiny morsel of cases where I can recall actually being “fed”. Perhaps the saving grace of it all; the thing that makes sense out of my time at this church; are the relationships that I’ve built over the years. I was talking to one of my best friends the other night and we spent a couple of hours reminiscing about our childhood experiences at the church and all the fun we had. Although many of my relationships have dematerialized over the years; almost to the point where I’m now just another face in the crowd, they have always been the most important and significant part of my time at this church. I think that I put up with all the church’s nonsense (past and present) because of the J.D.’s, the A.D.’s, the R.R.’s, and the J McQ’s, in the congregation whom I know and love (I used initials here to ensure anonymity. They know who they are…). Above everything else, these people help to make up my spiritual lifestyle.

In some ways, I would argue that my only legitimate reason for being at church (lowercase “C”) was to create, build, sustain and edify relationships with other believers who have accepted God. From those relationships, you can then form the Church (capital “C”). I don’t think that I’d have as much of issue with the instituion of church (lowercase “C”) if it didn’t try to be the end all for spiritual growth and development. All of the attributes of the Church (capital “C”), like love, forgiveness, tolerance, patience, humility, compassion, selflessness, etc., have been replaced and substituted by the programming and routine of church (lowercase “C”). Yesterday morning, for instance, to make up for the fact that we were finished with morning service before the end of our radio broadcast, we filled in the remaining time by doing some fake, half-assed attempt at worshipping. D’oh! Was that a worship experience or was it another example of service being dictated by program?

Things only get worse when my pastor pulls the foul numbers that he did yesterday.

** End of digression **

Don’t get me wrong: I think that we should always remain in prayer for our leaders. We should always love and support them, even when they screw up. But, I refuse to believe that we have to tolerate their antics when they’re done so blatantly and disrespectfully as to tear down another person. As the Bible reminds us, we all sin and fall short of God’s glory. But do we all intentionally fall short while using the power of the pulpit; the very place where you should be sharing God’s word?! If this is the behavior I’m to expect from my leader, I need to go elsewhere.

All things being equal, I plan to let him know that I’m leaving and exactly why I’m leaving. To just get up and leave is not only irresponsible on my behalf, but I believe that God would hold me accountable if I did that.

Make no mistake abou it: I'll always keep the church and its pastor in my prayers and I'll always consider it home. But I'm done with that place.

- ACL

14 "Insiders" spoke their mind. Join in...:

JD said...

Andre,

Knowing the situation, I applaud your descion (sp). I believe that you've remained prayerful and that this is a "God-led" move.

I only wish that more people in our church had the courage to face what's wrong in the congregation. As I stated to someone yesterday, God will most-def hold the Pastor responsible for his actions, but he also holds us accountable for our IN-ACTIONS. God is prolly like: "Why are ya'll ALLOWING him to get away with this in MY church? Didn't I outline your responsibilty to the Pastor in My word?????"

Please remain prayerful for the church, and I will remain prayerful about your new search. This will be a growing experience for you, and I hope that you don't allow others to make you feel bad or be bitter about your decsion (sp..I hate that word!)

REMEMBER:

WE ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR OUR OWN GROWTH

Can you imagine what blessings we have missed out on because of comfortabilty?

JD said...

P.S.

Make sure that you let enough people know why you're leaving....you don't want any "falsehoods" preached about you.

:)

Yasser Rahman said...

Andre, my friend..its been a while :) Now, according to me, its the right thing your doing by leaving that Curch and going to another one, but there just one thing I noticed and thought that I should point out. While you are leaving, and your letting everyone else know why you are, dont forget one little detail..its not just that one incident that triggered you into leaving this Curch for another.. Let people know that it was just a tip on the iceberg..lest there be any misconceptions :)

thehc said...

Hey Dre,
You did the right thing. I don't think someone could help you grow spiritually if you have no respect for the way they lead their life. I find my mentors everywhere. Some teach me what TO do, and some teach me what NOT to do. The important thing is to know the difference. It sounds like your ex-pastor is the latter.

Diane said...

I left my home church after 12 years under somewhat similar circumstances, but it was some church members that formed a clique and lied on the pastor and to some members. Like I told you before, I was wounded for a good while, but it was the right decision for me and I believe God led me from that church and to the one I've been at for 14 years now.

May God lead you as you search for His will for you and for the church body He wants you to serve in. I'll be thinking about you and praying for you, Andre.

Anonymous said...

I found myself questioning why I go to church from your post. As a new christian-I was like a baby and wanted to learn as much as I could. So being at church to me was like going to get school and getting taugh brand new things. As things started to change church became a social place for me and my family, especially with my kids who met other kids the same age. As the years went by I started to notice changes at my church. Instead of beeing a place where I went to get fed, it became just a social place. The church had a great program for our children and we were involved in outside home Bible studies. So I was still learning, just no so much at church. Then when we started feeling the need for more Church, we had various meetings and then things improved for a time. A really GREAT guy did music and youth. Two of our main concerns were covered. But still church was more social. Well after our kids got older and had to sit with us in church~things began to change. One major one was that GREAT guy stopped doing youth and music (for whatever reasons-I don't need to know). So not only was I not getting anything out of church, but now the kids were starting to grow stagnant. So we moved on. And I have ot say that I have not felt ostracized by any one I have run into from church. In fact the oposite is true.
Now that we are in a new Church, a feel like that new christian again. I go to church for fellowship and teaching. Learning how to direct others to know who Jesus is-learning how to point others to Christ which is very important to me. Getting involved with other believers who love the Lord is so important that I can't think of not going to church. Now not only am I getting everything I can from church, I am getting full and ready to let some of Christ leak out onto others.
So where you go from here, I don't know. I know that wherever you go, Christ is waiting to be experienced. God bless you.

green eyed girl on planet earth said...

Andre` MY Greeneyed Handsome man

I enclosed my comment on my email to you but in case the demons swallow that one up , I will post it here as well .

after reading your post about your leaving your church , I was very sad for you ,it must have been a soul searching decision , but one I admire . Our church or at least my experience is so much removed from what you talk about in your experience , It is an eye opener for me , I always thought church was a peaceful , uplifting inspirational and helping /healing place to feel close to God .As much as I would like to experience the differences of our churches ,to learn about others faith and practices, I wonder if I would learn anything other than kaos. I May be off the mark but it seems a harsh environment, hopefully your new choice of church is one where you find comfort .:} May GOD watch over you and keep you safe.

until next time,,,,,my Green eyed handsome man


:0)-

Andre said...

@ JD: The major problem that I'm facing is that the only thing "God-led" in my decision is that I can't stay there. Where I'm going from here, what direction my life needs to go in now, etc. are all up in the air. But, I think I'm making the right move to get out of Dodge.

I'll keep the church in prayer (you especially, first lady Spike Lee, Jr.). I trust that, just as all droughts, the church will rise from the ashes.

I just won't be there when it does.

@ Yasser: What's up man?! Good to hear from you again!

You and JD hit a good point. I'm making it a point to inform the people most significant to me about my decision; just to avoid any unnecessary backlash. If I'm going to be a part of the public bashing, at least some people know the truth.

Welcome back to blogosphere, brotha!

@ HC: Thanks for the vote of confidence. Not only was I losing respect for my pastor, I simply can't trust him any more. I'm the Colin Powell of my church. Former church...

@ Diane: Thanks for the encouragement. I'm disturbed that my incident is not an isolated one. I'll never be able to understand why people who claim to be in the body of Christ can't love and serve each other. If we believe in a God who acted kindly towards others, how have we gotten so far off track?

Thanks for your insight.

@ anonymous: Interesting point you raised. I think, however, that too many folks in the church place more emphasis on being "fed" than anything else. The problem is: this ideaology is not completely supported by the Bible.

If the church is like food, then eating on Sunday and (sometimes Wednesday) is not enough for us to be reasonably nourished. I don't know about you but -- knowing how weak I can get -- I need physical and spiritual food each and every day.

However, the Bible DOES point out that one of the reasons what we assemble in the church is to build each other up, encourage one another, take care of each other, and to care for one another. Simply put: we're supposed to be one in Christ. But when you have a pastor -- a leader -- being an asshole (Yes. That's EXACTLY what he is...), that destroys the purpose of the fellowship from the top down.

I think that's why this has all been so difficult for me. The fact is, I take my relationships seriously and I'm reluctant to break away from them while trying to build new ones. But, I guess that this is only way to do it. I just can't stay there any longer.

Thanks for your comments.

@ my Green-eyed queen: I really appreciate your optimisitic outlook on things. It reminds me that not every person on the planet is obtuse,

One of the problems is that as long as the church (small C) is governed by people, there will be room for sin and evil to find its way past the foyer. Whoever said to "Leave the Devil at the door" was an idiot. Sometimes the Devil is sitting right in the congregation. If he gets bored there, he'll sit next to the deacons. Before long, he'll sit in the choir. It's only a matter of time that he'll find his way into the pulpit.

Nevertheless, there is always some good to take out of bad and difficult situations...even if the 'good' is within us.

Thanks, as always for your comments and your emails.

green eyed girl on planet earth said...

Andre~ My Greeneyed Handsome man :}

I like the addition of queen :0)

Thank you , and your words once again are well put together . I wish you peace Andre~ and a place of worship that can lighten your load and not darken your day .may God Bless and lead you to him always .

Thank you for the kind words in your email , it brings it ear to ear :0) Happy thoughts your way ;-}

Greeneyes

"the one" said...

I understand why you're leaving, believeeeeee me and I can't say that I blame you. Our church is in need of serious help. I hope the pastor realizes his faults before the congregation consists of just five people. Much prayer and supplication is needed.
Well, it's going to suck that I won't be able to move to your beats (smile), but I'll get over it...sniff...sniff

Andre said...

@ Greeny: I'm starting to think that the best place for me to worship is right there in front of my TV. :0

Just kidding. Sort of.

Thanks, yet again, for blessing me!

@ "The One": If anybody's good at getting over me, it's you. Don't think I don't know who you are...

Later, Bri...

"the one" said...

What are you talking about....who's Bri :)

ajbendaña said...

I dont know what to say to you that someone has not covered on the comments posted. But i kind of had a feeling you were oneday gona do that. Call me crazy but i was going over a couple of your posts cause i was looking for one that i wanted to reread and i came across a few that led me to think that the action you took was inevitable.
They were
1)Dealing with shame
2)Integration of church and state
3)burning questions
4)Spiritual intersection---this one was the one that really caught my eye.

I have gone through this before aswell. not the same circumstance but i too left my church (catholic) and for a moment i was in limbo about what i believed in. Then came a feeling, sign, heart felt guidance to just experess my spirituality in my own way. I am sure god will show you the what you seek.

Robin said...

I like JD! Brilliant.

Dude, I'm glad that your decision was thought-provoked, and rid from emotion (i.e. anger or bitterness).
Do what's best for you and your spiritual salvation.