For me (US really – because it included my wife and also my children to some extent), we were happy in our small Independent Baptist church that we had been attending since 1991. It was the only church our children knew. All of our close relationships were grounded in this assembly. All of THEIR friends were there.
I had a Spiritual awakening in 1997, and soon became very involved in the ministry at that church. They were excited and encouraged to see me finally come alive. Previously, I would just attend the service and would not speak to anyone. I don’t know why I was awakened then, but immediately started to work in doing SOMETHING as I was told that I SHOULD do and I was eager to since I believed these people knew the correct way. I want to say that at this time, we were a spirit led church and God was blessing us with closeness in fellowship and (I know this is an external) growth.
Over the next year or so, I became a Deacon and, gradually, our work load increased. My wife is one of the hardest workers I know. Understand, we were never asked how we were doing as a family, or if there is too much work put upon us. Not only that, we were told, from the pulpit, that we could never do enough to pay back what Jesus had done for us. Therefore, we always felt like we had to do even more in order to maintain our right standing before God. It was not as much expressed, as implied.
We were considered FAITHFUL because we were at every service –and I mean EVERY service. Sunday’s became so stressful for us, that we came to dread them. This was a typical Sunday: arrive at church at 9:15 since we both taught Sunday School, go to choir room to practice before the service, service ends at 12:15ish, lunch, home at 2 (if we were lucky), back at church at 4:30 for choir practice, service at 6, service ends at 7:15ish. If it was my month to count the offering and lock-up the building, then I would not leave until 8 or 8:30. And THAT was a TYPICAL Sunday. If there was a special event, then it was squeezed into the middle of the day somehow.
Wednesday’s, we were there at 6:55 (since, of course, we taught AWANA) and didn’t get home until after 9. We did all of this for YEARS! And keep in mind, there were Mission’s Conferences, and revivals also.
At some point, we began to say to ourselves that something was wrong. Christianity was not supposed to be this way. Where was the Life that Jesus promised – and not JUST Life, but ABUNDANT Life? Where was Jesus easy yoke? The light burden? I looked around and all I saw were people just like us. Empty eyes, hungry souls, tired spirits. But we soldiered on as we were told. “Finish the race”.
At first, we thought it was us. Then, slowly – over the course of a few years, we began to realize it was the fact that we were exhausted – spiritually, emotionally, and even physically.
The beginning of the end for me there was a few years ago. I had led a group of wonderful people through Henry Blackaby’s “Experiencing God”. It was life-changing. Our small group of 10 people grew in the Lord so much, it affected the entire church. People could see a change in us and recognized the quickening of our spirits.
Since this was a Sunday School class, and also since it was a limited study, when we finished, a few of the people had to get back into their classes since other people had to step in for this short time.
I went to the pastor, and asked (the whole group WANTED to continue) about doing another study Sunday evenings DURING church. He thought a minute and said, “No, I don’t think so. It would take too many people out of the service.”
At that point I knew that the TRADITION was more important than the spiritual condition of the people there. I guess at that time, the door closed in my heart for the affection of the ministry at that church. BUT, we hung on saying that we loved the people too much to leave. So we stumbled on for a couple of more years – all the while growing deader and deader spiritually. We became wearier and wearier.
Finally, in June of ’08, I told my wife I was ready to start looking for another church. We did not know it was going to change our lives so radically.
I won’t go into the details of the exit, but let me just say it was not pretty. We lost A LOT of friends – people who we thought really loved us. It was then that I learned about conditional love. For some there, THEIR love was conditional to where we fellowshipped. If we didn’t fellowship with them, then we were disloyal and deserved their scorn. It has been, and continues to be, heartbreaking. I probably think about it every day.
BUT, God is good. The next week after we left, we visited another Independent Baptist church in the area. That Thursday, two wonderful men visited us, and we talked for about 2 hours. One of them, in passing, mentioned the book “Grace Walk” that he had really enjoyed. I don’t know what peaked my interest about it, but I went to the bookstore the next day and bought it.
That was on a Friday – I finished it on Sunday. I couldn’t put it down. It answered questions that my heart had been straining to get an answer to.
My life will never be the same. NEVER again will I be under bondage to a system or a single man’s teaching. I believe that God wants us to seek Him out for ourselves. He knows the outcome, but enjoys our reaction to revelation, nonetheless. He enjoys OUR journey.
Peace and blessings to all
This is part of a synchroblog started by brother Joel. Here is his link.
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