One of my closest friends left his beloved home church recently. He started describing what he’s been going through and I asked if he would be willing to share his story here because I think it might resonate with some of you.
This post contains strong language. Breaking up with your church hurts, and I have chosen to leave it in.
Someone from church called me.
I want to call back.
Because I respect this person.
But I don’t want to have to tell him how I feel.
I don’t want them to know how badly they’ve hurt me – because we all make mistakes and I am sorry for mine.
Because if I did, here’s what I would say:
I love you, but there are people on my friends list from church who are lucky to still be in my news feed.
I love you, but your leadership has pushed me away.
I love you, but I am forever damaged.
I love you, but I don’t feel loved, not really. Not for who I really am.
I love you even though now I know how things really are to you.
Now I know how gay Christians feel.
Now I know how divorced people feel.
Now I know how Muslims feel.
Now I know how Jesus feels.
And I would stop to ask you, how do you feel? How can I help?
I am broken. I can’t piece myself back together.
How many people are afraid to go back to church,
because they fear they will be judged and persecuted?
I spent years volunteering my time and talents. I taught children a gospel that I have been told is a lie. A gospel that rights wrongs and is centered around a Father’s love for his children. A gospel that saved my life. To turn away now feels like I am betraying the very work I poured out of my soul. I feel I have betrayed God. But this God that is pointing His finger at me is not the God I know and love.
So many instances in scripture Jesus is asked questions about the ‘state of the church’ or the ‘state of the kingdom.’ His responses indicate to me that it was never about rules. He was actively fulfilling those rules on a daily basis. When the woman at the well asks Jesus where she should go to worship – being an outcast – He doesn’t tell her to go fly a kite. He doesn’t tell her how she has to act. He tells her to come. To worship in Spirit when the day comes.
When God told Hosea to go marry his Wife, he didn’t stop to say that Hosea would have to teach her something. Or that he was put there to help her. SHE WAS FUCKING BROKEN ALREADY, AND SO WAS HE. And yet the Lord tells Hosea that he is to love his Wife as Israel has been loved. The israel that worshiped many other Gods, that ran from their creator and yet he stops and says in Hosea 3:3 “ …Just like the love of the Lord for Israel.”
I’m sorry – WHAT?
You mean we’ve been treating our body like a half-breed bent on destruction, instead of chasing them down endlessly with grace and mercy? What are we doing, Church?
I would like to think that salvation isn’t a complex thing. That being clothed in righteousness under Jesus only has one condition. That maybe, being a Christian, is exactly what it sounds like. I try to imagine a world where anyone who wants to can come home, and I stop myself because I feel like everyone else is too afraid to open that door.
Everyone forgets about the thieves. Jesus gave one condition on the cross for salvation. And if the gospels are true then that man who stole and lied and cheated was with my Savior in paradise, then JESUS IS ENOUGH. The thief didn’t have to meet criteria, or be a part of a select group of people who had proved they were kingdom material. God took Him as he was – a part of sinful, broken humanity. Human.
The gospel has always been about prisoners running from their cells. A way for the orphan and the murderer and the tax collector to unite with their creator. Perhaps it just ‘looks bad’ when Jesus holds the key as they walk right on by, out of jail. Sure, it’s not just get out of jail free card. Someone had to pay – but that’s just it church; Someone did.
When did that change?
What kind of Savior are we really worshipping?
Why are you throwing rocks at people, church?
Since when did Jesus pick up a stone to judge the accused?
Or is that just how we are choosing to interpret grace these days?
The King I grew up learning about and have come to know as Savior bled and died on a cross in agonizing death, so that NO ONE could stand and say that those broken and lost people who have been hurt by us were UNTOUCHABLE. Those people are HIS people too. This is the heart of an advocate.
I left you, not because I stopped loving you, but because you stopped loving me.
I left you not because you wouldn’t go out of your way for me personally, but that you wouldn’t go out of your way for others.
I left you, not because you were flawed, but because you refuse to see that you are.
I left you, not because I stopped loving Jesus, but because my love for Him was the most important thing in my life.
What are you going to do to repair the damage done years from now?
We believe and sing in God’s ability to break our own chains, but we are afraid of what he might be able to do for others. Many have walked through life carrying baggage for decades. We run from gospel, and snub equal salvation opportunity. You never know what someone else is enduring until you take the time to love.
I mourn for those who have been neglected in the church. My heart goes out to those who feel like they don’t belong anymore, or never even made it to the door. God’s condemnation is on sin, not humanity. For there is no condemnation for those of which are in Christ. (Romans 8:1) Furthermore, if not for sin why would Christ die? What good is a resurrection under law?
I stand in solidarity with the wounded, lost, and unaccepted.
I don’t know that I will ever come back, but my faith in My God, and his Son Jesus Christ will always be the most important aspect of my life. Where I am at now is a safe place. Safe in His arms. If this is goodbye, know that i am praying for you. And I pray that you will discover the love of Christ as it has appeared to me.
Since this story is highly personal – and not mine – please be extra-kind and respectful. Comments that smell like they were in contact with judginess will be deleted with extreme prejudice.
David M Schell
I am a doubter and a believer. I have a Master's in Divinity from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, but because faith grows and changes, I don't necessarily stand by everything I've ever written, so if you see something troubling further back, please ask! Read More.
5 thoughts on “Guest Post: A Letter to the Church I Left”
This is beautiful. I could have written something very, very similar. I, too, recently left a beloved church and for likely pretty similar reasons. It hurts. And it’s sad.
Just had a thought while reading this post. When Jesus said, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone,” why didn’t Jesus himself do it? Jesus is without sin, right? Yet he did not cast the first stone at the woman caught in the sin, punishable by death, of adultery. There must be a lesson here…?
David, and David’s friend, thanks for this. Feels like a 12-step meeting.
Friend, you don’t ever have to “come back.” The only thing you owe yourself is making sure you live. Victim, then survivor, then healer (who helps others like you). That seems to be how it happens.
They are also super broken. You know who I mean. It’s why I can’t really hate my mom anymore. I get it. The horrible things happened to me, and they matter, but I see where people were coming from. It doesn’t excuse any actions. It still doesn’t make sense. But they are sick, too.
We are sick, but we know it, so we seek healing. I guess I can try to have grace for those who deny their own healing (ATI, parents, and others). I am not God, and what a fucking relief.
In the survivor community, when you find an inclusive and loving survivor, they are already great friends with you. In the survivor community or church community, when you find a hateful exclusionary sociopath, deny them any part of your soul. For their own sake, and yours. It’s creepy how similar we remain to the abusive environments we left (I mean, sometimes).
“Everyone forgets about the thieves. Jesus gave one condition on the cross for salvation. And if the gospels are true then that man who stole and lied and cheated was with my Savior in paradise, then JESUS IS ENOUGH. The thief didn’t have to meet criteria, or be a part of a select group of people who had proved they were kingdom material. God took Him as he was – a part of sinful, broken humanity. Human.”
And this is the God I want to believe in.
A world where all humanity was equally wealthy, rich beyond imagining but without working. The miracle is not in what Jesus does to you but what he allows you to do to yourself. The true Christian can learn to think for themselves but only Jesus can show them how.
People go to a church not for how it might change their beliefs, but for how their precepts will be reconfirmed. I find very little evidence that churches are really transforming their congregations. Ministers depend on pleasing a particular congregation for their longevity. The last thing they want to do is offend those people or try to transform their viewpoint. It’s conformity all the way.
The life blood of American Christianity is applied hypocrisy. Without the utility of hypocrisy a religion is deader than fried chicken. The main goal of religious memes is emotional manipulation, nothing else is relevant. No matter how ridiculous the claim or expectation ask how a manipulated emotion happens and you will begin to understand why it is useful.
Money is the root of all that is good, it’s an indicator of honesty. Money can indicate if someones labors are being fairly traded for goods and services or if someone is taking advantage. Like how a stripper makes lots of money by exploiting guys, money tells this truth.
Tell me something that’s true, that almost nobody agrees with you on?