Me, my husband and kids don't attend a church building presently or faithfully.
We left the church we consistently attended and served in for eight straight years back in November, 2006, four and a half years ago. Why? Well, I could give you a hundred reasons why. And it had nothing to do with the church being simply "imperfect", because, well, there is no perfect church you know. Or so I have been told a million times by various persons. I don't feel like writing a list today and I don't think I need to either. The Holy Spirit is good enough to show each believer what he needs to know and the Spirit will truly guide each true believer in the path He would have them go in. For real.
If you are looking for a perfect church, you won't find one. And I agree wholeheartedly. If you are looking for a perfect friend, mother or wife you won't find one here. *finger pointing to chest*
When we left the church we attended for eight straight years we immediately began to search for another church to "join". First we started with the Baptist churches. All sorts. There was an immediate pressure from those churches to join "their" church. You're like fresh blood to them, or it feels that way. They weren't all that particular way, but there was more of the same patterns in these places that we had experienced in the past that we felt weren't good.
We decided to try some Reformed and Presbyterian churches. One of those churches was actually the first church I had seen close to what I would consider a true New Testament church, full of love and grace and community. Then we found out that the music minister played in a bar on the weekends. I look back now and that wouldn't have bothered me as much as some other things would...that wasn't the clincher for us, but rather when we went to a business meeting at the church where they were discussing a 12,000 buck church sign. It was such a small church, I didn't see why on earth they needed a 12,000 dollar sign and they also wanted to start other ministries that were going to cost a fortune, all money they didn't seem to have. My husband and I raised questions as to why they needed to find or spend money they didn't have. Instead of listening to us, they laughed at us and mocked us. Seriously. If someone can't even raise a question without being made fun of by those "in charge", then something is more than wrong. At least, that is what I thought. We were going to the church for two months or more and did want to be faithful there. It was hard to go back after that. Maybe those were really small things, I don't know. I was still caught up in much of my own religion at the time so my thought process, I believe, was still tainted by self-righteousness, unfortunately.
We visited another Reformed type church and the service was stark, cold and lifeless, but the exposition of the bible was excellent. Despite the amazing sermons, the people seemed as if they didn't believe what the preacher was saying. A very sober and serious setting and maybe that was good. Something that struck me odd is when the service was over the men and women split up to talk. I didn't know if talking in mixed groups was bad or what. I guess that was a small thing, too, I suppose. We had warnings from others who attended for many, many years. One of my friends who formerly attended mentioned that she was told that her down syndrome children would go to hell if they were not one of the "chosen".
I'm sorry, folks, I do not believe that even one sweet, down syndrome child is going to hell. No, not one.
Then we began meeting many people in the Charismatic community and found some of the most loving and kind Christians we have ever met among them. Some are still my closest friends in the world today. We also started going to meetings in homes and having meetings in our home. Those were such wonderful times, but in those settings you really got to know people on multiple levels. There were many troubling conflicts. Nothing that couldn't have been worked out, but when others refuse to work things out or they shut you out, there is not much you can do besides pray and make every attempt you can to restore the relationship. So, all in all, in the business of home church we were burned, but that is okay. Our home is a place of fellowship for any and all persons, Christians or not, still to this day despite the difficulties we have faced. And what is the body of Christ?...we should be the most loving and forgiving persons in the world. I wish we were. I wish I was more.
We began to attend a somewhat Charismatic church on and off for the past year and a half. The music rang out loudly and almost hurt your ears and some would speak in tongues, some would dance for joy. That part was okay to a point, but there was something quite different in my book about them. When you showed up...they would coming running to talk to you, not out of an awkward obligation, but because they saw you. You were a person to them and they were people to me. They really care and are so diverse and holding up well in the red light district of town. One of my first times visiting I had a casual talk with the Pastor. I asked him what were his plans for lunch or something and he mentioned he was headed over to a house next door to the church to attend a birthday party of a boy that lived there. He knew these people in the church neighborhood and well it seemed. That impressed me. The people there impress me. Brian and I differ about the church. He likes the church but doesn't like the Charismatic flavor. I don't mind it as much...I saw something real there at that church and I still see it in my friends who I see regularly outside this building.
From piecing all the conversations I have had with the people at this particular church over time, I see what is so real and different there. And it is the fact that they know who they were and they know who they are now. They actually know they are imperfect. It's one thing to understand that all churches are imperfect and it's quite another when a church actually admits that themselves and actually realizes and actually knows they are just that...imperfect. Admittance of that fact, to me, makes all the difference.
Religious and self-righteous arrogance can kill any church and it can kill you. I have seen it happen again and again. I have seen my sick need for control in my own religious, self-righteous state rear its ugly head plenty of times. People, all sorts of people. who have any sense will run away from you. They ran away from me and I don't blame them.
Today I am at a place of fully knowing and comprehending my need for the real Jesus to flood my soul with mercy, love, grace and forgiveness.
I am a true, free believer in Jesus Christ. I am the church.
And most importantly, I am totally imperfect and I know it.