I think it was Bill Hybels who said that the church "is the hope of the world." I believe this. In talking about my negative experiences, I certainly don't want to give someone another reason not to go. Go! Choose church! Just go find a healthy one. There is no perfect one, but there are healthy ones. First, find one that sticks to the Bible and teaches it's truths. Then, make sure it's a place where loving people and loving God are priority.
I have a passion for church. I have sometimes dreamt about being in full-time ministry. What I bring to the table on this blog, are my experiences with burnout and the subsequent leaving a church. I express my thoughts about the things I think need improvement in organized churches today. I don't think it's a bad thing to expose these things to the light. And, I certainly am not attacking the church. In fact, I have a righteous anger in defense of the church. I want to see the church being everything it should be!! If the church is to remain the "hope of the world," it's leaders need to be healthy if their church is going to be. The only way to change things and improve, is to expose the darkness to the light. Cover-ups and image management is not the way. Being more controlling is not the way. Exposure and surrender is.
We churchgoers and leaders need to be absolutely tenacious in fighting for the health of our churches!! All churches should be places of love and life, yet there are countless stories of the life being literally sucked right out of people. This is wrong!
What I went through was something that took me totally by surprise, especially since I have been a churchgoer my entire life! I thought about throwing in the towel on organized church. But, I didn't. I love God, and I know He wants me to be there. And, praise the Lord - I did find a healthy church. It ain't perfect, because people ain't perfect, but I have found love as well as a culture of transparency. The leaders are open about their failures and weaknesses, which promotes a sense of safety, that helps others to be open about theirs. When mistakes are made, they are exposed without shame, instead of covered up. The person is dealt with with honesty and respect. While their wrong choice is not accepted, the person is encircled by support, friendship and unconditional love. People are given grace in their imperfection, and afforded the opportunity to change. My church is also a place of celebration - celebrating who God is together. It is so fun to worship the Lord with other believers - it's like a weekly party! I also find encouragment every week to continue walking my walk with the Lord. It's tough to be a Christian today, so gathering with other believers is a major encouragement to me. My church teaches the Bible, and oh, how I love the Word. Coming to church and hearing the Truth with other believers gives me confidence in my beliefs and way of life. At church, I am challenged, uplifted, convicted and enriched. Church can be an awesome place....
If you're discouraged because of a negative church experience, don't give up. Find out what a healthy church is, and look for one with a style that fits you! Choose church!