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Posts Tagged ‘sunday school’

Recently my wife and I were talking about some of our past church experiences. We also talked about some of our friends and some of the articles we have read online and the experiences others have had in the organized church.

We talked about how it seems many people mentioned being hurt or abused in the system. It is so sad that this happens in an organization that is supposed to represent the love of God. Yet many times people are abused and hurt and taken advantage of in the church.

church attendance

For myself and my wife our experience was pretty basic. We grew up attending a traditional denominational church every Sunday thinking that was the way God intended. We went to Sunday School and Junior church when we were young, then to regular service as we got older. We had friends we looked forward to seeing and we attended activities outside the Sunday morning service.

Through all the years we were involved neither of us were ever abused or hurt. We know things were not perfect yet there was never a reason for us to leave the church due to someone treating us bad or some event happening that made us mad.

That is why at this point in our lives we feel our choice to leave the organized church two years ago was because the Spirit has guided us along this path. We have come to feel the organized church is not what God intended when he said he would build his Church.

We were not chased away, we did not get hurt, abused or feel the need to get away. We were not over worked in the system or told to leave for any reason.

We came to a point where we were so unsatisfied with the same planned out service every week. We were seeing so much division within Christianity with all the denominations and interpretations. We saw judgment and condemnation placed on people rather than love and acceptance.

We know that christians are to be known for their love for one another, yet we saw so much arguing, fighting and disagreeing.

We read that when you come together each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up. Yet each week one person got up and did all the talking while all the rest of us sat quietly looking at the back of the head of the person in front of us.

We read that we are now the temple of the Holy Spirit who lives within us, so why did people call a building the house of God? The Spirit was given on the day of Pentecost when the Spirit fell upon those gathered together. So why do people tell us to come to church because God was going to show up and the Spirit was going to fall upon the place.

We finally came to the conclusion that the organized church, even though many good things happen there and there are many people there who truly love God, was not what God intended.

people are the church

God now lives within us. The Holy Spirit has come upon us and we are his temple. We go about each and every day with the Spirit of God within us and we do not have to wait for a specific day in a specific building with one person doing all the talking.

Church is a people who show the love of God to all people, all nationalities, all faiths, all religions, atheists, gay, straight, black, white and any other label we can think of to put on people.

Church is us. It is a community of people living in the love and power of the Spirit serving one another and encouraging one another.

In the eyes of God there is no denominations, no buildings, no office of spiritual leader, there is neither jew nor gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

No, we were not hurt or abused. We were not upset or mad at the pastor or anyone in the church system. We just came to the conclusion that there is a better way. God is building his Church and it is us, not a building or an organization. It is a living organism made up of his people with the Spirit living within them.

We decided that going to a building once a week was no longer for us. The idea of separating ourselves from other denominations and from those who do not attend a church or those who do not accept God was not the way we wanted to continue.

Living each day as part of the body of Christ with the Spirit leading and teaching us, accepting all people and letting the love of God flow out to others makes more sense to us rather than sitting in a building with like-minded people and then going our separate ways until the next week.

We certainly do not tell others to do as we do. Each of us has to follow the leading of the Spirit and do what we feel is right. There are many people within the organized church who love God and seek to do what is right. Yet for us we are happy to be outside the walls of religion living each and every day as equally functioning parts of the body with Jesus as the head.

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As a young adult I continued on with the weekly attendance at the same local church, although the particular place would be changing over time.

At my ‘home’ church my parents were always active and well known. My dad was Sunday school superintendent and Lay leader. My mom helped in Junior church, Vacation bible school and worked in the office on Sunday. As a young adult I have to say I enjoyed the popularity of being known by about everyone in the congregation. I even had my own key to the church building so I could go in anytime I wanted and pray or play the piano or just talk with a friend or two.

churchkey

I think it was around this stage that things began to change for me. I began having questions about things I was reading in the bible but I knew that it was best to keep these questions to myself. I figured there were logical explanations that I would figure out as time went by, or it was a matter of not completely understanding the bible yet I knew they were not questions I should bring up openly or people would begin to question my faith.

A friend of mine invited me to his church for a special service. After the service he introduced me to his pastor and we talked a little bit. The pastor was very friendly and seemed interested in having me there. He kept talking about getting together with me to play checkers and talk a bit, but when I told him I had a home church he all of a sudden lost interest, thanked me for coming and took off to talk to someone else.

After twenty years or so in my home church I felt it was time to move on. I thought I had come to a point where I was not learning or growing and a new church would be the answer. Little did I know that this was just the beginning of a long drawn out process of eventually leaving the system.

As I began to venture out and look at other churches I first went to a church of the same denomination, thinking new people and a different pastor was what I needed. It did not take long to realize I was not satisfied anymore than I was at my previous church. So off I went looking to a different denomination to try out.

A friend of mine at work suggested visiting his church because it was friendly and exciting and had a pastor that preached the ‘full gospel’. I thought I would give it a try and after a couple visits thought I had found the most spiritual people in town. I also found a woman there who later became my wife. It was a non-denominational church and openly participated in the gifts of the Holy Spirit. I was on cloud nine for a while thinking I had found what I was looking for, a place where the Spirit was falling on the congregation and God would show up for each service.

It took ten years but as I got to know people on a more personal level I found out they were not as spiritual as I had first thought. It turned out that many of them only used different spiritual words and terms but were no different than any other christian I knew. The church service, although more lively and exciting was still pretty much the same format and way of doing things.

So what did I do? Yep, my wife and I headed off for another church. This time we landed at a different style church than I had never been in before….a mega-church. Wow, talk about exciting. They had a full band and the service was televised so there were lights, sound systems and performers in make-up. Again I thought I had found the most spiritual people I had ever known.

megachurch

After about three years it all kind of lost its excitement. I again noticed the same underlying system was in place. It was a little different in the fact that the pastor, if seen anytime off stage was escorted by body guards. When I wanted to walk around the large church complex and take a look at things ushers stopped me and told me I was not allowed in that particular area. Now to someone who used to have a key to the church building this was a big blow. I just could not get used to the tight security and the TV professionalism the pastor and musicians carried out each week.

About this time my marriage of thirteen years fell apart. Things just did not work out and we went our separate ways. It was a blow to me because I was always taught in church how much God hated divorce. I had seen many pastors and church workers in the past be told they could no longer participate in leadership roles at church due to being divorced. So I ended up dropping out of church due to guilt. I figured I would no longer be accepted there and actually thought God might be mad at me. This went on for about three years.

Now the best thing for me happened when I met my current wife. Yes, we ended up getting married even though I was taught divorce was wrong but remarriage was even worse. We both felt very much in love and believed that the love we felt could not be wrong and we believed God brought us together to live a happy life for him. I also felt good when we agreed we needed to get back in church. Fortunately things began to change when we found our new church.

This time we ended up back at a denominational church but much smaller and more like the church I grew up in. The pastor was different. He seemed to have an enthusiasm and preached with excitement that neither of us had seen before. It was a friendly church, yet as time went on we realized it was a church that was pretty much run by two different families. As we got to know the pastor more we found that he was frustrated from the pressure put on him by these families who wanted things done their way. We also found out that the pastor recently had an encounter with the Holy Spirit and he was preaching with new power and enthusiasm, something we really enjoyed but this particular denominational church wanted nothing to do with it. The pastor was a great help to my wife and I telling us about grace, forgiveness and the love of God like we had never heard before.

Unfortunately this did not last but for a few years. The pastor moved out of state and the church kind of fell apart. So again, off we went looking for something else. What we found next was the beginning of the end of our time in the organization. This will be talked about in the next article.

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I think I have been involved in church for nearly 60 years. I know my parents took me to church the first Sunday I was home from the hospital and ready to be out.

I have so many good memories over the years of growing up in church. When I say church I am talking about the building, the organization, the traditional religious system that we all think of when we say church.

I remember all the usual parts of church like going to Sunday school, Vacation Bible school, Children’s church, Junior church and Youth group. I liked going to these activities and I never asked to stay home or miss them. Actually I was disappointed if I was sick and could not go.

cookies

In the first church I was part of I remember during Sunday school the main thing I was taught (at least in my eyes) was how to eat a cooking with my finger through the hole in the middle. I do not think my parents were to happy with that and it was not long afterward that my parents moved to another church where I stayed for another 20 years.

There we were taught all the traditional bible stories and were rewarded with pins for good attendance. I enjoyed learning and was presented a bible for doing so well with quizzes and attendance. I enjoyed meeting new kids my age and getting to know them although it took a long time to do since I only saw them for an hour one day each week.

I was always part of Vacation bible school each summer. My mom helped as an assistant or a teacher and I enjoyed hearing the bible stories and making crafts. I remember at the age of ten I accepted Christ at Vacation bible school. I can remember listening to a nice older lady talk about how God loved us and sent his son to die for us. I remember raising my hand when she asked if anyone wanted to accept Christ as savior, then I walked up front and was led in a prayer. Even at the age of ten I realized that just because my parents were Christians I needed to make a decision for myself. It was the best decision I ever made.

As the years went by I moved up to the Youth Group and the various activities young teenagers get to do. I can remember one time I was on the phone with our Youth Leader for well over an hour as he tried to talk me into going on a youth camping trip that I wanted nothing to do with. He was sure he was going to talk me into going but in the end, I won out and did not go. I wondered why he spent so much time trying to convince me to go when he could have talked with three or four other kids who may have really enjoyed it.

Of course as a teenager we would always find the best seat in the Sunday morning worship service, which was the back row. I think the pastor was just happy we were even in the service at all. I also was on the church basketball team and met more new people. I thought it a little weird that many of the kids on the church team were hot-tempered and foul mouthed. I knew that most were not regular church attendees and they only came to church during basketball season. I also knew they were required to be at church as often as possible if they wanted to play. Once basketball was over I never saw them again until the next season.

piano

Once people found out I could play the drums and the piano they quickly enlisted me to play for special services and the children’s church. I did not want to do it since I was extremely nervous about being in front of people, but I felt I would be wrong to turn down using my ‘talents’ for the Lord.

Once I said yes to something the ball really started rolling. Next I was helping with Junior church, going on youth conference trips out of state, doing visitation with the pastor and then added to the Administrative Board. Wow, that was an eye opener.

I had always had a high regard for the church board members who were the ‘backbone’ of the church. I thought what spiritual people they must be to be entrusted with the plans and happenings of the church.

It did not take long to see that what went on in the monthly meeting was certainly not very spiritual. I had never seen so much arguing and disagreement in my life up to that point. Needless to say I did not stay part of the board very long. I decided to leave that to the much older and wiser people (who knew how to argue much better than I).

Well, so much for the early years of my church attendance. It was pretty typical and non-eventful, but I really enjoyed the experiences. I learned a lot and met many people who I enjoyed being around, although most of them I never saw outside of the church building or church planned events. This pretty much brings us up to my church history as a young adult which will be discussed in the next article. Can any of you relate to similar experiences?

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