I recently received the following email from a reader. I appreciate how this person has shared their struggles and triumphs as they attempt to walk with God. Perhaps you have some words of wisdom or encouragement to share with this “anonymous child of God”, or perhaps you would just like to share your own struggles to find fellowship:
I clicked on your blog link from another website. the verse you have headlining has been one I have been thinking about for a while : And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more, as you see the day drawing near. (Heb. 10:24-25 NASB)
Nearly 4 years ago our church – for lack of better words – Blew Up.
In a lot of drama, gossip, rumors, judgement and criticism people became scattered and went their separate ways injured and wounded. There were little “them and us” groups that formed..the mud slinging continued, and people that once claimed to be “family” and love one another became enemies.
Some were just caught in the middle not knowing which end was up. (I think those are the ones my heart aches most for)
The history in a nutshell is that this church was a new church plant about 4 years old. It came into a new area, started in a school gym, the growth exploded, we found a building, and worked very hard trying to get new people in by having lots of events. The church grew quickly and many of the leaders were very new believers. The pastor was working in many ways out of his flesh, though he had a sincere love for the people and for God, in his leadership role, there were times he wounded some. Those he wounded realized that he was not deserving of the pedestal they had placed him on and vowed to destroy him and his family.
As this drama unfolded for the next several years my family had been shunned by many of the people. (you see, the pastor was a family member) So, I can only think that we must in their eyes be guilty by association of the wrong doings they have accused him of.
My best friends walked away from me. People that we used to fellowship with turn from us when we run into them. As a matter of fact, I just ran into a woman last night in the grocery store, when I spoke up and said Hello, she looked up, her face became twisted, she struggled to murmur a quick hello and then looked away…and this is 4 years later…
My whole life I have gone to church on Sunday morning. Though now I realize that it was because that is what I thought I was “supposed to do”.
We have visited a few churches. But nothing feels right. And the thing is, that through this past 4 years, God has been bringing me into a new understanding of his Grace and Mercy. So when I walk into these places and hear legalism be preached, or hear that in my son’s Sunday school class the teacher told him to make sure and bring a dollar next week for the offering…it just turns me off. Not to mention, there is a bit of a fear of people in general after what we have experienced.
My kids ask why we don’t go to church. We have done some “home church” stuff, just here with the kids. But haven’t been consistent. My husband and I have read some books: “The Rest of the Gospel” by Dan Stone, and “Lifetime Guarantee” by Bill Gillam. We both attended a healing retreat that God really met us in. And we have several internet sites that support our growing in grace. And as it applies to our life, we share these understandings with our kids.
But the question for me now is what does not forsaking our own assembling together, mean to me? I do not want to go back to my old ways of thinking and go to a church just because I think we should. But I also feel that we are in this bubble of limited fellowship.
Recently I have been thinking a lot about this passage and what it might mean to me:
Jer 3:13 Only acknowledge your guilt. Admit that you rebelled against the LORD your God and committed adultery against him by worshiping idols under every green tree. Confess that you refused to follow me. I, the LORD, have spoken!
Jer 3:14 “Return home, you wayward children,” says the LORD, “for I am your husband. I will bring you again to the land of Israel–one from here and two from there, from wherever you are scattered.
Jer 3:15 And I will give you leaders after my own heart, who will guide you with knowledge and understanding.”
Jer 3:16 “And when your land is once more filled with people,” says the LORD, “you will no longer wish for ‘the good old days’ when you possessed the Ark of the LORD’s covenant. Those days will not be missed or even thought about, and there will be no need to rebuild the Ark.
I apologize for this lengthy email. And I am not even sure of my exact purpose for writing to you. But after looking at some of your writings, I thought you might be able to understand our situation and if the Lord leads you, to offer encouragement in Him. Let me also quickly mention that though this past 4 years have been painful and ugly on days, I wouldn’t trade it for the understanding I have gained of who I am in Christ and what His Grace and Mercy means to my life.
Thanks for your time,
(anonymous child of God)