My thanks to those who answered my rather vaguely worded question. I wasn’t ready to get into the details, because I knew the tears would flow, and they are the kind of tears that scorch and burn more of the old self away, necessary but painful. (Forgive me if this gets long and rambling. I’m still working my way through.)

Many of you have read about my church. On the surface it’s everything I believe a church should be. The Bible is taught there. It’s diverse. It reaches out to the community to make it a better place. It reaches out to make the lives of those suffering easier. Souls are added to God’s kingdom. It’s growing. There is love. It’s easy to sit back and think, “This is wonderful!” It really is everything I’ve ever wanted in a church, almost…

Back in November, my dear friend David called me “one of the wisest and most loving women I’ve met on the ‘net,” He will never know how much those words meant or how much strength I gained from them. He also gave me some of the best advice ever, “believe in your calling, and strive for it.” That’s been tough to do for the past 18 months. Maybe I should give a little background, so it will all make sense.

Our church is the result of a very painful split. Grace had the sweetest spirit anyone could want in their first church, and as I do with most things I jumped head-first into service. I sang for the first time in front of people who weren’t related, taught Sunday school, and lead Children’s Church. Unfortunately, the Pastor fell into sin, (something none of us knew at the time) and it destroyed the church. I stayed at Grace for a while and continued to serve, but it became more and more obvious the church was dying and no one cared.

Many, including our best friends, left with the old Pastor, and started Faith less than two miles up the road. He abandoned them a week later. My husband and I visited our best friends, one Sunday morning, after they’d found a new Pastor. They asked me to lead the song service, and I jumped on the opportunity to serve and never looked back. It was great. Women were respected for more than their ability to cook and clean, and were encouraged to be active in the church. We even said opening and closing prayers. (which took some getting use to) About nine months after I joined, we had to ask the Pastor to leave, because he started using the pulpit to serve his own rather ungodly agenda. It was, once again ugly and painful, and we lost several good families.

I was pressed into service as the acting preacher, until we could find a Pastor. It wasn’t something I wanted to do. As a matter-of-fact I cried, told God I couldn’t do it and wouldn’t do it, and finally, I agreed to do “devotions” but refused to stand in the pulpit. They needed more though, and before long I was teaching Sunday School and leading three services a week, with the help of one of our other ladies. Of course, by then I was also preaching from the pulpit. God had to take the long way around to overcome my chains, but I was finally free to answer His call.

It took six months to find our current Pastor. I must admit to having reservations from the start, because he didn’t seem to have the same vision for our church that we did, but everyone else was so happy and liked him so much that I shut my mouth and went along. (I also needed the time to get my education and get ordained, which was difficult to do while filling in.) I handed the reins over to him and stepped completely back. The only job I continued to do was as song leader, and later the food pantry. But the Pastor and I are forever bumping heads.

I have always supported him in whatever he wanted to do, given up any job he wanted someone else to do, and done whatever he asked of me. But I do hold him accountable, and am not afraid to call him on it when he’s wrong. He has taken iron fisted control of the church, and the congregation has allowed it. At this point he, his son, and his wife do every job in the church except play piano, and I believe if one of them could they would be doing that too. From the pulpit he makes it clear that he believes no one else reads their Bible, prays, or talks to anyone about God, like his family does. He also knows I’ve been called to preach, and he can’t let it go.

For 18 months every move I’ve made has been suspect, any short coming has been pounced on, I’ve been run down from the pulpit and called an abomination, and generally been made to feel about as welcome as beer at a baptism. I’ve tolerated it, because I was taught that when a church is in the wrong it won’t grow, then I look around at all the prosperity preaching mega churches and want to kick my own tail for buying into that one. But it’s also because my husband was so happy, and was even getting into children’s ministry. Now, he’s been hurt, and I could have prevented it by speaking up a long time ago.

That is the reason for my question. “Is it possible to be tempted into not living out God’s will for one’s life by being given nearly everything one has ever wanted in a good, godly church?”  The answer seems to be a resounding yes. The Reverend Sawyer shed some light on my stumbling block by pointing out that, the church is suppose to be a reflection of God, and “The better the reflection, the more likely it is that we mistake it for the real thing.” God’s love is absolutely reflected at Faith, and it can be tempting to serve the church rather than God. Angela reinforced my conviction with the opinion that, “Anything can be used by Satan to shift our focus away from God.”  David also warned me of something I never would have thought of on my own. “I think a lot of people congratulate themselves far too much for avoiding things they’re never really tempted by, while completely failing to see the things that do push them toward laziness and unconscious living.” That’s a trap I’d rather not fall into.

We’re leaving Faith, not because we’re angry. Heck, I can’t even work up a good mad over it. We both just feel very sad. I don’t know yet where we’re going, but it will be somewhere that supports women in ministry, and where my husband can serve. He already has an idea of where that might be, and we’ll visit and check it out. After all, I may be the preacher, but he is still the spiritual head of this house.

So there’s my loooong, sad tale, and all the “I”s are out of my system. It’s time to find out what He has in mind. Prayers are requested and appreciated.

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