I’ve kept a pretty good play by play here on this blog since I was saved by Christ, and give full credit for Him to the freedom from fear and anxiety throughout this Covid ordeal including the political and societal chaos which has consumed so many.
In this time, I’ve continued to pray, to explore scripture, and to regularly attend church services online. The thing is though, the more I’ve attended (including listening to back podcasts from GCC) the more distant I’ve felt from the community at large.
I still regularly chat and pray with other folks who attend the church, but the messages just aren’t reaching me like they used to. I feel the Lord has opened my eyes to the existence of other options out there, and now I feel He’s leading me to explore those options.
Prior to Covid, my church had the opportunity to expand to a new location at West Point. The excitement was palpable… but so was an unrepentant call for donation. Every message, every week, every email – please give to this effort. This was above and beyond the usual request.
It was relentless. I didn’t feel this was God asking me to tithe or contribute, I felt like these were men telling me to contribute. Men of God, sure, but flashbacks of the plate being passed at my old Catholic Church were prevalent, only this time the plate stopped until I gave.
The “mega door” as it was described in every message was overwhelming. I prayed on it, and I donated to it, but something about the approach just felt wrong to me. Orange envelopes sat in the back-seat pockets in front of each bible, as a bright reminder to give to this mission. It felt disingenuous, and it made me cynical.
I mentioned earlier that I’d been going through past podcasts from my church, and several series again covered the topic of tithing. Each message made me wince. I have zero problem giving to the church, I know how GCC helped bring me and others to Christ, but more than GCC, it was the people there.
Then my Pastor was cryptically and unceremoniously walked out the door.
It was a blow I didn’t expect. I saw many respond in anger and confusion. I was confused. I prayed, and struggled to accept this action as one of God. It just didn’t make sense to me. This is the man who helped guide me to Christ. This is the man who really made me understand the importance of prayer, being guided by scripture, and setting aside time each day for Jesus.
Back to the podcasts. Now the one in particular which I was listening to the lead pastor stated that if I ever felt pressured to give, I shouldn’t. 10 years later – on the topic of that “mega door” the pressure to give was relentless. The dichotomy was undeniable and clear.
Then I went back through other messages, where the church would regularly interview or mention the stories of folks who had been saved, and the last words would be “Welcome to Grace Community Church” or “that is Grace Community Church.”
That wasn’t the church, it was Jesus through the church, and maybe it’s just me – but I feel like the church itself is treading its own path…not necessarily His path. That’s why I could never really attach to the Catholic church… and I think it’s why I’m feeling so detached from this one.
I’m sure that not being able to gather in number, in person, to worship is part of this… But I also believe that the message and the mission has also diverged, and once again I’m seeking another place to worship, to continue my own journey and spiritual growth.
A couple weeks ago, I witnessed a very passionate message from the pastor of a California church. For over an hour I sat completely focused as scripture was quoted, parables were recited, current events were addressed without filter…
For the first time since the “mega door” messages… For the first time since my Pastor was fired… For the first time since I was able to gather with believers… I was listening, I was learning, I was convicted. It felt like Jesus was in the room again. I did not feel alone.
Lastly, I still watch the messages each Sunday, I still meet with others online, and I still listen to the old podcasts… But like another pastor I’ve been following online proclaimed … It’s time to open the church again. I can go to a bar, I can go to Walmart., but I can’t go to church?
Open the doors again. Embrace faith. Embrace Jesus. I am not sure where I am headed, but I pray that the Lord keep my path straight and grant me the wisdom to know when to listen, when to speak, and when to walk.
In Jesus name, amen.