I had a bad experience when it comes to church. (WAIT?!? I’m not allowed to say that, am I?) OK, well I’m saying it anyways. Me. Yes, I had a negative experience. A REALLY negative experience. It’s simply the truth.
I also know it to be true that I am only one of MANY who have also had a bad experience with a local church body. I have ran into many awesome people who have frankly stated that the reason they have chosen not to be a part of a local church, or the reason they walked away from church was due to a bad experience. They were burned. They were betrayed. They felt situations were handled poorly. They were humiliated by people who were supposed to be their church family.
Ultimately, they decided they were done. DONE with this whole church thing. I mean, who needs it anyways?
The truth is there was a moment in time that I myself though this. Why even go? Why even be a part? Why chance another “bad” experience.
And, because I am a Bible college graduate I can give you the “correct” answers to those questions. Of course, I know that God brought about the church. There is a purpose for the church in our world today, and as a believer I am called, even commanded to be a part of that local body of believers that we call the church.
I can tell you that I am aware that the church is still made up of human, sinners, people who are broken. Because of this the church will not always say the “right” thing, or handle situations the “right” way. Sometimes they get it wrong. And, I as a believer am a part of that. Many times I have gotten it wrong as well.
However, from my own experience, in the midst of the hurt, the frustration, the anger that can be caused from a “bad” experience, none of those “correct” answers really moved me. Maybe they should have.
But, can I tell you WHY I am SO glad that I didn’t allow that bad experience to sway my decision? Why I am so glad that despite what my emotions were telling me, I chose to be vulnerable, to be a part of something bigger than myself? To commit to being an active part of my local church?
Here it is… the brokenness.
And then, the beauty that soon follows.
You see, I have witnessed God work in so many ways that I would very likely have missed out on if it weren’t for my church family.
I have been there to watch my friend Matt as God worked in his life. I have cried and prayed by His bedside, begging the Lord to allow him to live. I have watched as he has endured the hardships of learning how to live without legs. And, I have cheered him on as He has shared how God continues to give him hope, and joy, and peace, even on the toughest of days.
I have watched my friend Mike, as he went from interested in God to die hard committed to the Lord. I have observed as he made life changes that continue to impact his life. And now I watch as he passes on the love of Christ by mentoring the youth in our church. He is impacting the world for eternity.
I have watched my friend Amber, as she went from doing drugs, to dealing drugs, to unexpected pregnancy, to “dear Lord please help me”. I have seen TRUE transformation in her life. I have watched her become an amazing mom. I have cried tears of joy with her as she has experienced the freedom found in Christ. And then, I have cried tears of heartache with her as she sits in a jail cell facing the consequences for her former life. I write her and I pray for her and she IS having an eternal impact even in a jail cell.
I have cried with my brothers and sisters when they have experienced loss and they have cried with me when I have.
I have celebrated with some of them as they have gotten married.
I have watched some bring new life into the world and learn along with me how to do this parenting thing.
I have prayed for many as they have experienced health struggles.
I have seen some struggle with addictions, the victories, and then the fall down.
I have been there while others have experienced the devastation of divorce, broken families, and heartache. I have shared the joy with those who stuck it out and allowed God to bring restoration. And, the struggle with those who tearfully walked through the hard times, and then slowly allowed the Lord to rebuild the life He had intended for them.
I have witnessed the beauty that God brings from our brokenness. And, I am forever grateful for that.
Even in the midst of a broken church body, full of broken people, He brings out the beauty. AND, He allows us to experience it together.
Today, if you for some reason have allowed your “bad experience” to make a church decision for you, I encourage you to change that. Find a body of believers to be a part of. They won’t be perfect. They will be broken, just like you. God will be the one bringing forth the beauty.
Hebrews 10:24-25 ” 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…”
Romans 12:15 “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.”