Shorty after leaving the cult, I took a break from church. I was so tired of the abuse of authority that I’d experienced most of my church-going life; I needed a break from it all.
I walked away from going to church, but not from my faith.
While I do believe being a participant of a local church congregation is a wonderful thing and has so many benefits and protections for the believer, we should never confine our faith to four walls.
During my two years away from church I received many invitations from well-meaning friends to attend their church. “Our church is different — you really should check it out!”
As much as I appreciated their heart, you know what I really needed?
An invite for coffee.
I needed someone safe to sit down with to have a safe conversation where I could lament all the pain and confusion in my heart. I needed to tell someone how the church had let me down. I needed to tell someone how the church had abused me. I needed someone with whom I could cry.
But even more so, I needed to hear that, although the church had failed me, Jesus never would.
After two years away from the church, someone who was a near-stranger to me at the time, did exactly this for me. And soon after I found myself limping into what is now my current church home.
And not just limping. Broken. Shattered.
I bawled during every service for months. I cried during worship. I cried during the sermon. I cried at the altar after service. I had 24 years of pain to let go, and for the first time, I experienced a group of people who allowed me to grieve. They gave me space when I wanted it, but also gave me loving arms when I needed it.
I slowly began to share my story with my congregation and instead of judgment, they encouraged me. Instead of crippling me with legalistic rules like my four previous churches, this church taught me how to fly.
All because someone was willing to reach beyond the church walls and meet with me and say #metoo, #churchtoo.
Let’s start transforming the idea of evangelism. So the next time we see a non-church-goer hurting, we don’t just invite them to our “different” church and then walk away. Instead, I pray we would sit down with them for a while or share a meal with them. Ask them to tell us their story. LISTEN with non-judgmental ears. Acknowledge their pain. Sit with them in it. Weep with them. May we be to them a living example to them of what Jesus’s love actually looks like.
May we bring the church to the dinner table, to a grassy spot in the shade of a tree, to an Uber ride. We may never confine The Church to four walls again.