Almost a decade ago, my wife and I got kicked out of our church because we got married. While this may sound strange (and it most certainly was), that is by no means the least of reasons why people have gotten kicked out of churches over time. In fact, I suggest that many of the reasons people are asked to leave a church have a lot to do with control and conformity. I have a friend who was a pastor/church planter who gave his church back to the denomination and all they cared about was the number of attendees and monthly income–to them it was nothing more than a business deal.
As the son of an Episcopal priest, I had grown up in church my whole life. In fact, the way I did spiritual life was integrally connected to how I did church–first with liturgy, and then as I grew up and became more Charismatic in my ways I did it with far less liturgy, but there was still a weekly gathering, sometimes even biweekly, that punctuated my own personal walk with God. Once this was no longer there, I will be honest, I felt at times like I was floating adrift on a wide open sea. This church-life I had grown up depending on was no longer there, and it really threw a wrench in my works.
I didn’t have a problem with personal worship and personal time with God, as I had done that for years, but one of the things I really missed was corporate worship. There is an energy and alive-ness that happens when gathered together in a large group to worship God. There is a heavier activity of angels and glory and power flowing through the room that is simply wonderful to experience. Except for the rare conference (as most of them in the area took place at the church we had been kicked out of or were being run by people who were actively shunning us), my spiritual life was very lonely, and that was new.
One of the hardest things at that time, I think, in addition to dealing with the negative feelings created by this whole ordeal, was that I didn’t have the support system I used to have when things were difficult. Other than my wife, I felt very lonely at that point. I can’t imagine what it must be like for single people who go through this sort of thing! My life had zero of the spiritual trappings it had before, and I didn’t consider that a good thing. I longed for times that felt more spiritually “alive”, but none of my desires changed my current circumstances. While I don’t want to sound like I am whining, this was one of the more difficult periods in my life. The thing I had to learn, differently than I had ever before, was how to keep my focus on God in the middle of problems and difficulties, and when nothing looked like what I had been brought up to understand that life was supposed to look like.
God is the one constant in a changing world. His love for us doesn’t alter itself based on our circumstances or actions, unlike so many others in this world. God is faithful and dependable regardless of what we are going through, and quite often in the most difficult times are when we feel His love the most. There are other times were we are going through hard things and it feels like God is the quietest. I don’t pretend to understand why that happens, as I don’t think God is trying to inflict silence on us to teach us something, but there is something about difficulty that forges us into something entirely new–beings who have been trialed by fire and who have come out on the other side polished and ready to act.
We are in a period of great upheaval in the Church as we shift from the Church Age into the Kingdom Age. Not everyone is aware this shift is happening, and many are struggling to make the transition. I want to encourage you if you are caught somewhere in the middle, with one foot in the church and one foot out, or even as in my case, with both feet up in the air and one’s rear planted firmly on the ground just outside of a church you were kicked out of–You are not alone.
There is more to this life than you have known, and you will make it. There may be difficulties along the way, but a more enriching, deeper walk with Christ is coming just around the corner. It isn’t going to look like you are used to in the old way of doing things, but God isn’t interested in the old ways–he’s interested in your heart. Continue to do things in the ways you used to until you learn how to do them differently, because God isn’t worried about your methods and ways of learning–he’s looking deep on the inside. Do your best to keep yourself open and don’t let the anger, doubt, worries, fears, and other emotions cloud your heart. Your heart is the wellspring of life, and closing it off to others will only shut out those whom God has specially designed in this season to walk with you. Forgive quickly, especially those people who you thought were friends who turned out to be nothing like it. It can be hard to do this, but let those doors shut and keep walking forward. God has new plans for you–plans to prosper you and give you a hope and a future. Life is about to get a whole lot better for you, but it might get a little worse before it gets there. Don’t fear the change because it can’t hurt you–rather, it will transform you. And in the midst of it all, always remember to keep gazing at God’s face. Look into his eyes in your heart and keep your focus there, and even in the hard times, you will always find a way to make it through.

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