OneYearLater

THE ONLY ARMY THAT SHOOTS ITS WOUNDED

I want to start this off with a couple of things being made inescapably clear. Firstly, this was originally written to be placed on the anonymous blog that I run, however, I feel lead to post it publicly on my own. None of this is written to put down anyone, any church, or any belief. I am writing this because it has been on my heart, and others have asked me to write it. I also want my true friends and my family to know that 2015 was a year that would have been unbearable if it had not been for them. This is the truth about church hurt, spiritual growth, and clearing the air. I have kept my mouth shut about everything for a year now, at the cost of friendships and ministry relationships.

I’ve told people before, and can personally attest that you may never get over the hurt involved with leaving a church and it’s people. For many, the idea of “church hurt” might just be a foreign concept, in which case, know that you are envied. For those of us who have been at the forefront of this hurt, it is a completely different story.

CLOSING A CHAPTER:

We left the church we were attending on December 21, 2014. We did not leave in an ugly way, there was no argument, just a heartfelt email. I know things have been said, rumors have been spread, things are believed to be this way or that way, but I will tell you this, if you ever want to read the email that explains our reason for leaving, then feel free to ask.

We didn’t leave because we were merely angry, it was a stronger root cause. The fact of the matter is, our vision was different for God’s direction in our ministry. Not that the pastor’s vision is wrong, but the vision God had for my own ministry lead me to a different direction. I am not going to lie and say that there were not substantial issues at the church, ones that I personally, as well as my wife had major issues with. On many occasions I ended up being dragged into meetings because of rumors that people I was in ministry started. I applaud the man of God that asked to have a meeting before jumping to conclusions, but it still took its toll on the relationship. In many of those cases, I was told that my thoughts were to be kept personal. I had asked to bible study on some things, that we would hatch it out in a Godly manner, presenting scripture and coming to a faith-based conclusion, something that never did happen. There is also a lot that the pastor was never privleged to know about, such as 90% of a platform staff that signed a handbook and didn’t even adhere to it. Ironic in the sense that my wife and I did, even with the things we disagreed with, though mostly because I signed my name to it and I take that stuff seriously, but I digress.

The hardest part for us leaving was the fact that we just wanted to see that local assembly be bettered. However, the stronghold over the mentalities in the church made it impossible, as the man of God was placed at an unbelievable level. For example, in a service where we honored the pastor, a man made the statement: “I know we are told never to worship a man, but if there was one man I would…” and you can pretty much tell where that is going.

We were not by a long shot the only people who saw the problems going on in the church. So many people would (and some still do) confide in us the problems they had/have, yet no one dared to be vocal about any of them. In reality, they gave control over to someone they believed was in error.  Even to this day, some still confide in us these issues.

God’s church is not a church run by man, instead CHRIST is placed as the head. More than anything, that is what I wanted to see… in any issue or circumstance, in any issue, that we put aside our traditionalism, our handed down thoughts, and searched the Word of God for the truth on any of the matters. So what hurt the most, is that none of this ever happened.

THE FIRST STEP

We began with consecration and sabbatical. Truth be told, I had been in ministry my entire life, and had never sat down on my own to examine my faith, where I stood on everything, and what things I was told by man, versus what I was told by God. During this time, we visited other churches, and in one such instance we visited the Temple of Pentecost in Raleigh, North Carolina. The pastor was preaching on being hurt, and doing whatever it takes to get in the will and call of God, tearing the roof off of places if need be. I was thankful for this timely Word, and for the avenue that began to become clear.

From there we visited another church in North Carolina, where the pastor pulled us into a meeting after service. I felt more respect in that one meeting than any of my years at previous churches. I was told that God had a plan, and that if any change was to be brought, I would have to be used as a tool for it. I was told that I had the hand of God over my life and ministry, and that my testimony is an important one to the faith. I was urged to meet with my former pastor to see if anything could be worked out. I remained silent, I listened to his words, I thanked them, hugged them, and told them I loved them. When I got in the car, my mind was swimming with his words. I had never heard anyone say those things to me. I had always loved this couple, and even to this day, that family is in my heart, and I love them dearly. I prayed on what I was told to do for two days, and then I followed through. I text my former pastor, I asked him to meet with me. At that point it wasn’t an intention to go back, it was to see if any bit of that relationship was salvageable. I was told that if I did not believe we had the same vision, then there was no point in coming back. A text went to my wife saying that if it had anything to do with the past, then he did not want a meeting. This was a moment that I realize a door was not only shut, it was slammed shut.

I never told the other pastor any of this that transpired, and ended up losing a relationship with that family that my wife and I both cherished. That hurt us both about as much as leaving the church… because at this point we lost ministry friends, ministry connections, fellowship, and brotherhood. The following month, my brother committed suicide, not a blood brother, but a true brother nevertheless. Someone that was in my wedding, I was in his, we went to college together, lived in dorms together, called my parents as his parents, called me his brother… was gone. By this point I had already been deleted from many of our former church members social media. The support I received during this time was from my work friends, family, and a couple of other close friends. The response from our former church family made us realize what we had become……..

PLAGUE

When we had left, I knew that many of the relationships I had would be put on the chopping block. Well, that definitely turned out to be the case, and in reality NOT ONE person from our former church spoke to me… at all… not one. My wife tried her hardest to cling to some of her relationships, but realized that they were now on a superficial level, they were done out of politeness. My friendship circle became one filled with co-workers, and ministry friends that didn’t live anywhere close to us.

After a few months I actually went to visit my former church, with my wife and a close friend. At some point during worship, he turned to me and whispered “you guys are like the plague in here”. I laughed, mostly awkwardly because it was true. Two or three spoke to me, others stared throughout service, though some of them probably did that anyway… It was one of those awakening moments however, that let me know I was finally going to start moving on. There was not anything really salvageable there, we were just a plague… backsliders (even though we didn’t leave the faith.) That was always the mentality there though, if you left that local assembly for whatever reason besides ones preordained, than you were a backslider. You would think that this would cause a call to action, but hey, it is just easier to let people slip away.

THE TURNING POINT

We had visited my father’s church a few times in the months we had been away. It was one of the most interesting stories I had ever witnessed. A spirit-filled Southern Baptist Church who brought on a Pentecostal Holiness pastor. My father is no stranger to the pains and hurts that come along with life in ministry, and I confided in him a lot of our struggles. I can fairly say that any time before June or July, we would never have seen us working together in ministry again. However, our views were increasingly similar, our struggles were similar, our passion and heart-cry was identical.

It was during this time that dad asked if we would be interested in coming on as music ministers and associate pastors. It was nothing to be said yes to immediately, but something we firstly did not see coming, and secondly we didn’t know how it would work. Well, as I said before, my father’s passion was the same as mine, and our beliefs were pretty well lined up. We both desired to see a house of God dedicated to true, biblical worship, not just fluff and being pumped up. We wanted to see people not just knowing what they believed, but able to explain it in a biblical way. So we said yes……

The first month after we came on, we pulled the church out of the SBC, re-identified it as Venture Church, and found a comfortable place as an independent church. Now that the restructuring is being completed, it is time to start working on overdrive.

WHY ARE YOU SAYING ALL OF THIS?

Why is all of this being said now, a year after we left? Because I have talked to people who are facing church hurt, who know they have a calling and feel that they have to just do whatever they are told. Let me tell you this, when you have a calling and anointing, and you sit back and wait, and you don’t push forward to see it fulfilled, God will strip it away and give it to someone who will actually do it. God brought me to where I am now, a place I NEVER thought would happen, because I chose to be God-lead. “The church”, God’s church, is not all bad. There are struggles and failures in every local assembly, but are you sweeping it under the rug, or becoming better from it? I have told my wife through all of this, if I ever do to someone else what has been done to me, then please remind me how bad it hurt.

I am writing this for myself, as part of healing, as part of stepping up and moving on. I am writing this because I believe in truth. I believe much has been said, much has been accused, but much of it is not true. We left to get deeper with Christ, to follow a vision that God placed in our hearts.

We wanted to see a local assembly be bettered, and I still pray it will be. But now, we are in a place to do more than we ever could before. This is a calling that I refuse to let be stamped out, and one that I will fight for. Again, to those that are supporting us, we love you, and just know how much you mean to us. To those against us, God bless you, we pray for you as well.

I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold, I’d rather be His than have riches untold; I’d rather have Jesus than houses or land, Yes, I’d rather be led by His nail-pierced hand. Than to be the king of a vast domain, and be held in sin’s dread sway, I’d rather have Jesus than anything this world affords today. I’d rather have Jesus than worldly applause, I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause; I’d rather have Jesus than worldwide fame, I’d rather be true to His holy name.” -Jim Reeves

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails…” -1 Corinthians 13:4-8

If you have made it to the end… thank you for reading… sharing things like this is terribly difficult… and I thank you for taking the time to read it.

-Aaron Dowen

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