"God has placed a burden on my heart to process part of my walk with Christ. I’ve been trying to figure out my testimony in this area, but I’ve struggled to clearly be able to articulate how my past church life was so off, but yet I still seemed to be on the right track. It didn’t make sense – if I was in an environment where I was able to grow, didn’t that mean the others in that same environment were growing too? Why were they there if not to grow? Why then were their life choices different than mine? Was I the one off track? Was I being overtly spiritual and religious? What they did wasn’t necessarily blatantly evil, but then why was I so strongly convicted against it? After about a year of processing this, I think I could sum it up to simply : God had grace on my life and really did bless me for wholeheartedly seeking Him irrespective of my environment.
I was raised in church (not the fellowship). I’ve known the word Sadducee as long as I can remember! Even though I was being taught the Bible, it was done in a very religious environment. At the time it was simply what I knew as normal, but looking back now, I can see how that environment was full of confusion and justifications. The irony is that I first learned about religious people from religious people thinking they weren’t religious people! I’ve learned that people that are religious don’t see the gravity of their seemingly “small” sin, so therefore, they believe that they are actually quite spiritual for having “small sins,” but the “real religious people” are the people that would say they’re a Christian, but are simultaneously committing exaggerated/illegal sins. It’s a world of comparing your sins in order to justify your own sin. Rationalizations I’d see/witness regularly were : I don’t get drunk at clubs, but I get tipsy at home with my wine because I’ve had a long day with the kids/work; I’ve never been arrested for assault, but I constantly verbally belittle my family when they don’t think like me; I haven’t completely been unfaithful to my spouse, but I don’t guard my mind and my time from the opposite sex while at work. It’s also the land of politeness without substance. It can mess with your mind since their politeness can be confused for godliness (you can tell if it’s real when they encounter a trial or struggle of any kind).
I remember growing up and getting saved in my teen years. I was heavily involved in the youth ministry, but I quickly became disillusioned by the church after a couple years when I noticed how I seemed to be surrounded by people that knew a lot of knowledge of God, but that didn’t affect their thinking/decisions. Coupled with issues at home and an unhealthy church – I decided to backslide for about 6 years. I remember saying that Christianity must be flawed and therefore cannot be trusted since those that claim the faith lack the ability to live it out themselves in real life and their actions and words had hurt me .. so why would I involve myself in that.
Eventually through different circumstances in my life, I got back into church – a different one this time. It seemed healthier at first glance, but I ended up watching it manifest into something extremely toxic soon after I came to the Potters House. Anyway, it was in that church that I rededicated and truly surrendered my life to Christ and I developed an intense hunger for Gods word….But there was still something off.. I could never put my finger on it, but I remember sensing wrong spirits in people. However I just assumed I was being too critical of people since no one else seemed bothered by it. I was involved in a couple ministries in church, but never knew the pastor and there was zero accountability – it wasn’t something anyone did. I did see a strong need in my life to have accountability, though, as I felt I was having to mark out a new course for how to raise my kids to live for God, but I had no idea how to do it. I also had been gaslit so much, I questioned everything I thought and knew I needed someone to help me figure out truth and to have confidence in it. So I sought out a couple older women in the church for accountability and mentorship. Women that had adult kids that were still in church. Little did I know at the time, but for them and many others, the church was just a family meet up/social community that just so happened to teach some biblical knowledge. I was beginning to become frustrated as I began to notice the people in the ministries would use their platform to complain about their spouse/children in the name of “look how God is giving me strength through putting up with these inconvenient and annoying people in my life.” Or “prayer gossip.” So I started looking for something more biblical and less superficial outside the church. I learned of a couple huge organizations that offered Bible studies. I thought maybe I’d find the right kind of ladies there since “who would want to go to a Bible study in addition to church- but serious people trying to really live for God.” To my dismay, I found it to be another social club. Each year I went to these studies, I hoped to meet a different group of ladies that really were hungry for Christ like I was. I never did.
I began realizing that the services at church were like an exaltation of people and their musical talents, combined with a pristine radio voiced pastor that delivered clean cut biblical understanding - and the whole service was done and over in 60 min flat (it was so short because of parking issues, I was always told). I was still so hungry after each service, that many weekends I’d attend 2-3 services, even though each service was identical. I was just craving more of God and didn’t know what else to do. I just assumed, “well people are people,” so I’ll just put up with the production-like feel because I’m sure I could find imperfections in any church out there.
People I was around had been through seminary – not for the intent of preaching, but to be more biblically knowledgeable partially so they’d be able to debate with the “intelligent folk in the world” and win them to Christ through their expert knowledge. But evangelizing wasn’t popular - it was common to hear “just live out your faith and only speak it when necessary.” It was the orthodox extremists that street preached or put someone on the spot to make a decision to convert or not.
And these same people would lead home group Bible studies where they’d begin with a bottle of wine so as to be more “accepting” to unsaved folks and it has been a long day (same thought behind not putting too heavy of a filter on what they spent their time watching on a TV or other device). Not once, in all those years, did we ever open a Bible at the home group Bible studies. It was more of a dinner gathering where we’d simply socialize and maybe chat about our next community outreach (ie a diff way to feed the poor) we would do.
Even though this was the atmosphere around me for so many years, I was honestly and desperately seeking God. I did actually grow in my faith and understanding of who God is to a degree. Of course, Pastor and Jody have since had to rearrange a few things in me that I picked up along the way.
Anyway I was fed up and honestly becoming a little hopeless. I got out of the superficial Mom’s ministries, quit feeding the poor, spaced myself from the mentors, and threw away my TV. Some family and friends thought I was backsliding! I even had a couple people offer to buy a TV for me because they assumed it was a financial issue as to why I didn’t have one. God was at work in me and I was at the exact right spot when my husband introduced me to the fellowship.
Can I tell you how relieved I am to be here and in the Potters House church today?! I am forever grateful. It’s amazing to read the Bible and have the Bible lived out right in front of my eyes as the church gets its vision, theology and culture directly from the Bible. I feel so blessed to have such edifying and godly friendships here where we can get excited together as we talk about how God is moving in our lives, in our church, and how we are evangelizing to people in our sphere of influence. I am overwhelmed by the complete relief I feel now as I think of my journey to get here. How good God is that he saved me and kept me as I processed different issues in other churches and people. God is so faithful.
Although it would have been lovely to grow up in the fellowship, I am grateful for what God has taught me through living in the religious world. I am very conscious of how the flesh can easily deceive and how you can easily become clouded by religious thoughts of “at least I’m not as bad as ____” that lead to pride and a heart that is worthless to God. So, I am conscious to ask God regularly to convict me and show me areas where I need to be more Christlike I am also careful to keep close to my pastors so they can help detect any wrong thinking as well. It has also caused me to really have to decide – do I believe God at his word and if so I can’t live like I’m on the fence about it. My life directly affects my children so if I don’t actually trust God and surrender to Him, it simply makes more sense to get out of church. But I am confident Christ is alive and at work in my life so I’ve committed to being “all in” and take that very seriously. If it isn’t something desirable and alive in me – what is there to consider for my children or anyone else I witness to?"