Every Sunday growing up we went to church. I didn't always want to go but Mom made me. It wasn't a choice. It didn't matter if I was tired, if I had stayed up too late or out too long I was in church sitting beside my family every week.
We did church hop a lot when I was a kid. Always within the denomination I was raised in
When I was in my early twenties the mother of a friend of mine called and asked if I would consider coming to church with them. That would allow them to start a Sunday school class for young adults. She hoped this would help get her son there more often too.
I agreed and started attending Emmanuel Chapel Bible Church. This was my first real break from going with my family. The Best part was Mom couldn't complain because I was still in church and she couldn’t tell if I was paying attention or not.
Turns out I was paying attention just not to the service. The pastor and his wife started bringing a very pretty young lady with them and that had my complete attention. I started talking to Linda in Jan 2000, our first date was Feb 11, 2000 and we were married in July of that year. When you know you know.
Shortly after we got married the church imploded. They lost a their preacher and decided it was cheaper to just watch a televised church service or have a deacon speak rather than find a new Pastor. Lin and I left during the turmoil. We started attending church with my mom and sister again way out in the country.
I found reasons not to go. I made the schedule at the theatre where I was the manager and as it would turn out I was working almost every Sunday. If I did have a Sunday off I desperately tried to find a reason to miss.
I've told the story several times but I can't help but repeat it here. I went so far as to sabotage my wife's car more than once. I would wait until everyone was asleep. Sneak out and disconnect her battery. The next morning she would wake me for church. I'd get up get dressed and we would load the kids into the car. When it didn't start she would take the kids back into the house and I would piddle on my phone and kill time til it was too late then we reconnect it. Tell her I fixed it and get brownie points for both fixing it and for getting up to go to church with them.
It was so bad Lin stopped going with my mom and sister, because it was embarrassing to go and have people ask about me. My mom of course would want to know why I wasn't there and Lin had to cover for me. She ended up taking the kids to a different church all together because it was less stressful than answering the questions. I didn't attend there at all with her. I didn't even know she was going there fo a while. I found out later that she would go and sit in the balcony and cry that I was so far away. Eventually the guilt kicked in pretty hard and we started going again as a family with my mom and sister but I just hated it.
One day I ran into a friend from high school who is the pastor of a local church. I’ve known him for as long as I’ve known anyone. He asked if I would swing by and talk to him at the office that week. I didn’t have a good excuse and he had some design work for me to do so I showed up. We discussed the project he had for me and at that first meeting I felt the pilot light come on in my heart.
For a while I’d go from super excited and ready to rededicate to desperately trying to think of a way out of having to go to church the next Sunday.
It went that way for about a year. I did a few designs for the church and was asked to join the creative team. At one of the first CT meetings the team asked if I wanted to go with them to Dallas to a conference in Feb of 2013. I immediately said yes which I think even surprised me.
Now I felt even more committed and that freaked me out. I figured I had a couple months to think up an excuse to not go. I lived and died in the the time from right after service Sunday (if I was there) to the time Sat night when I tried to figure out how to get out of going.
Over the course of the next few months I still missed church every chance I could. Lin would take the kids. I sent them a lot like that. I knew they needed it like I needed it growing up but I couldn’t provide it.
My foundation wasn’t firm enough to support more than one structure and my structure wasn’t the best built.
I tried to think of a way out of the creative team trip but as it got closer I got more and more worried about trying to cancel.
Honestly I ran out of time to cancel and I had a rough couple days leading up to it. I was committed to going. I had a few anxiety attacks and almost passed out thinking about the trip but I was stuck.
I arrived at the church the morning of the trip and my worst fear was realized. I HAD TO RIDE TO TEXAS WITH STRANGERS!!!!!
Turned out to be the most fun I have EVER had in a vehicle. I built several relationships just in that drive that persist to this day.
The first day of the conference was rough though. I didn't want to be around all those hypocrites. I was sitting in my chair and watching people raising their hands and crying during worship. I heard people laughing at "Pastor Jokes" which I did not find funny at all.
I was pretty miserable. Mostly though I think I was jealous. I didn't recognize it at the time. I was so focused on everyone else and how fake I thought they were that I didn't think about how my cynicism reflected what was wrong with me. My distrust and hurt was being transferred to these people that I just assumed were faking.
That evening we went back to the hotel. We sat around and talked about what we had learned that day. As soon as it was over I made a bee line for my room. I was sharing with another guy and because I snore at a staggering level I like to give anyone I room with a 45 minute head start from the time they decide to sleep and when I turn off my phone or tablet and try to sleep myself.
Finally the time came and I turned off the lights. I was laying there in the quietest room I can remember ever being in. Graham sleeps as silent as the night. To the point I worried about him a couple times.
So there I was in the complete dark alone with my thoughts. I began thinking about how much fun everyone else was having on this trip. How they all were lost in worship or in the speakers completely.
It was then that I prayed a simple small prayer. I asked if just tomorrow, just once God would allow me to enjoy the service like everyone else. I wanted that experience even if it was only once.
I woke up, February 14th, showered and we all went to the conference. I didn't feel different at all. We arrived at the venue and found our seats. I wasn't thinking about last nights prayer. I was there and still bitter and uncomfortable.
The house lights went off. Everyone got dead silent....... suddenly the music and the stage light came on simultaneously and God like a wave washed over me.
I have no way to describe it. I was in tears I was genuinely worshiping. Maybe for the first time in my life.
Over that day and the next, I openly cried, I shouted, I amen’d a lot and I laughed. I got so happy, I was laughing during a pretty intense sermon. I started to worry people would think I was mocking the preacher. I was just filled with a joy I had NEVER had before.
When we got back I started helping out.I couldn’t be there enough. I would show up at 7am and find somewhere to serve. I love people so I began greeting in the parking lot, which wasn’t even a ministry at the time.
No one asked me to. no one was counting on me being there. I just showed up and plugged myself in. That has been the best decision i have ever made.
I decided to serve, and God gave me a whole lot more. He flipped the switch on my faith. The faith was always there I just hadn’t activated it because I didn’t know that was my job. I guess I thought eventually God would get a hold of me and I’d feel the way I do now without actually having to try.
Faith without works is truly dead. I’m living proof. God always took care of us I always believed in him but it wasn’t until I started working for him that i got the joy and the peace you are told about as a Christian your whole life.
For years I was basically a hermit, I avoided people, shopped at night to sidestep run ins. Now I go looking for brothers and sisters when I’m at the store or out and about. I look forward to every chance I get to attend and serve at church.
I know it sounds cliche but I love people. I find myself on facebook more than i ever have been just so I can see how they are doing. I look forward to a chance to see them all. I notice when regulars are missing from church and i genuinely worry about them.I’m not the man that begrudgingly walked thru the doors of Fellowship Church in Grapevine, Texas back in 2013.
I served solid for a little over 6 years at the church where I was attending when God answered that prayer. The smallest prayer I ever said. I’ve experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. I planned, lead, and took part in multiple mission trips, we went to Haiti, Ethiopia, a Native American reservation in New Mexico, A week at a Salvation Army in Georgia, & the Los Angeles Dream Center twice. I grew an incredible amount there. I learned the true value of helping others. Plus I got to design a lot of sermon art, brochures, ads and t-shirts. I helped lead the youth for a couple years, and was in charge of the greeting and hospitality program. I preached, spoke at events taught and every chance I had. Eventually however there was some church hurt (partially my fault) and we as a family left the church of my new beginning in 2018 and started attending somewhere else.
This was the lowest of lows and the most hurt I had ever been by a church. Church hurt can be a catch all and I don’t mean for it to be a cop out. I am more than willing to tell ANYONE that asks exactly what happened. Even the parts that don’t show me in the best light. Its just too much to type here. You can always contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to talk.
It was truly rough and It would have been easy to walk away. However I just couldn’t go back to how it was before 2013.
Because of the deep wound and because I had seen how others that left were treated by the pastor, I chose the new church for the wrong reason. Not because I felt called there but because the pastor of the old church didn’t like the pastor from the new church so I felt safe.
I nursed my wounds there for a year. They are an incredibly supportive church, pastor, staff and congregation even as we told them about or decision to move on. Truly, while not the place I was meant to be it was definitely the place God prepared for me to heal.
Finally after prayer, fasting and actually talking to my wife about where we belong we chose a church together where we can thrive and where I can serve.
Speaking life to those that have been hurt by church whether it was their fault or human nature rearing its head in a spiritual leader is something now I am uniquely prepared for. It’s something new that I am passionate about.
So thats it, 8 years after conversion I’m still actively serving. Through the ups and downs God has been there for me and my family. It is more obvious every week how much He continues to lead and direct me. Not that I always listen, but even then He is there to correct, encourage and get me back on track.
There is always more room for growth. I don’t have a hunger for the Bible I wish I had. I read it everyday and I get a lot from it but I’ve always wanted that insatiable hunger for it that I have heard about. Thats coming someday, I have faith in that.
Thanks for reading