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Seven-year itch: Where did my zeal go?

I can say this about them: They really try to follow God, but they do not know the right way.

This is what the Scripture says: “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart.” That is the teaching of faith that we are telling. ~ Romans 10:2, 8, NCV

I’ve had to face some harsh realities recently. They came in the form of mental asides and afterthoughts, mild irritations and frequent frustrations.

Occasionally, my Facebook feed will display the rapturous updates of young Christians – early to mid-thirties, who have committed or re-committed themselves to Christ after having loads of fun in the world. The cynic in me remarks how great it must be to have been able to do everything they wanted to do in their adult life and still have the opportunity to return and declare their love for Christ. And the weary Christian in me remembers when I, too, was extremely passionate about my love for Christ.

I think my image of Christianity has gotten me down.

In the world the “church” is all about fellowship meetings – eating and singing – and telling your neighbor (the person or people standing next to you in service) that you love them or you’re glad to see them. “Church” is about ministry outreach to the poor, to the broken, the injured, the rejected, the spiritually lost. It becomes about missionary trips, church planting, fund-raising, and sister or satellite churches in far-flung locations. “Church” is about being seen and having the right friends or simply: fashion, socializing and getting a whole bunch of “Amens” for paraphrased scripture. It has become about obeying man or men who imagine they have a corner market on God’s Word.

In the world, “church” is about a network. A network of a group of people who will stick together as long as they have the same confession of faith and nothing is expected of them outside of the church walls that isn’t well-publicized far and wide for the effort.

“Church” mimics the world. Lights…camera…action! You’re on…now perform! Perhaps that’s why I’ve become so dissatisfied with the people I encounter in “church” and the “churches” I’ve attended and even in people who just claim to be Christian. What I’ve noticed is that people repackage worldly goods and try to sell it to Believers as godly fruit. Personally, I don’t want to use anything the World had first as an expression of my faith life. And before you think the world had Jesus first, I’ll remind you that in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God.

I’ve been looking for the Christ in Christians and as diligently as I’ve looked I’ve rarely encountered Christ in the “church” – but I’ve certainly encountered Him in many other places.

My “church” experiences have not been about showing love or being love. They haven’t been about openness, honesty or availability. I’ve experienced more rejection in the “church” and by “church folk” – through relationships and service in ministries – than any other area in my life (and I’ve certainly known great rejection in other areas). In my experience, church organizations choose to operate like businesses but aren’t nearly as conscientious with their human capital as businesses are.  I’ve had more difficulty trying to volunteer for various ministries in various churches than I’ve had volunteering for senate campaigns. Hillary Clinton’s 2006 Senate Campaign required a background check, a phone interview and an in-person interview. A bit much in my opinion at the time, but her husband was a former president. I got over it. However, that’s nothing compared to the steps required at my current church. We have to apply online (if you can’t apply online, dates are provided for when you can apply in person). We have to attend a monthly interview session and fill out a four page application on site. This session is followed by a new believers session the same night to hear about the “church’s” beliefs. Two references (of people “in the same church who know you well”) have to be provided; if the references pan out, we then have to attend an in-person interview within the next month or two. This can easily turn into a two or three-month process. That’s effectively as much or more of a process than I’ve done for any job I’ve worked on. Volunteering at church shouldn’t be so difficult or drawn out. I’m a seasoned believer and I felt like giving up in the process!

I feel like “church” is geared towards conversion and beginners in the Word. There’s very little focus or substance for the seasoned Believer.

Indeed, where is the church for the Believer with no intention of returning to the world? The person who’s just trying to get through a humdrum day, week or month? Where’s the church for the person who isn’t lacking in faith, but may simply be in an in-between time, waiting for the next assignment? Where’s the church for the Believer who simply needs a hug because it’s Wednesday? Where’s the community that actually reaches out within itself? To the Believers who are still hurt or newly hurt? To the Believers who need more than words, who need to be shown how loved they are? Need to know how much they matter in the chain of events that surround their life. Where’s that community that focuses on itself, embraces itself and then radiates itself to surrounding communities? If church folk actually took the time to get to know, and made the effort to appreciate, their neighbor, instead of just telling them that they’re glad to see them on Sunday morning, they would be a much more gracious people when they encounter the world outside of their community. They would be much more radiant in their workplaces, on their travels and in their politics.

I’ve been frustrated because after seven years of actively desiring and seeking a Christian community, I have nothing of substance to claim in terms of relationships with people. I attended my first church for about four years. I committed my life to Jesus Christ there and was baptized as an adult there. I was consistently active in at least four ministries at a time and attended nearly every monthly special event. I was there for most Sunday morning services and Thursday night Bible Studies. My life was the “church” for the time I was there, and boy did I grow! But I didn’t conform to every part of that congregation’s culture.

The best thing I learned during my time in that congregation was “to study and show myself approved.” I am a literal learner and doer. If the Teacher is telling me that everything I need for my life is in the Word of God, and all I have to do is study the Word, then that’s what I will do. So indeed, growth was miraculous when I went from not reading my Bible to studying it faithfully. Every word was the most succulent bite for me. It was a new world. That’s where the rapturous passion came from – breathing in the life of God’s Word was the source of my zeal. Experiencing God’s Word as refreshment sustained me and propelled me forward. {See Combating Spirits in the Church}

The second church I attended in New York was much smaller. I later looked at it as something of a cult. For six months I attended one or two small group sessions a week in addition to Sunday service. My take away from that congregation was an awareness of how important it is to maintain independent thought. The small group sessions became a forum for the leadership to exercise more control over the thinking (therefore, the beliefs) of the attending congregation members. I spoke up with questions, opinions and requests. I was shut down each time and eventually shunned from the groups. They thought my pointing out scripture was disruptive to their teachings. My simple response: If you’re mis-teaching the Bible, and I’m sitting in front of you, yeah, I’m gonna say something. After speaking with the pastor one-on-one (he also led one of the small groups), I decided that I needed to preserve myself and find another congregation. {See Some Thoughts on Challenges}

I’ve been with my current congregation for about three years. For more than a year, I just sat in the services and soaked in the teachings. I didn’t want to get involved. I greeted the people next to me and sometimes in front of and behind me. At the beginning of my second year, I went to Israel with a couple of other people from the congregation. {See Stand Bold Against the Spirit of the Anti-Christ.} Our small group was joined to other groups from around the world. I thought it would be the beginning of great relationships. Not. I speak in passing to the folks from my congregation when we see each other in service. Last year, I got out of my seat and volunteered for the children’s ministry. I can’t tell you how excited I was to teach the children! But the head of the children’s ministry needed to control my schedule and because I was only able to offer one Sunday a month later in the year, she took that as a lack of availability and told me I wasn’t a fit for the ministry’s needs. It took another year before I even considered applying for another ministry. Last month I applied for the wwpray ministry for the specific reason that I can do it remotely and won’t have to deal with people directly.

That’s where my zeal has gotten me in the “church”.

What a sad waste. I have a heart of light I want to share and it has been rejected at every turn by people who profess Christ. That’s a struggle for me. How much do I push back? How long do I sit out? How long do I just keep to myself?

I’m not interested in burying my talents, but I never thought that my biggest spiritual struggles would be within the congregations I consider myself a part of.

Over the last few days my musings have led to the beginning of a revelation. Stay tuned….

We believe with our hearts, and so we are made right with God. And we declare with our mouths that we believe, and so we are saved.  As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be disappointed.”  ~ Romans 10:10-11, NCV

3 thoughts on “Seven-year itch: Where did my zeal go?

  1. Thank you, great inspiring blog, i’m so looking forward to start reading and discovering what you write on here.. 🙂

    1. Geda, thank you for your encouraging words. Hopefully, I can continue to harvest and deliver useful messages from my experiences. All the best to you in your writing. 😉

  2. Reblogged this on Spirit Harvest and commented:
    Where has my zeal gotten me in the “church”?
    I have a heart of light I want to share and it has been rejected at every turn by people who profess Christ. That’s a struggle for me. How much do I push back? How long do I sit out? How long do I just keep to myself?

    I’m not interested in burying my talents, but I never thought that my biggest spiritual struggles would be within the congregations I consider myself a part of.

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