Why I am currently a church-less Christian.
Derek, I am so sorry this happened to you, but I am glad that your church wounds are not causing you to give up on God. He will lead you. I wish you could meet my pastor; you would find him to be a kindred spirit in many ways. I'm sharing a link to his book about youth ministry. I'm sure there are more likeminded believers out there than you realize who will value what you have to offer, whether or not you ever pursue professional ministry again. I will pray that God leads you to the right church in his time.:) While it's true that most denominations have issues, there ARE faithful Christians out there. Usually they're not the ones getting the accolades.
I also wanted to say that, for what it's worth, I wholeheartedly agree with your decisions: Kids DO need time with parents, much more than they need fun events. This is one of the crises of our modern life, I think. Discipleship is so much more important than numbers: Jesus poured into twelve people for three years, and they went on to change the world.
Daniel, that was a gripping and painful tale. It is experiences like this that would make people question going to church ( if I were a seeker hearing about the hard-hearted nature of this congregation I would definitely not step a foot into church). I think taking time to reflect and pray and not feeling hurried to join a congregation is a good call. Blessings to you and your family.
I offered Mass for you and your family this morning, Daniel. This is such a hard place to be, but I hope and pray and trust that the Lord will lead you home soon. Your devotion to maintaining your prayer + scripture study is so admirable (if you ever want to lead a Substack bible study I'm THERE) as is your determination to find a spiritual home for your children.
I know a couple other Catholics have chimed in here (and I think Hambone and Scoot to over on notes in Isa's thread a few weeks ago) but if there are any questions we can answer about the Catholic/Orthodox side of things, I know we're all happy to play a role in your discernment. But of course, we're all praying for you already!
Alone in the world is an extremely dangerous place to be. The church can also be a dangerous place to be and yet that is where God calls us to serve and be served. My folks were beat up by various churches and for years operated a hospital for other Christians who had been beat up and needed to know that God was present in the storm.
I am thankful for that experience. It has guided me to seek healthy churches and deal with unhealthy situations. I am also very grateful to have been a member of the same body of believers for the past 25 years.
Do not join a perfect church, you will spoil it. Do seek an elder led body intent on following God and His Word. The Firm Foundation is far more than a metaphor.
Based on your preference for Orthodoxy over Catholicism, I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that the teachings you don't agree with as far as Catholicism have to do with the papacy, lol.
I'm sorry you went through this. The experience of corrupt pastors and church politics is pretty universal, unfortunately. I'm a Catholic who worked in ministry for a bit, and I've got a few stories of my own. People everywhere, including in the Church, can be really awful and it's especially awful when it's someone who's supposed to be bringing others to Christ.
Because you're considering Orthodoxy, I do think it's worth noting that the function of "church" is very different between the more evangelical branches of Christianity and the Catholic and Orthodox. Church attendance for both those groups (Catholic and Orthodox) is required because it's participating in a Sacrament, rather than encouraged to foster support and community in people's walk with Christ. That second part SHOULD be there in a decent parish, but the first part is ALWAYS there. Proper worship is participating in that liturgical act, and that's why everyone is showing up. That can lead to some pretty big cultural differences between Catholics (not sure about Orthodox as I've had only limited exposure to their congregations, but as that understanding is the same I imagine some of the issues might be the same) and evangelical Protestant congregations.
I mention this because you might want to consider researching what proper "worship" ought to be. Is it meant to be community participation in a liturgy, or is it something that can be carried out by an individual? That research might give you some direction as to where God is calling you in all this.
I think I know the answer, but this is obviously something you're going to have to figure out for yourself to be convicted one way or the other.
Prayers for your journey, brother. ❤️
I am very sorry to hear about your experience. This should not have happened in any church!
There is an answer I can see- if my suggestion is of any help to you- try visiting the Orthodox Church you mentioned. As a convert to Orthodoxy I have never met anything but warm welcome and a deepening of my relationship with God in the Orthodox Church.
Whilst other churches weaken and fall victim to the trends of today, Orthodoxy remains strong in spirit and in action. That is not to say that there are no flaws- where there are humans there are flaws. But I see it as the Christian way forward.
I think your decision to wait is very sensible and by no means hurry. But I hope that if anything can help you in your dilemma, Orthodoxy can.
Well done on remaining strong in faith even in the face or adversity.
It was interesting reading your post as someone who doesn't believe in Youth Pastors :)
I am so sorry you had to experience that; I had some rough experiences with the church I grew up in (and am not in now, long story), but I understand; kids and family take priority. I'll definitely pray for you to find a good church; I'm Catholic myself, but to borrow a metaphor I read once, the Lord has a big fleet with a lot of ships, and we're all headed towards the same port. Whatever ship you land in, he'll meet you there.
Daniel - Thank you so much for your willingness to share this.
It is sad that those who are called to represent and serve Christ through serving others can be so selfish and callous and have no compunction about lying with it suits their purposes.
I was fortunate that when I was saved, I plugged into an independent local Bible Church (similar in doctrine to Baptist), where the pastor eventually became my father-in-law. He was a wonderful Bible teacher, going verse by verse through books of the Bible. When I first attended there, he had just started through the book of Romans in a week night Bible Study and taught through that book for the next 5 years. I could not have asked for a better way to be grounded in the faith.
That being said, we have moved around to various states for work and graduate school/seminary, so had to look for churches where we could continue to be fed and could be involved. I have found that staying away from denominations all together (I grew up in the Episcopalian Church) is best. so we always looked for independent baptist or bible churches.
Sadly even many of those churches were not suitable because there was either a strong authoritarian pastor (my way or the highway type), or they almost literally put being baptist before being a Christian. I had a pastor once who called this the big-B Baptist "Bodies, Bucks, and Bricks" syndrome.
It's hard, Brother, I know. I have felt tempted to quit going to church as well. So far, by God's grace we have been able to find suitable ministries that we can become part of, yet still have reservations about some of the practices.
We will not go to any church where the pastor and other elders/deacons do not view themselves and actually act as servants of Christ.
But, I think as long as sinful people are in places of ministry, it will be like that no matter what.
So, my 2 cents is:
* Look for an independent church not affiliated with a denomination,
* Look for preaching that feeds the congregation, not just repetitive salvation messages
* Beware of huge congregations and churches with catchy marketing type names and are only interested in numbers.
The Lord will lead you to the right place, Brother.
I've found that times of loss and seeking can be times where we grow most in discernment and wisdom. I see that in your writing. I'll add you & your family to my prayers, that you find a church home.
The corporate mentality has taken over many non-profits, which creates an inescapable conflict between leadership teams & employees who are there out of a sense of vocation. I have experienced this in healthcare, and see it at work in education as well. Good for you for not trying to scramble to meet their unrealistic demand for numbers.
Daniel, thank you for sharing this personal story! I will pray that you find a church home as soon as possible. I am glad you are interested in the Orthodox Church. I wanted to share some resources for your wife (and kids as they get older). I have been at home in the Orthodox Church my whole life and there is no other place where you will be as directly nourished by Christ. Some of my favorite online Orthodox resources for women are:
- Ascetic Life of Motherhood blog https://www.asceticlifeofmotherhood.com/homescreen
- Seven Holy Women book https://store.ancientfaith.com/seven-holy-women-conversations-with-saints-and-friends/
- Parenting toward the Kingdom https://store.ancientfaith.com/parenting-toward-the-kingdom/
I’m sure you’re already familiar with the book Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy as well - it’s a must-read!
It sounds like your kids are still pretty little but here are two YouTube channels with Orthodox content for kids…
- Ancient Faith Kids https://www.youtube.com/@ancientfaith4kids
- Patristic Nectar Kids https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCO7NEdeuYd4AU-CiK46dscA
Blessings and prayers and may God lead you where you’re meant to be.
I’m so sorry you’ve been through all this, Daniel - as a pastor’s daughter I have some secondhand experience with churches’ expectations being entirely unclear, and the pain that can cause. Did I read correctly that you’re still living in Columbus, GA? I took a look at my church body’s church locator and found what looks like a very solid church (in my estimation) in Columbus. I’m linking to the explanation of the denomination on that specific congregation’s website, and of course you can click around from there - but I thought it you might like to start there since you mentioned you’ve been looking into the teachings of various denominations. If I can answer any questions about the denomination for you, just let me know!
Well, I think my comment here might be a little out of the norm, but I don't really see, in light of the article above, why you aren't in church. Sort of the only thing you didn't seem to explain was why you are a church-less Christian.