How do you find rest for your soul?

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Matthew 11:28
I just finished my junior year of college yesterday and now I am with some of the family at a lake house. As I was kayaking with my 11-yr old son, it was absolutely quiet on the lake. I could see pretty far down in the water. Various birds were circling around overhead, some would come down to the water and swim for a bit. 

As I closed my eyes and leaned back on the seat to rest a bit, I realized how long it’s been since I’ve deliberately taken a deep breath and heard the sounds around me. The idea that I have a few days where nothing is pressing is amazing. 

This is what I’ve been missing. Chillax time. Quietness. Breathing deeply. Listening to birds and the wind through the leaves. Walking barefoot on the sandy beach. Feeling the cool water on my feet. Watching the waves on the lake. This restores my soul. 

I look forward to reading a book and getting in some knitting and napping. Unwinding is good. 

What do you do for self-care? Hiw do you manage to take care of yourself when you are worn thin, emotionally and spiritually?

How do you find God during these times?

Dr. Dan Allender: Trauma, Our Personal Stories, and Recovery through Music

Dr. Dan Allender, Trauma, Music, Spiritual Abuse Recovery, Personal Stories


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Those who have been reading here for a while know how important I believe it is for survivors to tell their abuse stories. It took a while for us to believe the lies our church leader(s) told us about who we are and who God is. Eventually, through manipulation and deceit, we then told ourselves those lies. These “recordings” played over and over in our minds until they were perceived as normal. This is all part of thought reform, patterns of coercion, manipulation, and control, that cult leaders use to keep us emotionally and spiritually bound to them and their teachings.

When we are finally in a place where we can identify truth from lies, we still have to wrestle with the recordings that play in our minds that attempt to shift us back to the dangerous teachings we heard. I strongly believe that hearing ourselves speak the truth when we tell our stories will eventually override the old and damaging recordings in our mind.

I believe this is why many survivors have a need to tell our stories over and over again. It doesn’t mean we are living in the past. No. I believe it means we are validating our experience and further pushing that false and destructive narrative out of our minds.

Telling stories is empowering. It gives us strength to stand on our own two feet and use our critical thinking skills. We own our stories, even though they are negative. But now, as we tell our stories safe from our abuser, we are in control, not our abusive spiritual leaders. We speak not as one who remains stuck as a victim, but as a survivor who can incorporate the negative experience into the fabric of our bigger life story in a positive way. It shapes us, it softens and humbles us. It still hurts at times, but we can become more resilient and intentional with this trauma behind us.

May we never tire of listening to the stories of survivors. When we do listen, we validate them and help them to become whole. Also, if we are survivors, may we never tire of telling our stories without apologies. It may be just what a listener needs to hear.

Lately, I’ve been reading about our body’s response to trauma, and this 2-minute video is fascinating. In it, Dr. Dan Allender helps us to understand the power of music used as a healing agent in relation to trauma. Continue reading

Kari Benton Shares: Spiritual Recovery after a Lawsuit and Spiritual Abuse

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Blog Series: Spiritual Abuse in the Church: A Guide to Recognition and Recovery by Pastor Ken Garrett, Wk 3

Spiritual Abuse, Pastor Ken Garrett, Spiritual Abuse in the church: A Guide to Recognition and Recovery


Okay, we’re back to our ongoing series on spiritual abuse using excerpts from Ken Garrett’s dissertation on spiritual abuse, Spiritual Abuse in the Church: A Guide to Recognition and Recovery. We will use excerpts from Ken’s dissertation as a springboard for discussion.

Pastor Ken Garrett, Spiritual Abuse, Spiritual Abuse in the Church: A Guide to Recognition and Recovery

Pastor Ken Garrett

In the Introduction, Ken offers helpful definitions. Here is Ken’s definition for cult:

Cult – While most of the terms and ideas that I introduce are simple and easy to grasp, it is apparent in the project that I struggle greatly with the term cult in describing a Christian church. I will better explain and seek resolution to the struggle in subsequent chapters. But for a basic, consistent definition of the word, cult denotes a small, religious group that is not part of a larger and more accepted religion and that has beliefs regarded by many people as extreme or dangerous.

While ideology and doctrine always have a role in the health or dysfunction of any religious group, increasingly a group’s status as a cult is derived solely from its actual treatment of its members, and not from its creeds, beliefs, and theology.

I agree with Ken’s definition and note that the treatment of members is key. When I looked at my church, the stories I read about Sovereign Grace Ministries, Doug Phillip’s church (Boerne Christian Assembly), Doug Wilson’s Christ Church, this is the pattern that has been explained to me. The people adopt a culture created by the cult leader, aka pastor. Not only do they adopt this culture, but they cultivate it, endorse it, enforce it, even to the extent that sometimes the pastor/cult leader doesn’t have to do all of the talking. He has raised his faithful devotees to model his expectations. Since all members are “on board” with this culture, any new person who comes to the group and questions it will be the odd man out.

spiritual abuse, Ken Garrett, Spiritual Abuse in the Church: A Guide to Recognition and Recovery

Pic by Ken Garrett, taken on recent trip in Europe.

It does not feel good to swim against the tide, so there is pressure to join the group in their way of doing things. Next thing you know, that new person has become one of them and will also spread this culture and group think to additional new members, forgetting that at one time, they, too, had once questioned aspects of it. Continue reading

Spiritual Abuse in the Church: A Guide to Recognition and Recovery

 

Spiritual Abuse, Recovery, Pastor Ken Garrett


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Pastor Ken Garrett and his beautiful wife, Sharon

 

Now this is a great story! Some long-time readers will probably remember how I met Pastor Ken Garrett, a good friend of mine and of SSB. After I got sued by my pastor in 2012, I received an email from another pastor in Portland. This guy was Pastor Ken Garrett. My suing church was Beaverton Grace Bible Church. Ken’s church: Portland Grace Bible Church. So similar!!!

My story was broadcast in the Portland news, nationwide, and internationally. Some people mistakenly thought Ken was my suing pastor. His blog site had an increase in hits and he received nasty phone calls condemning this man who sued mothers and their adult children. Poor Ken!

Ken sent me an e-mail to let me what had happened (after a good laugh), and then shared about his experience with spiritual abuse. We became fast friends and have met in Portland from time to time discussing the topic that has greatly impacted our lives, spiritual abuse.

When I first got to know Ken, he mentioned that he was going back to school for his doctorate. I’m thrilled to share that Ken has completed his doctorate. His dissertation is entitled: Spiritual Abuse in the Church: A Guide to Recognition and Recovery.

This is a topic that has not received much press, but one which has affected many lives. I hope Ken’s work will benefit many, especially pastors, church leaders, therapists, and frankly anyone who wants to understand and support those in this kind of pain.

There is a link to Ken’s dissertation here. I hope Ken’s work gets distributed far and wide and is a great help to the church and the spiritual survivor community:  Spiritual Abuse in the Church: A Guide to Recognition and Recovery.

Bravo, Ken!

Recovering from Spiritual Abuse and Discussion about The Shack

Spiritual Abuse, The Shack, Paul Young, Brenda Campbell, Spiritual Recovery

I’m happy to share a post from my friend, Brenda Campbell. Brenda is also a long-time friend here at SSB, and she has a tremendous heart for those who have been harmed and also those who are stuck spiritually. She has gone on her own journey, and like many of us, has explored ways of making Jesus alive again after being let down by leaders in the church. In Brenda’s post below, she shares how Paul Young’s The Shack helped her spiritually. In full disclosure, although I own the book, I have never read it entirely, only skimmed it with the intention of reading it.

You can be sure I have read and heard lots of criticisms about the book – that it is not doctrinally sound, that Paul Young is New Age, etc. There are a lot of spiritual bandwagons in Christendom. I don’t like to get drawn up into hype – either pro or con. But what I like to do (when I have the time) is to take a closer look. I like to read the original source, and then opinions from both sides, and see how it lines up scripturally. I then decide which complaints or criticisms have merit. In other words, I try not to be quick to come to conclusions, but evaluate based on my foundational beliefs, what I see in Scripture, etc. I take what passes my test, and throw out the rest.

This post is not a promotion of The Shack per se. I cannot promote it if I haven’t read it. But I can invite you to read Brenda’s words. She found the book helpful for her in her spiritual journey and thought it might benefit others who have been harmed by people in the church.  So, as with everything, read Brenda’s words, read the book, and see what you think. Is it really heretical as some claim, or is there something worthwhile, or even life-changing for you as you learn to look at God through different lenses? Let me know what you think!  ~Julie Anne Continue reading

Victim of Bill Gothard’s Teachings Shares Emotional Aftermath

Bill Gothard, IBLP, Child Abuse, Discipline


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For some, the ramifications of following the teachings of an influential spiritual leader (or cult leader) can be lifelong. As difficult as this next personal story is to read, it is the reality for some, and that is why I will continue to post stories like this.

Part of being an advocate for those who have been abused is never forgetting the reality that they face. It is believing them and standing with them, even when it is ugly and uncomfortable. We may not be able to walk in their shoes, but we can come alongside them and let them know that we are here for them.

We’ve heard from Dash (pseudonym) before and how the teachings of Bill Gothard influenced his parents and the way they “disciplined.”  The other day, Dash sent me a note sharing his thoughts and struggles, and it made me angry and sad. Dash is still suffering physically and emotionally from the abuse and trauma he faced as a child.

While Gothard may not have specifically taught parents to “discipline” their children as Dash’s parents did, his teachings laid the groundwork for “sparing the rod.” For Dash’s parents, the sparing-the-rod teachings gave them a license to beat and abuse, all for the sake of children demonstrating godliness and good character. Basically, it was whipping children into submission so that they cheerfully and robotically complied with every command. Continue reading

Christian Blogger Invited to Speak at Free Thinkers’ Meeting about Abuse in Christian Churches

Free Thinker, Atheist, Christian Blogger, Thought Reform, Patriarchy, Spiritual Abuse, Cults




Last Sunday, I had the privilege of speaking at a Free Thinkers group. Privilege, some might ask? You bet. I will take any opportunity afforded to share the truth, set the record straight, and especially let people know that I, as a Christian, am displeased by the state of the Body of Christ when it comes to abuse and our response to abuse.

I feel I have a connection with many atheists. You see, when my defamation lawsuit went viral, I received over 500 emails of support. Many of those emails were sent by people who were harmed in the church, and then became atheist. This was originally a surprise to me, and  it saddened me. So many of these folks get spiritual abuse. They see the dysfunction and hypocrisy of celebrity pastors and leaders. Many of them are upset by what they see, and rightly so. If only those within the Body of Christ would get worked up about it!

It all started when I was in my Environmental Science class at school. Continue reading

An Abuse Survivor’s Response to Pastor Phil Johnson’s Insensitive Tweet on Domestic Violence

Phil Johnson, Grace Community Church, Sex Abuse, Domestic Violence, Twitter


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Blog reader, Christina, left an important comment on yesterday’s post regarding an insensitive and callous tweet Pastor Phil Johnson sent out regarding domestic violence. His tweet created quite an uproar on Twitter. Because Christina’s comment is addressed to Phil Johnson, I didn’t want it to get lost in the shuffle. It is excellent. Thank you, Christina for sharing.  ~Julie Anne


Response to Phil Johnson

Dear Phil. I guess you are a teacher, not a pastor, maybe that accounts for your lack of compassion. Perhaps we expect too much of you since you work and speak for John MacArthur, and so many people hold you in high esteem I used to be one of those, even though I am not a Calvinist, I always respected your teaching. Lately however, I can’t bring myself to listen to you. Continue reading

How Safe is Your Church?

 

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Have you met Boz Tchividjian of GRACE – Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment? This would be a good video to post on Facebook or send to church leaders. Until churches have safe policies in place and survivors feel safe to share their trauma to others in the church, the church is not whole. We need to be proactive in minimizing the opportunity for sex abuse to occur and also to help those who have been harmed by sexual abuse.

Continue reading

Update from Alex Grenier on His Reconciliation with his Parents Who Sued Him

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Earlier, I posted about the reconciliation between Alex Grenier and his parents. I don’t think I’ve ever done that before — reported on a situation that has a positive outcome. The thought of restored relationships after years of harm makes me cry. This has been so amazing. When I first got involved with Alex’s story and then formed a group to work on the “Who Would Jesus Sue” campaign to bring media attention to this story nearly 5 years ago, I don’t think I ever expected to see such a positive outcome. My thoughts were that hopefully Alex would win the court case, but I don’t think I ever imagined that something this beautiful could have occurred.

Alex is my friend. We have many things in common, and I love him like a brother. After he lost the first couple of rounds in the court process, I saw him change. I saw him go downhill spiritually and emotionally. He was angry (and rightly so). The new Alex was more cynical. I saw close his circle of friends get tighter. He became serious and driven, and he had to do things his own way. There were several friends I know who remained steadfast in their support of him, even though Alex sometimes lashed out.

About 6 months ago, I noticed a change in Alex. He wanted to prioritize the important things in his life: his family, his business, and I think it was around this time that he also wrestled with his God. For me, it was difficult to observe this long process over the years. I was watching the fruit of what happens when someone is harmed. We all know it can happen, but when you have been closely connected to someone, the sadness is real. You know there’s nothing you can do except continue to extend love and grace. You just hope and pray that your “brother” will get it all figured out. Alex is one tough dude and I knew he’d have to get hit hard (because he and are so alike). The nearly five years of legal battles, and all of the emotional and spiritual strain in his life, left him spent. He was done. And apparently, it was in this place where Alex was humble, and was able to find truth, love, and healing.  I love you, Alex.  I think this is your life verse, literally:

I have fought the good fight,

I have finished the race,

I have kept the faith.

2 Timothy 4:7

Continue reading

Survivor of Tullian Tchividjian’s Alleged Clergy Sexual Abuse Goes Public with Her Story – Part 5

Tullian Tchividjian, Personal Survivor Story, Clergy Sex Abuse


Statue of Lady Justice © Sebastian Duda, Fotolia #35822634.

Statue of Lady Justice © Sebastian Duda, Fotolia #35822634.

LINKS: My Story: Part #1Part #2Part #3Part #4Part #5.

Editors’ Note: This is Rachel’s story, and she is sharing what she recalls of her relationship with Tullian Tchividjian. She is sharing her facts, opinions, and what she believes to be true. Tullian is a public figure of interest. It is not defamatory to share opinions, beliefs, and personal stories publicly. In order to prove that she is being defamatory, it would need to be shown that she knowingly told lies, and did so with malice. Continue reading

Survivor of Tullian Tchividjian’s Alleged Clergy Sexual Abuse Goes Public with Her Story – Part 1

Tullian Tchividjian, Personal Survivor Story, Clergy Sex Abuse


Statue of Lady Justice © Sebastian Duda, Fotolia #35822634.

Statue of Lady Justice © Sebastian Duda, Fotolia #35822634.

LINKS: My Story:  Part #1Part #2Part #3Part #4Part #5.

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An Introduction, from Julie Anne Smith and Brad Sargent

Several of those who have alleged victimization by Tullian Tchividjian have contacted me (Julie Anne) over the past year and a half. Rachel (which is her real first name) was one of them. She is the survivor of Tullian Tchividjian’s clergy sexual misconduct in the spring and summer of 2015. She’s also named as “Woman #2” in our recent Partial Timeline post. Discovery of their sexual relationship by staff at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church (CRPC) led to Tchividjian being asked to resign as Senior Pastor there, and his being “deposed” by the South Florida presbytery (i.e., having his ministry credentials removed).

Rachel’s story is critically important to consider, in part because she tried to inform multiple Christian leaders – mostly men who were supposedly responsible for overseeing or counseling Tchividjian – about what she experienced as his patterns of lies, seduction, and spiritual abuse. She herself admits, she didn’t always do this in the best way, with rants and emotional comments on posts. But she and her family had been harmed, and she was also trying to get Tchividjian to follow through in repaying over $11,000 he had borrowed from Rachel and her husband to hire a private investigator.

So, it turns out that her personal story intersects with the three main ministries that have been parts of Tchividjian’s platform during the past several years: Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church (Fort Lauderdale, FL), Willow Creek (Presbyterian) Church (Winter Springs, FL), and the Liberate Network. At this point, we know of no other survivor whose actions connect with all three. We are grateful she has agreed to share her story so that others can be warned about wolves in the Body of Christ, and also learn about what real repentance and recovery can look like. Continue reading

Survivor of Tullian Tchividjian’s Alleged Clergy Sexual Abuse Goes Public with Her Story – Part 2

Tullian Tchividjian, Personal Survivor Story, Clergy Sex Abuse


Statue of Lady Justice © Sebastian Duda, Fotolia #35822634.

Statue of Lady Justice © Sebastian Duda, Fotolia #35822634.

LINKS: My Story:  Part #1Part #2Part #3Part #4Part #5.

Editors’ note: This is Part 2, a continuation of Rachel’s story which began here. The remaining parts of the series will be posted soon.

Edited to add 11/30/16: This is Rachel’s story, and she is sharing what she recalls of her relationship with Tullian Tchividjian. She is sharing her facts, opinions, and what she believes to be true. Tullian is a public figure of interest. It is not defamatory to share opinions, beliefs, and personal stories publicly. In order to prove that she is being defamatory, it would need to be shown that she knowingly told lies, and did so with malice.  ~ja Continue reading

Survivor of Tullian Tchividjian’s Alleged Clergy Sexual Abuse Goes Public with Her Story – Part 3

Tullian Tchividjian, Personal Survivor Story, Clergy Sex Abuse


Statue of Lady Justice © Sebastian Duda, Fotolia #35822634.

Statue of Lady Justice © Sebastian Duda, Fotolia #35822634.

LINKS: My Story:  Part #1Part #2Part #3Part #4Part #5.

Editors’ Note: This is Rachel’s story, and she is sharing what she recalls of her relationship with Tullian Tchividjian. She is sharing her facts, opinions, and what she believes to be true. Tullian is a public figure of interest. It is not defamatory to share opinions, beliefs, and personal stories publicly. In order to prove that she is being defamatory, it would need to be shown that she knowingly told lies, and did so with malice. Continue reading

Survivor of Tullian Tchividjian’s Alleged Clergy Sexual Abuse Goes Public with Her Story – Part 4

Tullian Tchividjian, Personal Survivor Story, Clergy Sex Abuse


Statue of Lady Justice © Sebastian Duda, Fotolia #35822634.

Statue of Lady Justice © Sebastian Duda, Fotolia #35822634.

LINKS: My Story: Part #1Part #2Part #3Part #4Part #5.

Editors’ Note: This is Rachel’s story, and she is sharing what she recalls of her relationship with Tullian Tchividjian. She is sharing her facts, opinions, and what she believes to be true. Tullian is a public figure of interest. It is not defamatory to share opinions, beliefs, and personal stories publicly. In order to prove that she is being defamatory, it would need to be shown that she knowingly told lies, and did so with malice. Continue reading

A Father Shares the Fallout His Family is Facing after Being in a High-Controlling Church

Spiritual abuse, children, mental health, high-controlling church, NAR, New Apostolic Reformation


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Special note:  I am in Chicago until 11/5 and would love to get together with survivors or those interested in helping survivors. If you would like to meet up, please contact me and let’s see if we can arrange a gathering.  spiritualsb@gmail.com   ~Julie Anne

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Today, we are going to read a brief personal story from Andrew. Andrew shares with us the harm his family faced and is still facing after being in a high-controlling, abusive church for 15 years.

There are a number of thoughts that struck me when reading his words.

  • First, Andrew seems to have a good understanding of what he and his family endured, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Sometimes this process can take years.
  • Secondly, he is not minimizing or trying to move past the current emotional and mental state of his family. It appears that he is appropriately addressing each conflict or bump in the road right now. Many times when people are in a spiritually abusive church, they want to move on so quickly (understandably), that they forget to take care of themselves and get their wounds healed.
  • Thirdly, Andrew is aware that this healing process is a journey. He’s taking a realistic look at where he’s been, what is happening now, and the work ahead, and knows there is no quick fix.

I believe there is a recovery process to get to wholeness after spiritual abuse. Process is the key word. It doesn’t work well to close the door to spiritual abuse and act like it never existed. It did exist and it did have an impact on lives. If we are quick to put it behind us without doing the necessary recovery work, we are likely to fall into similar traps.  When we go through recovery, we gain knowledge, understanding, have a new fresh perspective on who God is and how He relates with us, and we learn to forgive ourselves.  ~ja Continue reading

Help! My Family Member or Close Friend is Trapped in a High-Controlling Church or Cult. How Can I Encourage Them to Leave?

How to help a family member or friend leave a high-controlling church group or cult: spiritual abuse, trapped, thought reform, mind control, freedom


 

“Mind control is the process by which individual or collective freedom of choice and action is compromised by agents or agencies that modify or distort perception, motivation, affect, cognition and/or behavioral outcomes. It is neither magical nor mystical, but a process that involves a set of basic social psychological principles. Conformity, compliance, persuasion, dissonance, reactance, guilt and fear arousal, modeling and identification are some of the staple social influence ingredients well studied in psychological experiments and field studies. In some combinations, they create a powerful crucible of extreme mental and behavioral manipulation when synthesized with several other real-world factors, such as charismatic, authoritarian leaders, dominant ideologies, social isolation, physical debilitation, induced phobias, and extreme threats or promised rewards that are typically deceptively orchestrated, over an extended time period in settings where they are applied intensively.”
Steven Hassan, Combating Cult Mind Control: The #1 Best-Selling Guide to Protection, Rescue and Recovery from Destructive Cults

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I’ve heard it said that losing a child to death can be a parent’s worst nightmare. Now imagine having lost your adult child and their family, not to death, but to a high-controlling church or cult. Imagine not being able to celebrate birthdays or major holidays together. Imagine having only limited contact with your adult child and their family. How could your loved one entirely dismiss you, act like you are a stranger or enemy when you did nothing to them? Continue reading

Would your church be able to help someone in the midst of a crisis? How equipped are they?

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Before we get into today’s article, we’ve passed an important milestone here. Today, I noticed in my Facebook’s “On This Day” feature, that it is the 4th year anniversary date of the judge’s decision on the defamation lawsuit brought on by my former pastor, Chuck O’Neal of Beaverton Grace Bible Church (BGBC) vs. me and 4 others. Our attorney filed an anti-SLAPP counter suit which meant that O’Neal and BGBC had to prove that our case met the legal definition of defamation. It did not. Not even one phrase that I used (or anyone else used) met even the first tier of the defamation definition (that we had intentionally lied). In order Chuck O’Neal to have won, he had to prove that we knowingly lied about him, AND, we lied with the intent to harm. Judge Fun dismissed the entire case.

When I think back on four years, the amount of information I have learned is remarkable. So much of that has been because of you. Thank you. God has restored what the locust has eaten. Through my pain and now the information I’ve learned along the way, SSB has been a safe and a growing place for me and for others. Yea God.

Here’s the note that appeared on my timeline 4 years ago by a friend:

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Chuck O'Neal, Beaverton Grace Bible Church, spiritual abuse, defamation lawsuit, spiritual bullies

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Would your church be able to help someone in the midst of a crisis? How equipped are they?

Continue reading

When You are Done with Church

How Do You Respond When Someone Talks to You About Your Lack of Church Attendance?

st basils

Kathi here. For many years my family and I attended church. We faithfully went to Sunday service, Wednesday nights, gave our money and spent hundreds, if not thousands, of hours volunteering. At one point, though, we realized that we were exhausted and disillusioned with “doing church,” so we decided to leave. We found our Sunday mornings to be more relaxing and stress free. It’s been nice.

Even though we do not attend a church, we have never lost our faith in God and we have found that the church is not confined to Sunday mornings in four walls. We now have relationships with people that we never thought we would because we no longer spend our free time with only church people. Actually, we never really left church. Church is different for us.

But that’s not enough for some people. Because I live in the same town where I used to go to church I inevitably run into someone that I spent many Sundays with. And, after chatting for a few moments I am always asked, “So where do you go to church now?” Which leaves me telling them, “nowhere.” Which leads them to saying, “Oh, you should try our church,” or “That’s too bad,” or “The church is really different now. You should try coming back.”

Then, I explain this blog, how I have met so many people here and how we are a church that supports each other. I am told that it’s not the same. And. they’re right. It’s not the same, it’s just different. You know what? I’m okay with different. I know that no matter how much I try to explain why we don’t go to church, I will never be understood.

If you are someone who is done with church, how do you respond when someone asks you about why you no longer go? Do you find that it is a source of contention between you and someone you know or love? Have you ever had to explain that your salvation is not dependent upon whether or not you go to church?

Photo credit – Kathi, St. Basil’s Cathedral, Moscow, Russia