How long have you been a Christian? Can you describe how you came to know Jesus?
I have been a Christian for 17 years. I came to know and love Jesus slowly. There wasn’t one grand evangelistic experience to my becoming a Christian- it was just time spent at a school learning about who Jesus is and falling in love with him as I learned that gradually transformed my heart and life.
What has been your experience in traditional church or churches? Can you describe a part of that traditional church experience that blessed you?
My church experience has been in Baptist and Non-denominational charismatic churches. The Baptist tradition cultivated my love for scripture and mission and my charismatic church helped me develop a deep and personal relationship with Jesus. While I’m currently in neither of those traditions anymore, I have been truly blessed by them both.
When did you decide to leave your church? Can you describe the situation and what you were missing from the traditional church experience?
I left the church in January 2017 because of racism, classism, and selective justice. I began to feel like I was giving my talents, time, and money into a church building and an ego rather than to something Kingdom building. What I was missing from the traditional church experience was a present and loving community, the freedom to thrive in my God-given purpose, and a gospel that is good news for all people.
Try to think about that leaving experience again, how did it make you feel? What made it difficult or easy?
The decision to leave the church was harder than I could ever explain in a blog. I lost the platform with which I used to express some of my gifts and aspects of my calling. This lead to major questions of identity and even my faith. I also lost my only community. While certain friendships were able to be maintained, so many of my relationships were curated in the context of the church that I left. Many of those people I had loved and served alongside chose not to be in relationship with me after leaving. What made the decision easy to leave the church was the deep personal revelation that I could not follow Jesus well if I stayed in that environment. That conviction anchored me in seasons of loneliness and questioning.
How did leaving the church affect your faith and your relationship with Jesus? How was he included in your decision?
I felt Jesus asking me to leave that church at least 4 months before I actually did. It was a decision I wept over and wrestled with in prayer. In the first several months after leaving the church, there was a very positive impact on my faith. I felt like I could explore different questions with Jesus and live more authentically. After some time, I began to feel distance between myself and Jesus and between myself and other Christian. Now, I don’t believe there can be healthy and sustained Christianity without community.
When you left, what plans did you have for going to a new church? Or were you considering something else?
When I left I knew I needed a sabbatical from traditional church to work out some of the trauma and time to think about I needed what I needed in another faith community. After that I visited many churches even though I wasn’t sure I could buy in to the traditional church model. My heart hoped for something else. I hoped for something like the Underground before I lived in Florida and knew it existed.
Is there anything else you’d like to add about this experience?
Leaving a church can be incredibly lonely and even traumatizing. Hold on tight to Jesus and your identity as you make the transition. Be vigilant about finding a community that you can be your whole self in and where you feel empowered in your God-given purpose. Seek counseling or help from someone you trust if you become overwhelmed.
What’s one thing you would say to someone who’s considering leaving their church space? What advice would you give them for next steps if they’re feeling lost?
One thing I would say to someone who’s considering leaving their church is that their concerns are valid. I also would advise them to invest in a community, faith based or not, where they can love and be loved to combat the feeling of isolation while they consider next steps.
Each contributor to this blog series is expressing their personal story of their own unique church experience. They have since been connected to the St. Pete Underground, a deconstructed church model that expresses themselves through small missional communities, or microchurches and home church spaces.
To learn more about our microchurches or to see church reimagined, feel free to come to our open showcase event happening Saturday, August 24th, 2019 in St. Pete, FL. You're invited to come as you are.
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