We quit church…that seems like a big statement. For those who know us well, it is probably a very startling statement. Let me assure you that we still love Jesus, actually more now than ever, and I ask that you hear me out.
For those of you who follow us and don’t know us very well, let me fill you in. Before we began our RV adventures, Paul had been a full-time church staff member for 12 years. That 12 years was spread out over 3 churches, each one progressively larger than the previous. He was the Media Director at each church, as he is very gifted in that area. He is creative, a thinker of things outside of the box, self-driven, and extremely devoted. All of these qualities made him an excellent employee, church staff member, and got him many accolades along the way.
So, what happened? Why did we not only quit church staff, but for a time, we also quit church? How does that happen? We went from staff members, small group leaders, and highly involved operators of important components in the church organization, to taking a break from it all together. For a period of time, we threw in the towel, so to speak.
I’ll tell you. Church became an idol. Our ministries became what we worshipped. We were out of balance. God was not our focus. What we were preparing for our respective church ministries was our focus. The hours were long. In the end, Paul was working 70 – 80 hour weeks, and had a couch in his office to crash on when the nights got too long. The kids and I would go weeks without much more than a couple of “goodnights” when he came home before he crashed for the night. He was often gone again before the sun came up the next morning. Was that expected of him? Maybe…maybe not. It’s what he expected of himself because he was “working for the Lord”. “God deserved his very best.” “I have to get it done before Sunday.” Are any of those things wrong? Not entirely, but if you change “God” to “god”, then it is a huge problem. It then becomes an idol.
We served our church idol so well that we began to sacrifice our family for it. Like the ancient Israelites who turned to cultural idols, we served a cultural idol…the modern American church organization. We invested much of our time and energy serving in the church, but not necessarily serving God because let’s be real…growth was not what happened. In fact, quite the opposite happened. Our marriage was less than great at times. I was frustrated. We never saw each other. I often had to take the kids to the church so they could see Daddy because…it had been several days. He worked 6 days a week with Monday off (while the kids were at school and I worked half a day). Weekends were not a thing at our house. There was no room for family time. When Paul was home, he was exhausted (with reason) and less than pleasant to be around. You can probably imagine the tension that caused and the resentment toward the church that began to form in me.
The definition of an idol is an object of extreme devotion, or a representation or symbol of an object of worship. That’s what church ministry became in our family. We were extremely devoted to serving the church above all else, but the church building is only an object, and not worthy of our worship. In fact, if we get really technical, the church is not a building at all. We are the church. We are the body of Christ. People. Made in His image. Filled with His Holy Spirit. The church is Christ’s bride. People. Not a building or organization.
I hope you catch my heart behind what I’m saying. I’m not telling you to drop out of church or the ministry you serve in. It is very possible to serve God well in church ministry. We just didn’t do it well. I hope this also encourages you to pray for your pastors and church leaders. And if there are any church leaders reading this….those people who spend their time endlessly working or volunteering for you? They might appear to be ok today, but there will come a time when they are not. Check on them. Check on their family. Pray for them. Simplify things. Sadly, most of these things go unsaid by the one serving until it’s too late. People burn-out. Friendships are broken. Words are said that should not be. They cannot keep up that pace for long periods of time without consequences . Continuous accolades for an unhealthy imbalance are not the answer. If I had a dollar for every time someone said to me what a great job my husband was doing serving the church, and how much they appreciated all the time he spent doing it, I’d be a millionaire. It honestly just made me literally sick to my stomach to hear that most of the time, mostly because they had no idea how many hours he was REALLY spending, and how many hours we didn’t get to spend with him.
For us, it wasn’t until we left the church that we had space to reconnect with our Savior first, and then each other. It’s not that I wasn’t in God’s word while we were in ministry, but the growth I’ve experienced since, is immeasurable. We do still attend church with family (most of the time) when we are home in Texas, but there are sometimes that we just call a “family day” and don’t feel the least bit guilty about it. Recently, we have found a little church in Iowa that we have been attending. It’s wonderful to be back in community with a group of believers, but we are still very cautious and protective over the relationship we have developed with God and each other over the past 4 or 5 years. We are careful to make sure our children understand where we’re coming from and encourage them as they grow in their faith. We each have a morning “quiet time” where we read Scripture and pray. We talk about God, the Bible, our faith, and pray together. That is a common and very natural occurrence in our home. It’s not planned or rehearsed. It’s real.
Sharing the love of Jesus doesn’t just happen within the walls of a church building. When we live our lives in worship of our Savior, ministry happens. It doesn’t have to be planned, rehearsed, created, or to a deadline. It is natural and organic. It’s very simple. Love God and allow the Holy Spirit room to speak to you and through you. Serve others. Be kind. Shine the light of Jesus everywhere you go. People will be drawn to you, but they won’t be able to explain why. It’s Jesus. They are drawn to Jesus through the Holy Spirit living in you. It’s all about Jesus!
Our “ministry” has expanded, but not in a way we ever saw coming. We have recently been able to help a good friend with his media needs for a new church plant. It is going very, very well…and not just the church. A friendship has been rekindled. Our brother in Christ is leading well, and we are able to walk alongside him…from a healthy distance. God is opening further doors for our business to be able to partner with other churches and church plants. It’s an exciting time for us to be able to use our God-given skills and gifts for Him, but in a very balanced and healthy way.
As we ease our way back into the doors of a church, our prayer is that we are more of an active part of the body of Christ than overachievers in an organizational ministry. Though we quit church as we knew it, we did not quit God, and He never quit us. In fact, by quitting church, we found God in a bigger way than we could have ever imagined. He is continually restoring what was broken in us. As we continue along the path He has placed us on, it’s exciting to see the healing, restoration, and growth that has taken place. We continue to look with anticipation of what He will do next in us and through us!