six months ago, i decided to leave church.
it was something that’d been brewing in my mind for awhile now. eighteen months, to be precise.
please don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with my old church. it is home to an internationally-renowned contemporary christian music band, and i belonged to one of australia’s fastest growing university ministries. i was part of the church choir, was involved in leadership, and loved every moment of it.
but deep down, i was struggling. sundays were fantastic because i would feed on the word of God, but the rest of the week quickly became a drag. there were times when i’d sink into a deep hole of insecurity and faithlessness, i thought i would never see the light of day, despite knowing and believing in a God that is the light of the world. that was a terrifying thought.
when i first thought of changing churches, i brought it up to my leaders. the response i got was, “that’s a lie from the enemy. you need to shoot it down.” i believed them, and continued praying and seeking God.
six months on, that nagging feeling was still there. i still believed God’s plan for me was to look for a new home church. again, my leaders felt it was an attack from the enemy, which left me confused.
so, did i hear wrongly from God? am i that far away from Him that i’m making stuff up in my head?
am i just being stubborn and refusing to listen to wise counsel from my leaders?
leaving the church suddenly became this huge secret that i couldn’t share with anyone in the church. only my leaders knew about it. i could only talk to my friends from other churches about my concerns and what i felt God was telling me to do. it was a painful journey, trying to figure out the right time to leave without the feeling of being judged.
at the end of last year, i had an exceptionally long vacation from university – four months, to be exact. during that time, i travelled home to singapore.
i’ve always felt somewhat closer to God on a plane (silly, i know) and so i began to journal. i’d forgotten the joy of putting pen to paper. as a journalism student, i spend most of my time on my laptop editing images, writing stories, or transcribing interviews. putting pen to paper is such a pure, simple joy.
during my four months away from australia, God showed me various things. He taught me patience. He taught me to love. but He also taught me the importance of loving His house. i looked forward to church every sunday. while in australia it would be a drag to wake up at 3pm to make it for the 5.30pm service, 10am services on sunday mornings were not a problem in singapore. i didn’t even need coffee to kickstart my day. i loved diving into the word of God early on sunday mornings, and then applying it over the course of the week.
on the very first day of 2012, He then dropped something into my heart: i want you to change churches when you go back to australia.
just like that. and when God speaks, one just has to react. there is no running away from it.
at this point, i’d already purchased a one-way ticket back to australia. there was no turning back.
my first sunday was hard. i visited a small family church near where i lived. it was so incredibly difficult to be the “new girl”, to get used to another worship environment. while i enjoyed the company, i went home and cried myself to sleep that night.
the next sunday was better. i had the privilege of visiting a friend’s home church, where the service wasn’t so small that everyone knew everybody else, but there weren’t thousands of people in a service. i felt more comfortable there, but not comfortable enough to call it “home”. not yet anyway.
six months on, and about three months after i set about looking for a new home church, i have come to realise that my walk with God should not be dependent on the church i attend. God remains the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. He is the same in church, and out of church.
in my old church, i began to believe that my walk with God is tied to church and my ministry.
and then i began to see: i believed in a lie.
three months on with no home church and no ministry, i am retracing my steps with God. i am learning that God is the one and only cornerstone of the church, of my life, and of the lives of those around me. i am learning that God is not a God of rules, and He won’t strike me with lightning if i miss cell group (or a church conference) because of a prior commitment. i am learning that reaching out to His people is sometimes more important than spending time with my christian friends.
in short, the last few months have been pretty ironic: i left church to find Jesus.
more importantly, eighteen months after i first felt a nudge to change churches, i am beginning to understand that God is love. in 1 corinthians 13, it is said that love is patient, love is kind…love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. God was patient enough to wait for me. He trusted me even throughout my indecision. He hoped, and sent along friends who hoped alongside Him. He persevered in getting me to obey His will.
also, i am beginning to see the importance of the local church. the church is His bride, and His house. as i love Christ, i also need to love His house, in that order. my identity is found in Jesus, the living son of God, who died for our sins and rose again so we can all live victorious.
it has been an interesting journey thus far. as i settle into my new home church, there are things to get used to, and new people to meet. it is still a learning curve. and while there are no perfect churches in the world, there is a perfect God. i believe in His timing, His goodness and faithfulness, and His mercies that are new every morning. my hope is in Him.