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Why I Left The Church

From age zero to fourteen I attended one particular style of church - a mainline denomination that held up the Bible as the final authority and denied the movement of the Holy Spirit beyond the times of the apostles in the first century. Each Sunday I knew what to expect from the church service as I showed up in my pretty dresses and hellish pantyhose. 

Things shifted when my family moved and visited a new church that believed the Holy Spirit is very much active and expressive today. I remember feeling something come alive in me, experiencing just a taste of God's Spirit during those brief months. What we'd done up to that point suddenly felt bland. God was far bigger than I'd realized.

That's when the great divide began.

One parent loved the new church and another parent thought it blasphemous and full of lies. My younger sister and I were caught in the middle. 

The parent who hated the new church, found one more in line with the former, preferred style and took my sister each week to services. The other parent, for some reason I still don't know, chose to stay home. 

Guess where I ended up.

For the next five years, I avoided church, other than occasionally visiting with friends. Those brief visits showed me even more diversity in church expressions - from tambourines and flag flying to sedate stand-sit patterns with pre-written prayers. But I lacked the continuity and community that might've kept me from digressing into a sea of confusion and compromising that marked my teenage years.

Why? Divisiveness. In my own household, among people who trust Jesus as Savior, divisiveness ruled the day.

In John 17, Jesus prays to the Father for His current and future followers - that they would become as equally united as Jesus is with the Father. That's a pretty bold prayer considering humanity's bent towards selfishness, pride, and independence.

Jesus asked that His followers would "experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me" (verse 23).

Is this prayer answerable? Is unity among so many differing interpretations and expressions possible?

Years later, I would take on my first "grown-up" job as a ministry assistant at Renovare, an organization that seeks to unite Christian churches from varying expressions. Founded by a Quaker and fueled by a Board and staff from more than a dozen varied denominations, I began my journey into realizing the beauty of unity among the church.

This is where I first gained hope in the possibility of unity among believers. An otherwise overlooked German theologian, Rupertus Meldenius stated in the early 17th century: In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity. 

Just imagine if we could grasp this!

Imagine if we could unite over essential beliefs (such as those articulated in the Apostle's and Nicene Creeds), give freedom to one another in non-essential interpretations (such as service style), and maintain love through it all! 

What does unity among those who follow Christ mean to you? How could you imagine that impacting our communities?

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