What Do You Do When Church Ain’t Working?

Renita Guyton
The Harvest Magazine Contributor

I grew up in the church. I served, I honored, gladly gave my time and finances. I faced many challenges and failed to rise to the occasion at times, but my faith was strong. I told myself if I could just keep myself focused and do what I knew to do, God would work it all out for me.

As time passed, I began to grow weary of the constant struggle. Not only life struggles, but inner struggles. Once again, I was doing all that I knew to do, living all I knew to live, and yet, things just weren’t getting any better.

There were times when breakthroughs came and prayers were answered, but, there was no sustained peace. The job paid well, but, was unfulfilling; my marriage unsatisfying, tumultuous and strained; and the ends just weren’t meeting.

I often assured myself that all I needed to do was pray a little harder; fast more often; read the word and memorize scriptures that would encourage me, my thought patterns were “it’s going to take more self discipline and control and really digging my heels in.” “Somehow, I’m going to get God’s attention! I’ve got to get His attention, because He’s got to move and do something, I am not sure how much more I can take.”

Good Enough

Often I’d ponder, “God is this it? Is this all there is? There’s got to be more.” Then I’d resolve, “If it’s Your will, things will get better; You’ll make it all right because You know what You’re doing. You won’t put any more on me than I can bear.”

When will I be good enough to be blessed? What combination of words will get God to move on my behalf? God I’ve heard that You love me, and I want to believe that you do, but, why have you made it so hard to be me? I don’t like who I am. I’m a mess! Why won’t you help me?

I tried to believe there was a divine plan working, that there was a reason for my pain and suffering. I’d console myself with what’d I’d been told like, “He chose me to suffer and increase the anointing on my life.” “He picked me out to be picked on.” “He called me to struggle in certain areas so that I could minister to others who face those same struggles.”

These words convinced me that God was at least “involved” in my life.

Bars by Tony Hammond. Flickr Creative Commons
Bars by Tony Hammond. Flickr Creative Commons

Spiritual Prison

I felt trapped. Mentally, emotionally and spiritually bound and gagged, my life was so dark. Going to church just wasn’t working. I did everything and lived how they told me and it’s gotten me nowhere.

I was incarcerated by legalistic, religious beliefs and I was convinced that God was the warden who’d imprisoned me.

I believed that God had the keys to my freedom, and I envisioned Him dangling them in front of me taunting me. I wouldn’t be pardoned until I’d achieved “good behavior” and not just good behavior, perfectly, consistently good behavior!

In 2003 there was a pulling and tugging at my core. I’d grown too weary of the path I’d been on to continue. I loved my church, my Pastor and the people, but, personally there was an uneasy feeling and a restlessness that I couldn’t shake. I began to ask God what to do about this. I just wasn’t satisfied with going to church anymore. I wanted more than just church. It was time for me to seek out the “more” that I was longing for.

It was a very frightening experience as I knew I would ruffle feathers and many would be upset at my choice to leave the church, but MY life was at stake!

I joined a ministry that seemed to fit me perfectly. Once again, I devoted myself, my time and finances. I was active in various church functions, and the word that was delivered was fresh and new and I learned more about the Bible and how the word could help me live day to day. It was practical and I could understand it better and it helped me live better — temporarily.

The majority of my life, I have leaned heavily on the church to tell me what to do and how to live. I didn’t fully comprehend that I was expected to take the word, study it, and allow it to renew and transform my mind. In my mind, that was what the Pastor was for. I was Pastor-dependent. I was everybody-else dependent, when what I needed was to be God-dependent. So, though I had this fresh and new church, Pastor and spiritual family, the same “old” me remained.

Chrysalis in its net-like cocoon by Andreas Kay_Flickr Creative Commons
Chrysalis in its net-like cocoon by Andreas Kay. Flickr Creative Commons

My Life, My Way

In the church, there is a standard set, a bar that we are expected to measure up to. The rules, regulations and beliefs of the founding fathers are what we are to live by. Anything outside of those parameters is considered sin. I just couldn’t live up to that standard. I was exhausted from the constant effort.

I was bitter with the church experience.

My integrity and my character were flawed because of my identity crisis. I was hurting, broken and bound. So I decided that I wasn’t going to live under the pressure or scrutiny of the church anymore.

In 2006 I became completely “churched” out. The “church” was not attractive to me and most definitely “serving God” was not attractive to me. I decided I was going to live life MY way now!

I took a break. I didn’t see the point of going to church only to go home and have the same issue(s) staring me in the face, the same pains stabbing at my heart. I’d feel good while I was there, praising and dancing, but, after all the effort I was exerting, my life was consistently entangled in torment, bondage, stress, depression, setbacks, failures and lack.

Fast forward, six years later, I was reintroduced to God.

In 2012, I began to visit a ministry based solely on the Word of God. I heard phrases such as “born again believers”, “rights and privileges” and “Kingdom.” Sure I’d heard these words before but this time I heard I them in the context of God’s love and not God’s anger. Grace and rest versus law and works. Relationship versus religion.

Psalm 63 Savio Sebastian. Flickr Creative Commons
Psalm 63 Savio Sebastian. Flickr Creative Commons

Paid in Full

I didn’t have to work to please God, He was already pleased with me because of what Jesus did. He paid it all!

Jesus PAID IT ALL! My sin debt was paid and God was the one who paid it.

Since the fall of man through Adam, God’s plan has been to get that relationship with us restored. That intimate, personal one-on-one relationship Adam had with God the Father. Though Adam’s fall caused us to lose our place, Jesus has restored us to our right position with the Father.

He took on that laundry list of do’s and don’ts. He accepted the consequences of my sins.

I’ve been trying to earn love and acceptance all these years. I’m already eternally loved and forever accepted through Jesus Christ.

And you know what else? God’s love transcends anything you or others could do, say or think about you. My identity was with “church” and “religious” order and not with Christ. I didn’t know God as my Father.

As I drew closer to Him, He began to answer many of the questions I’d had for more than 25 years. The voices of struggle, pain, disconnection, condemnation, depression and anxiety, began to be silence.

My Daddy God isn’t mad at me and has never been mad at me. God’s not sitting on His throne up high, looking down on you and your current situation; no, He is down in the trenches with you to help you!

Hebrews 13:5-6(the Message) Don’t be obsessed with getting more material things. Be relaxed with what you have. Since God assured us, “I’ll never let you down, never walk off and leave you,” we can boldly quote, God is there, ready to help; I’m fearless no matter what. Who or what can get to me?

I Know the Great I Am

God has ALWAYS felt so far away to me, so out of reach and out of touch, but, to really know that He’s as near as my heartbeat, brings that peace that passes all understanding.

So what do you do when church ain’t working?

Get to know God the Father for yourself.

Don’t settle for rituals and religion over relationship with Him.

God is not an abusive Father who says I love you and at the same time burns down your home, causes you to lose your job, puts sickness on you or a loved one to teach you a lesson and/or to make you stronger or better; or to punish you for your sin. God does not receive any pleasure or glory from making us suffer.

Our purpose in life is not to ‘serve’ but to reign! I believed I was purposed to serve. Not as Jesus served others but serving God and others from a position of subservience. A martyr for the cause of Christ!

Jesus died so that I could live the good life, the God life!

John10:10 KJV “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”

And the Amplified says “The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows)

Does that sound like a God who wants to punish you and put drudgery on you to prove you’re anointed? He GAVE us life and that more abundantly through Jesus! It’s FREE! Freely given! No effort or earning on my part, because I accepted Christ and I’m a part of the Royal family now! So whatever Jesus inherited, guess what, SO DO I!

The more I began to learn about God the Father, the more I wanted to know!

God’s reputation has been distorted in a way that is in total contrast to His name, His Word and His deeds. He cannot go against Himself, and this was what had me bound in a pit of despair, anguish and darkness for many years.

The bible tells me this:

John 3:16 The Message (MSG)

16-18 “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.

In just this one passage, God’s love towards mankind is displayed. It is not God’s Will that any of us be destroyed, in spiritual or in the natural.

He is not shaking His finger at us when we make a mistake or get off course. He took away every excuse to fall! All we are required to do is believe and receive.

God the Father who loves ALL of His children eternally, put together a plan to bring us back into relationship with Him.

This scripture was one that perplexed and confused me. My life was a contradiction of this word. I believed that I was an ungrateful disobedient servant and that “God was going to get me” if I didn’t obey. I hoped that I’d finally get to live in the richness of God in Heaven someday. That became my focal point. Because my life on earth was a total wreck.

Why is God being made out to be a tyrant?

We, in our finite mind, try to comprehend the thoughts, the will and intent of an infinite God.

Romans 11:34 (Amplified)

For who has known the mind of the Lord and who has understood His thoughts, or who has (ever) been His counselor?

Without revelation knowledge and understanding, we either overcomplicate or oversimplify or simply cannot accurately discern the Father’s heart. Therefore we bring Him, His majesty, His glory, His power, His promises and His purposes for us down to our level of understanding.

The church in Acts was a supernatural organism that moved, breathed and represented Kingdom. The church has since lost its creative ability to change lives and redeem the lost.

Going to church should not be like going to work.

  1. The dread of getting out of bed because there’s no joy or fulfillment in your being there.
  2. Consistently dealing with the drama of a coworker or coworkers.
  3. Feeling the pressure that if you don’t go you’ll pay for it later.
  4. The “boss” increasing your work load and you’re already unable to handle the work you have. Now you’re trying to figure out how to manage various projects and produce satisfactory results!
  5. Or, in order to “get your name out there” you volunteer for various committees and projects in addition to your workload, hoping for a promotion or some type of recognition or reward.

So, what do you do when church ain’t working?

Release! Let go and allow God to be the Father He has been all along. Let go of doctrine, the idea of church and dare to embrace the free gift of Grace.

Matthew 11:28Amplified Bible (AMP)

28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden and overburdened, and I will cause you to rest. [I will [a]ease and relieve and [b]refresh [c]your souls.]

Life has challenges and our own choices bring consequences that can be disagreeable, but here’s the good news, you and I have help. We don’t have to face any of it alone! We have been equipped to win! The victory is already ours and the enemy has already been paid off by the blood of Jesus! He [the enemy] has no authority to discuss your past, present or future with you. Jesus already handled it! He took the pay off!

I am empowered to live successfully through Jesus! WE are empowered to live!

It wasn’t church that I needed to be blessed, prosperous and happy. I needed a revelation of God the Father and who I Am: His Beloved.

What parent would bring harm to their child purposely to teach them a lesson? What parent would place their child in the middle of a busy expressway and then instruct the child to find your way to me and I’ll reward you? What parent would give their child to an enslaver and have that enslaver beat and torture and torment the child to make that child strong?

That is not God. God IS LOVE! He is in love with me and you.

The church is the place where God’s presence can dwell. He dwells in you and me. The Kingdom has been imparted to us. We don’t have to look to the outside for peace, love, acceptance, help, or grace. We look to the inside where the Father has taken up residence.

You and I are worthy of Him because Jesus has made us worthy. We only need to believe and receive.

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