I’m going to let you read over my shoulder again, this time through a recent email exchange over a couple of months with a couple in Canada. Their story represents what so many go through in this incredible process of moving outside the confines of religion and connecting again with the freshness of relationship with Jesus that they had before. They express so well the challenges and questions that many face in this process. They wanted their story to encourage others and when you see what their hearts hunger for at the end, I’m sure it will. I realize the choices God is asking you to make might be very different, but learning to follow him freely is critical to us growing in his life:
Well, we are not becoming members in fact we believe that God may be calling us out of that place all together. As you may guess our Pastor is not happy and fully intends to hold us to our word and what he thinks God wants for us! We did agree to becoming members and it was implied that we would accept those ministry positions, but now we believe that would be so wrong for us and would possibly even be a trap for us that we would have great difficulty getting out of, or maybe even destroy us. We have repented for our spoken words, we have sincerely asked for our forgiveness from those who heard us speak those words. Isn’t that enough? God has let us know, that we are forgiven, fully pardoned. Doesn’t God’s word overrule all others?
My response: No one who knows God and how he works would ever ask you NOT to follow your heart as you seek him. This man sounds like a real manipulator and has no power to hold you to a commitment you have since reconsidered. While we should never treat our word lightly, when we have made a commitment we realize to be in error, we are free to retract it and follow what God has put on your heart. Not taking a ministry position is like breaking up with a boyfriend or girlfriend. It only takes one vote not two. If it is not on your heart, follow God wherever he leads you.
My response: You have to realize that most religious institutions are about fitting in and going along. That’s what gains approval. Conversely, people who don’t do what they are told are often ‘punished’ by distance and exclusion. People will accuse them of being independent and rebellious. That’s what makes environments like this so destructive. Friendships only work as long as people are committed to the same task. It is really very sad. And your pastor’s ‘devastation’ is just another tool to manipulate you, like a young child pouting when they don’t get their way. Don’t think you have to satiate that attitude.
My response: You’re right! Others may exclude you, but that might also change in the future. Sometimes the people, who most punish us for getting out, are secretly hoping we’ll find life and grace outside. It is likely they are miserable too, but feel they have to stay in there. Don’t feel you have to convince or prove anything to anyone. Just do quietly and gracefully what God has asked you to do, keeping your heart open to all, but never forcing yourself on them. In time you will come to know who your real friends are there, and what others God might bring into your life.
So, here we are and I must admit that it’s a little scary, but we are in no hurry to seek out a new place to go. We are really grateful for the kind words of one friend who advised us to take our time and reacquaint ourselves with God. That confirmed what we were already sensing. We desperately need to get reacquainted with Him again, the business of ministry and programs seems to have stolen something from us. Lately I have just been singing out to God “I miss you!”
I would like to encourage others to follow their hearts! Others may not agree or understand but it’s only in His will that we are free! Thank God for His forgiveness of our mistakes and that He gave us another opportunity for freedom. God is very, very patient with us, but if we don’t listen, after a time our hearts could become hardened to His voice and our opportunity missed.
We are so grateful to have been able to have access to your web sites. It all came at a time when we were struggling with the decision that we have found very little support or understanding. You are a breath of fresh air!
And the moral of the story is simple: Follow the Lamb wherever he leads you. If he asks you to stay where you are, stay! If he is calling you out to know him in a deeper way, then go. But do not do what you do to gain the approval of friends or those who think themselves leaders, which will only lead to confusion and emptiness. Jesus can be trusted! That’s the great truth religion must obscure. You need us! You must follow us! You will whither up and die without us. Not true. Jesus can be trusted. He can gather his flock and lead them to safe pasture. (Ezekiel 34).