I posted my story about recent church discipline yesterday, but I wanted to look more fully at the charges that were made about me. Unfortunately all I have are past conversations that occurred weeks prior to my dismissal and one email message with these vague charges that I am trying to sort through.
- Your actions and words are in no way acceptable for a believer:I don’t understand this. I believe the charge stems from the miscommunication I had with the pastor and the fact that I was hesitant in my communication. It may also stem from the fears that I have and the fact that he believes the presence of fear in my life means I was not trusting God and allowing the Holy Spirit to renew and change me.
- You have twisted truth in order that you can have control: I have no understanding of this. The only way I feel I have tried to have control is to ensure I was in a safe and non-threatening environment.
- You are not teachable: I believe this charge was made because I was hesitant to meet with the pastor and elder, and when I did meet with them in April I was not able to receive what they shared because I was so stressed out and overloaded. Also, the pastor and I had meet previously about 7 or 8 times and I had always viewed those meetings and two friends hanging out for encouragement and support. I am now able to look back and understand that he saw these as a time where he as a pastor should be speaking into my life and trying to raise issues where he saw me not walking well. Because we approached these times with different mindsets I felt the manner in which he approached things was confrontational. I had never had relations with a pastor like this so I did not understand how he saw his role and he never tried to explain it to me.
- You show absolutely no signs of submission to the Lord: This charge stems from my hesitancy to meet with the elder and pastor and the fact that I did not openly receive all they spoke to me without question. I have learned more about their view of submission through reflecting back on things I had heard from them and others in the church and through a recent sermon. However, similar to point three this view of submission is different than I have been raised with and taught and I was not taught clearly how this church viewed the pastor’s role or submission so I have been held accountable to a belief that I was never educated regarding.
- You show no understanding of the gospel:This charge has been very confusing for me because I have been a Christian for 25 years, have served in ministry/missions, and have actually walked through the gospel message leading many others to a life with Christ. The charge made me question my own salvation and I have had to walk through this with several others in an attempt to understand what this charge means. I believe this pastor and the elders believe the gospel is more than just the good news of Christ dying for our sins, but includes sanctification (the changing of our lives as we grow closer to God), and submission to God. While I believe that a life with Christ includes sanctification and submission I was never taught that these are part of the gospel. I have been taught instead that they are a part of our journey with Christ and the process of what we are walking and learning on earth prior to eternity with God.
- You have sought to drive a wedge of disunity within our body: I still do not understand what I did to drive a wedge of disunity in the church. My guess it is stems from the fact that I spoke to a couple about the communication struggles I had with the pastor/elder. There was absolutely nothing intentional in my motives to cause disunity. God’s word is very clear that disunity is some he despises and those who cause disunity should be punished. My guess is this is the charge that actually resulted in my dismissal from the church.
- If you don’t understand this and are confused by it, this just further demonstrates your twisting of truth: This statement makes no sense to me or those I have been getting counsel from. While church discipline can be a very healthy thing, it needs to include specific charges and statements like this cause confusion and misunderstanding. At this time I have not been given any further specifics.
- We suggest you consider the other church relationship examples in your life that have not ended well:I have been a part of two other church situations that included struggles. Almost five years ago I was abused in a church that had turned very unhealthy. I had attended there for almost 12 years and was active in ministry leadership and a faithful attender and tither. During my time with the church it dropped from about 1000 people to 125 and many had been hurt by this church. Although I was abused in this church and stripped of my leadership role due to charges that I was emotionally unhealthy and enmeshed in a unhealthy relationship with my ministry co-leader I was not removed from the church. The decision to leave was my decision. About a year and a half after this I joined a young church with an inexperienced pastor. Over the two years I actively attended (again I was involved in leadership and actively attending/tithing) I came to find the teaching was not Biblically strong, the community was not walking in a manner where they actively supported each other, and the pastor was unable to provide me with support and spiritual leadership regarding my recovery process so I made a decision to leave the church.
- You are no longer welcome to associate with anyone involved in ________. You also need to know that no one at ________ will pursue communication with you or respond to any communication from you.: As I read scripture the purpose of removing someone from the fellowship of believers is to drive them to repentance. The decision to remove me was communicated mid-week. I immediately tried to communicate with the pastor, sent an email of repentance and sorrow to the church that Saturday, and have approached the pastor and elder both personally and through my counselor seeking to repent and to ask for clear charges and a course of training and discipline that would at least restore me to a faithful walk with God, if not to the local church family. So far no opening for repentance or further communication has been provided. Maybe I am missing something from scripture, but out of all the charges this has been the most difficult one to handle. ( I wasn’t ready to repent and didn’t understand it at that time although I think I do now and I am praying God will open a door with my pastor/elders this week.)
Walking through this journey is difficult. I don’t feel that my pastor and the other four elders have been abusive, but I do not understand their decisions or the process. It has been pushing me to clarify and clean my relationship with Christ, and I have been pouring over scripture trying to understand God’s truth. Although their decision was to cast me to the world and hand me “over to Satan” (1 Cor. 5:5, 1 Timothy 1:20) I am turning to God and moving deeper in my walk with him through this. It may be a time of walking through the desert alone, but I am fighting to not lose hope and choosing every day to walk faithfully, to wear the armor of God, and to believe in the promises of God’s word.