The scene couldn’t have been more fitting, considering the circumstances. Falling rain splattered on my glasses and was absorbed by my shirt, making it heavy. My breathing was irregular with anxiety and when I spoke, my voice trembled. My lower lip quivered as I chose my words.
“I’m leaving. I can’t do this anymore. It’s just too hard…”
Normally, I enjoy challenges, but some things truly are impossible- like staying where I was. I felt like a weakling. The pastor to whom I was speaking was annoyed and probably couldn’t understand what was going through my mind. He didn’ t know about the sleepless nights, turning things over in my head. He was oblivious to the hours of prayer, asking the Almighty what He wanted me to do. He didn’t know how premeditated my attempted exit was and honestly, he probably never would. Which was fine.
That night was nearly two years ago. During that time, I met with other pastors and decided to try to make things work, but honestly, they didn’t. So I broke up with the only church I’d ever known, really just a few months ago.
At first, I just felt ashamed of the fact that I couldn’t choose to peacefully stay in the community that has helped me grow to become who I am today. Then I realized that I don’t necessarily do anything peacefully- mostly kidding. I had become a statistic. George Barna could add one more tally to the list of young(ish) people who’ve fled from the church. I’m sure there’s a survey out there where I could tell him all the reasons why I had to.
I won’t write about why I left. I might not even tell many people and if the wrong person asks, I’ll just tell them I needed to find a church with more single ladies. I am getting older, you know. I probably should get hitched, make a few babies, settle down and prepare for a slow, boring death, right?
Anyway, I spent several months googling nearby churches, looking at their websites and driving around the Treasure Valley, attending services and running out the door when I decided that it wasn’t a good fit. I wanted to find a place that didn’t just fit me, but that could also help me to grow in my walk with Jesus. It was an arduous task, especially in light of still raw emotions and a desire for anything different from where I’d come. I had to look beyond these responses to ensure clear judgment.
I’m happy to say that I have found a church and that I’m doing what I can to get involved in that community. It’s a lot of freaking work- I’d forgotten what it was like to be new and lost, but desiring to connect with people. But, now that I’ve come this far, I’m willing to start sharing some of the experiences I encountered in leaving, hunting and getting involved.
I’m going to call this series the Lateral Growth Chronicles. Lateral growth is what happens when one Jesus person checks out at a church in order to go to a another. Numbers might increase in some congregations, unfortunately, it isn’t always due to new relationships with Jesus. Some of us have been walking with him for years and needed repotting, or a new well to drink from, a new flock to annoy or something like that. Also, something like this is tedious and difficult, but not uncommon- in the least bit. I don’t know how many of these I’ll write, but I can tell you that I visited a couple dozen churches in my search…blah.
So here I am- a statistic, but I’m not ashamed of it, because when we get down to it, I did what I needed to.