I grew up in church. My parents were always very involved and when I was ten, my dad left his cooperate job to go into full time ministry. We were a church family. This all led me to attend a Christian college, work at a Christian college and then eventually join the family legacy and become a pastor. My whole life has been filled with church. I don't have many memories of not going to church on a Sunday morning, it was just who we were and what we did. By the time I became a pastor, I was working at a church that that had three services and I would be at all three, every Sunday.
I hope I am painting an accurate picture here - I have been to A LOT of church.
So a few months ago, I went through a lot of changes. I left my position at my Church, I announced to the world (or at least anyone who reads my blog) that I am very happily in a relationship with an amazing woman and for the first time in a very long time, I didn't go to church. I stayed up late on Saturday nights, I slept in on Sunday's and I discovered this thing called brunch, It was amazing.
In addition to my L.A. brunch tours and sleepy Sunday mornings, I discovered something else. In fact, it is one of the best things I've ever discovered; my relationship with God was real. It was real and it stayed. I didn't really ever question if it was real but when having a relationship with God had become a part of my school and work life for the past ten years, I wasn't sure what it would look like when all of that was gone. My faith had become so intertwined with job performance and it started to feel like my life influenced my relationship with God more than God influenced my life. I remember leaving my job and wondering if I would still feel the pressure on my relationship with God, or would that relationship thrive in this new found freedom?
Now, I should also mention that I was not only leaving my role as a pastor, which is role that is thought of pretty highly in the church world but I was now a gay Christian, which is pretty much thought off in the opposite light. I started hearing stories from people like me and their stories were full of hurt, rejection and hate that they experienced in church. I heard story after story about how church was not a safe place for them. Story after story about the awful things that people had said to them. I heard theses stories and I started wondering if I would ever go back to church again. I started hearing stories about people in my own church community who felt this way and I all but gave up on the idea of going back to church.
But then it happened.
I listened to Beyoncé.
In her song All Night she has a line that says "nothing real can be threatened"
Damn right Beyoncé. Nothing real can be threatened.
And if there was one thing I had learned in my season of church hiatus it was that my relationship with God was real. It was so real and it stayed even after everything else was gone, I wanted to read the Bible because well, I actually wanted to. I wanted to spend time in my morning in prayer because I wanted to. It was still real.
So I decided to go back to church. I love church, I missed church and I started to realize the freedom that you can have going to church knowing that the place and the people do not define your relationship with God. The beauty that comes with KNOWING deep down that God has said things to you that no one can take away. And with that, I went back. With that, I walked into the building knowing that the entirety of my faith did not live in this space and that gave me a freedom to learn and grow in a community that I do not and will not always agree with and that's ok.
If you are like me and you have been in church for a long time, there's nothing wrong with that. Church can be a great place but I sincerely hope that our churches become more and more filled with people who have experienced God in a real way and the things that God has whispered in their hearts no one can threaten and no one can take away. I want our churches to be filled with free and fearless people and every Sunday, I'll be there, in the front row, with my girlfriend, worshiping with our community and if that threatens you - you need to ask yourself why.
Gay or straight; the sum total of our faith does not rest in our church attendance. The fullness of who God is cannot exclusively or even completely be found in that building.
What if we all asked ourselves some hard questions about the things that threaten us and our faith. What if we sought out experiences with God that were real and true and we knew could never be shaken?
Can you imagine a world full of churches that were not threatened by change but committed to just pushing people to Jesus?
I can, and it is why I am there.