[As told to Then God Moved editor Adira Polite]
Like many, I left the church because of its hypocrisy. I grew up loving God and His Word. I adored being a Christian — I served in the church, made Christian music, among other things. But, as I got older, I saw judgment, condescension, and hypocrisy from at least a third of the church people, including leaders. I wanted nothing to do with it, so I walked away. At the time, I told both myself and God that it had nothing to do with Him and everything to do with His people. I still believed and I thought that was enough, but the loss of the church community took its toll on me.
I was a Christian merely by name; I prayed only when I needed something and read little more than the daily verse on my Bible app. I said that God and I “had an understanding” — of course, that understanding wasn’t between me and God…it was simply my understanding of how I wanted our relationship to function.
When I left the church, my love of music came with me. I quickly translated my experience writing and performing for the church into making music for the secular crowd. At first, it seemed that I was golden. At one point, I had around 60,000 monthly listeners on Spotify. But the success was always fleeting. Many of my friends got signed to major labels and we all assumed my day would come, too. My success seemed certain; I had friends in high places, even head label executives, trying to give me deals, but something — Someone — always blocked it. As some say, God’s chosen ones can only run so far.
One day, after another deal unexpectedly fell through, I turned to God in anger: “You gave me this gift. What is the problem? Why is my life turning out this way?” He replied, clear as day, “When are you going to do what I’ve called you to do?” That wasn’t what I wanted to hear, so I repeated my question. Again, He asked, “When are you going to do what I’ve called you to do?” Finally, it clicked; the Lord had put ministry on my heart a while back and I’d been running from it ever since.
Though I told Him I’d surrender, I silently reassured myself that I was young, had time, and could do it later. In that moment, God showed me, in my mind’s eye, all of the times that I’d said this before. I’d said “later” for years; I’d get serious about Jesus later. I’d turn away from sin later. I’d accept my call to ministry, some time in the future. “Later” had come and gone; if I continued to push everything off, I would be being dishonest with God— and though I’ve struggled with many other sins, I’ve never had a taste for dishonesty.
That was it for me. In an effort to “prove” that I was honest, I turned away from my sins cold-turkey. I stopped drinking, having sex, smoking — all of it. My friends looked at me like I’d lost my mind, but I was determined to prove something to God. And in my effort to make a point, I ended up doing what He’d been asking me to do all along. As my sinful life died off, my Godly one arose. I got reacquainted with The Word and learned to walk, truly and closely, with Christ.
I’m now the pastor of a church in Atlanta. Given what I saw growing up in the church, this is the last thing I ever wanted to be doing. But, God has used my grievances against the church for my good; because I am hyper-aware of common pastoral pitfalls, such as pride or the love of money, I remain close to Him. Because of the grace God has extended towards us, we as Christians must extend grace towards others. That said, even the most faithful Christians make mistakes. And these failures should never be attributed to God — unlike us, He is perfect, holy, and pure.
Believers, be the change that you want to see in the church. Nonbelievers, don’t let your criticism of the church cloud your understanding of God. Trust me — He is so much bigger than the mistakes of His people.