I haven’t been to church in two years and I have suffered greatly because of this.
I didn’t realise when I first started to drift, that this should have been a red flag. It started when I became uncomfortable with the church I had been a part of and one Sunday, I realised that I was tired of pretending to be edified. I wasn’t going anymore. I began to attend Isi’s church but even then, I felt like a fish out of water – it didn’t feel like home. I went to another church close to where I lived at the time but that too was disappointing because it seemed the pastor was more interested in numbers (& a semblance of success) than in the actual people.
I stopped searching for a church. Instead, I decided to listen to Apostle Joshua Selman’s sermons and I paid my tithe and offerings to his ministry. Sometimes I followed my friends to their church and sometimes I went with my mum to Catholic Church but nothing in any of these church gatherings could touch my soul. I felt cold on the inside and disconnected from it all.
Then the pandemic came and church was shut down altogether. I was a bit relieved that the burden of finding a church to attend would be taken off of me but this was probably because I hadn’t understood why I needed to be rooted in a church.
I’d had long discussions and even arguments with Angel about it. She tried several times to convince me to come back to church but I refused to. I didn’t need it, I huffed. “Besides, if it’s about fellowship, there’s True Christianity. It is a gathering of the brethren and we fellowship together.” I could be stubborn and my friend knew so she let it drop. Looking back now, I can bet she’s probably been praying for me all this while because how else can I explain what suddenly started to happen:
All of a sudden, I started to feel a deep exhaustion on the inside. No amount of sleep or rest was taking it away. I was always tired but I kept on persevering because I am also performance driven. It wasn’t long though before I started to see that it was ministry that was tiring me out. I was tired of being in front of people, tired of constantly pouring out, tired of the 1 million questions I get asked every day, tired of always having to talk to people, tired of replying messages, tired, tired, tired. I felt the weight of everything so acutely. I wanted to run away several times.
I didn’t know then that the problem was that I was trying to be a shepherd when Father hasn’t necessarily asked me to become one. I was doing ministry in a dangerous way, taking on every burden that was placed on me and even picking up those that didn’t concern me. I felt it was the right thing to do (performance mentality). What whole churches split into various departments with staff and volunteers, I did all by myself. I also didn’t know that as much as I was pouring into people, I needed to be poured into and prayed for and taken care of. I needed to serve under people in obscurity. I needed covering and support and standing at the top, I was alone, exposed and overburdened.
“I need to find a church. I want to start going to church again,” I said to Isi.
I had finally recognised that if I continued like this, I was going to crash and burn. I need sound teaching, I need to worship with other believers (and not be the one leading all the time), I need life to be spoken into me, I need someone to see what God was doing with me and call it out, steading me. Above all, I need to be submitted to an earthly authority.
To be honest, I don’t know all of why I suddenly started to feel the overwhelming need to begin attending church again and to be rooted in one but I know that it is The Lord driving and pushing me. A few weeks ago, I ventured out and went to a church. I didn’t enjoy it. The beat of the songs were too fast – it seemed the choir was more interested in getting members to feel good about the songs and themselves than to actually think on the words they were singing and to look at God in the light of the songs. Then again, maybe I’m just biased because I worship slowly. There was a lot of screaming and shouting and jumping all over the place and I felt embarrassed. I didn’t belong there and I didn’t go back again.
I thought about the service for some days after. Did I judge them too harshly? Maybe it’s just my quiet personality clashing with the loud and noisy way of worship? I can do loud and noisy. I love to lift a shout of praise to The Lord – I just didn’t like anything that seemed forced or unreal. I skipped church for a few weeks after that but then at the beginning of this week, a church I’d attended a while ago with one of my friends began to whisper in my heart. I began to see images flashing in my mind’s eye of myself worshipping there, of being surrounded by believers, being encouraged and I was seeing myself serving in the church.
Then two nights ago, I dreamt of the wife of a pastor in the church. She came to me and linked her arm through mine and we talked and laughed then she invited me to her church and I said I would come. This church she was inviting me to was the same one I had been seeing flashing in my mind’s eye.
I woke up.
Strange, I thought to myself but I decided to follow what I believed was The Lord speaking to me. I googled the church to find out what time their services are scheduled and to know if they have started physical services yet and I found that I was too late. They had a limited number of people who could be present for service (COVID procedures) and all the spaces had been taken.
I felt sad but I’ll try again next week.