Awakenings

Glimpses of the Divine in the Mundane

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I came close to leaving the church.  For the past year and a half I have had awakenings that have shook me to my core, I have wrestled with questions that felt like I was being pinned down in the ring.  Like any wrestling match, it has been tense.  I have explored to the ends of  my strength and where the edges of my faith have been.

It all started with a certain sermon from a certain “big name” within the Adventist denomination.  I missed the sermon all-together because of the busyness of my job as a high school pastor and chaplain.  After many people kept asking me about my thoughts on the sermon, I thought I better hear it.  And so, with the age of technology, it wasn’t too hard to find.  While watching it, I was more amused than anything.  I didn’t feel challenged at first by it.  But seeds of doubt were planted.  I began to question my calling.  I took my eyes off of my calling, off of Jesus, and began to look at myself.  I began to view myself through the critic’s lens that certain people within the church were viewing me from.

Then more conversations surfaced.  I found myself in a church for a constituency session – the same church I had grown up in as a child.  I sat there hearing people’s strong resistance against women in ministry, even people who had taught some church school classes when I was growing up…I’ll be honest:  it hurt.  And I felt angry that it hurt because it made me feel weak.  I felt I should be stronger.  So many feelings kept flooding me.  I felt that I had been duped into believing that I was called.  I felt like a kid who had been allowed to cook in the kitchen, only to be later told that my meal I had prepared had been secretly replaced by a more worthy chef.  I felt betrayed.  And I was angry that I felt hurt by this all.  Had I really been this naive?  And then I felt angry for letting it affect me so much – just do your job already!  And I did.  I kept working hard, trying to mask my pain with more work.  But I still felt it.

But then more blows came.  Some people would approach me and tell me to my face that I was a disgrace to God and the church because of what I did (being a female pastor).  The internet became a screaming voice of bigoted comments against women – comments cloaked in Bible verses and “righteous” anger towards women in ministry.  It surprised me, really.  I even received an email that used words that cut me down to the core.  And I began to ask myself:  why am I here again?  Why do I work for this church?  Why am I putting up with this again?

That tension has been there a long time.  To be fair, I have been blown away by the other voices that have risen to the surface in support of me and other women in ministry.  I have been moved by my brothers in ministry who have had my back and who laugh with me about the ridiculous things people have said.  (It’s funny how laughter is a beautiful vehicle for pain and anger).  I even had my administration in the conference I work for personally send me a note stating that I was a valued member of the team.  And the students that I worked for and love so much, I couldn’t leave them.  But I still questioned my call.  I still felt like I was experiencing a death.

And I think I now know what that death has been.  My allegiance to “the church” has died.  Any pull that may have been there for the politics of religion has been slaughtered.  All the “right things to say” to be within the “right circles” has shattered.  The mask of the beast of human religion has been unveiled, and in disgust I want nothing to do with it.

So why am I still here?  Because something else has been surfacing.  And it’s the definition of what church really is. It’s the strengthening of my calling.  I am not here because of “the church.”  I am here because of Jesus the Christ.  I am here because I’ve been created for such a time as this. I am here because I have talents that have been bestowed upon me to make this world a different, better place.  A lot of the things that are happening within churches are wrong, and that’s why I need to stay.  Because if I leave, I am agreeing that I am not called.  If I leave, I am agreeing that the beast of human religion is stronger than the call of the Divine.  If I leave, they won.  If I leave, I am throwing in the towel and the dysfunction that has become the church to so many people will only get stronger.  And so I stay for the sake of the call – to call the church back to its true meaning.

Because, in reality, the church is not defined by what it has been. It is not defined by its location. It is not defined by its statutes.  It’s not defined by the General Conference President.  It’s not defined by Amazing Facts.  It’s not defined by 3ABN. These things can be good, but they do not define church.  The church is not defined by Christian music.  It’s not defined by a political party or a fundamentalist group. The church is not defined by its institutions, conferences and unions.  The church is not defined by the steeple or the tithe intake, or the attendance of people in the pews on the weekends.  The Church is defined by YOU.  It is defined by ME.  Its defined by the calling we’ve been given.  The church is defined by the radical message of Jesus the Christ, who was crucified by religion.  It is defined by radical love – love that is carried in human canisters like you and me.

There is a question I ask myself when I’m in a tough place, whether it’s a place of apathy or a place of indecision, or a place of hardship.  And the question is this:  If this were a movie, and I was the main character, what would I want myself to do in this situation?  And usually I want my character to do the thing that will be most challenging.  If the music was building and in the movie the camera panned in on my character, what would I be rooting for?  I would want her to do what she knows she has been created for.  I would want her to change history.  I would want her to make the hard decisions and then follow through.  For some who have been in my situation, that means to leave.  For others, it means to stay.  For me, that is what I am to do at this point.  And why should I leave – I’ve done nothing wrong.  There may come a time when I am pushed out because of my calling.  There may come a time when I will be denounced not just because I’m a female, but because of the radical love of Jesus’ gospel.  There may come a time when I will be forced to choose between allegiance to the church or allegiance to Jesus Christ – but in all of these instances, I won’t be leaving the church, because the true church consists of people who’s only allegiance is to Jesus’ love and embodying that love to the world.  There may come a time where the decision will be forced that in order to be the true church we’ll have to “leave” the organized church.  Because I know, in many great characters that have come before, that when we follow Jesus the Christ and live His radical love in this world, be ready for a crucifixion.  But for now, in my story, in my journey, my character is supposed to stay within this setting.

I look at the people who have gone before me and who have faced a lot worse and who still pulled through.  I am awed by their tenacity to keep going, to change history, to reveal the evils of mankind and to lovingly encourage a better alternative.  They have brought light to us on our paths.  They are passing on the baton to others who will continue this race.  Their hands are in full swing, ready to release.  Their leg of the race is over, and they need someone to take up the baton.  If I leave, the baton will drop.

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Imagine if the people who started this race had bowed out.  People like: Jesus the Christ.  Stephen the 1st Martyr. The Waldenses.  The Martyrs in all of Christendom. Martin Luther. Ellen White.  St Francis of Assisi.  Mother Teresa.  Martin Luther King, Jr. These just name a few.  These had the fortitude to not be lured by the politics of religion, but to shine the light on what love is, and how that love can change the world.  What if they had left when the going got tough?  What if they had said “Screw this!” and left for greener pastures?  It is because they kept going that we have an example and definition of what this radical love looks like.  It is because they leaned into the storm that we understand what the true meaning of church should be.  Without their example and sacrifice, we would have no way to measure the difference between religion and love.

I’m not sure what the future holds.  But I do know that this calling is my canvas.  This is my studio.  This is my pulpit.  And that I have been created for such a time as this…and so have you.  Regardless of whether or not I will always “work for the church”, this I know:  I will never leave the church because I am the church, and so are you. We, as humans alive at this time, are the church.  I have been called for such a time as this, and so have you.  As someone once said, “let’s stop complaining about the church we have experienced, and let’s become the church that we and God dream of.”

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18 thoughts on “Church: Should I Stay or Should I Go?

  1. Del Dunavant says:

    Thank you for staying!!!!! Our church will be sooooo much better for that decision. I am soooo sorry that you have to be a pioneer in this area. But we know Him, who is able to keep you from falling, our precious Friend, Jesus Christ! Thank you for sharing your thoughts, feelings, and journey with us. Now I know why I was suppose to be praying harder for you. You’ll continue to be in our prayers.

  2. 2rcarrol says:

    You’re right – the church is You and Me. Like you, I stay in a church where I see so much that isn’t what it should be, because I feel a call from God to bring about change.

  3. Dan says:

    Much of what I have been experiencing as well…thanks for being so honest, Krystalynn!

  4. Judy Westbrook says:

    Amen! Preach it, daughter! Did your blog just tell me: “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us,and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” I also clearly heard, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus!” Amen again !!

  5. Jim Lorenz says:

    I am very glad you have stayed. I too have had discouraging moments wondering who moved my church for some of the reasons you have listed above and others. But I have also decided that I must be a voice for the authentic church and help those who are struggling to find it, even when it has felt I was alone. But then I have discovered, like Elijah, I am not alone; there are “5000 who have not bent the knee.” Keep up the good work, Krystalynn! We need you, and never forget, you are not alone.

  6. Jill Stickle says:

    Thank you and bless you for your words, your courage, your honestly, and most of all, for STAYING! We need you and your passion for Jesus and your heart for people! I LOVE our identity in HIM! We are His church and He is the Cornerstone!

  7. Marianna says:

    Your post hit the nail right on the head, thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with us. I think there are a lot of people out there hungry to hear your words to gain the momentum and courage to stand strong in this confusing world of religions. Jesus’ radical love is the one and only answer, straight and simple, I’m not even sure why one would question it but I did too. I was also lured into, then permanently turned away from the dogmas, restrictions and politics of church. God bless you with abundant strength and wisdom to help many others to find true salvation…♥

  8. marynew55 says:

    I left formal Christianity because I cannot take the hate aimed at me for being a liberal female, at others because of their sexuality, the color of their skins, etc.. and yet…Jesus’s message of love, forgiveness and tolerance stayed with me, I hate that all these hateful groups are spouting their hateful words in the name of God. It’s so wrong.

  9. Dacyl Galicia says:

    Thank you for staying! You are a mirror of my very own feelings and I thank you for your honesty and willingness to be vulnerable before others. May God who ordains and pours his spirit, always manifest himself in your life, my sister!

  10. Addiel Amador says:

    I am deeply sorry that some of our delegates see things different and choose to be a stepping block to the mission but as you and I know we serve Jesus and that goes before any human recognition. Keep it up never give up.

  11. Tony Lewis says:

    This is not one of the reasons I am a former Seventh-day Adventist and no longer a Christian, but it does serve to reinforce my gladness in not being involved with any church and all the petty bickering and pseudo-intellectualism. I look back with astonishment in the silly policies I went along with because religious leaders played the unity card and manipulated the thinking of members to control them. 30 years of that was enough, thank you. At what point do you realize that all you believe is based upon a book that was written by patriarchal zealots who believed that women were second-class citizens?

    “We do not believe that any group of men is adequate enough or wise enough to operate without scrutiny or without criticism. We know that the only way to avoid error is to detect it, and that the only way to detect it is to be free to enquire. We know that in secrecy error undetected will flourish and subvert.”- J. Robert Oppenheimer, when called before McCarthyite Senators to answer for making atomic energy information public.

  12. Vera says:

    I must say, I am very close to leaving the church. Jesus is still my savior and I still believe in the sabbath, but I am so done with all the politics. I want to be like Jesus and I feel the Adventist church isn’t doing that.

    1. Flrutan says:

      I feel your pain Vera. Yet there is no other church you could be happy in. We just must be examples and change it from within

      1. Fay says:

        ” Yet there is no other church you would be happy in.” I don’t see how this attitude toward being in other Christian churches, is any different in spirit, of those that thought they have the right to qualify church females; still a high sense of eltism

  13. Jaybird says:

    Discovering that All religion is wrong ,dangerous, and unhealthy for mental health and maturity, unless you suffer from a special Rogers syndrome and need strict guidelines to manage life. I am not leaving the church because, you cannot leave your molding, the church is me and i am the church, the politics of gthe church is just what it is, politics meaning many tricks, which will give you a tic, if you allow it to influence your decision making.

  14. Connie Smart says:

    This whole church issue of who should or shouldn’t be allowed to minister God’s flock….has again brought up an incident with the conference under which my husband faithfully pastored for 13 years….

    Two children, ages 3 nd 4 were sexually assaulted in the church basement. With the church as a whole struggling to deal with such a horrific sexual issue and emotions and responses flurrying in all directions….the conference and several wealthy church patriarchs decided….. to transfer my husband from the church he pastored and bring in someone new….basically to just slip the horrific incident under the covers and move on…I saw my husband stand against the conference and state…”I did not choose this agenda for this church in particular but God has and I feel a transfer at this time is not best for the issues at hand…to be dealt…nor the church congregation as a whole.” My husband called of God to minister to His flock….stood tall against all odds and conference requests….for another two and a half years…ministering as he felt God directed him…before he was fired….by his conference.

    My husband felt that to truly be led by God in ministry….means exactly that…God chooses the path…of His church…not the elders or the conference! His path, more than likely, will not be easy…with rocks and boulders needing to be removed, potholes and speed bumps repaired…but nevertheless…work that must be tackled at all personal costs…for those who would travel the path…present and future!

    During those two and a half years…we,as a couple, ministered to over 100 people…in our congregation…who came forward to either both of us or one of us..individually…with stories of personal assault and soul wounding, incest, past and present, rape, sodomy, etc. I shutter to think…that had my husband not stood for what he felt was the God given agenda of His church….against the direction of the conference…what would have happened to all those wounded souls! No matter how painful and ugly…sores must be debried and cleaned…before true healing can transpire!

    During the two and a half years, my husband was requested to attend numerous meetings by, for and with the conference. They requested my attendance, with my husband, at one such meeting. I remember being asked to sit at the head of a conference table…with 8 men seated round it…I was asked to specifically define what role I saw myself in as a pastor’s wife. (These same wealthy patriarchs of the church, in an effort to have us transferred, had brought complains against me for being too actively involved and up front in the pulpit with a children’s ministry called “Merry Heart Ministry”. A very successful ministry my husband had asked me to create for the ministry of the children of the church.) I remember asking the Lord to place within my mouth the words to express my truest vision of ministry for all His pastors wives.

    After having bred and raised adorable “Babydoll sheep” for several years…My answer flowed almost without thought!
    My husbnd was called, by God, to shepard His sheep. Being married, I assumed my calling, by God, to be his Shepardess . At all personal cost, when the shepard, my husband, requested my assistant in cradling the young, medicating the sick and injured, carding the wool, bottling the babies, feeding the flock in his rare absence….i would willingly, eagerly and lovingly comply.

    We each are commissioned by God to walk amongst His sheep to minister love and healing! God makes no comparisons for who is qualified or not to minister to His Sheep…by gender, race or creed. We, collectively…as one… are called to minister to one another in an expression of God’s love embodied in each of us….His shepards and shepherdesses. Our roles, as directed by God, are all the same…LOVE! NUTURE! EXEMPLIFY GOD IN THE FLESH TO OTHERS! If this can not be done within the organized church…due to rules and regulations imposed by the officials…the calling from God is still the same…continue to walk amongst the flocks…administer as directed by God! Stand firm to your calling..each as shepards and shepardesses! He has called you to gather His flocks in love…never allow others to dictate God’s calling to you!

    I applaud this article… by this strong woman of God…obviously her congregation and conference appreciate her commitment to sheparding His flock with or without the approval of elected officials in our organized denomination. The gifts of ministering…are God given…not to be diminished by King James Version of gender ministry nor by any organized religion. Christ walked this earth to explemify God in the flesh…LOVE PERSONIFIED..may we all continue to forward His ministry and agenda with or without the approval of others!

  15. Flrutan says:

    I passed over that bridge some time ago. I no longer trust our conferences or our leaders. I follow what God tells me in his Word. And I spend time with him as my friend, my leader and God. I expect nothing from our leaders. I know some are very godly people who know much more than I do about the Bible yet we can only trust what the Bible tells us. Everything else we must make decisions based on Bible principle only. God bless your ministry.

  16. Ron Gerking says:

    Thanks so very much for your vulnerability, honesty, and courage. My journey into Pastoral Ministry was through, what has been referred to as “coming in through the Back Door!’ I don’t have a degree, or a completed formal education. My call came in mid-life as God provided a different process for me to enter service as a Pastor.

    Because of my lack of how many define what the education for one called into the Ministry of Pastor must be, I have experienced the prejudice of many. I was even told I would never be employed by the Denomination, let alone be Ordained.

    I was hired in 2001, and had my Ordination in 2008, my journey began in 1998, I was the interim Pastor form local church for 18 mos. I was added by the local Conference as the Interim Pastor for a stipend because of the requests by the church family. My Ordination was the result of my peers confronting the “powers that be” questioning why I hadn’t been Ordained. My experience has not been exactly like yours but I have questioned my calling even to today when I still receive negative comments regarding my abilities. I do not encourage others to seek out the process God had for my life and calling. I encourage any who ask to follow the traditional route, my experience was unique, not one God has planned for all He calls!

    It is amazing to discover the amount of prejudice that exists within a church that historically has been the victim of prejudice based in ignorance, it would appear that this ignorance has a home in this Denomination. This is a truly sad realization many are only now understanding as the prejudice of ignorance has so obviously found a home in this Churches attitude to WO, and the discrimination against women in ministry!

    There are many who recognize that Jesus was never involved with the church of HIs time, it was that organization that crucified Him. Interesting that history is repeating itself in that an organization claiming to be the voice of God is behaving just like the Jewish Church did with Jesus! Many women who have had their calling confirmed by God are being sent to the “Cross of Spiritual Ignorance”. Unfortunately, the depth of this prejudice was revealed at the recent GC in San Antonio.

    Your words have encouraged me to continue in my calling, despite the naysayers, thank you again for your willingness to be real in an age of Plastic People!

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