One thing God has spoken,
two things I have heard:
“Power Belongs to you, God,
and with you, Lord, is unfailing love;”
and, “You reward everyone according to what they have done.”
If you recall from some of my previous writings (you may want to look back over some my early pieces) I referenced a church that my family attended prior to being members at Mark’s church.
This was the church where we found Jesus. As a young child I attended a local private school – I can say with certainty I am not sure I ever understood Jesus there. He was always presented to me as a punishing God – where there was little room for error and large room for judgement. Perhaps, that is why I wanted nothing to do with Him during my high school years. How could I serve a God who cared more about my performance than my heart?
My husband (boyfriend at the time) and I stumbled upon our first church by happenstance really. It was close to our house and I was pregnant, unmarried and desperately wanted refuge.
There was so much beauty in those first few years – I grew, I understood how much I was loved by God. I genuinely wanted to serve Him. I thrust myself into bible study and bible study. I devoured the Word like a starving child who had not eaten a real meal in years. My husband kind of came and went with me – he was not on the same path as I but I cared very little. It felt like I had found what I had been searching for most of my life – a God who loved me and sacrificed His life for me and that was enough.
The pastor of this church was dynamic. He preached the word in a way I had never heard before. Growing up in a Lutheran private school I was accustomed to a more traditional style filled with reservation and little emotion. Today, I sort of love that style – something about it sings to my soul – but as an eight-year old kid; it felt stuffy and boring.
A few years into being at the church I decided to step up my volunteer game and be a part of the production team. This team oversaw all the “technical” aspects of the service and ensured things ran on time. Another main function of the group was to sit in the debriefing meeting after service – services were held every Saturday evening and again on Sunday morning. Debrief would take place after the Saturday service to make any adjustments that were needed to Sunday.
I was thrilled to be a part of the team and quickly became a lead in running the service.
After a few months of being on the team, it became apparent to me that the pastor who preached from the stage and the pastor who ran the debrief was NOT the same person.
For lack of a better term, the person behind the stage was a bully.
One night I watched as he laid into his wife for not speaking loud enough as she presented the upcoming events for the church.
Another evening I watched in horror as he yelled at a worship singer who had just bravely stepped forward to lead a song. Apparently, she was off pitch and was not “leading” well. I will never forget the stream of tears running down her face as he embarrassed her in front of everyone. It is strange to say but I think of her often – I wonder if she knows that whatever came out of that pastor that night had nothing to do with Jesus.
Then, even more strange things started to occur.
The church was plugging for a second campus. Our family, along with many other regular tithing families, got called to this big meeting where they laid out the plan for a second campus. AND after that moment, the atmosphere changed.
Getting this second building became the sole focus. You could see it all around. Every service was filled with “buy this chair” for the other campus. They installed tithing “kiosks” in the halls. They kept hanging their hats on this verse in Isaiah that I cannot recall now but in effect, they believed that God had told them more and more people would come to their church so be “ready.”
I watched as pastors left in droves – excellent pastors. People we had grown so found of – most of them preached the Word with such zeal and conviction that you always left refreshed after hearing them.
At this time, I was also helping to a lead a weekly bible study. This was a wonderful time – I met a lot of great people and truly enjoyed leading the women every week.
BUT something within me could not resolve the disconnect I was seeing – the pastor on stage and the pastor behind the scenes were two different people. The church that was once focused on lost souls became a church so focused on second building.
Now, I want to be clear about something before I move forward – there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to grow a church and needing a building to do so. BUT this cannot come at the expense of the people who currently serve within the church.
If God is for the second building – then, nothing will stand in the way of that.
One night in the midst of all this I had a dream.
God often speaks to me in my dreams – I joke that it is probably the only time my brain is fully off so God can be louder than my own thoughts.
In my dream I saw the pastor standing in the middle of the second campus preparing for service to start. I was sitting toward the back of the church next to his wife. All the sudden all the lights went off in the building – it was dark and there was no room for light. The pastor ran around frantically – he had not even noticed that the lights were off. He just forged ahead with service. Then I turned to his wife in the dream and said, “don’t you see he does not even realize the lights are out.” She nodded and said, “yes perhaps.”
I ended up sharing this dream with them. I felt that it was important – that maybe there just needed to be a pause or even just a refocus. The second campus was needed but not at the expense of people. I was hoping they would see that.
Instead, I was told I did not understand anything about God. Or the Holy Spirit. His wife told me that she was concerned now about me holding a bible study.
I cannot remember now what all occurred in that exchange, but I remember leaving upset. I am certain I did not conduct myself in the best manner because instead of hearing me out, my character and relationship with God was attacked. I know I attacked back.
We ended up leaving the church shortly after this.
And that is when we met Mark and shifted to the other church.
I highlight this story for you today – not to expose anything about this church BUT rather, to tell you that this was the bedrock for my doubt.
This is the place where I stopped believing that God was good.
How could He be good when people, who profess to love him and are called to take care of His church, bully people, get so focused on numbers that they lose sight of the big picture: to love God and love people? You cannot love people well when you are more worried about a second building.
I had not realized until recently that this where my seed of doubt was planted.
BUT I realized it is so easy to doubt God’s goodness when we look around and see evil. Especially when it comes to our churches – the very place that this should not occur.
And then we decide, if His church looks like way – why should we believe HIM when he says He is good?
I had to come face to face with this question. If I am going to follow God – there cannot be an ounce within me that believes HE is not good.
Because it won’t work.
How can I tell you about the goodness of Jesus if I am not even sure I believe it myself?
But I also realize that my doubt does not scare Jesus – it does not make me any less Christian. IN fact, I think when we shy away from how we genuinely feel and fail to bring it before God is the least Christian thing we can do.
He is not afraid of wait lies within us. I am actually starting to believe that what grieves Him more is our pretending.
Pretending we do not have doubts.
Pretending we are not frustrated.
I have lived A LOT of my Christian walk pretending that I did not have doubts. BUT I realized He already knew so I might as well start fessing up.
So, here I am fessing up to you that I have doubts about God. BUT I am also willing to allow Him to create belief within me. AND that starts by saying, “God, do you know that I look around and wonder where you are sometimes?”
I am certain He is not surprised by my question so I might as well start asking.
I have a series of old commentaries I received from a dear friend years ago and there is note on Psalm 62 that feels worthy of sharing today.
“God is the righteous refuge of those who trust in Him. “Thou renderest to every man according to his works.” He never does wrong to any of His creatures. He is the vindicator of the oppressed and injured. Here then we have a broad, immovable, and eternal ground for confidence in God.”
I want so desperately to believe in His goodness, but I also see that only prayer will create that heart within me.
“God show me your goodness. If goodness is the bedrock of who are, show me your goodness on this side of Heaven. There is goodness in Heaven but perhaps there is goodness here too. Give me eyes to see and ears to know the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Amen.”
Until next time,
 Rev W.L. Watkinson, The Psalms, vol 1. in The Preacher’s Homiletic Commentary (London UK: Funk and Wagnalls Company, 1892), 311.