BY ERIC MYERS
I was planning to share last Thursday night as prompted by many insights of other men, but I ran out of time because I have promised my wife to help her get to sleep earlier, since she sleeps little after 4:30 or 5 a.m. I am grateful for what Doc said about church not being a dirty word. (expanded by Lakhi to include the Bible etc.) I believe it is when we allow our churches to become friendly oligarchies that they became places where "God's work" ends up being accomplished in a manipulative way and people are too ashamed of their misgivings (as well as their personal struggles) to be honest with one another so, in the words of one of the members of my support group, "there is no healing."
On March 14th it will have been a full year since I have been to my church of 17 years. Only the beginning of that absence was due to COVID. I was dedicated in my worship and service, but the move to Zoom-style services gave me cover to do what I wanted and probably needed to do: ask myself the real reason for my choice of how to encounter God. When my wife Connie first expressed her anger at the manipulative way our church had begun to address giving and serving, I was at first horrified, because since my profession of faith at age 27, I had been faithful in my attendance and service at church, and was ordained as a deacon. I even told Connie once that losing her faith would be the only reason I would ever want to leave her. At first when she quit going to church and began to resent how much time my service carved out of our time together, I thought she was in grave danger of becoming agnostic. But I find that as she spends more time with God in prayer and meditation in her sleepless hours, her faith has been strengthened - not weakened.
The biggest influence on our spiritual lives, however, has been the self-awareness and healing we are receiving at Hope4Life, for which we are very grateful. I was excited from the beginning at the prospect of what it could do for my wife, but it took just a few Saturdays in which I was called upon to examine my own relationships and motivations, to realize that I need healing as much or more than she does. Not only are we gaining a healthier perspective on our interpersonal relationships, but also a better understanding of how God wants us to relate to Him.
Hope4Life has done far more to connect us and many others to Father, Son and Holy Spirit, because it models a first-century body of believers who come together for the sake of growing in the knowledge and love of God and one another...
Even though I'm sure that most people at my old church would say Hope4Life is a poor substitute for "church", I have come to consider it our spiritual home. Though dwarfed in size by that church, Hope4Life has done far more to connect us and many others to Father, Son and Holy Spirit, because it models a first-century body of believers who come together for the sake of growing in the knowledge and love of God and one another, with only the minimum organizational structure necessary to function, rather than a hierarchy based on what "successful churches” do. I also see a lot more reliance on faith than I saw at my old church.
I see signs of a genuine "fellowship of believers", as in Acts 2:42-47, and that has led Connie and I to focus our giving here. I am not asking anyone to abandon their church for Hope4Life, and we may again find a church we both love, but I never expect to find a community where healing is in such evidence, and that is why I want to wholeheartedly support its ongoing operation as well as its acquisition of a permanent home.
Please pray about this, and consider the part you could play.