Back before my whole church ordeal started, before being told I couldn’t lead in any ministry, I was already heavily involved in my church. I took part in the college-age ministry, I attended the main church campus for awesome Bible teaching, and I served the best way I could in whatever area needed.
A few weeks before I applied for SOM and leadership for my college Bible study, my church sent invitations for both youth and young adults to join the choir. I didn’t share my testimony with these church pastors, nor did they require a background check for anyone interested in choir.
I gladly took the opportunity to join this ministry to go with the other areas where I was already serving. I had an alright singing voice — not too great, but not too bad either. I was somewhere in the middle, but I knew I could hold a tune.
My church mixed both youth and young adults together for the choir, so we had many interesting people lending their voices. It was there that I made four friends in the youth ministry. When I first met these guys, some were close to graduating high school and entering college, and some were going to be seniors.
We had a pretty good bond with each other, and you could tell these guys were very mature for their age. We would joke around during choir practice, yet also have awesome theological discussions during our hangout sessions.
I had that aforementioned run-in with my church shortly after meeting these guys in choir: where I was told I couldn’t serve in various areas of ministry, including the youth ministry and being around the younger children at the church.
I had a dilemma. I was already friends with a few of the guys in the youth ministry, and some were old enough to start off as freshmen in college. I decided to sweep that under the rug and deal with it later.
During the summer, some of these younger guys went on a short-term missionary trip, and some stayed back because they were preparing for college. I hung out with the ones who stayed and talked to them about college: what it was like and what to expect.
One weekend, the youth ministry wanted to organize a theology/apologetics class for the youth so they could be better prepared to answer difficult questions if ever asked by their school friends or non-Christian family.
One of my youth friends who stayed behind asked me if I wanted to go to this event. He would be all alone there and wanted someone he knew to be by his side. I was walking with him when we ran into a youth pastor. Both guys wanted me to join, and I did my best to refuse their offer. But the youth pastor insisted I should go, even despite my being in college.
So, I thought it’d be safe for me to go since the youth pastor had offered.
The day came for the event, and I was pretty excited to attend. Yes, it was a bit weird for me to be at this apologetics class for youth, but I was excited to learn how to present the Gospel in a new way.
During a break about halfway through the day, two of the youth pastors came up to me and wanted to talk with me. My senses were tingling, and I already knew I was about to fall victim to my past again.
Both youth pastors took me into the conference room to talk. They started saying stuff I’d already heard before; this time, I beat them to the punch and recited it back for them.
I told the youth pastors that I understood what was being said, and at the end of the conversation they prayed for me. Yet neither of them ever apologized for the mistake they made by inviting me to the event in the first place, nor were they genuinely sorry about what my past had done to me.
They told me that I had to leave immediately and not go near the youth ministry again.
I left my church in the middle of the afternoon, feeling defeated and heavily disappointed in myself.
But this time, I didn’t cry.
I just had this gaping hole in my heart.
Have you ever been restricted or banned by church ministry? How did it make you feel? Do you still carry that grudge?
* Photo courtesy Tobias Wrzal, Creative Commons.
Not in reference to your church specifically, but rather modern, Western-style churches in general, I think the way churches are run is very worldly, very fleshly, very man-made. I understand their reasoning for this. They want to play by the rules of the society and culture they’re in so as to not offend anyone or get into any unnecessary trouble. That’s why churches ban anyone who had sexual contact with a minor from being around youth, and that’s why pastors and leaders are required to have a college degree from some Bible college and have such-and-such a major or so many years of experience in ministry, mentoring, leadership, and so on before they are allowed to pastor a church. But where did these ideas come from? Who said that church workers and leaders had to follow these guidelines and have certain criteria before being accepted? In Acts, the leaders were chosen by prayer and drawing straws. Whatever sins they might have committed or bad habits they had when they were younger were known to have been washed away with their former life before coming to believe in Jesus. There was so much faith in the life-changing power of Jesus, that they entrusted great responsibility to people without a background check or Bible college degree.
But now we have background checks, college degrees, notable references from notable people, and numerous other criteria Christians must meet in order to be leaders or workers in the church. Who needs Jesus anymore? How can we trust that He heals people and really changes them from whom they used to be? Who needs faith? The system we have now is much safer, we think, and so we rely on it more than on Jesus or the Holy Spirit, and this is proven by the way the modern Western church is run. There are of course very faithful, sincere, God-fearing people within the church, but the system itself is fundamentally flawed.
I would have to agree with this. There was a woman in our church that was a registered sex offender with the state. She had come out of the sin she was involved in and I do not know the details of it, but I know it involved children. When her status became known, the eldership did not decide just to ban her from serving in children’s ministry which she was not involved with anyway; they asked her to leave the church. I believe this only happened because of pressure on the eldership from the congregation and particularly parents with children. The whole thing was more than unfortunate and I believe unnecessary and unbiblical. It all has to do with fear. There is no love in fear. There is no faith in fear. Fear drives the whole vetting process within the church. Why is there a vetting process in the church anyway? If sinners are not welcome, then who is?
I know they want to avoid problems with the membership and legal entanglements over ‘what did you know and when did you know it’ if there are problems. I just don’t think Jesus would approve of the approach as it exists today.
I do not know the spiritual status of this woman today. I hope she found a group that would offer her the grace and love she needs and that is willing to overlook the dark mark on her official record. The whole thing kind of makes me ashamed.
Totally! And all those unnecessary rules, while some might be helpful, often completely ignore the fact that God does change people. Yes, church leaders should be qualified, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a seminary degree! Plus they make it harder for churches to multiply because then new churches are expected to set up all these rules, too.
One of my friends was banned from contact with youth in the church. I will tell more in a future post. I was never personally banned from any type of ministry, but Invitations to lead small groups did stop after I displeased church leadership.
Although you did tell me about your story on that, I can’t to hear the rest of it. Round 2! Haha.
I can’t say I have ever been banned from church ministry. In fact at the church where I grew up I recall had the church organist calling me to join the choir for Sunday worship. The church was barely holding its hold with maybe seventy-five members on record, but only half that showing up on Sunday mornings regularly. The choir would be lucky to have even fifteen people participating. I could have had a prison record and without openly disclosing it I bet I could have been a choir member indefinitely.
I would say that I feel restricted from the church as a single guy. Over the past year, the church has started an AWANA program designed to “reach kids” in our children’s ministry. Sounds fantastic! What better time to help sow the seeds of God and Jesus then when kids are still young and receptive. However, since there is such an emphasis placed on this program, the church has opted to refrain from conducting Wednesday night services. This made me feel rather withdrawn from the church. It sounds so selfish when I recite it in my head because I ask myself: “Is the church here for me or am I here for the church?” Where are the resources tailored for me (a single guy)? I feel a bit like a minority and I don’t count.
I’m sorry Matt you hit another “brick wall” with your church’s standards and practices. Frankly speaking, if it was me I probably would have become angry with them especially the youth pastor who insisted you should go. I’d be like: “Seriously guys! Is there ANY place for me here beside congregant in this joint!? Do you even want me here!? Because it seems you are “constructively discharging” (it’s an HR term, Google it) me from this church.
Thank you! Yeah, from what the response has been on here, I’m not all that surprised if that was your reaction. Haha. But I had to deal with that question too. Eventually I had to come to terms with it being both. I’ll talk more about that in the conclusion.
God made us all differently. We all may respond to these sort of things differently. Look forward to hearing the rest of your story.
I haven’t been banned from ministry but on a few occasions in my stretch in missions I was told quite specifically to back off when it came to certain individuals. I’ll admit that one of those times i really should have listened but other times I kind of let others’ paranoia get toe and I not only obeyed (which you just kinda have to do) but even kind of bought into it. I can say that God used the situations to bring me growth, but that emphatic “back off” is quite uncomfortable. Once I even asked, “don’t you trust me?”and I was told, “I trust you, but I don’t trust her.”
Part of me just wonders if I will be dealing with other people’s paranoia forever. What I do find odd though I have never asked is that in four years of ministry in a certain place i have not been allowed to personally disciple anyone
Sometimes the paranoia is there, every now and then. But other times I have to fight it, and just go with my gut. Eventually you’ll know when to share stuff and when not to. I’m sorry you had to deal with being asked to back off. I know it hurts, but I do agree with you that those situation brings growth.
Matt, what happened to you basically is my worst nightmare. I don’t think that it would happen to me specifically in the Christian circles I am in, but for someone with a background more like yours, it might. I just don’t know. People are sinful and flawed and it’s extremely difficult for me to look past that and trust people enough to be truly vulnerable.
Yeah, I agree people are flawed, but you should always try to find the best in them. That’s what I had to do with the pastors who did this to me. But all of these events made me tough in my walk and life in general. Trusting people will come back, you’re just more aware of your surroundings.
Now that I think about it, I do struggle with letting disagreements get in the way of my relationships with other people. If the other person makes it extremely clear that they don’t want to let our differences divide us, I’m fine with that. But I rely on the other person to make that call, and if they don’t, I start pulling away. Maybe I should start taking initiative and be the one bringing that up.
So sorry man. This is why I barely attend worship service. I have no desire to serve in the church, and would rather isolate myself when I’m not working my full-time job. Shame on me, I guess. Good for you for wanting to serve God. He clearly gave you thicker skin than me!
Haha. Thanks man. Well, I have to agree with you on the thicker skin! I had to grow up with a thick skin, but that’ll be on a later post. To be honest, I still found a way to serve my church, but I had to take a lot of detours to end up where I’m at. I think I’ll talk about that in the conclusion. But dude, just because I had a horrible outcome with my church, doesn’t mean everyone does. You just need to be discerning and careful. Be observant, tread lightly, but if you know God wants you to share your testimony to someone or your church, He’ll let you know. Hope your ready for the next post! Haha.
Joshua, I’ve been where you are with not wanting to attend church, and I can tell you that my relationship with God is stronger being in church. It has taken me a long time but I’ve come to the point where I no longer need the approval, acceptance or even a relationship with some of my fellow church members – but there is something about corporate worship and relationships with those I love and trust that I personally need. I am not saying that you need to attend church to have a relationship with God, just sharing that for me I am so glad to have found my way back – though it is not a perfect situation.
I have been out of the Church for 10 years now. The LORD told me to leave. I didn’t want to. But I obeyed. I am glad I did. I learned alot about the mercy and grace of God. The Holy Spirit overhauled a lot of misguided thinking, traditions, some church doctrines, and I see a different God. One that is filled with love and mercy. He still is a Father, corrects us and does what any parent would do. But with loving kindness not willing that any should perish. The church has lost it’s ability to be a nursery for the weak, broken, hurting. It’s gone corporate. It doesn’t care anymore. However, there is a group that God is shaping in the shadows and we will emerge, not with word only but power and demonstration of the Holy Ghost. I have same sex attraction, so what! God will perform through anyone He chooses. He spoke through a Jack Ass once.
That is so so so awful to read. I can not believe those pastors responded to you that way. Like would a shepherd just kick a sheep out of the herd? They were not being Jesus to you. Along the same lines, I don’t know if you or any of the other guys from this YOB group have addressed what Rob Bell says about gay marriage and those who identify as gay and the role of the church towards them, but I just came across this video today and it really resonates with me. Please let me know what you think.
I would love to see a discussion on this because all my life I have had a really anti-gay and judgmental and “holier than thou” attitude towards pretty much anyone who doesn’t follow my worldview to a tee, and now God’s really working on my heart and refining my faith and redefining what it means to be a Jesus follower, and I DON’T want to see more people hurt by the people me (or who I was) in the Church. I want to see people attracted to Jesus because of the light and warmth and REALNESS that they find in the Church.
Anyway, sorry for ranting but I really really hope that you guys will speak on gay marriage and the transgender movement because I am REALLY struggling with understanding how God views these issues and I am NOT wanting to lean on my own understanding. 🙂
I’m personally against gay marriage even though its not a political issue anymore as I feel like its really spoiling people’s perceptions on close relationships and friendships between men. Having that said though, I don’t believe side A or B people should be shunned from churches, and it makes even less sense to not let someone run a youth ministry who has repented of the former life style. What happened to forgiveness? Odds are they’re just paranoid about legal perceptions and doing misguided methods to prevent sex scandals.
Exactly Brian, What happened to forgiveness? The same judgement that was given to Matthew is being meted upon those who have made that decision and those who stand with it. We can’t live in the realm of unforgiveness and holding unto people’s past. If we had that power, we would not need to have Jesus Christ stand in our stead on the cross.
If you click on the FAQ on top, we should already have that squared away on the whole Gay Marriage thing. But everyone of us is different, and has a different view of dealing with Same-Sex Marriage. In the future I’ll talk about two friends of mine who are in a gay relationship, and what my relationship with both of them are. As far as the transgender movement, I have no idea if we are going to talk about it on here. Maybe we will, maybe we won’t. Just don’t know. But if it is discussed on here, you’ll most likely hear it from one of our perspectives, and we’ll try to be respectable as we can.
Matthew, again I shake my head in disbelief of the way they treated you. Sigh. I’m glad that your faith is strong now – but I admit that if my “church” rejected me like that at that vulnerable point – I’d be LONG GONE. Thank you for telling your story.
Dude, anytime. Thanks for reading as well! I know these stories are hard for you to read, but I think that it’ll help out a few people out there. Just one more post, then the conclusion!
No doubt – I’m glad this is a discussion topic. It gives me insight from the other side.
I sometimes play the “what if” game regarding my childhood: What if I had belonged to a church when my family fell apart? What if I had reached out to a pastor/priest?
No doubt as a teen I was petrified about being “discovered” and found drugs/alcohol/self-sex as my way to cope. I feared being trapped – getting arrested (which was a high risk), being sent to a half way house. I suppose opening up to anyone in a church setting would had been unlikely. But when you are 13/14/15 and clearly a drug user – someone should notice and care right?
I wonder now though how “accepting” a church would had been to me. If I had truly opened up – would i too been treated like a leper? The Sex abuse – my own sexual acting out. My perverse attractions. The drugs/alcohol abuse. The criminal activities??
This was 40 years ago – a different era for sure. Yet is the church anymore open now? Maybe less?? Depends on the church??
I really needed God back then – and I am thankful that I was NOT arrested, I wasn’t sent to a rehab house (where I undoubtedly be prone to the bullies), I did not OD, I did not jump off a bridge and I did not (significantly) suffer brain damage. Yet emotionally I have never really “let go” and trusted. I’ve never really forgiven myself for what I did to survive. The price i paid for keeping myself “safe”.
After 10 years in my church the only people I have opened up to about my past and sex struggles are a few priests (in confession), and one guy in our men’s group. The priests have all been supportive and forgiving (offering God’s grace), but I wonder if I pushed to be in a youth ministry would the object? I also opened about much of my stuff to one man in the men’s group. He’s been trustworthy and supportive.
I feel for you… These posts have been hard to read. I currently work with a youth ministry. The leadership is aware of my condition and my past, but thankfully they haven’t barred me from being a part of it.
The only thing they told me was to keep my SSA hidden unless it becomes “necessary” to talk about it. I understand their concerns; I think they’re mostly just trying to protect me from gossip and slander. But it’s discouraging sometimes. I hate having to speak in generalities about what God has done for me. I think it would be really good for the students to know that someone they look up to is dealing with this stuff. I want to be (appropriately) honest and open with the students, but the leadership thinks it’s best if I’m not.
And I worry about the day where some student comes to me with their own SSA struggle… I will 100% be open with the students at that point. But I don’t know how parents would respond. I wonder if I’d be asked to step away from the youth. Idk.
“I wonder if I’d be asked to step away from the youth. Idk.” Yeah, they just might ask you to do just that and I find that to be really sad. It’s as if you made the supposed student SSA oriented. No other person took action against me and made me SSA. They would make you out to be the villain/criminal without a trial. All the while, here is this student feeling lost, confused and frustrated without anyone to confide in and they, the church, may well not know how to best deal with the situation. I scoff at the idea the church goes for the default solution and advises the student “to keep it under their hat” indefinitely.
The sad thing Matthew is that the Church leaders of these organizations have already allowed men to unzip their flies and they are doing things that you might have done or used to do. But the secret Church motto, in the minds of these leaders is the same motto of the United States Army. “Don’t ask, don’t tell”.
Thank you for this article. It really hits home for me. I was an active leader in our youth group up until about a year ago. The youth pastor, through a situation with someone other than me, that the church is not an acceptable place for a Christian to be struggling or to be walking through a trial. I’ve found that the church is overly concerned with the image of happy, successful, perfect Christians that are fully equipped to be sent into the world to heal and save those who are struggling with sin – and in order for that to be the case, we as “the church” cannot be struggling with sin, temptation, etc.
I find it irritating when men put their trust in the “church”. We don’t put our trust there, it will fail us more ways then one. There is not one iota of a hint of truth from scripture that tells us to do that. However, after reading your plight. I found that the best course of action is to remain faithful to Jesus Christ and stop going to that ungodly church and start your own inner city youth meetings.
In 1995, after SEVENTEEN YEARS of ex-gay reparative therapy… and I still wasn’t “fixed/healed” yet… and I was a seminary student at the time, the pastor and elders of my church of 10 years called me to a meeting. I was told (hold on to your seats guys)… that I was “too needy and too broken” and that until they had “psychological proof that I could relate to people in a healthy way…” I was no longer welcome at church.
I have NEVER acted on my sexual orientation. Ever. But after 17 years of therapy and I wasn’t “straight” yet… these elders/pastor thought there must be something wrong with me… and they threw me out. I was in seminary. I was being mentored for a future pastorate. And instead they threw me out because I wasn’t “fixed” yet…
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