A few weeks after being banned from the youth ministry, I felt like all the walls were closing in on me with no way out. I couldn’t pursue becoming a pastor or a counselor, and I couldn’t be a leader at my college Bible study. I couldn’t attend SOM to further my knowledge of the Bible, and I was told to stay away from the youth.

A lot was going through my mind, and my spiritual life was diminishing.

I continued hanging out with my younger youth ministry friends, mostly to figure out how to tell them I couldn’t hang out with them anymore. I wanted to disappear slowly from their lives so they wouldn’t notice the sudden change in our friendship. I had everything planned out so they couldn’t question my friendship with them.

One night I was sitting with my youth ministry friends listening to an awesome message in the Gospel of Matthew, my head still filled with confusion. I wanted to stay in communication with these guys somehow, yet by doing so I knew I’d get in more trouble with my church.

I decided to leave that thought alone and listen to the message. Once the service ended, I joined a conversation with the guys and wanted to tell them that I should start hanging out with my other friends in the college ministry.

Again, I had everything planned out: what to say, how to react, even how my voice would sound.

Unfortunately, I got caught up having fun with these guys and that whole plan went out the window. I forgot what to tell them, and I decided to leave it alone. Then I saw one of the youth pastors coming toward me, and I knew I was in trouble.

We started some small talk, but I could tell he was going to be harsh with me. Not even a minute into our conversation, he spoke of my agreement to stay away from the youth. He tried to relay the church message, mixing it with our prior agreement, and then I tried to tell him my side of the dilemma.

I told him that I wanted to slowly draw away from the guys so they wouldn’t have any suspicions, blaming the church or the pastors. I told him that it felt like everything the church had done to me was very discouraging and that it felt like all the walls were closing in on me.

I pleaded that they consider discipleship so that my faith would be stronger. Then they could keep their eyes on me at all times.

The youth pastor had enough of the conversation and rebuked me for not listening to the other pastors’ warnings. He reminded me of my past and said that the church cannot be involved with people like me.

He left me after that, and I was there all alone. Broken.

I trusted my church for a long time, and I’d dedicated my life to it. I’d rededicated my life to Christ there at the beginning of my college years. I’d grown up spiritually there, learning biblical theology from their hard-hitting messages, week after week. I’d finally broken out of my introverted shell there and made friends.

I’d felt accepted by everyone at my church, and no one had ever cared about my sexuality as long as I was following Christ.

But now these recent events were changing everything.

One of my relatives came up to me and asked about the situation, and I had to lie. I did my best not to break down, but I could feel the tears falling down my face.

I sucked it up, took a deep breath, and walked out of the church — both literally and figuratively.

Have you ever been rebuked by your church and/or left your church? Where do you and church currently stand?

* Photo courtesy Denis Messie, Creative Commons.

About the Author

  • I understand some of what you went through being disappointed by your church. My own church had similar issues and I walked away, not only from my church, but also from my job, my city, and my friends.
    I moved to the other side of the country and started over again. I continued to follow Jesus, got involved in other churches, and in the process I learned things I could never learn any other way. Most importantly, I experienced the truth of what Jesus said,”I am with you always, even to the end of the world.” God always provided work, money, and genuine Christian friends.
    Running is not a bad thing as long as you are “Running to” something better!

  • It will be interesting to follow the rest of the story as you unfold it for us. For any of us that are trying to live our faith out in our church community, connecting our SSA side can be tricky. There is still a perception that gay men are perverts and want nothing more than to molest young boys and turn them. Along side that, the church often feels it needs to “keep quiet” the struggles and failures of SSA men and women. I’m currently in the process of leaving the church I was a member of for 17 years and joining into a covenant with another local church. Many factors have lead up to this decision, not all are about my own SSA struggles. But in all honesty is has helped enfluence my decision. I confessed to my pastor my own homosexual struggles and how it had lead me into a relationship with another man. Although he was gracious the overall reaction was to keep it a secret and not tell anyone else. I felt like I was expected to act like nothing had happened, keep quiet and try harder to be a better Christian. in reality, I needed my church to come along side me and pray for me, love me and encourage me as I walked this path. I felt more shamed, isolated and disconnected from this type of reaction.

  • I’m proud of you for walking away from that church but not The Church. I’ve heard countless stories of people walking away from God because they’ve been wronged by those claiming to be His people. He’ll never let us down.

    • Actually, I did walk away from The Church in spirit, but came back around eventually. But I stayed at my church as well, still attend there to this day. But I’ll explain in my next post, which is the conclusion.

  • I literally can’t even. This story has my stomach in knots. Mostly because so much of the church bares the name of Christ but not his heart or ways. Anxiously awaiting this conclusion…..

  • So I have many different feelings reading your story. Fear of this is why I have not been publicly open about my sexuality. I have my “inner circle” and that is it. There was an SSA man at my church who was a friend of my dad’s, he was an awesome man, married a long time with 3 kids who who were my friends growing up. He also wasn’t outspoken, but the elders knew, as well as some others. Anyway, there was a debacle with some parents who didn’t want him involved in the youth ministry, even though his kids were there and he didn’t have any “past” to point to. That family ended up leaving the church too, of their own accord. I remember watching this unfold as a closeted teen and deciding then never to tell my church. And I havn’t. But maybe I should? I don’t know.
    I completely get that people fear what they don’t understand. I sympathize. I’m totally guilty of stereotyping and being judgmental in my own ways. I also understand that if someone has a past ( like you) it is easy grounds for making official policies… Sometimes organizations are legally obligated, especially when youth are involved, they need to cover their butts, you know? Not everyone is as trustworthy as you.
    It seems you are pretty level headed and I respect your humility and the fact that you still love your church. That’s huge for me. Doesn’t keep the whole situation from sucking though. I wish things were different. Thanks for sharing!

  • I am so sorry that this has happened to you. Every church must not judge a person based on what they struggle with or who they are, the point is we are all here to follow and grow in Jesus Christ and no one should be excluded from that. I must confess that this sort of rejection is one of the reasons why I haven’t told my youth minister about my struggles with SSA, fear of rejection is all to real but hopefully she accepts me. I am once again so sorry for what has happened and I pray you find peace

  • After being hurt by the congregation I’d been involved with, on awful terms, after some…let’s call it “kafuffle”…between the youth director and the pastor, and my outing and subsequent telling-off by the provincial bishop, who alleged I was an “active homosexual,” though I hadn’t even dated another guy by that time, never-mind been “actively homosexual.” Suffice to say, with all the mud-slinging that had been going on through the whole ordeal–despite eager involvement in ministry and outreach, and playing a role on the board–I walked out of the church, submitted my resignation as a member, and moved away, disgusted and angry.
    In my time, I’d brought families into the church, had offers of sponsorship to seminary from larger, wealthier congregations, should I pursue ministerial career, and dismantled a failing youth-ministry, and found out that the youth director had been suspicious that I was after his job, so he slandered me, and his supporters thought nothing of reinforcing his claims.
    The hurt took a decade or more to overcome, and I still can’t bring myself to join a church, though I do have “Christian inclinations” again, after a lot of inner work.
    It can take a lot to recover from a betrayal by your church, especially when you’re struggling with SSA, and there’s no real opportunities to help you work on that aspect of yourself.

  • Wow, Matthew… What a disturbingly sad journey you’ve been through! My own heart has become so incredibly saddened and angered, as I read through all four of the accounts in your postings that surround this tragedy. It truly sounds to me like the leadership of that particular church “kicked out” the agape love of Jesus Christ, a long time before they ever joined forces to also abandon you, my precious brother.
    And my own spirit is sensing this, so I have to lovingly ask: This all sounds very much to me like a stereotypical LDS reaction… Was it? Though I am not LDS myself, I did chose to self-learn an incredible amount of information about the church, its origins, and its doctrine. I did so during a time while my dad was also being heavily influenced by one of its members, at his place of work. But that is an area for a more private discussion between the two of us, if you’d want to do that later on.
    I am at such a burdensome, emotional crossroads with my own home-church of 17 years, right now. I’ve been hurt too, though not at the deep levels that your home-church has so callously wounded you.
    I’ve stayed put during all of the inward confusion I’ve experienced in this season, which has lasted over two years at present. It’s because I’ve also been very intentional about avoiding what could be a hasty decision to leave and find another church.
    I’m very self-aware of how many other inter-connected factors are playing into the current state of my emotions and frustrations right now. And it’s not just me that I’d impact in leaving. Leaving would also greatly affect my wife and daughters, as well, not to mention those connections I’ve made within the church during all of that time.
    Over the past two years, three major influences have come together and played into the chronic discontent I feel inside, regarding my sense of still “belonging” at my home-church, today:
    1. My church’s response (which was complete avoidance and silence) to the SCOTUS “Obergefel” decision on gay “marriage”
    2. The cold rejection from, and now broken friendship with a brother there, who was once my closest and best-friend for 5-years, and
    3. The intentional spiritual negligence I’ve noticed in my Pastor’s “sermons” since the Obergefel decision, and throughout so much of the spiritual turmiols that our Nation (and we, as believers in Christ) have all faced since then.

    As I was reading your four postings and also reflecting on my own hurt, one thing you wrote really got my attention…
    “During this time, I held my church to an incredibly high standard.”
    I know in my heart that I have done the same thing with my home-church, over these past two years. Truth be told, I’m one of those “type-A” guys who holds himself and everything else to too-high of a standard, as well. And by proxy, this trait probably causes me more grief within my surrounding environment, and in my personal interactions and relationships with other people, than any other personal-vice that I am aware of. To put it another way, I am a recovering Perfectionist.
    But that’s the “down-and-dirty” of how I was so touched by these four postings of yours, Matthew.
    My heart’s prayer for you is that you’ll eventually come to place of trusting again in the much needed support and fellowship of a Bible-believing, Christ-centered, local church community, someday soon. I believe that God is going to do some really incredible things through your personal testimony of all of this, once you move beyond the very present pain of it all. But there’s nothing but love, support, and compassion from this guy back toward you, bro!
    Much love in Christ.

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