Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

When your church splits, it can feel as painful as a divorce.

When I was 19 years old, my dad looked me in the eyes and told me we were leaving our church.



My sisters and I looked at each other and smiled. We didn't even have to say anything out loud; all of us knew exactly what the others were thinking:

Finally we're leaving this hellhole.

I've been through divorce three times. It wasn't marriages that split up; it was my churches. Each time was different; each taught me something new, and each experience hurt like hell.

So when my father said we were leaving our church, part of me felt sad--though the other part couldn't comprehend why on earth I would feel anything but joy.

Our membership at that church began in 1977, when I was four years old. That summer, a twentysomething preacher with a soft grin and an influential message came to our house to present his idea for a new church concept. Mom and Dad wanted something more than what our current church was offering, so they jumped at the chance to become a part of a Bible-believing, no-nonsense fundamentalist church complete with hellfire-and-damnation preaching.

Almost instantly, our lives changed drastically. Not only did we begin going to church on Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night, but we also had "soul winning" on Thursday night, Bible study on Tuesday night, and the occasional kid's time on Friday evenings. For the next 15 years, we spent nearly as much time at church as we did at home.

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But time was simply the beginning; the church changed our lifestyle, too. My sisters could no longer wear pants and shorts, and I had to keep my hair short enough so that it would never touch my ears. Movies (plus any TV after "Wheel of Fortune") were out, as was any music with a drumbeat (including Christian rock). Wanting to live for Jesus, we eliminated from our lives anything the church deemed sinful. We were taught that no Christian, at least not any good Christian, would partake of anything the world offered.

Nearly every aspect of our lives was in some way controlled or influenced by what the preacher said or what was written in the church bylaws. A year after we started, the church started a Christian school, which I began attending in first grade.

Some days the "sin" was going to movies, or unmarried couples holding hands during church...
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