O Me of Little Faith

O Me of Little Faith


Conversions: From Senior Pastor to Church Dropout

posted by Jason Boyett

Today’s conversion story comes from Jeremy Myers. A former seminary graduate and conservative pastor, Jeremy “de-converted” from traditional Christianity. Though still a follower of Christ, he has left the institutional Church altogether. And blogging played a fairly big role in that departure…

—————-

Bio:

My name is Jeremy Myers. I currently live in Westtown, New York, and work in a Federal Prison. I am married to Wendy, and we have three girls.

I grew up in a pastor’s family, attended a Christian school, a Christian college, and a Christian seminary. I never drank, smoked, did drugs, or slept around. I memorized Scripture, did daily devotions, and attended church at least three times per week. Between Bible college and seminary, I served as the senior pastor of two churches. I preached sermons every week, offered Bible studies, and led prayer meetings and men’s breakfasts. I was the perfect conservative Christian.

About five years into my pastoral ministry, I knew I couldn’t raise my family on what my church was paying me, so I decided to go to seminary so I could get a bigger church that paid me more. I applied to and was accepted to one of the leading conservative Christian seminaries in the country. To help pay for seminary, I landed a job at a conservative Christian non-profit organization where I helped organize their conferences and edit their publications.

Everything was working out. I was on my way. I was only a few steps away from the realization of all my dreams.


Conversion:

Through a series of events described below, I left my Christian job, abandoned my goals of pastoring a church, and rejected several aspects of my Christian beliefs and practices. I didn’t convert to another religion; I just left what many think of as Christianity. But for me, leaving Christianity is what allowed me to better follow Jesus.

What led to your conversion?

During the years in seminary, I began to notice an alarming trend in myself, my professors, my fellow students, and in the seminary alumni I worked with at the non-profit organization: We were all so mean. We each thought that we had the infallible truth, and anyone who disagreed with us was a heretic and a tool of the devil. This attitude pervaded even minor disagreements, such as whether a church could dim the lights and use candles in their service or not.

I felt that something was wrong with this. Jesus, I noticed, seemed to love everyone, and everyone seemed to feel welcome in his presence. I began to ask that if that was not how people felt around me, was I really following Jesus? So, I began to read and study “the heretics.” I studied other religions. I read books by critics of Christianity, many of which my friends and professors told me not to read.

Eventually, many of my convictions began to waver, and some core beliefs began to fade. I didn’t read the Bible the same way anymore. I made friends with atheists. I started to enjoy hanging out with “sinners” and “heretics.” I began to see the strength of certain perspectives on hell, the future millennium, and biblical prophecy that I never would have considered before. In December 2007 I wrote a post on my personal blog about some of these things I was studying. I titled it “The Heretic in Me.” It was the first thunderclap in a life storm that would last for several years.

What kind of impact did your conversion have on your friends and family?

Within a month of the fateful blog post, I was asked to resign from my job at the non-profit organization. Not because I said or did anything contrary to their doctrinal statement or had any employee misconduct, but because I was reading books and thinking about ideas that the CEO of the organization considered heretical. Many of my church friends called or wrote to try to “bring me back into the fold” when in reality, I hadn’t left yet.

At least, that’s what I tried to tell them. I hadn’t actually stopped believing any of the evangelical conservative doctrines I formerly held; I was just reading and researching opposing views and found many of the arguments compelling. But the simple fact that I was considering the ideas of “heretics” made me a “heretic” too. When I was asked to leave my job, it was confirmation for many of my friends (and even some of my extended family) that I had strayed into sin and rebellion against God and the Bible and they began praying for my repentance and return.

That was the last straw for me. I walked away from church, from reading the Bible, and from praying. It wasn’t that I stopped believing in these things. It was that I stopped believing in them the way I had been taught. Since then, not much has changed. Occasionally, I get random emails from one of my old Christian friends which basically say, “See? I told you not to go to seminary,” or “Why did you ever read that book?” There is little desire to seek understanding, love unconditionally, or extend grace.

Where does that put me now? I don’t really know. I suppose I’m still within the umbrella of “Christianity” but not in any way that is recognizable by most “Christians.” I don’t “go to church.” I do read and study the Bible, but only to discover what it says; not to reinforce what I’ve been taught. I find that my favorite people to read the Bible with are atheists, agnostics, and Buddhists. We meet weekly to read the Gospels, learn from each other about Jesus, and drink lots of coffee. And slowly, I have been rediscovering the teaching of Jesus and the message of Scripture in a way I never knew before.

Where will this all lead? Frankly, I’m not sure I care. Back when I had plans and dreams, they all ended in disaster. Now, I just view every day as another step in a journey to somewhere. And along the way, I hope to love and serve as many people as I can.

What advice would you give someone going through the same experience or contemplating a similar conversion?

Be encouraged. Everywhere I look, people are becoming dissatisfied with church and traditional thinking about the place of Christians in the world. Whenever I encounter someone like this, I tell them that they have been given a gift. Though it feels like they are being ripped away from all they know about God and what He wants us to do, the end result will be a relationship with Him that does not depend on an approved list of behaviors and beliefs. Instead, they can simply enjoy a relationship with God just as they would any other person.

Be warned. A relationship like this with God may require them to leave the church, so they can love people the church has traditionally condemned. Following Jesus may lead us to hang out with Muslims, atheists, and Buddhists, or possibly homosexuals, pornographers, and drug addicts — not so that we can convert them, but so that we can befriend them. However, this will not make you popular with many Christians.

Be creative. Ultimately, each of our paths will be different. So stop trying copy some leader, pastor, teacher, or book. Simply read the Gospels, preferably with people who believe differently than you, and watch for opportunities to love and serve others. You may be surprised where God takes you.

What are three things you have learned in the process?

1) I have learned to not make goals, or at least, to hold goals loosely. Life has a way of shattering goals and dreams, and when my goals were my life, they led to several years of depression, anger, bitterness, and despair when they all fell apart. Now that I hold goals more loosely, I can shift and flow with the changes that come my way. This enables me to view life as an adventure to be enjoyed, rather than a game to be won.

2) I have learned that it is impossible to show too much love and grace. While it is theoretically true that there are limits to love and grace, most people who talk about such boundaries are only trying to justify their own complete lack of love and grace. If I am going to err on one side or the other, between showing too much love and grace and not showing enough, I would rather err on the side of extravagance.

3) I have learned to withhold judgment so I can learn from others. While I may have opinions and feelings, I never have enough information to judge and condemn someone else. Judging others places us in the position of God. Only He knows all the events and circumstances which led up to another person’s behavior or belief. This stance allows me to hear and consider the viewpoints of others, not as something to be refuted, but as part of their journey. And if God is active in their life — as I believe He is in mine — then maybe God wants me to learn from them more than He wants them to learn from me. But I will never hear what He wants me to learn if I am busy judging and condemning the other person.

—————-

Thank you, Jeremy.

If you’d like to get in touch with Jeremy Myers, you can find him via his blog, Till He Comes or on Twitter.

Previous conversion interviews:

Mike Wise: Christian to Agnostic to Christian
Jessica Gavin: Universalist to Seventh-Day Adventist
Torie Brown Hunt: From Southern Baptist to Mormon

 



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Georgia

posted February 25, 2011 at 8:35 am


Wow. I totally identify with this guy. I grew up and still live in the Bible Belt – com’on Mississippi – and it is HARD not to go to church. It’s one of the first questions people ask: “where do you go to church?”. And when you say, “nowhere”, they aren’t real excited to talk to you anymore…unless it’s to get you to come to theirs with them. A big thanks to him for sharing his story and to you, Jason, for airing it.



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Janet Oberholtzer

posted February 25, 2011 at 9:52 am


I’m meeting and/or reading about more people asking questions and/or leaving traditional Christianity as I’ve known it. I’ve been asking silent questions about it for years and only recently allowing myself to have conversations about it, so in some ways I love that others are on the same path … but then some days a tiny portion of me wants everything to stay just as it was … I had more certainty then, darn it.
But yet, having said that … now that I’m being more honest about my personal journey, I have a different sense of love, peace and hope then I’ve ever had … it’s so freeing! Step by step, I’m move on!
Thanks for sharing your story Jeremy, I look forward to exploring your website and reading more of your thoughts.



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pietro

posted February 25, 2011 at 12:41 pm


Jeremy:
I feel your pain. What strikes me is how timid your blog post was as far as straying from the faith, and (reflected in the comments) how quick people are to ascribe importance to every microscopic and unimportant point.
I come from an evangelical christian background (albeit in a very blue state), and while I never was as dogmatic as most people I knew, I believed the Bible was the word of god. But as I started reading scholarly books, I realized that the bible didn’t say what I thought it had said. After a period in which I espoused contrary christian positions (for example, no trinity, no hell) I realized that even those positions could not be defended with any logic.
The bottom line for me is that the bible reflects nothing more than what people thought at a certain time and place. People create hermeneutics to explain away all the crazy parts (bartering women, god-sponsored genocide, immortal beings dying, gods mating with humans, etc.), but the only logical explanation is that the writings reflect the beliefs of pre-scientific people. They did the best they could with what they knew, but we should know better today.
One of the things that turned me is something you have experienced — christians are much more likely to be a**es than non-believers. If there was anything to this relationship with Jesus, I think it would make people better, but in reality it is much more likely to make them worse people.
Also people don’t actually believe what Jesus said. The guy who preached non-violence has followers who are much more violent in terms of their support for war and capital punbishment than the general public. The followers of the guy who preached forgiveness are the lest forgiving people on the planet. Doesn’t compute.
People who know me know I have unorthodox views, but I don’t go so far as to admit agnosticism to my family or friends. I work in finance, so my career isn’t on the line.
Good luck.



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David N.

posted February 25, 2011 at 2:31 pm


Thanks for sharing, Jeremy. A lot of this rings true in me. My “conversion” from ministry leader with all the answers to doubter has been less drastic and dramatic than yours, but I can still relate. I hope you know peace and love from those around you, and from God.



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Chris M

posted February 25, 2011 at 3:03 pm


I can really relate to this story. The sad reality is that the church makes very little room for differences of opinion. Beginning to question certain beliefs or merely investigating other points of view is considered dangerous. This reaction is probably driven by fear – an insecurity that our beliefs might not hold up well under careful scrutiny. So it’s best not to go poking around. It’s hard to feel comfortable for long in a setting like that.
Thanks for this, Jeremy.



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Ashley

posted February 25, 2011 at 4:15 pm


Thanks for sharing this, Jeremy. You mentioned going through that experience as a gift. Your words are an encouragement.



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Mike Gantt

posted February 25, 2011 at 4:15 pm


Thank you for posting this story. Although I, too, was a pastor and ceased pastoring or even going to church (and have never gone back), it was because intense Bible study and prayer led me this direction. In other words, it was not a lapse in, or even crisis of, faith that led me – it was love for the Lord Jesus Himself.
I learned from the Bible that churchgoing is not what the Lord wants from us. Rather He wants us to seek Him and His 24/7 rule in our lives (i.e. the kingdom of God).
I learned also that everyone is going to heaven, but that judgment is upon us in this earth and that repentance is a lifestyle we should always live – not a prayer we should one time pray.
There are many well-intentioned people going to church, but it is a path that does not lead to God. It only leads to more church.
If we would practice the presence of God, we would not need to go to a location or group of people to worship Him.
I close by saying that staying away from church will do you no good unless you are following Jesus. It is not absence from church that heals, it is constant presence with Jesus.



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FedExMOP

posted February 25, 2011 at 4:28 pm


Thank you, Jason, for hosting Jeremy’s story here.
Thank you, Jeremy, for your openness about this part of your life, and the ongoing journey that you are being led on. I think this has answered most of the questions that I have had about your journey since meeting you. I pray that God continues to use you to bless those outside the church, and that you continue to learn truth even from these unlikely sources. You have really taken hold of the idea from 1 Cor 1:27, keep looking to God to use the seemingly foolish things to confound those that think they are wise and have all the answers.
Your Borther In Christ,
FedEx,
President,
Men of Praise Motorcycle Ministry



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Jeremy Myers

posted February 25, 2011 at 9:12 pm


I’m a little late getting here today, so will try to respond to everybody in one comment.
First, thank you all for your gracious words. I will try to get over to all of your blogs sometime soon. And thank you, Jason, for being willing to post this. As I wrote on my blog today, I am still a bit embarrassed by some of what has happened to me, but I have come to learn that my story can help others.
Georgia,
I fully understand your dilemma. I still don’t know what to say to people who ask me where I go to church. Up here in New York, people are abandoning the church in droves, so it’s different than what you are facing in Mississippi. But I will say this, I cannot believe the number of people I run into who have left the church but who still want to read the Bible with others and talk about spiritual things. I have found that since I left the church I have had more opportunity than ever before to talk to people like this because they know for a fact that I am not trying to recruit them to any church.
Janet,
Yes, certainty is nice. I often wish that things had just stayed the same too. Tradition is comforting. But I’m with you–I would much rather feel the love and peace that I feel now than the safe emptiness I felt before. I will be checking out your blog to see how your journey progresses. Do you write about it there?
Pietro,
Yes, I was timid, partly because of the embarrassment and shame I feel. But also, I don’t think I have gone as far down the path as you have. I agree with much of what you said about hermeneutics and Jesus not seeming to make much of a difference in the lives of many who follow him (unless they become harder to live with). But I still think the Bible has a lot to say, and was never really intended to be a scientific book. Anyway, you sound like someone I would love to read the Bible with. What are some of those books you read?
David,
Thanks for the story. Are you still a ministry leader then? Where at? I will check out your blog to see if tells me more. See you there!
Chris,
Insecurity and fear definitely drives much of the church, but not only the church, our own lives also. I love the name of your blog. It made me laugh. It sounds like you might be poking around in some strange areas…
Ashley,
I am glad I could be an encouragement. Ducklings, huh? My wife is a duckling savior. She has rescued about 20 baby ducklings in her life.
Once she crawled down into a storm drain to get about eight ducklings who had been washed down there. She then had to “escort” them across the street and into the park. They followed her right over there, just like they were following their mother duck.
Mike,
So, do you meet with other people as part of following Jesus? Or are you kind of a lone-ranger follower? Just curious. I’ve been reading some about the house church movement, and it sounds like you are not part of them either. It does seem that the Bible requires followers of Jesus to follow him in community, don’t you think? I definitely agree with you that nobody goes to heaven by praying a prayer.
FedExMOP,
Good to see you over here. Hope I didn t scare you away with this post I’m not sure how much of this you knew. And hey…are you calling me a fool?! You better go read my post from yesterday about calling people a fool and going to hell!!!! Just kidding, just kidding. See you online, my friend.



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CK

posted February 26, 2011 at 8:41 pm


Fascinating! Thanks for sharing your journey so far



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Skeptic Heretic

posted February 28, 2011 at 11:09 am


It’s a shame so many of our Christian leaders have forgotten the “scandalous” love of God and the heresy that is Christianity!



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Sisterlisa

posted February 28, 2011 at 1:30 pm


Jeremy, I am so glad I found this article. I sent you out a tweet and will be sharing your blog with my friends. There are so many others out there living this authentic spontaneous life that you describe. Thank you for having the courage to speak out about your journey.



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Jeremy Myers

posted March 2, 2011 at 5:45 pm


Sister Lisa,
Thank you for the comment. I am glad it helped you and others. I am not always sure how authentic my life is, and I often doubt my motives, but that too, is part of living.



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Crump

posted March 4, 2011 at 6:07 pm


“In regards to my changing religious views, I have learned that sometimes Christian fundamentalists suffer from a classic case of creating God in their own image. You will know you’ve created God in your own image when He hates the same people you do.”
Author Unknown



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Mands81

posted March 6, 2011 at 10:59 am


You are brave and a encouragement to all of us who want to keep following messiah after we hav realised just how broken,flawed and fragile we really are.big Cape Tonian hug to you and your family



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atimetorend

posted March 7, 2011 at 1:31 pm


“But the simple fact that I was considering the ideas of “heretics” made me a “heretic” too.”
That was my experience too. Within large swaths of Christianity, you are either in or you are out, and no messing around in the middle. It makes it so hard to work through changing beliefs, or even considering changing them.
Thanks for posting this, especially the “be encouraged” section. I am encouraged by the journey, but not by people’s reactions. Bad beliefs I can leave behind easily, friendships are harder. But hardest are the relationships I can’t leave behind which continue to be difficult. Glad to read the lessons you have learned.



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Jeremy Myers

posted March 7, 2011 at 2:04 pm


Crump,
Great quote, and so true. Of course, making God in our own image is so hard not to do….
Mandy,
Good to see you here. I am glad you are encouraged.
A Time to Rend,
I really struggled with the encouragement part, because I remember when others tried to “encourage” me in my changes. It most often came out as judgmental criticism. I remember one person told me, “God is only preparing you for something worse.”



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Stephen

posted March 14, 2011 at 8:06 pm


Jeremy,
Thank you for sharing your journey with us. I find myself in a similar situation. I presently pastor a small, country church. Over the last few years, I’ve grown less and less satisfied with “traditional church.” Fortunately, a young couple came into my life who were escaping Fundamentalism and looking for a different way of “doing church.” The husband is my church musician and together we are attempting to think about new ways to do things in a church setting, but I’m not sure that working from the inside is going to work for the long haul. You may have made the right choice…to leave all that church stuff behind and go out to where living out the teachings of Jesus makes a real difference.
Thanks again!



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@LaureeAshcom

posted March 23, 2011 at 11:29 am


i always have questions about influence and example when i read one of these stories and i am grieved that “christians” seem to be compelled to wound others who we think even flirt with being different.

i looked at jeremy’s blog and read it… it seems to me that it offers one big challenge to decide whether you are in a “church founded by men” or if you are really a part of the body of christ.

thanks jason and jeremy….



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After the Pulpit

posted April 29, 2011 at 1:28 pm


The opposite of faith is not doubt but certitude. Certitude is one hell of an effective piece of armour to wear. It deflects all opinions and beliefs contrary to our own and keeps us safe on our own crusades. Trouble is it’s unrealistic, unnecessary and inhumane. Stripped of our defenses, we are all the wandering wounded, led step by step into the darkness of existence, hopefully supported by each other, open to each other, encouraged by a flesh and blood community of humanity that is more alive and efficacious than any belief or doctrine could ever be.

Three cheers to Jeremy!



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Sam

posted May 22, 2011 at 1:44 am


Wow, Jeremy! Thank you for sharing.

I too was struck by the statement “But the simple fact that I was considering the ideas of “heretics” made me a “heretic” too.” Any organization that requires blind faith should be feared, should it not? I think we’ve pretty much figured out that this is something other than the ways of Jesus, have we not?

Peace, brother, in your journey as you join those of us who follow Jesus.



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Jeremy Myers

posted July 31, 2011 at 12:34 pm


Stephen,
Many days I miss the pastorate, and think that there is much good still be done within the traditional church, but it is a unique mission field of its own, as you are finding out. Many people need to be “rescued from church” just as others need to be “rescued from the world.” Sounds like you are doing that from the inside. Great job!

Lauree,
Thanks for checking out my blog! I am trying to challenge others (as well as myself) to think about what the church really is, and how we can be the body of Christ in the world. Thanks!

ATP,
Three cheers right back at ya! I have enjoyed reading your blog. Keep it up! Certitude really can be a poison of sorts. I like how you describe it as armor. But it is armor that keeps God and others out.

Sam,
Good to see you here. Your posts at GraceGround have been a practical example of some of what I write here. You are a living Jesus to your neighborhood. Keep it up!



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Jim Puntney

posted April 10, 2012 at 8:59 am


Jeremy, thank you for your story, which is of course not just your story. Its the Jesus & Jeremy story, and this can aid others in their walk with Christ also.

Love you bro!



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Outside the Camp

posted April 14, 2012 at 4:31 pm


Jeremy this is great.
I am a cross-cultural missionary leader and on a similar journey.

Years ago I was rejected by my church (was an elder) for questioning some (what I still see as) common, manipulative practices. The word was out – my wife and I were back-sliders. Then recently we lost major financial support for our missions work because I refuse to follow the expected, top-down, Western church planting model.

It’s been a very lonely journey. At times I’ve struggled with the idea that I may indeed be rebellious or unteachable (as I’ve been told). But I have never been tempted to give up. Through it all I have found my personal faith getting simpler and stronger and my walk with Jesus much more vibrant and fruitful.

And I am seeing the great fruit in our cross-cultural mission, as the local leaders I’m coaching are leading many of their own people into an authentic and organic relationship with Jesus as they build on what they discover in the Bible. Church is definitely being planted, it’s messy and developing from the ‘inside-out’ as local people discover Jesus together through their own relationships and hunger, rather than being imposed from the ‘outside-in’ via the usual Western structures, methods and expectations. Several pastors have been to the mission field with me and praised our fruitfulness, even wanting to replicate our results back home. But control is hard to let go of and fear of man glues us to the status quo, so those conversations seldom go very far.
I am only now coming to grip with this personally. Working with our leaders in a ‘fellow-seeking’ kind of relationship has helped me tremendously. The other thing that’s helped a lot is blogging and tweeting. I’ve only recently started but I’m already much more able to articulate ideas clearly and succinctly, without my emotions tripping me up. (My aim is to be able to write about my journey as well as you write about yours, Jeremy.)

Where to from here? Not sure, but what a great adventure in the journey!



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e cigarette

posted August 21, 2014 at 8:00 pm


Hi this is kind of of off topic but I was wondering if blogs use WYSIWYG editors
or if you have to manually code with HTML.
I’m starting a blog soon but have no coding
skills so I wanted to get guidance from someone with experience.
Any help would be greatly appreciated!



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