This is a response to Makiah Green’s article, 20 Lessons I’ve Learned Since Leaving the Church. I read her article a few weeks ago on The Huffington Post, but you can check out the original publication on her blog, makiahisms.com. The article is a wonderful and quick read, and I strongly encourage you to check it out in it’s original format.
Makiah, I don’t know you and you don’t know me, but your blog post, 20 Lessons I’ve Learned Since Leaving the Church, Impacted me in ways I did not expect. I hesitated to read it, because I was sure it would leave me angry and offended. After all, I grew up in the Church, too, and – despite many similar frustrations – my resolve to stay committed to the local church has never been stronger.
Instead of being hurt, I found myself in agreement with much of what you shared. Actually, I ended up saying “Amen” way more than “no, that’s wrong.” I knew that I needed to write a response that shared why a agree at some points, disagree at others. Most importantly, I want to encourage you not to give up totally on God’s Church.
I know you may not ever read this (because, again, you don’t know me from Adam). I know that some of this will come off as mansplaining because I’m a man and I’m explaining how I feel. Still, I hope that you or anyone else who reads this will have an open mind and a willingness to dialogue around the very important issues you addressed.
So, here’s my response:
I have decided to remove myself entirely from a system that claims to value my soul, but fails to show up for my Black body.
I think this is a fair critique of churches, but it’s important not to confuse “a church” with “the Church.” There are many churches that faithfully hold to biblical views that affirm the value of the bodies and souls of black folk. Anyone who presents the Church as a system that doesn’t just doesn’t understand Christ’s biblical Church.
God is not a man.
Amen. I think. Yes, God is Holy, unique and separate from all His creation. God is spirit, and spirits aren’t… well they dont’ have… we don’t classify spirits by what’s between their legs.
However, God is also triune, and God the Son is Jesus, the God-Man, with a body that had man parts. So, in that sense, He is a man. The first person of the Godhead is revealed to us as Father, and we worship Him as such, not because we prefer Him to be male, but because that is the way He has revealed himself to us in Scripture.
There is no pre-determined path called “God’s will” that I must discover and adhere to in order to experience God’s grace, love and favor.
Let the church say “Amen” again. Grace is inherently unearned. God does have a moral standard for His creation, but we are woefully incapable of meeting it (Romans 3:10-18). Yet, He still extends love and favor. This is grace – the unearned blessings of God.
As a Black woman, I have the power and autonomy to make my own decisions.
It saddens me to know that any church would suggest or explicitly state that your blackness, womanhood, or the intersection of the two would mitigate your decision making authority. The Bible does teach that – unlike humans – God is in control of all things. This, however, is a contrast between Creator and creation, not among races or genders.
Material success isn’t an indicator of God’s presence.
Preach! Down with the Prosperity Pimps.
God’s grace is sufficient, even when my works aren’t.
Yes. As stated above, our works are never sufficient (Ephesians 2:8).
I don’t need a church home in order to facilitate a relationship with God.
Here’s where I have to disagree. If the goal is relationship with God, and if God is God, what he says is important. God (not the Church) says that He uses the Church to develop that relationship. In fact, He commands his followers to participate in the Church, to assemble together regularly, to encourage each other, to hold each other accountable, to submit to godly leadership, to comfort each other, and to teach each other. Church is God-made, not human-made, even if people corrupt it (Matthew 16:18, Ephesians 5:19-21, Hebrews 11:23-25).
I think step one of facilitating a relationship with God is to acknowledge that He is God and seek to obey Him.
Accountability is often (but not always) used as an excuse for control and spiritual manipulation.
Amen. I think the caveat of “not always” is key, but spiritual abuse is a real thing. We need more faithful pastors who teach the WHOLE Bible so that people don’t accept this abuse as normal.
These pastors ain’t loyal.
I’m not touching this. I don’t want to slip into Jamaal Bryant territory.
My salvation is already solidified and there’s nothing I can do or say to separate myself from God’s love.
I agree and I wish more people would acknowledge this biblical truth. We also need to acknowledge that we are saved not by good works but to good works. Salvation leads to fruit, and there are people who have a false assurance of salvation because the “said a prayer.” Salvation isn’t just fire insurance.
Women are fully capable of leading churches, nations, and their families.
Agreed. However (and, in full disclosure, here’s where teeter uncomfortably on the edge of mainsplaining), not all churches that lack female senior leadership do so because they believe women are incapable of leading. Some are just doing their best to follow what they believe to be a faithful interpretation of Scripture. Even if you disagree with their interpretation, it’s only fair to acknowledge their motivation as biblical, not bigoted.
Also, for anyone who thinks women can’t lead families, what about successful single, windowed, divorced, and military moms?
Sexuality and spirituality aren’t mutually exclusive
Amen. The same God who is spirit created and ordained human sexuality. Churches must address this in a way that goes beyond finger pointing and name calling.
God’s blessings were never dependent upon my willingness or ability to tithe.
Jesus never mentioned most of the “sins” I was taught in church.
This depends on what “sins” you’re talking about and how you read the Bible. I don’t know what your church taught, so it’s not fair for me to appraise their teaching. One thing Jesus did do is correct existing misunderstandings. Often, where people’s beliefs were correct, he left them alone. So it’s not safe to say, “Jesus didn’t bring it up, so I can ignore it.”
Jesus also speaks from Genesis to Revelation. Jesus upholds and affirms the Law and the Prophets – the Old Testament. He lives, dies and rises in the Gospels; sends the Holy Spirit in Acts; commissions and empowers the Apostles to speak in the Epistles; and reveals Himself to John in Revelation. If we only consider the words in red to be from Jesus, we miss who he is and what he did. We also fall into the trap of believing we can disregard the words printed in black ink as “not from Jesus.”
Western Christianity is the farthest thing from what the original church sought out to accomplish.
Spiritualized self-help is not the Gospel.
Amen. Say it again, louder. The Gospel isn’t about me living my best life now.
Anyone claiming to have all the answers clearly doesn’t.
Did you really go to a church full of people like that? Ouch.
White evangelicals (and the Black evangelicals spouting the same white, patriarchal values) are modern manifestations of neocolonialism.
Let’s not lump all White Evangelicals together. Some are very self aware and desperately trying to learn how to break this vicious cycle. They may not all be doing well in their quest, but I think we owe it to our brothers and sisters in Christ to prayerfully support their effort to do better and lovingly offer advice on how to get there.
On the other side, many people do much evil and hide behind the “Evangelical” banner. In fact, I’ve always been uncomfortable identifying as Evangelical because of all the baggage that comes with that word.
The people who condemn a particular sin the most are typically the ones struggling with it.
Maybe. Maybe not. Actually, people who condemn are just generally wrong. That’s not our job.
Heather Lindsey lied. About all of it.
I don’t know her, but it sounds like whatever this story is would make me angry.
I don’t have to choose between being a woman, being unapologetically Black, and being a believer.
Amen. As Christians our primary identity is found in Christ, and that trumps (horrible word choice) race, gender, nationality, etc. However, God in his divine wisdom made you a black woman. He made me a black man. These things bring him glory, and to deny them is to lie about the wonders of God’s creation. Don’t ever stop being a bold black believing sister.
Closing thoughts on the Church
I guess what I’m trying to say is, your concerns aren’t just valid. Many of them speak to what needs to change in the Church. It’s not just that you need to obey God by participating in the local church. The local church needs you, because you being faithful to God and vocal about your concerns can help the church grow. As Christians, the Church isn’t a supplement we add to our faith or a club we choose to join if we’re really enthusiastic about it. Church is the Family of God, a family we are birthed into by the Holy Spirit. We submit ourselves to it, not because it is perfect, but because God is perfecting it and us. So, I’ll let Scripture provide the final words of encouragement:
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. – Philippians 1:6.