In the church world, we have an oxymoronic reference known as “church hurt.” It is the unfortunate experience of many. It means we feel hurt by the church. In truth, we are hurt by people who happen to be in the church. When the people who hurt us are leaders, we tend to hold the institution responsible. Sadly, it can lead to anger and ultimately, the personal exodus from the church.
On the brink of my personal exodus, God spoke clearly: “the church is My idea, not man’s.” I was therefore resolved to re-enter the church knowing it was the only path for healing. God and His church didn’t hurt me. People did. This truth, which helped me separate offense with the church from offense with people, propelled me toward the church, specifically Living Faith church. I am so grateful it did!
I first visited Living Faith church in January 2013. I sat in the back and observed with a bit of fear and trepidation. It was an awkward Sunday filled with uncertainty and insecurity. Is this place safe? Is God here? Will I be welcome? I returned the following Sunday and boldly sat on the first row with a friendly and familiar face from the past. I was embraced and welcomed! Shortly thereafter, I met a woman named Grace, who greeted me with a hug. Would I find grace here?
As the service began, Pastor Barry, who at that time sat on the stage in an overstuffed orange chair, gave me a little wave. It was weird! Taken a bit off guard, I asked the familiar face next to me if he was indeed waving at me. He was! So I waved back. He then proceeded to walk from the stage to meet me. He shook my hand and asked my name. Interestingly, it was another six months before I knew his name. But he knew my name. And every Sunday thereafter, he made a point to greet me by name.
In the same service, God spoke intimately to me: “I will demonstrate My power to you in this church.” And so, Living Faith became my church home.
Because I did not know Pastor Barry’s name, I referred to him as Father Pastor. It is how I distinguished him from his son who was the primary speaker, at that time. It was a fitting reference because that’s what he was. A father. His simple act of greeting me by name every Sunday was one of the most healing salves along my journey from “church hurt.”
I met Christ when I was 28 years old. He disputed my atheism with Truth and shared with me the immeasurable love of the Father, my Father. Coming out of atheism, I began to rejoice in and declare everyday that there is a God in heaven. Yes, there is a God in heaven! But there is more. There is a God in heaven and He knows my name. He knows me and loves me in spite of all I have done.
And so, Father Pastor, who greeted me by name every Sunday, became to me a representation of my Father in heaven who knows my name. His presence and acceptance became my safety in the church. I was safe to worship and celebrate the glory of God with and in the church. Healing began.
I regret not sharing with him how instrumental he was in helping me heal. How God used him mightily to represent the Father’s love, power, and authority on earth. So many of us have this story! By now, he knows and has been assured of his faithfulness by the Father Himself. It is not good-bye, but until next we meet. I look forward to celebrating and worshipping with Father Pastor once again.