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Our family history with churches

Some people have all the luck with churches. And then there are those of us who found ourselves in a succession of church train wrecks. I don’t know what your church resume looks like, but ever since hitting Georgia, we’ve bounced around like a bad penny. We’ve loved the people and many of the pa…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

Some people have all the luck with churches. And then there are those of us who found ourselves in a succession of church train wrecks. I don’t know what your church resume looks like, but ever since hitting Georgia, we’ve bounced around like a bad penny. We’ve loved the people and many of the pastors, but not the institution. If more churches were committed to making disciples it might have been a different story, beginning in 1987.

7 years in a FL Presbyterian church; was made an elder. We booted a pastor who abused the congregational sheep and brought in another one who did the same thing. Nothing pastoral about either of those guys, though they could teach. Our weekly small groups were great – we’re still the best of friends.

3 years in a nondenom church. The pastor is a friend who has since repented of his control issues and started a home church, but the church was in a death spiral and blew up after we got out.

1 year in a start-up Calvary Chapel where the main feature was a very dry sermon followed by a good meal. The church struggled and we left.

2 years in a Baptist church. The pastor was asked to leave after getting caught in an affair with a staff member’s wife. Whoops. I don’t think anyone ever expressed an interest in getting to know us there.

2 years in another small nondenom that had an expensive building project and a therapeutic vision.

2 years in a small home church that at least felt authentic, but never reached critical mass.

2 years in a small nearby church that ministered effectively to one of our daughters and helped support another daughter on her year-long mission. Good people moving along at a certain pace.

Simultaneously we’ve attended (and been safely anonymous at) a mega-church and have continued meeting with a small group on Friday nights that feels right. We’ve continued to do that with the same friends for about six years now. At the end of the day, I know these folks would take care of Karen and my family if anything ever happened to me. We laugh and cry and worship together and exhort each other. We don’t forsake assembling together. We watch each other’s families grow and the children all feel safe and loved there. Maybe at the end of the day, that is the real church we’ve been looking for all these years.

There’s my “religious resume” What is your experience?


Comments (6)

  • Interesting. I grew up Roman Catholic and was finally baptized in a tiny (30 people) Southern Baptist church. We have been members there since until recently when we joined the largest CMA church in our area. In the meantime we went off and on to the S.Baptist church, feeling sorry for their numbers until we realized that sin issues were the reason they kept losing pastors and gaining overly legalistic controling ones. We moved, ended up in a CMA church in Mass. moved back 18 months later, went to the large CMA we are in now, went to a smaller one nearer for a few years, then home-churched at the Lord’s prompting for a year (we homeschool and it ws good for the kids to learn how to behave properly in church and they really grew in the Lord in that time) now the Lord has prompted us back to the large CMA where we have finally joined and where I have become very involved in a huge outreach to the women of the community. It is wonderful to see how God has worked and brought us through these different churches, provideing for our needs until we were able to stand on our own and help others grow.

    I would wish that the journey would have been shorter, tht the growing hadn’t taken so long, but at least we know we are where He wants us right now and are open to where He would send us in the future.

  • Grew up Assembly of God. While in college, I bounced around my first two years, about one semester per church, trying to find a good fit between size, theology, and being pursued. Finally settled back in an Assembly of God church because they hired me to lead worship for the youth group. It was sort of them wanting to help a college student, and me wanting to be involved doing something more than just attending.

    By the time I graduated from ORU, mom and dad left the Assembly church because the pastor communicated to them that his primary role wasn’t to pastor but to preach. We ended up in a house church for a few years, than the pastor took a job in Seattle (he never did fit in to our small, rural town of 1000), and we went to the community church (read: Baptist). While we were there, the leadership tried to kick us out (we weren’t members, so it was difficult) because we didn’t believe in what’s known as, “Once-Saved, Always-Saved,” and did believe in the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit. God clearly told us to not only stay, but to keep the whole situation to ourselves, forgive, and pray for reconciliation. A few years later, they apolgized profusely, admitted their error in treating us the way they did, and renewed their support of the ministry we were doing with students. It was a great and healing time for all. Unfortunately, before it was all over, they did kick my parents out. Why them and not us, I have no clue.

    When we moved to Moses Lake, we were directed by God and friends to a charismatic church, and have been there for six years. It’s been our favorite church since we’ve been married. The pastor is open to discussing what ministry looks like. He’s not controlling in general, and he truly wants to disciple others, though he’s still learning what that looks like while being the senior pastor in charge of a large church.

    Now, we’re going to be youth pastors somewhere. What kind of church will we be in a month from now?

  • I grew up in a Catholic home. A neighbor had bible studies on Fridays when I was in fourth and fifth grade. It was more like VBS once a week. I then attended a Nazarene Church where there was no youth group and hung out with the elderly. That is where I was grounded in the word. I was there for 3-4 years in my teenage years. I then went to a Baptist church after that for 3 years. My youth director had an affair that affected me. I hung out with them and another couple that were close friends of mine only to find out there was an affair that destroyed these two close relationships of mine. Another Baptist church followed for another 3 years where a few people got to know me. Then I moved to another Baptist church where I was for 3 years. I was part of a small group for a long time. But we only talked on the day we gathered. What a concept? For the past 2 years I have felt lost. I seem to have had a better church experience in my house with neighbors and friends. I am thinking of starting bible studies again with neighbors and make it official where we meet on a weekly basis. Aren’t we the church anyway? Where 2 or 3 are gathered in His Name he is there. I like the Acts gatherings. Today, I spoke with a friend from Chicago. I told her where I was at and she agreed that I should have community with my neighbors.

    Just a sidenote: I love AIM because I work with every denomination. I interact with Christ’s bride. I have come to a conclusion. What matters is who seeking Jesus and following His ways. The one who allows God to work in and through them is the living out the word of God.

  • Interesting church backgrounds. I am a pastor of a local church in a metro Orlando. Last night I had dinner at one of our members home who is very involved in a small town just North of Orlando. There were aproximently 40 people there at this function. Our town is aproximently 40 % percent African American and 50% white mixed with Hispanics. I say all of this to say that as I read the resumes posted here, what I since is that there is a lot of focus on the individual and there personal fulfillment in relationship to what the local church offers them. My dinner was interesting because I sat at the table with three African Americans one who was a City Commissioner and had been born and raised in this small community. SHe told me that she had been part of the same local church for 65 years. How about that, she had stuck with the same group, seen many pastors come and go and was committed to the vision of restoring the inner cities and problems of the African American community in our nation. The one thing that I find as a pastor is that people that tend to bounce from church to church, or city to city tend to have very little long term impact in a community. I know that God leads us on different journeys, but there is a princple in the bible called faithfulness.

    For example I started an inner city church in Seattle, Wa in 1990 in three years it was the most intergrated and evangelistic church in the community. AFter 3 1/2 years I was forced to leave. Lots of reasons, but not the time or space to dive into here. Bottom line is that after we left the church began a downward spiral and became another small inner city church with no impact barely hanging on. Here is my point. Because of the shortness of my time there our long term impact in that community was minimal at best. There were some really cool things that happened while we were there. But no noticable long term fruit. Community takes time, and time takes committment, and committment cost.

    For what it’s worth,


  • I hope you’ve found a church home by now, because I think it sets a bad example for the people who work for you, the people who go on your mission trips, and your own family if you do not regularly go to church to worship, tithe, and be in discipleship with your church family. Beth Moore is the most Godly spiritual leader I know and she is humble enough to place herself under the leadership of her pastor. It seems prideful to think you don’t need a pastor and church, like it’s a submission issue.
    I hope you are modeling the example of tithing and committing to making your church better, not abandoning it. Surely there is a church in Atlanta where you can worship and help other people grow in faith. If you can’t find a church you want to join, then honestly consider if you are being too judgmental and critical. So many people look up to you and you may cause them to fall, because even if you can maintain your faith and live a life that glorifies the LORD without being in a church body, the temptations of this world may seduce them without the help they could get from hearing sermons each week and worshiping and praising the LORD with other Christians.
    Blessings from your sister in Christ,

  • Wow. Yikes (to the above). So much to say here, yet so little time. Seth, you are an encouragement and inspiration to me. You challenge me to re-think church, to not just show up at a service and fulfill my quota for the day, but to really experience church as a transforming institution in my life. I am always challenged to be church after spending significant amounts of time talking with you. I’ve met some of the people you exhort, as well as those who encourage you. I think you’ve found an excellent church to be a part of – isn’t participation so much more than just attending? Kudo to you for participating in a group that transforms you and is transformed by you.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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