#EmotionalNudity (Authentic Living)

I Love God, But I Don’t Do Church

I Love God, But I Don’t Do Church

essence_no_churchThis article was featured in its entirety on Essence.com

I was born and raised in the Bible Belt, and I have lived most of my adult life here, yet I haven’t consistently attended church in nearly 20 years.  My southern-bred family has not been very subtle about the fact that they are disappointed and embarrassed. After all, we have been well known and respected Christians throughout our community and church conference for over 50 years.

From time to time, I venture out to another church home to support one of my older sisters.  I’m always amused when people gather around me to finally meet the allusive “baby sister” that they assume lives out of town. When I inform them that I’m a local, a blank stare usually follows. It tickles me every time. You see, folks can’t imagine that such a “church-rooted” family could have a wayward black sheep like me.

The truth is, I’m not all that rebellious. I just don’t do church.

I see you raising your well waxed eyebrows at me, but before you start condemning me to eternal damnation, please let me say a few things: First off, I’m not angry with God.  In fact, my relationship with Him has never been stronger. I don’t even have a problem with the institution of church itself; it’s primarily the people at church that have always given me the Georgia Blues. That, coupled with the fact that I’ve never truly found healing in church environments, has led me to seek a relationship with God in other ways.

woman-praying_240x340_66I suppose I should slingshot back a few years to give you some background here. Initially when I distanced myself from church, it was because I had been plagued by emotional duress and other mistreatment by people affiliated with “the church.” It didn’t matter what city I lived in or what denomination of church I attended, it always ended the same way—with me heartbroken and disappointed by members of the congregation. But as my spiritual intelligence evolved, I came to understand that there are broken, damaged people everywhere – especially in the church. The people became less of a factor, but the damage lingered.

Eventually, what I came to understand was that I was in immense emotional pain, and I had no idea how to even begin to heal myself. I just knew that going to church didn’t seem to make the pain any less. I had survived a series of catastrophic events, and although I was physically in tact, my spirit and emotions were damaged.

I found my path to healing in the office of a grief counselor. The effects of counseling were not only emotionally restorative, but the experience also opened my spirit to allow God to guide me once again. That was more than 10 years ago and my connection to Him is now stronger than ever.

Yet and still, when I try to explain to my family that I connect more clearly with Christ outside the church, they still counter with snide remarks. When I refer to the Emotional Nudity lifestyle as my “ministry” they take to spewing scriptures at me. And when I tell them the people of the church offer too many distractions for me, they tell me to focus on God. What they seem to miss is the fact that I’m already doing that.

I struggle with the idea that so many people think that a lack of church attendance equals a lack of God. And while I’m pretty positive that my family won’t be happy until I’m crowding the front pew, this is one of those times when I have to carve out my own path to authentic joy and focus less on what is popular and more on what’s right for me.

Jai Stone (Master Brand Coach)

Master Brand Coach at Jai Stone, ULTD
Jai Stone, is a business lifestyle strategist and the founder of the Emotional Nudity Lifestyle and Game ChangHER University. She is also a highly syndicated blogger who has been featured in Essence Magazine, Huffington Post and on BET. She is currently a regular contributor to Essence.com

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  • Jaha Knight

    I totally agree with the fact that your relationship with God can be a better connection outside of church. Mine is stronger than ever at this time in my life and it took some drastic things to get me here. I grew up as a Southerner who always went to church, multiple times a week as a kid, teen and early adult. It wasn’t until I began to question some things – hypocrisy, the church not reaching out to their members more when they have hardships with solid help or resources other than, “pastor’s gonna pray fah ya”, and the need to gather at this Holy place, speak your truth, just to watch people be torn down about their problems later–that I had to stop and evaluate what I was going to church for and what I got out of it.

    Eventually I did go to a few different places but the messiness was always the same, so I get that you’ve been disappointed with the members in the congregation. If you let them, other parishioners can break your heart.

    I don’t know if there is a way to describe the peace I feel now and the intimate relationship I have with God that brings me more joy and more comfort than I ever felt when I attended church. There is no one else interpreting what He is saying to me, I just connect better. He is in my heart, not in a building or the people within that building.

    My family is another matter. They do act like I’m a blazing hot heathen, bound and gagged on the train to Hell. Going so far as to ask me, “Do you even believe in God?” which is preposterous. But these are the same people who asked me when I had locks, “Do you even wash your hair?”as if I were walking around with dirt and small critters living in it because it was natural. These are the same people who now rock afros and locks because it’s ‘trendy’.

    So other folk’s opinion on my life don’t weigh as heavily as my own. In their minds, they can strap me as close to Satan’s bosom as they want to; I will be riding next to God in a chariot when I leave this place. Loved the post!

  • Jaha Knight

    I totally agree with the fact that your relationship with God can be a better connection outside of church. Mine is stronger than ever at this time in my life and it took some drastic things to get me here. I grew up as a Southerner who always went to church, multiple times a week as a kid, teen and early adult. It wasn’t until I began to question some things – hypocrisy, the church not reaching out to their members more when they have hardships with solid help or resources other than, “pastor’s gonna pray fah ya”, and the need to gather at this Holy place, speak your truth, just to watch people be torn down about their problems later–that I had to stop and evaluate what I was going to church for and what I got out of it.

    Eventually I did go to a few different places but the messiness was always the same, so I get that you’ve been disappointed with the members in the congregation. If you let them, other parishioners can break your heart.

    I don’t know if there is a way to describe the peace I feel now and the intimate relationship I have with God that brings me more joy and more comfort than I ever felt when I attended church. There is no one else interpreting what He is saying to me, I just connect better. He is in my heart, not in a building or the people within that building.

    My family is another matter. They do act like I’m a blazing hot heathen, bound and gagged on the train to Hell. Going so far as to ask me, “Do you even believe in God?” which is preposterous. But these are the same people who asked me when I had locks, “Do you even wash your hair?”as if I were walking around with dirt and small critters living in it because it was natural. These are the same people who now rock afros and locks because it’s ‘trendy’.

    So other folk’s opinion on my life don’t weigh as heavily as my own. In their minds, they can strap me as close to Satan’s bosom as they want to; I will be riding next to God in a chariot when I leave this place. Loved the post!