It has been 18 months since I left the evangelical church. I should probably define what I mean by ‘evangelical’ but that would take a whole article at least. So I’ll simply say that I’m talking about the kind of church where being ‘evangelical’ is important.
If you are reading this you probably either wish you could leave the evangelical church, or think I am crazy or heretical. This article is aimed mainly at those of you in the first group. I want to reassure you that although you may feel a bit crazy at times, you are in fact completely normal, and almost certainly not heretical (whatever that means…).
Can I leave?
Yes of course you can. It will be hard. You will feel guilty. You will lose friends – but not all your friends. And you will probably be maligned and slandered – but not very often. But you are not alone. Many have left before you, and many will leave after you. You have permission to leave. It is not a mortal sin.
Why do I want to leave?
Of course only you can answer this. But perhaps I can articulate some reasons. Perhaps there are negative factors pushing you away:
- You are upset about the exclusive ‘them and us’ theology you hear every week.
- You are angry about a sexist, patriarchal, and misogynistic culture.
- You cringe when you hear about creationism and hostility towards science.
- You understand that insisting the Bible is inerrant and infallible is untenable, and can be a cause of many toxic thought patterns and behaviours.
- You are becoming scared of a culture in which agreement and submission are a condition of belonging.
- You are distressed by the god who needs to be placated by a bloody sacrifice.
- You are disturbed that this religion condemns 99.99% of humanity to eternal conscious torment.
You may simply have a growing feeling of uneasiness or alienation, but can’t quite put your finger on exactly why.
Perhaps your reasons are more positive:
- You have a seen a more inclusive, expansive gospel that unites rather than divides.
- You are beginning to see the image of God in every person which is changing the way you view people following different faiths and lifestyles to your own.
- You are believe that a life of faith does not mean being anti-scientific or anti-academic study.
- You are becoming convinced that if the gospel is good news for anyone then it must be good news for everyone.
Or perhaps you’re just not sure any more. Not sure that everything you have been told is true. Not sure whether God exists. Not sure what any of this means.
Are these people wrong?
Perhaps this is the wrong question. In my 50+ years in the evangelical church I have rarely met people who were wilfully manipulative or self-seeking. Almost all were people of integrity, well-meaning and sincere. Maybe Spirit is just leading you along a different path.
What should I do?
One thing is sure – once you have seen a glimpse of something different, you cannot un-see it. You may supress it or try to ignore it but ultimately it will not go away. I am not an authority but these suggestions might be helpful.
- Know that you are not alone. There are many other good, faithful, sane Christians who have gone through and are going through the same as you.
- Confront the reasons you are uneasy with the evangelical church. It is more comfortable to ignore the niggling doubts, but in the long run this will almost certainly be unhelpful.
- If you are seeing something new, acknowledge it, and acknowledge it is good. There is a more beautiful gospel. Once you have seen you cannot un-see.
- Talk about it. If you have friends who are open to talk about your concerns, then great. But if not, find someone to who is. If you don’t know anyone contact me. I would consider it a privilege and an honour to give you a safe and confidential space to talk things through.
- Realise you may go through a period of months or even years where faith is very hard or impossible for you. This is a normal and positive part of the journey.
- Be open to different expressions of faith. This evangelical now venerates icons and is the better for it.
- Follow your instincts. He who is in you will lead you into all truth.
What do you think?
In my faith journey I have had to work through a number of issues. I plan to write about some of these in future. But please let me know if there is anything specific you would like me to address in future articles. I would welcome your feedback in the comments below. Or you can use Twitter to message me directly.