Thank you for providing a way and a place to say what I’ve felt for a long time. For years (I attended the Young Church in 2006), I have felt that what I experienced was wrong, ungodly, and destructive. While it is an encouraging feeling to acknowledge that I’m not alone, internally I’m grieving for the broken relationships and spiritual scaring that may have resulted from attending this church.
My story began when I was a freshman at CMU. I was invited to attend the Young Church and knew of a friend from my high school (who might still attend, unfortunately). I enjoyed the atmosphere, the sense of belonging and friendship that everyone seemed to have and the feeling of being accepted. Everyone was eager to get to know you when you walked in the door – I remember meeting the pastor for the first time and lots of people I would learn would be on the leadership team.
As time went on I wanted to become more involved – the only way to become more involved was to join a ministry team and I wanted to work in the children’s ministry. This required two very personal interviews, one with a RG, another with someone else. I remember sharing about my relationship with God, talking very openly about my experience and sharing about my charismatic background. Somewhere toward the end of my interview, he mentioned that I wouldn’t be able to join the team.
I remember asking if I could join another ministry team (I really just wanted to join a bible study, but they were all so connected that you couldn’t do one without the other, and there was a 20 hour work requirement, which would be difficult for me to swing, but I was willing to do it even with 18 credit hours and part time job). I asked to be on the cleaning team, but his wife ran that one and he said that after our interview I wouldn’t be able to join any ministry team. I remember thinking to myself that it was strange that I couldn’t even clean bathrooms for this church?!
A few weeks after I went on the Pilgrimage that people might have mentioned – it was meant to be some sort of secret affair that no one was supposed to tell you about but an experience that would shape you.
Shape me, it did. I remember wanting to go so desperately, but feeling repulsed when I went. Here we were in the middle of nowhere with very little to eat and everyone seemed so intent on trying to get closer to go that you could feel the tension. We spent hours rowing – attempting to break muscles, but I also felt like the leaders were trying to break our spirits as well – things like having people share very intimate details of their testimonies around the fire, limiting the amount of food that everyone could have and encouraging people to live on less so that God would provide more.
I remember when a 40+ friend, SK’s wife, actually, fell while carrying the canoe. I remember running back to her and being commanded not to help her and that “only God could help her now”. I kept insisting, but they argued so strongly against it and she said she could make it that I kept going. I remember carrying that canoe 4 miles and feeling both on top of the world for making it and thinking I was really stupid for coming on a trip like this where I wasn’t allowed to think or help someone who fell over.
I also remember having a friend Katie, who fell in the water and was getting hypothermia, but rather than let people gather around her and warm her up, instead they had her in a sleeping bag and she was shivering and sick the rest of the trip. They (the group) seemed to enjoy as much pain and suffering as possible – in order to grow closer to God.
I think the most interesting part was the ride home when people shared index cards – I did it wrong. I thought we were supposed to tell everyone what we thought of them and how great they were, and when I got mine back they were filled with everything that I needed to change – they were cutting comments, tearing down instead of building up. I remember girls in tears on the way home… what a trip.
The Young Church had a interesting culture, in hindsight, and a destructive one. After my interview, I met BF again (the second and only time I felt allowed to talk to him – you see there was this imaginary hierarchy that you weren’t really worthy to talk to any of the elders, especially if you were a girl.) Well, this time he sought me out, but to say that he had talked with others and that they could help me find another church. This isn’t a good fit for you. It was the first and only time I’ve been kicked out of a church.
I spent the next three years out of church, feeling alone and like God had some part to play in all of this. He didn’t. Or perhaps he did because I got out of the Young Church and found a much better church called His House. For years I’ve remembered RG and PC and the pain they caused me – I’ve been bitter and angry and for what? I think I’m ready to let go now and move on. What happened there and in that time was wrong, the manipulative way they spoke to people and encouraged anyone who was a friend not to talk to you again was wrong, and they were wrong to call what they were doing Godly.
While my hope would be that this church was permanently shut down, especially because they didn’t seem to learn their lesson as the Young Church and made the front page of the paper for what they’ve done to a large number of people, instead I’m going to pray that everyone finds healing through stories, through honesty, and through seeking God’s word.
The idea of a false prophet isn’t just an idea. I greatly hope that the families who have lost their children to this church can find them again and get them back. Mine didn’t lose me, but I wasn’t allowed to stay – perhaps if I did my story would be different. Thank you, God for helping me get out.
My story didn’t end after I left. It continued that summer when I had conversations that seemed to be arranged by God, so to speak. I found no less than a dozen other women who had been ‘kicked out’ or told they didn’t love God enough, that they weren’t a good fit, or that they needed to give up relationships with their friends or family. Later on I found a fantastic church, His House, and grew to love the people there, without all of the crazy rules and hierarchy that was happening within the Young Church. I too was amused when they later named it Grace church, and hoped that perhaps with a new name, maybe they’d have new leadership and a better reputation.
To those of you who are still hurting, I pray you’ll find a way to let it go. And to those who may be still attending, I encourage you to open your eyes.