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Attending Church Despite the Church

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Jesus routinely elevated, honored, and welcomed those society pushed to the fringe or rejected outright. Can you imagine the emotional healing He must’ve brought to those individuals? The message of love and grace that He sent them?

Over the past few weeks, I’ve watched one young woman in particular experience a similar journey. For years, most of her church experience, actually, she was told that she was too much—too loud and intimidating, too intense, too dominant.  

That no man would want to marry a woman “smarter” than him. These were the messages sent by those in her faith community.  

“I felt like they were talking about all of me,” she said, “instead of a particular character trait. So, I tried to be quieter and tone myself down when I met new people and was in group settings. But that wasn’t who I was and I always ended up being ‘loud and opinionated,’ and so I left the interactions feeing like I’d failed and that everyone probably thought I was annoying.”

The place designed to help her thrive as a confident daughter of Christ became a stifling, lonely environment that led to increased insecurity. She quickly realized, she didn’t fit into people’s preconceived ideas of biblical womanhood. To her, this meant she didn’t fit in the church.

To put it simply, she attends church despite the church.

Praise God she’s now in a safe place where she’s learning to heal. And perhaps most importantly, where she can voice her thoughts, her doubts, and even her pain without fear. A place where she’s beginning to come alive, as God intended—to live fully as the strong yet loving, determined yet teachable woman He created her to be. It’s such a beautiful thing to see.

I thought of her journey, and the stories I’ve heard from numerous women over the years, as I read Luke 8:1-3. Scripture tells us, shortly after a “sinful woman” anointed Jesus’ feet (Luke 7:36-50), “Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with Him, 2 and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; 3 Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means” (NIV).

These once sick and sinful ladies joined Jesus and His male disciples. This would’ve been unheard of during that time. To travel with, and therefore learn from, a Rabbi? That was something women didn’t do. And yet, Jesus welcomed them close and invited them to play a vital—and public—role in His ministry.

I imagine a lot of people misunderstood their actions. Shouldn’t they be home raising children, or helping someone else raise children? What could they possibly need religious teaching for? Why would Jesus even allow such a thing? Or waste His time on them for that matter?

And yet, God recorded their devotion in Scripture, I believe to tell all women everywhere: you’re invited.

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When others push us out, God says we’re invited.

When others misjudge and discount us, God says we’re invited.

When others tell us we don’t fit, we’re not enough or too much, God says we. Are. Invited.

For those, like my friend, who walked into church despite the church—you are invited. And loved. Valued, and in Christ, empowered, and called. God has a plan for you. He didn’t place that spark in your soul, that passion and unique insight, simply to bench you. He’s chosen you to play a unique and vitally important role in advancing His kingdom.

I’m sure for some of you this post stirred up something. Honestly, that’s precisely why I didn’t want to write on this passage. In fact, I sat and stared at it for some time this morning, thinking of all the ways I could avoid it. But again, my husband’s words of wisdom propelled me forward: “If that’s the passage you’re on,” and it is, as we’ve been following Scripture chronologically, “then I’d say you need to write on it.”

And so I did. Knowing some of my readers might not like what I have to say. But also knowing for others, this post might help initiate healing. I’d love to know your thoughts. When have you “gone to church despite the church” and how did Jesus meet you there?

Share your thoughts in the comments below or connect with Jennifer on Facebook and Instagram.

Additional Resources:

How to Heal When You’ve been Hurt by the Church by Cortni Marrazzo

Jennifer Slattery is a writer and speaker who hosts the Faith Over Fear podcast. She’s addressed women’s groups, Bible studies, and writers across the nation. She’s the author of Building a Family and numerous other titles and maintains a devotional blog at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com.

As the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries, she’s passionate about helping women experience Christ’s freedom in all areas of their lives. Visit her online to learn more about her speaking or to book her for your next women’s event  and sign up for her free quarterly newsletter HERE  and make sure to connect with her on Facebook and Instagram.


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