I was involved with the Revival Centres/Fellowship for 16 fun-filled and life suppressing years. Before that, I was born, bred and buttered on communion wafers and stolen wine In the Catholic church, and I've got the alterboy pictures to prove it.
One day, at the shops, when I was 17, I (very bravely) asked a girl out on a date to the movies but she said she wasn't allowed to see anyone outside of her church. So, I joined the church... (chasing women - first mistake!) but we weren't allowed to keep company until I had been spirit-filled for three months. Sigh, OK...
Other members of the youth group started piquing my interest with stories of the imminent return of Jesus and of the gifts available to Christians, including the wondrous prayer language of tongues. I soon found myself in a baptismal tank and then afterwards in a seekers meeting, where I was encouraged to repeat the words 'praise the Lord' and 'halleluiah' until my speech slurred into incoherent stuttering. This was the moment I was said to have received the Holy Spirit (thinking gibberish was an amazing miracle - was my second mistake).
Some months passed by and I met another girl... and we were caught cavorting. We were given many punishment separations during which time we cavorted some more. After stupidly confessing our multiple cavortions, we were told that the only way to escape hellfire was to get married (confession of sin - third mistake). We were not allowed to see each other until the wedding day, set for us six weeks later. We weren't even sure we were in love, but the oversight had to have their way... I went along with it.
We served our time out of fellowship (not the first time we were put out during our years in the church, btw) and came back, settled down and tried out best to do what we were told. 15 years went by. We waited for the Lord's return. We tithed every week, ... we witnessed on the beach... I lead hundreds of chorus (worship) sessions... I even took on a house-leader position which was amazing to some considering we were once fornicators! - amazing that 10 years later we were still remembered as sinners (forgive but don't forget).
After 15 years in the church I started to think about my beliefs rather than lazily accepting everything I was told. I started to wonder... and wonder.. and wonder. I studied the bible and sought out the opinions of others. Perhaps life and God could actually be happening outside of our little hall!!! It was such a crazy concept, I just had to check it out.
My daughter was feeling the need to seek for the spirit and do what her friends were doing. Most of them were speaking in tongues and generating some very interesting vocal linguistics under their breath. My daughter wanted to seek as well. She said that she gave her life to God and I was excited for her but was told by those who were praying with her, that she was not quite yet born again. Their serious judgment was based on her ineffectual ability to glossallate (tongue-speak technobabble) properly. It just didn't seem right.
To be told for so long that we were free to leave at any time, even though leaving would mean certain death, filled us with fear. Is any man expendable? I thought that the place would fall apart without me co-ordinating the meetings. How could I turn my back on people who depended on me and who would surely doubt their own faith after watching me leave. How could I turn my back on the people I depended on? Hmmmm... I came to realise that leaving would actually be the best thing for my family. Someone needed to have a wander through the looking glass and yell back that it was all ok.
There are so many reasons I left: Being told off like children from the pastor whenever the tithing wasn't good enough... having guilt trips laid on us if we had a family day at the beach rather than sit in the hall for a prayer and fast. Repetitive talks that, by their own admission, were only the same three themes repeated ad nauseum (how to be saved, how to stay saved, how to tell others). The gospel wasnt making much sense actually. Contradictions thought to be subtle and meaningless, in new light, were downright lies. WE WERE being controlled... our life wasn't our own! Personal problems had to be confessed to the pastor and his wife and then exponentially the rest of the assembly. Not fair, not private. I craved the freedom that was being preached we thought to be freely ours. Ahhhhhhhh... freedom is a good thing... to actually feel free is a fantastic thing!
I had invested seventeen years to the church and its doctrine. Every single friend I had was in that organisation. Everything I believed to be true was in that church. To leave it was frightening to us, but we did it. The shunning we got was painful. We were told that leaving the church was to leave Christ and his saints. Statements such as these only made me acknowledge how very out of touch they were with reality. The freedom to explore other churches (or to not go to church at all) was blissful. To my surprise, a few other families were inspired by our exit and came out as well. They all found churches that seemed to suit them. We also fell into a church but soon realised that true freedom was beyond the shackles of the Christian mindset.
I had spent so many years resenting family members for being 'worldly', Catholic or Pentecostal and it was a joy for them to see us come out of that controlling and judgemental community of believers. I still think my family's messed up but not for being non-Christian.