Anyone can have a bad church experience. Just ask Colleen and Eric.
At first, Colleen and Eric felt great about the church they attended. After all, that’s where they had met, were married, and had started raising their family.
At that point in their lives, Colleen and Eric weren’t really searching for God—just the acceptance of a group of peers. So when they started noticing the church leadership’s apparent contradictions and deception, they kept quiet. What they didn’t know for several years: their church was part of a now-discredited cult.
After Colleen and Eric left the cult, they were plagued with pain, guilt, and doubt. The experience “caused me to question my own ability to see the truth,” Colleen says. “I had guilt for seeing red flags along the way, but not doing anything about it. You ask God for forgiveness and he gives it, but it’s hard to forgive yourself. I felt cheated, like I had wasted all those years.”
Within a year, however, Colleen and Eric joined the Vista Del Sol church in El Paso, Texas, and began the second religious journey of their lives.
Colleen’s desire to be accepted was met—this time in a positive, healthy church environment. “We felt genuinely loved by everyone,” she says. “Walter Mueller [the pastor] embraced us and loved us. I think his Austrian background made him have a heart for people who were a little different.”
Despite the guilt that Colleen felt from being in a cult, she wouldn’t change her past. Why? God has allowed her to share her story with and assist others who have had bad church experiences.
You don’t have to join a cult to have a bad church experience.
Approximately 31 million Americans say they are Christians and that their commitment to Christ is still important to them, but they have struggled with faith or relational issues and therefore quit going to church.
Tens of thousands more will join their ranks this week.
Like a safe harbor, local churches can be a second home for many people.
Sadly, churches also can be the setting for some of the harshest attacks against our faith.
What experiences have you had—good or bad? You can write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or post a comment below.