Are you one of the millions of Christians who no longer identifies with the Church?
By: Linda Freeman
EXODUS 25:8 And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them.
I can’t count how many Believers I’ve heard say over the past several years, “I don’t go to church anymore.” I have been one of them. I was never happy about that but I shared many of the same concerns as my fellow, former churchgoers. Tired of the programmatic same-old-same-old. Tired of the unspoken need to conform to a certain look, a certain way of talking, even a certain way of living. Tired of the thick, administrative layers of church staff. Tired of the chitchat and socializing that passes as “doing life together.” Tired of glitzy youth groups focused on entertainment and excitement while often overlooking cliques, gossip, and bad behavior. Tired of the constant imagery that Christianity is trendy and fun! Tired of the absence of basic doctrines being preached like the Cross and repentance from sin. But most of all, I was tired of recycled sermons and flashy displays of technology that seemed increasingly irrelevant to the alarming condition and culture of our nation.
Cue COVID-19. As the weeks turned into months, and churches struggled to comply with standards and then started getting shut down, I kept waiting to hear messages and teachings specifically about what we were all going through. What should Believers think about all of this? What do we pray? What should we be doing, or not doing? What do these new policies and procedures mean, especially in terms of our rights and need to freely worship and attend church? When it became evident that most pastors weren’t willing to address or “get involved” with this unprecedented cultural and political turmoil, I was out. I was already offended by the lack of biblical teaching and preaching about abortion, homosexuality, gay marriage, gender confusion, or even the “basic” sins like adultery, cheating, lying and stealing. In other words, the absence of teaching and preaching about sin, confession, repentance, and the Cross. And I sadly began to realize that every time I attended church, or watched online after the onset of COVID lockdowns, I was the one now sinning as I became increasingly bitter, judgmental, and even“disgusted” with the lack of courage to preach the whole Word, and to address the context of relevant politics and culture that we were all struggling with.
I knew I simply could not continue to put myself in that position. I realized it was my problem but I also knew Truth was operating. So I simply but sincerely asked the Lord to either change me, change them, or help my husband and me find a pastor and a place where we could be fully fed, fully used, and fully free to be who we are, including our thoughts, concerns, needs, and even our politics.
HEBREWS 10:25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together…
I’ve been a sold out, Bible-believing, Spirit-filled and Spirit-led Saint since 1982, and I knew Hebrews 10:25 was a verse that could not be ignored. I wanted to feel convicted about “forsaking” the assembling of believers but I honestly could not muster it, even though I knew in my heart that we were falling far short of God’s intentions for us. Then, in early September, my husband said, “Let’s watch Paula White on YouTube.” It’s a miracle I didn’t get whiplash snapping my head around to gawk at him. We had both worked for one of the biggest televangelism ministries in the world in the late 1980’s and 1990’s. I was well aware of the headlines back then and didn’t realize Paula White was still on-the-air and preaching. But what I did know was that when my husband says something that pierces my heart as from the Holy Spirit, I pay attention. So we watched together, and we were blown away.
When we first heard Pastor Paula preach the Word online, we could barely sit up straight. It was as if the Holy Spirit were pressing us back into our couch. We felt the weight of the Word Pastor Paula was bringing! Best of all, she was unashamed and unafraid to confront the current culture and politics wreaking havoc on our nation, our families, and our churches. I was amazed and so excited! Here was a true preacher, rightly dividing the Word of Truth, in old-school style but with incredible precision and current, highly relevant wisdom. She even brought insider insights from having spent the last two decades as the spiritual advisor to the man who would become the 45th President of the United States. Incredible! God had answered my prayers for a pastor-preacher with real guts and a deep love and appreciation for the whole Word of God, but He was also about to answer my prayers to change ME!
PSALM 83:12 Let us take to ourselves the houses of God in possession.
We started to watch Pastor Paula and City of Destiny every Wednesday evening and Sunday morning from our home in Austin, Texas. I could not believe that I was actually excited about “church” again, and looked forward with anticipation to each message. Even more incredible was that my husband was taking notes during every message! If Pastor Paula preached two hours, it took us three hours to get through it because we would stop and rewind to be sure we were capturing everything she said. If you don’t know it yet, Pastor Paula has a unique and anointed way with words and with phrasing things that is both memorable and impactful. But you have to keep up!
In mid-November, Pastor Paula started a series on “The Church.” I groaned inwardly. That should have been a big clue that I was about to get clobbered in the Spirit! Pastor Paula started her message with Psalm 83:12. She painted a vivid picture of God’s enemies wanting to abolish and destroy God’s House. They also wanted to “take” God’s House as their own possession. There was no escaping the spiritual reality that I had slowly become like one of those enemies in my own way. Had I not wanted to make God’s House my own in the sense of trying to convince myself that I could do better on my own? Wasn’t I saying, in effect, that I could “take” God’s house – meaning, replace it or ignore it? More importantly, I realized I was literally denying Christ’s Body as it is intended to be manifested through the Church.
By the time that message was over, I was on my face, stricken with conviction over my disdain and neglect for God’s Holy House and for my arrogant, self-righteous refusal to identify with the His Body! I had made it about His people and their shortcomings (not my own) but, worse, it was if I had judged Christ Himself and His Body as not “worthy”…of me! I had fallen right into the enemy’s plans to “usurp” the authority and rightful position of the Church in my life and of my life in the Church by allowing a prideful deception to develop in my heart…that I knew better, that I could do it better, that I was “beyond” what the Church could do; in essence, taking what was His and building my own “house.” And I was also struck by the reality that the Body of Christ would not be complete and could not accomplish all God truly hopes for through us all, without every single one of us – including me – committed and submitted to being “fitted in” as lively stones together. More than that, how could anything that might truly be “wrong” be addressed if the people who can see it, aren’t there to say it?
God help me! With tears of both sorrow and gladness, I repented of despising the Church and, because Pastor Paula is uniquely able to speak the Truth in Love, I joyfully recommitted myself to God’s House, to His Church, and to His people. That night my husband and I decided we belonged to this House and to this Body. It didn’t matter that we had not personally met a soul from City of Destiny. We were being fitted in by God, for whatever purpose, and that was enough, even if we never met anyone in person. Since then, we have been “attending,” tithing, giving, and growing together with everyone committed to City of Destiny and Paula White Ministries. But wait! There’s more! Ever since this turning point and turnaround, God has already been able to USE my husband and me, and the gifts He has put into us, for His House, for His Body, for His Kingdom, and it has all happened very suddenly! I believe that demonstrates a spiritual principle that this could not have happened until we were willing to return to serve in the House of God. In fact, I believe we cannot even fulfill our individual and corporate destinies without being joined by the Lord to the specific House to which He calls us. And then, if we’re in our place, buckle up! There is truly nothing more satisfying, more fulfilling, and more humbling than being USEFUL by being where we are meant to be, and able to be who and what we were created to be. I learned through this experience that none of that happens when I separate myself from God’s purposes by separating myself from God’s people!
GENESIS 50:20 What the enemy meant for evil, God meant for good
I believe the COVID shutdowns of churches in the U.S. have been intended and used by the enemy for evil, but I am just one story of how God has used it for good. What an amazing time this is for the Church and for all Believers! We can “attend,” identify with, support, communicate, tithe, give, serve, learn and grow together from all over the country and from around the world under one “virtual” roof. Perhaps it’s not as ideal as face-to-face fellowship but, with nearly every church now streaming online, we have access to belonging without local limitations for “seating capacity,” and we are able to sit under excellent preaching and teaching from afar, like Pastor Paula’s and the City of Destiny without being limited by geography. We don’t even have to leave our homes to fulfill the mandate to “assemble ourselves” together in this season. As my husband and I have watched together in Texas, we genuinely feel connected to everyone we see attending City of Destiny’s services. We now know many of their names and feel like we know them personally. When we recently visited City of Destiny for the first time in Florida, we felt completely at home the moment we stepped across the threshold. Clearly, the enemy has overplayed his hand with the Church, and God is getting the glory!
If you have found yourself holding back from identifying with the Church, and with the Body of Christ, I encourage you to reconsider and re-evaluate your position in light of His Word and Pastor Paula’s teachings, and renew your stand IN God’s House and FOR God’s House, especially now. If not here at City of Destiny, then ask the Holy Spirit to guide you to your place. It’s never been “easier,” for lack of a better way of putting it. Of course, the Church is not yet perfect anywhere on this earth. I am not yet perfect. Even so, we are called to perfection and are being progressively perfected. What I am saying is that I have realized that God cannot finish perfecting me outside of belonging to His Church. That’s just the way it is and the Body will continue to remain incomplete without each one of us. God help us and forbid it!
Pastor Paula said in her transforming message about the Church, “You can be an individual letter, but you’re part of the alphabet.” It made me realize that my honest complaint all along had been feeling like I didn’t belong, while all the while trying to fit in by being someone I am not. Looking back, I can see that I caused a lot of those feelings for myself. My mind and my attitude have been changed and renewed by His Word, and by this ministry, and I now accept that I am not only personally responsible to protect, preserve, and to serve in God’s House – as Pastor Paula taught from Psalm 83:12 – but now I know and believe I am also fully “accepted in the beloved” (Ephesians 1:6). So are you! Welcome back!
ROMANS 12:5 So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.
Do you have a story about renewing your commitment to the Body of Christ through Paula White Ministries or the City of Destiny online church? We’d love to hear from you! CLICK HERE: Paulawhite.org/praise
If you would like to watch Pastor Paula streaming LIVE, every Sunday at 10:00a.m. EST and Wednesday at 7:00p.m. EST CLICK HERE: Paulawhite.org/live
Linda has a master’s degree in journalism, and is a former network television news writer, producer, and on-air talent. She has more than 20 years’ experience working for national/international broadcast news outlets (CBN/The 700 Club in Virginia Beach; NBC/MSNBC in New York City), followed by a second career in corporate communications with IBM in New York. Now retired, Linda specializes in writing screenplays based on or inspired by true stories. Two of her projects have been optioned by a Hollywood producer, who is currently collaborating with her on multiple film and television projects. Linda is also a published author and occasional guest speaker in churches and women’s groups. She is also an amateur pool player and has competed in national tournaments, where she looks for opportunities to share her many testimonies about God’s supernatural interventions in her life. As a college student, Linda lived and studied in Spain, and still speaks, reads, and writes Spanish with fluency. An “Army Brat” who was mostly raised in New Jersey, Linda now lives just outside of Austin, in the beautiful Texas Hill Country. She has been happily married for 30 years to her second husband, and they have raised four children together. They are finally enjoying an empty nest, if they don’t count their collie and two cats.