One of the most difficult parts of our whole Giant Church Inc experience is dealing with the questions I still ask myself.
How in the world did this happen? Why did I not see sooner? Why didn’t I trust my gut? And the hardest question of all: when I did see, why was I unwilling to speak out?
Within my family, I’m the one who speaks out. Hopefully with a lot of prayer and thought, but I will typically say what needs to be said. In other arenas, I’m not as assertive, but will eventually manage to say the hard thing, if necessary.
I can’t use the excuse that I didn’t know better. I’m not a new Christian. I grew up in the Baptist church – mostly. I attended church regularly during my younger years, not as much in my teenage years, then in my early twenties I gave my life to Jesus. I asked God to take my life, everything in it, and use it for Him and His Kingdom. I’m devoted to learning to love Him with all of my heart, soul, mind, and strength. I read the Bible almost daily and study it regularly.
We Are Glory Hounds
But at some point during the Giant Church Inc season, I started to believe I needed to work harder. Giant Church Inc glorifies busyness and equates it with doing God’s work. More services. Better music. Grand events and theatrics. Extravagant props and decorations. It takes a large team of volunteers to make it all happen. And at Giant Church Inc, it must be executed with excellence. The harder we worked, the more praise we received from the leaders and each other.
Giant Church Inc spends a lot of time and money patting themselves and its volunteers on their backs. The social media guru on staff makes sure their good deeds and the brand are known to all. Photo ops in the newspapers flashing their community service, Facebook live videos showing their generosity to the needy, Instagram posts of painting the Giant Church Inc brand on a building on another continent, or the glitzy award banquets honoring the most loyal servants. We’re flooded with Giant Church Inc spectacles screaming, “look at us!”
It feeds our pride and our desire to be part of something bigger than ourselves. Because we do desire it. John Piper puts it this way, “All human beings are created to attach their tiny, little lives to something absolutely majestic and glorious so that their life takes on a sense of wonder and eternal significance. It takes on significance not because of who or what we are in ourselves, but because of how we’re attached to and participate in the life and purposes of the Creator of the universe.”
I’ll say it again, it seems Giant Church Inc has forgotten God. When we constantly hear how great we are, we will take the credit that isn’t ours to take. When we don’t hear the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and aren’t pointed to Him constantly, we will revel in the glory that is God’s alone.
Jesus said in Matthew 6:1-4, “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.” How have we convinced ourselves that the praise of others through applause, likes, or views is better than the reward from our Father?
Before Giant Church Inc
Before Giant Church Incorporated, I taught a ladies’ Sunday School class at a faithful community where the pastor of 38 years is a kind shepherd over the people. We enjoyed the fellowship there for almost five years. My parents attended with us along with some other extended family members.
My children were involved, but their father didn’t attend church and it became increasingly difficult to persuade them, especially my son, to come to church with me each Sunday. I wasn’t looking for another church, but when the kids asked if we could visit the church where our son’s football coach pastored, I said yes.
The church my children and I visited on the first Sunday of 2009 only had two hundred or so regularly attending the two services. The church was different, but I promised to give it a chance if it meant my children attended with me.
The unfamiliar environment made me skeptical at first. At the same time, I did not want my traditions or my comfort level to keep us from a church that might be good for us.
A year later, my husband visited Giant Church Inc. The sign at the front of the church meant a lot to Johnny.
NO PERFECT PEOPLE ALLOWED
We made new friends week after week, and for the first time in our lives, we attended church together as a family.
In our first few years at the church, my family endured a lot of changes. My husband was laid off from his job and took a significant decrease in pay when he found another one. We struggled during this time of extra tight finances, but hoped for a breakthrough in his search for a better job.
We decided I’d work full-time to help relieve some of the financial strain. Because I had experience from my work as a staff accountant, we hoped it would be easy for me to find something. One of the pastors helped me get a job at a doctor’s office, which was owned by other leaders of the church. I started what we thought would be a short time of working outside the home in May, 2010.
Our church leaders helped us through this tough season. The pastors’ kids went to the same schools and our sons played football together. They picked up our kids after school. Our kids stayed at each others’ houses.
We Are Family
We’d never experienced church like this. The pastors and leaders were entangled in each others’ lives and in some of the lives of the congregants. The pastors hovered over the personal decisions of a lot of the people in the church. Singles and young couples brought on staff were taken under the pastors’ wings in a unique way.
The church urged everyone to serve, no matter where they were on their journey. We attended classes to find out where we could best serve the church with our talents, time, and interests. We plugged into teams, joined small groups, and liked that anyone could be part of small groups. Even those who didn’t attend Giant Church Inc were welcome to join the small groups. We eventually taught several groups in our home. A campus was promised to be planted in our town, and we threw ourselves into the effort.
We enjoyed the special meetings, picnics, and dinners celebrating those of us who served. We spent more time with our family of choice or tribe, as Giant Church Inc calls it, than we spent with our extended family, especially during the Easter and Christmas holidays. Extra services and events meant more time at Giant Church Inc.
Regardless, I was thankful my family and I were attending and serving our church together. This was new and different. We felt like family; we belonged.
Until we didn’t.
Jesus began to open our eyes. It reminds me of this story from the New Testament…
As they were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him. There were two blind men sitting by the road. When they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” The crowd demanded that they keep quiet, but they cried out all the more, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!”
Jesus stopped, called them, and said, “What do you want me to do for you?”
“Lord,” they said to him, “open our eyes.”
Moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes. Immediately they could see, and they followed him. Matthew 20:29-34 CSB
Jesus, open our eyes.
Read the next in the series called Until We Didn’t at Giant Church Inc.
Another great article. I about broke down crying, because the hurt I know you all went through. I’m so glad that the Lord has brought you through and is still getting you through all of this so that you can help others. The Lord most definitely used Giant Church Inc. to get you all to where you are now. He is now using you to move others forward for Jesus Christ. “Onward Christian Soldiers…”. Love you, Marie!
Yes! We’re so thankful. I thank Him daily for my family….all of you who loved us and love us. And pray for us. Love you!
Again, great writing! You are doing a tremendous job of reporting facts instead of feelings. Many times people leave churches out of spite, and will over exaggerate things because they didn’t get to be on the team they wanted to serve on, or weren’t picked for a bigger role…. or they slander because they were called out on their sin, and accountability (church discipline) is not what they signed up for.
I am certain that many people will drag you through the mud (probably already have), and share different perspectives of a story they’ve been told, or haven’t experienced through your eyes. However, you speaking out is inspiring me to be more active in my pointing out of false teaching.
We don’t want to see heresy around every corner. You’re not saying, “My interpretation is the right way. Follow me.” You are simply telling the story you experienced and praying for the Holy Spirit to make blinders fall off, and usher in repentance. We are all praying for that, and for you and your family.
Thank you Daniel, for understanding that’s what I’m doing. This is what we experienced. This is our story.
I’m telling it so 1) others know they’re not alone; 2) others can be aware of spiritual abuse and false teaching (which are present together from what I’ve found in my research); and 3) so that we turn our eyes upon Jesus and stop idolizing pastors and/or institutions. Through the church, God’s people speaking out and against it, this can happen.
I think your key word in this is “pride”. C.S. Lewis suggests it may be the most sinister of the “7 deadly sins”. It can certainly defeat the spiritual gift of discernment if left unchecked.
You’re right, James. Pride leads us into all kinds of trouble.