I’m organizing old paperwork and came across some copies of old letters and thoughts, as well as a note to the church office to let them know I would be out of town. I’ll start with the note. Keep in mind that:

  1. I’d already talked to the pastor and his wife. The note was required as well, and directed to the office staff.
  2. I was going to campmeeting two states away. A lot of others were also attending, and everyone at church was aware that it was campmeeting time. My parents’ home was the halfway point in the trip.
  3. “Lord willing” meant “if the church leadership is still OK with this”. If I simply said I was going, I might be told I couldn’t go. If I went without permission or without this note, I would have probably been severely reprimanded on my return.
  4. I was at least 35 years old when this was written.

Everyone–as I talked to [pastor and pastor’s wife] a few days ago, Lord willing I plan to leave for my parents’ house on Friday. I plan to be there through Thursday, then head to [the camp]. I hope to be back late Sunday night. My first service back will probably be [date].

Contact information: [included parents’ names, address, and phone which they should have had on file]

At [camp] I’ll be staying at [hotel/campground info]. I will have both cell phone [and provide their numbers here, which they also had on file]…

Wow. I know that not everyone felt they needed to do this, and perhaps not everyone did at my former church. But soon after starting to attend, I sent a note without getting permission first that I’d be going home for Christmas. I was told I couldn’t go and be ‘right with God’. And so I backed out of my Christmas plans with family. After that I always asked AND sent a note.

Can you feel the fear in the note? Did you feel fear like this? Did you feel you had to report every move, or have every move you made reported by others? Did your church take attendance and then, if you weren’t there, call on Monday, ask why you weren’t there, ask where you were, and reprimand you for not letting them know in advance, all under the guise of being ‘concerned’?

These requirements are unhealthy and unreasonable. I had a cell phone; they could have reached me any time if they were truly concerned. But missing a service, even a couple of services, shouldn’t be reason for a call from the church office, especially during campmeeting when 10-20% of the church members will attend. These are signs of an unhealthy church, not of love or concern. Love would give the benefit of the doubt, not a lecture. Love would never deny someone their family time or planned vacation.

(Side note–at this campmeeting I heard a sermon that finally completely released me to leave that environment. Within six months, I would leave that church and it’s organization for good.)