I moved with hopes that the next church would be better. I would be an adult there, surely. I would have friends my age. Nope.
The new church wanted me involved, which was great. But the story was the same. There were few people my age. I didn’t fit in, though this time because I saw things so much differently than everyone else. When the pastor started telling me my former pastor was wrong and that the standards, which had been very much a part of being Pentecostal to me, were not in the Bible, I started looking for another church. And I found one just 20 miles away.
I was warned that this new church had issues, but I didn’t listen. They preached The Truth. They had high standards. They welcomed me and were friendly. The pastor and his wife weren’t much older than I was, though the church was very small. I saw this as my opportunity to be on the ground floor of a new church, to stay and become part of the inner circle, one of those who was closest to the pastor’s family and was seen as most faithful because I’d been there before nearly anyone else. I threw myself into it, giving about 30% of my income and hours a week to various ministries. I played the piano and the tambourine, taught Sunday School, prepared and served pre-Sunday School snacks for kids that missed breakfast, went to nursing home visitation weekly, watched the pastor’s kids while he and his wife met with various members after church, and helped with bus ministry.
After two years, the church started having problems. They lost the building they rented. New people weren’t coming (or staying if they did come). The pastor started believing someone was ‘hindering revival’ and calling special prayer meetings for people in the church he said had problems. I was pulled off the piano and out of Sunday School, even though there was no one to replace me, with no explanation. The pastor told the men that he would be leaving for a time, and I found out right before church one morning. I was told that there was no reason to tell the women, that they should ask their husbands at home. Since I didn’t have a husband, I was simply left out. And then he asked me to stay after church. He told me I was a hindrance to revival, he didn’t know if I could be saved, that I was lusting after him and that he wouldn’t let me destroy his ministry. He was preaching out of town, and I could “get right” before he and his family returned or leave permanently.
I spent the next week fasting, praying, and ‘repenting’, begging God to forgive me for whatever my pastor knew was in my heart that I didn’t, and calling everyone in church, asking them to forgive me for whatever they might think I’d done too. When one man asked what I would do if I had to leave, I responded that I’d rather die than leave God… which was a typical Pentecostal response. Later I learned he called the pastor and said I was threatening suicide. I had thought I would fast until the pastor returned, but when he and his family didn’t come back after a week, I tried to call them. He hung up on me, telling me not to bother them or to call again.
While the pastor and his family were still away, his dad came to preach and invited everyone out to eat after church, and I was afraid to go, having been taught “with such an one not to eat” and believing that meant that if I was as bad as the pastor said (which surely I must be, because he was the pastor) that I’d be making people sin if I were to sit down to a meal with them.
I sat through their first service back having heard nothing about their thoughts on my status. He preached how someone would be leaving and would immediately cut her hair and wear pants, how we’d be surprised who it was who left. I never dreamed he was talking about me. I stayed after church in case he wanted to talk to me, but heard nothing. After I got home, I got a phone call: I was never to return to their church. I had been permanently expelled with a phone call.