FINDING FAITH WITHOUT LOSING MYSELF
By Emily K.
FINDING FAITH WITHOUT LOSING MYSELF
HOW LEADERS AT MY FIRST CHURCH PRESSURED ME TO CONFORM ENTIRELY TO THEIR EXPECTATIONS AND URGED MY HUSBAND TO MAKE ME FALL IN LINE
- Author: Emily K.| Member
- Attended: Bright Field Church, DeKalb, Illinois | 2019-2022
- This story was published December, 2022
HOW I FOUND THE NETWORK
I’ve waited almost three months before deciding that writing my family’s story while attending Bright Field Church in DeKalb, Illinois is the right decision. Bright Field was planted out of Foundation Church in Bloomington, Illinois in 2018 (Foundation is formerly Clear View Church, one of the original plants from Vine Church in Carbondale).
There is so much that has happened that I almost don’t know where to begin. I suppose that some background on my husband and myself is appropriate. In the spring of 2019 we were 29 years old with two small children when we moved from the suburbs of Chicago back to DeKalb to be closer to family. My husband and I were both born and raised in DeKalb. We were not Christians, did not go to church, and did not believe in God.
BECOMING CHRISTIANS AT BRIGHT FIELD WHILE IGNORING RED FLAGS
My husband first met some people from the Bright Field Church at the gym and eventually we went to a party they hosted. Everyone exuded happiness and it felt contagious. We felt like we were being actively pursued by people within the church and to be honest, it felt good. We had just moved and weren’t connected with other parents with kids our children’s age. It felt nice to feel like we were wanted and appreciated.
Several months into building these relationships we were first asked to go to Bright Field, and we declined the offer. After a maelstrom of personal challenges a few months later we decided to “give church a try.” I firmly believe that God was working in these moments. Throughout the course of the next few years He saved my husband and myself and brought us closer in our marriage through Him (the closeness was due to God and NOT Bright Field). That being said, we did have some amazing things happen at Bright Field. We were saved, we began to teach our children about God, our children learned scriptures, we learned how to pray for each other and our children, and we became more confident in ourselves.
This was our only church experience, so we thought that the issues we had were probably due to us not being used to “church life,” and we would get used to it. It was such a slow process that I didn’t realize how many red flags we were seeing until we were preparing to leave the church.
However, throughout the duration of our two and a half years at Bright Field, both my husband and myself had reservations and red flags that came up on a regular basis. This was our only church experience, so we thought that the issues we had were probably due to us not being used to “church life,” and we would get used to it.
Most of these red flag items crept up slowly on us and not until we had begun going to church regularly for at least two or three months. I think as it became clear to church members that we hoped and planned to stay at Bright Field, people felt like they could push a little harder. It was such a slow process that I didn’t realize how many red flags we were seeing until we were preparing to leave the church. Many of them were ongoing throughout the duration of our two and a half years.
As it became clear to church members that we hoped and planned to stay at Bright Field, people felt like they could push a little harder.
Probably six months in to our journey at Bright Field, my husband and I had many conversations in the safety of our own home about whether Bright Field was our long-term church home. This was about the time that my husband started getting more involved with his time, and we were being pushed to attend events like team meetings on a regular basis.
SERVING TOOK PRECEDENT OVER FAMILY
Bright Field often pressured us to serve, serve, serve. Part of the need for serving is the fact that they are such a small church without their own building. However, my husband was asked to serve as a Team Leader for set up at a time that was very tumultuous in my Christianity. He was already spending a lot of time at work, playing basketball with church guys, on call on the weekends, and now he was going to be gone for extra hours out of one Sunday a month where I wouldn’t see him. Due to his job my husband takes weekend call 2 weekends a month minimum. Combining that with one weekend a month serving meant that we only got one weekend a month where he wasn't serving or at work.
Serving on the set up team meant being gone at 7AM and not getting back from take down until after 12pm most of the time. That was a substantial part of my family’s day where we weren’t seeing him. It was too much for me, a not-yet saved stay at home mother of two young children.
When my small group leader and I discussed the amount of time my husband was spending away from our family and serving the church, I was told that my husband serving the church was exactly like him going to work. It was just something he needed to do, and I would get used to him being gone.
When my group leader discussed this with me I was told that my husband serving the church was exactly like him going to work. It was just something he needed to do, and I would get used to him being gone. It felt utterly wrong and like I wasn’t being heard at all. This is one of many instances where I felt like I was being ‘parented’ by my small group leader. Feeling parented at 30 years old about my personal household decisions did not sit right with me. This is one of the many ways I felt like my small group leader was trying to influence decisions in my marriage. While he did turn down the set up team lead job at this point he did start serving about 3 months after that.
FEARS OF LOSING OUR CHURCH COMMUNITY IF WE LEFT BRIGHT FIELD
I felt like there was always something that I was “struggling with” or “not agreeing to” with teachings or expectations. Despite these struggles it felt like the people at Bright Field were so happy and welcoming. It was hard to think about leaving that. There were also little comments that were always made about how you could “never find what Bright Field has at another church” or you “won’t get the same level of community if you leave”. We didn’t want to leave these community perks that we had just found and started to grow accustomed to. We also didn’t want to risk not finding community elsewhere.
Feeling parented at 30 years old about my personal household decisions did not sit right with me.
EXPERIENCE AT THE 2021 FALL RETREAT LEFT ME FEELING UNSAFE
Although we saw some red flags in church life so far, it wasn’t until we went on the church retreat in October, 2021 that things began to unravel big time for me. While my husband had a good experience and felt like he was saved on that trip, I had a very stressful, uncomfortable and negative experience that left me in tears for days. I think there was not sufficient preparation by my leaders for me as a new believer. I went into the first session (there were four sessions over three days) thinking it would be a longer church service or team meeting. This is how it was described to me.
When it came time for worship and prayer at the end it was very loud with people on the floor and being prayed over while making all kinds of noises. After the fact this was explained to me as people having demons exercised from them, but that was it by way of explanation.
When it came time for worship and prayer at the end it was very loud with people on the floor and being prayed over while making all kinds of noises. After the fact this was explained to me as people having demons exercised from them.
I am a person who does not like to be the center of attention or put on the spot. Being surrounding by these very intense moments that other people were having left me unsure of what to do with myself. I didn’t know where to look, who to talk to, where to go, it was one of the most uncomfortable situations I can ever recall being in.
I wasn’t feeling any intense emotions, didn’t feel like I needed to be on the ground or crying – I just didn’t understand. I felt scared and alone as well as feeling unsafe spiritually and emotionally.
I walked into the first session feeling very confident that I was saved and hoping for confirmation of this by the end of the retreat. I walked out of the first session a few hours later feeling completely defeated and overwhelmed because I did not understand what I just witnessed at all, and surely if I didn’t understand why the intense and ongoing screaming and crying were happening then I must not be saved. I talked myself out of the fact that I was saved and felt like I needed to stay for the rest of the retreat to give myself any possible chance available for God to ‘show me’ I was saved.
I did not understand what I just witnessed at all. I thought that surely if I didn’t understand why the intense and ongoing screaming and crying were happening then I must not be saved.
The third session (on the second day in the evening) my husband felt like he had that confirmation that he was saved. I left that session feeling even more dejected, that I was being left behind, and hoping that over the next session something would happen, ANYTHING would happen to reassure me that I was also saved.
I had no overtly emotional response and didn’t “feel” anything during my time at retreat other than fear. In hind sight I definitely think I was already saved at this point, but the episodes which happened at the fall retreat ‘spooked’ me in a sense. This was one of biggest moments when I began to question whether or not Bright Field would be my forever church because I could not see myself ever getting to a point where those situations would be something that I would look forward to or enjoy. I felt like I needed to be at a less charismatic church that was less expressive and ‘loud’ while also being tolerant of more private and inward prayer and worship.
CONTINUING AT BRIGHT FIELD DESPITE CONTINUING RED FLAGS
Even after the confusion and fear from retreat we continued forward at Bright Field. A lot of our decision to stay hinged on the friendships that we had. I feel as though I finally got the confirmation that I was saved a few months later (December 2021 I believe) and we were excited about the prospect of being baptized and being able to show that we were Christians and we are choosing to live our lives for God. We talked to our kids about the importance of being baptized and what it meant. We had so many people who were sharing in this excitement for us, it made some of the red flags seem less glaring. We also thought that some of these red flags, which we thought were issues we needed to get over as ‘new to church’ individuals, would fade now that we were saved. They did not fade but actually grew in number and intensity.
Some of the red flags included:
- Feeling the expectation to show outward emotion during prayer, worship, and team meetings
- Being urged to sacrifice substantial amounts of time for the church regardless of personal work or family circumstances
- Spending most week night things with church individuals and not family was the norm
- Attending functions with friends at different local churches was frowned upon
- Women were not valued and husbands were expected to get their wives in line
- Approval from leaders was highly encouraged before reading any sort of apologetic biblical work
- Bible studies were not encouraged outside of small group leaders having control over book choice and facilitation
- I was made to feel that not enjoying or thriving in large situations like team meetings or at the fall retreat was a sign of past hurt and therefore not an acceptable reason to not attend
- Pressure to invite, invite, invite – always be inviting people in, looking for the next “person God wants at Bright Field”
- Husbands and wives were not capable of making their own household decisions without input or approval from their small group leader
- Unity in ALL things ALWAYS, no room for any differences in opinion on political or biblical topics
- Increasing isolation from family and friends from outside of The Network
- Focus on mainly inviting and growing college and unchurched individuals
WHY I LEFT THE NETWORK
PRESSURED TO ATTEND THE 2022 FALL RETREAT
When the next retreat came up a year later (August 2022) I did not want to go and stated that to both my husband and our small group leader and his wife. Not going because I didn’t like the loud and charismatic situations at retreat was not an acceptable answer. My husband really wanted to go but decided we should pray on it.
After he and I prayed on it and had more discussions together (over a few days) we decided that not going this year was okay and if I felt any sort of change in my stance I would let him know and we would go last minute. This was not accepted by our small group leaders.
My husband and I prayed and decided we felt like God was leading us to not attend the 2022 Fall Retreat, but because our small group leaders thought differently, they continued to press and press.
My husband and I prayed and decided on what we felt like God was leading us in, but because our small group leaders thought differently, they continued to press and press. I would often receive prayer about being “freed from past hurt holding me back,” comments were made about how it is good to be pushed out of your comfort zone to grow, my husband was being talked to without me present about how he could get me to the point of wanting to go to retreat, and many people told me how they felt it would be a different and more positive experience for me when I went to retreat this year. There were subtle guilt tripping conversations about “how could you NOT want to spend more time with the father away from the hustle and bustle of life and work and kids?”.
I FELT THERE WAS NO ROOM TO BE MYSELF
I felt like there wasn't room for me to be my own person, who was a Christian, but who had different preferences in social situations or how I worship. I got a lot of pressure to express outward worship and retreat events heightened that pressure. I am a very quiet introvert in most situations. Eventually when you get to know me and I feel comfortable I come out of my shell, but that wasn’t viewed as a personal characteristic. Instead, it was viewed as a character flaw due to past hurt that God needed to “work out of my heart.” I am ever so tired of hearing that I just need to “ask God to change my heart.”
I felt like there wasn't room for me to be my own person, who was a Christian, but who had different preferences in social situations or how I worship.
My husband had a few conversations with our small group leader where he was told indirectly that he needed to get me in line or get me to a point where I would agree to go on retreat. Leadership at Bright Field was very careful with their wording when pressing any sort of potential issue. He was never told to “get me in line” explicitly, but the pressure and “guidance” definitely made that message very clear. We both were feeling pressure and a lack of respect for our decision that we made as adults through prayer.
I received “change her heart” sort of prayer many times in the month leading up to retreat. I began to feel like something was wrong with me that I didn’t enjoy or thrive in team meeting or retreat settings.
Whenever my husband met our small group leader for coffee I wanted to know everything that was discussed because I often felt our leader was trying to influence decisions that should remain between my husband and myself. This caused many arguments between my husband and I. I didn’t have the same reservations with my husband hanging out with other men, for some reason this specific pairing always left me uneasy. In hindsight I think this was discernment from the Holy Spirit helping me to see issues that were arising from church leadership.
My husband had a few conversations with our small group leader where he was told indirectly that he needed to get me in line or get me to a point where I would agree to go on retreat.
As these feelings and instances progressed I began to feel helpless and guilty.
I continually would think to myself: “If only I could just get on board with retreat then my husband could go. If only I wasn’t so worried every time my husband met with our leader one on one then I wouldn’t cause a fight. If only I could stop causing problems and not have an unending amount of ‘hurt’ that continually pops up and needs to be worked through then maybe I wouldn’t be such a burden to my husband.”
Eventually it got to a point where I felt SO burdensome I began to have self-harm thoughts. Thoughts that my husband’s life would be better if I were not here to be making church so hard. I felt crazy that I had so many reservations. Everyone else was so happy and on board, why couldn’t I be? I feel that this would have continued to arise had we stayed at Bright Field.
Eventually it got to a point where I felt SO burdensome I began to have self-harm thoughts. Thoughts that my husband’s life would be better if I were not here to be making church so hard.
At Bright Field Church there also seemed to be an over focus on the emotions and the hurt you have. How can you ever recover and heal through the hurt from years ago if you continue to talk about it and pour into it? It makes you dependent on your small group to constantly be talking about all the bad you've ever done and help you "get over it," while it never seems to fully happen. If you continue to pour attention, time, and energy into past hurts and trauma it will just continue to grow.
This process of reliving past hurts and trauma with small group leaders teaches you to become dependent on small group as opposed to God. The irony of this is that some of my past hurts have led me to fear abandonment like crazy. I had…maybe still have…a hard time opening up with newer friends because I worried about me being “too much,” and that they would leave me.
My small group leader and his wife, who are currently withholding love and giving us the cold shoulder hardest out of anyone else from Bright Field, told me over and over again that they would always love us — me and my family. "There is nothing you can do that would stop us from loving you, Emily"...except disagree with leadership decisions and leave Bright Field that is. Friendship and love at Bright Field was contingent on your attendance, submitting to leadership in all things, and giving as much as possible all under the pretense of glorifying God.
Friendship and love at Bright Field was contingent on your attendance, submitting to leadership in all things, and giving as much as possible all under the pretense of glorifying God.
CHURCH OUTSIDERS VIEWED ME WITH DISTRUST BECAUSE OF MY INVOLVEMENT WITH BRIGHT FIELD
In October of 2022, (about two months after retreat was announced and the pressure to attend began) I began losing non-church friendships at the gym where I worked out. I wasn’t getting all the details I needed to make sense of the situation. All that I knew was that there was a problem with my attending Bright Field and it was changing the way that people talked to me at the gym where I worked out and chatted with friends (both church and non church) on a daily basis. After two weeks of trying to figure out what it could be and processing the bits and pieces of information and large hurt with multiple Bright Field leaders, a friend shared the Leaving The Network website with me when they feared my gym situation was connected to the website. Within minutes of starting to read through the website I was able to connect dots from my gym situation and realized the information on the website was the reason for those failing friendships. My non-Christian friends from outside the church had seen the Leaving The Network website and it was changing how they viewed the people who attended Bright Field – myself included.
After finally discovering the Leaving The Network website and having already experienced red flags ourselves, I started my own research.
I began with the website and stuck only to the FACT pages. I acknowledged that people wrote their stories out of hurt and I tried to stay as objective and fact-based as possible. The facts on the website confirmed that I wasn’t the only individual with concerns about processes and theology in the church network.
The realization that our leadership KNEW about the website and they CHOSE not to disseminate the information was incredibly hurtful. They WATCHED me agonize over losing friends in the gym when I was unaware of the website - when losing those friends was a DIRECT consequences of this website. They did NOTHING with the information about Steve Morgan or their knowledge of the website. They kept all of this information a secret and forbid the few people in the church who did know from sharing it with others. These realizations were heart breaking. Within hours we knew that we wouldn’t be able to trust Bright Field again when they chose to hide such important information from the start.
Church leaders kept all of the information being published about The Network a secret and forbid the few people in the church who did know from sharing it with others.
SHUNNED BY OUR FORMER LEADERS
Between the website being hidden and the facts on the website confirming our fears about red flags, we decided within four hours that we needed to leave Bright Field for the safety of our family and our children. We called our small group leader over that night to tell him that we were leaving Bright Field, and that conversation cemented our decision.
There was no apology for hiding the information or acknowledging of potential error on the church leadership’s side. Our small group leader looked us in the eyes, and, even knowing his decision to not share this information directly caused us to lose friends, he continued to support and uplift Steve Morgan. He refused to apologize for not sharing this information. Steve Morgan should not be running the church network, but that was beside our point. The base of the issue is that as a family who was attending the church, supporting the church financially, and giving time to serve on the weekends for 2.5 years we DESERVED to be told the truth.
As a family who was attending the church, supporting the church financially, and giving time to serve on the weekends for 2.5 years we DESERVED to be told the truth.
We told our small group leader we were leaving Bright Field and we were concerned that we were going to be shunned from the people who attended church. He assured us that Bright Field would not do that. Friendships “might look different” but we could still hang out and be friends. I wish that were true.
Since the day we left in early October 2022, we have had regular run ins with church individuals. Most of the leadership has given us cold and curt conversations that we have had to push to have. Sometimes cordial “hellos” have been ignored altogether. Individuals can’t even bring themselves to make any sort of eye contact let alone look in our direction in passing. Unfortunately, DeKalb is not a large town. Run ins happen on an almost daily basis one way or another. Most of the issues with run ins have been with leadership individuals. There have been some people that we have wanted to reach out to or talk to but we don’t know where we stand with them. We also don’t want to be accused of “trying to pull people out of Bright Field” any more than we already have.
The worst part of all of this is that leadership has such a way of putting on false airs that the church members not directly involved don’t see the shunning in action.
The worst part of all of this is that leadership has such a way of putting on false airs that the church members not directly involved don’t see the shunning in action. Some refuse to even listen to our story, which solidified my decision to write this all down.
MEMBERS REFUSE TO LISTEN TO OUR STORY
The Network’s insistence to blindly obey leadership at any cost has trickled down through the leadership all the way to the lead pastors and into the church members. We know first hand that members up hold this rule that you do NOT listen to ANY sort of discrediting or concerns to be had about Bright Field because we have been firmly shut down when trying to explain what is happening to us, even told “that’s not happening to you.” It is clear that our side of the story is not being heard in any sort of capacity. The fact that we were spiritually abused and manipulated into attending retreat and that the website was hidden from us is not the story other people at Bright Field are hearing.
Being told that we were “not being shunned because that is not what we (Bright Field) do,” when my daily interactions that I am living tell me otherwise, is a slap in the face.
In this way there cannot be any questioning of church leadership’s decisions because the people who do pose concerns end up leaving by choice or are forced out. The church members cannot possibly fathom that the people who are leaving are actually being mistreated. Being told that we were “not being shunned because that is not what we (Bright Field) do,” when my daily interactions that I am living tell me otherwise, is a slap in the face. This is an actual quote told to me by someone not directly involved in our decision to leave. The refusal to even acknowledge that there could be error or hurt being done from Bright Field members to non-Bright Field individuals is astounding. This network of churches has done a great job in setting up a system to absolutely block any and all questioning of leadership, what they do, and how they treat people. It is scary.
LIES CIRCULATED ABOUT US AFTER WE LEFT
Another lie that was told was that I went around telling everyone I could about the website and tried to get as many people to leave with me as possible, when in reality, I only told two individuals. My husband met with our (now former) small group leader about a month after we left, November 2022, in an effort to clear the air and maintain friendship. At that point we still had hopes of remaining friends. In our minds, we could attend different churches and have different opinions on how a church should run but still have fellowship together as brothers and sisters in Christ.
My husband asked our former small group leader about friendship continuing between our two families and he responded with “there isn’t much reason for us to be spending a lot of time together anymore. We aren’t on mission together.”
It was at this meeting our former small group leader accused me of trying to take as many people out of Bright Field with me as possible. My husband asked him about friendship continuing between our two families and he responded with “there isn’t much reason for us to be spending a lot of time together anymore. We aren’t on mission together.” The small group leader’s wife, who I considered one of my closest and dearest friends, refused to meet with me at all for closure.
In the small group that we were in, we saw six families leave in two and a half years to attend other churches. ALL, every single one, of these families left for similar reasons of having major concerns about how the church was running – but if you ask the church about it, they will not have the same reason for people leaving.
Leaders told current members that my husband and I were “outside God’s grace” for leaving Bright Field Church.
We believe the lies being told and spread about our departure are being used and shared with others to scare them into staying at Bright Field. One of the biggest and most disappointing of these was that leadership told other individuals at Bright Field that my husband and I were “outside God’s grace” for leaving Bright Field. And to be clear, we left Bright Field and started to attend a new church. We did not leave our faith altogether. As new Christians this has been devastating to process.
PROCESSING OUR EXPERIENCES AT BRIGHT FIELD
WE MADE OUR DECISION TO LEAVE WITHOUT LETTING LEADERS ‘EXPLAIN IT ALL AWAY’
I know one reason why Bright Field leadership claims we were in the wrong for how we left, and why they are upset with us, was due to the fact that we didn’t discuss our final decision to leave with anyone prior to the night we decided we were done.
We were encouraged by our small group leader and his wife to speak with our pastor before we “made a final decision.” We were essentially in an emotionally and spiritually abusive relationship. When you are in a non-church relationship that is abusive do you talk to your abuser about your decision to leave? If you are in a cult do you tell them that you think this isn’t what you want for your life anymore? No, they would not have been able to give us unbiased advice about our concerns. Other people we knew who DID raise their concerns were met with a stubborn wall unable to see the church’s own faults.
We needed to make our decision without letting leaders “explain it all away” as they are so incredibly good at doing.
We needed to make our decision without letting leaders “explain it all away” as they are so incredibly good at doing. I was also quite fearful to speak to some individuals about it due to how I heard (first hand) other people were treated after they raised concerns. It felt like once you started to disagree or raise concerns you became a serious threat and were treated differently from then on out. Sermons were targeted at you and when you were prayed over there were large intonations of repentance and unity and having your heart changed. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of things we need to have changed in our hearts, but changing my heart to agree with Bright Field on all things (including lying to members) is not one of them.
BRIGHT FIELD LEADERS BELIEVED THEY WERE THE ONLY CHURCH “DOING CHURCH RIGHT”
Bright Field leadership truly believes that they are the only church in the area “doing church right”. We were heavily discouraged from doing anything with people from other churches, especially attending other church functions. I was directly told by a member in my small group not to go to a worship night with friends who attended another church because "God wouldn't be moving for you in a church that isn't your home church". This completely discredits God’s power to move in other churches – or in any seemingly small aspect of life - and makes it seem like you cannot worship or glorify God in any capacity not approved by Bright Field. It is the type of comment that as a young and unchurched individual you may take and believe fully to be true.
I am thankful that my husband and I were able to talk on this and decided for ourselves that it didn’t sound biblical. This is part of the danger of The Network targeting college students who are young, away from family, and largely unchurched. You have no reason not to trust your pastor or your leaders. If you are a new Christian and are told not to spend time with other churches, why wouldn’t you trust them?
LEADERS WANTED CONTROL OVER MANY ASPECTS OF OUR LIVES
There was so much pressure to agree on everything, look to your leaders for all decisions, not to go to family with issues (they wouldn’t understand), and not to disagree with the church at all.
One alarming fact that came to light after we left was that the small group leader had a spread sheet with attendance, goals, and issues he saw in all of us in his group. He added comments to them after every small group but we, the group members who the goals and concerns were about, were never included in these goals or potential solutions to ‘problems’ being seen about our life.
There was so much pressure to agree on everything, look to your leaders for all decisions, not to go to family with issues (they wouldn’t understand), and not to disagree with the church at all.
There is an alarming need for control within Bright Field. Control what is read (you are discouraged from reading certain books), what is viewed (teachings are not shared publicly, and only recorded for a select few), who you spend time with (family and friends outside of the church are considered a waste of time), just to name a few. These controlling aspects are not great character traits for any sort of relationship.
WOMEN WERE SECOND CLASS CITIZENS AT BRIGHT FIELD CHURCH
The last item I will talk about is how women always felt second class at Bright Field.
If small groups were canceled there was usually an effort for the men to still get together. There were tons of activities for the men to do and far fewer for the women. I wanted to do a book club and had it shot down pretty quickly because “It would be hard for new people to join.” If it wasn’t an activity that new people could be invited to it wasn’t a real priority. My husband felt immense pressure to be making the decisions for the family and getting me in line with what our leaders were asking. There is no women’s ministry (even though there had been at other churches in the network).
LIFE SINCE LEAVING THE NETWORK
Since leaving Bright Field we have begun attending a healthy church. We regularly see members pose questions and ask for clarification in small groups. They are never shut down or dismissed. We were encouraged to check out several other churches in the area as well – this church doesn’t claim to be the end-all, be-all perfect church in the DeKalb area. It was easy to ignore our own questions about the red flags we noticed at Bright Field because it was our only church experience. Now, having attended a healthy church regularly, it is easy to see where it wasn’t just our perceptions as new Christians, but instead, misguided teachings. Our new church acknowledges that they may mess up and fail us, but their job is to point us to God who will never fail us. This humility from church leaders is both refreshing and encouraging.
At our new church we regularly see members pose questions and ask for clarification in small groups. They are never shut down or dismissed. Members are treated with respect, even those members who have left the church.
The pastor at our new church does not express that members should trust him without question. Members are treated with respect, even those members who have left the church. There is a well-defined Women’s Ministry where women are respected and valued. It is a vastly different experience than what we had at Bright Field. This new church does activities regularly with other churches in the area and they recognize that their church is all part of “THE CHURCH of GOD” as a whole. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ and no one church is doing it perfect and held on a pedestal.
Bottom line, when it comes down to it, Bright Field Church claims to teach the bible on Sundays, but their actions don’t line up with what I’ve learned the Bible says. They “love” really well when you are in their fold (sometimes I struggle with the word “love” in context to the people we had grown in relationship with because, if it had been true, Christ-like love, these individuals would still be capable of having friendships and conversations with us at the present). This church system, and The Network in general it seems, is aiming to make disciples of The Network and of Bright Field, NOT of God. Anyone who crosses what they (as communicated by Steve Morgan) believe to be the best way to worship, pray, run the church, or do life “biblically” is essentially excommunicated.
A huge part of our decision to leave was based on the fact that Bright Field would not be teaching our children safe habits to grow their faith.
When it comes to my children, I want my kids to be able to ask questions and not be silenced. I want them to explore their faith, and when that means disagreements with something in the Bible or kindly calling out someone for something NOT in the Bible, I want them to be able to express their concerns without risk of being spiritually manipulated or bullied. Believing everything that comes out of any human being’s mouth without question is a slippery slope to being abused (spiritually, emotionally, and physically). The only one who we should and can believe without question is Jesus and God’s word from the Bible. A huge part of our decision to leave was based on the fact that Bright Field would not be teaching our children safe habits to grow their faith in.
I debated not writing this all down and sending it in for fear of retaliation from members at Bright Field and also for fear that people who I truly thought I had real friendships with would never speak to me again even if their eyes were opened to the sins they are committing. I realize now only God will be able to open their eyes to the grossly un-Christ like manner in which they are treating individuals they claimed to love. Church leaders told me straight to my face that they are “blameless in this situation and not telling (us) about the website”. While they “loved” us well while we attended Bright Field they are under no circumstances blameless.