42 Comments

  1. Janean

    Great job on your postings about legalism. I truly believe that legalism is a perversion of true Christianity. My husband and I broke free February 2008 from our old IFB church and have never looked back (nor will we ever again). It was a very hard and difficult move, however looking back now, we don’t regret or miss any of it. If anything, we regret that we wasted all those years of our lives (23 years for me) in that type of a toxic Christianity.
    Interestingly enough, what started the roller coaster of us leaving was that a couple families in the church told us about the “wonders of Amish country” and a thrift store there with modest women’s clothing. We drove out there, and in that thrift store we bought a book for 50 cents entitled “Breaking Free – Rescuing Families From the Clutches of Legalism” by David Miller. We read the book in two days and it changed our life! A few months after that, we decided to leave our church and break our own family free from legalism. So on Superbowl Sunday, Feb 3, 2008, after a several hour conversation with the Pastor, we left. The phone calls came, there were awkward conversations when we would run into people we used to go to church with, the concerned visits to our home, ect. When we left, we were told that we were sinning and that we were deceived. We were compromisers who just refused to do things the “right” way. We would lose our kids, our marriage, ect. We went through many emotions. Sadness, anger, resentment and finally acceptance that that was who we once were, but were no longer going to be like that. We settled in Aug 2008 at a large church near our home. This church didn’t sing hymns, use the KJV, didn’t have a problem with women wearing pants, ect. However, the people were different. For the first time, we felt loved for who we were. Not for what we were wearing, or what version of the BIble we were carrying. The Pastor and his wife recognized what we were going through right away (they had been through it themselves) and they came, wrapped their arms around us and spent time showing us the difference between living a life of legalism and grace. We still go to that church and we are so thankful for it. If anything, once we left legalism, our marriage got better and life became so much more enjoyable. We love going to church and so do our boys. God means something totally different to me now in the past 5 years than he did for first 23 years of my life. He is no longer a taskmaster, just waiting for me to slip up so He can punish me for not being perfect. But He is a loving Father who guides me day by day and forgives me when I make a mistake. One of my favorite quotes is from Oswald Chambers:

    The Spirit of God is always the spirit of liberty; the spirit that is not of God is the spirit of bondage, the spirit of oppression and depression. The spirit of God convicts vividly and tensely, but He is always the Spirit of liberty.
    God who made the birds never made bird cages; it is human beings who make bird cages, and after a while we become cramped and can do nothing but chirp and stand on one leg. When we get out into God’s great free life, we discover that that is the way God means us to live “the glorious liberty of the children of God.”

    God bless you and your family Aprille!

    • Janean I feel so blessed to hear this part of your story. Especially having come not just from the same environment, but from the same church…

      My breakthrough just took a lot longer than yours I think!

      Concerned visits to your home?!?!?! What’s that all about?!?!

      And thank you for sharing your story, and that quote!

  2. I enjoy reading about your journey . Although our church backgrounds are different the joy and liberty that comes from discovering, learning , accepting and living by grace is the same . For me, I liken it to the children’s book “the Secret Garden” . Grace was the key I found that unlocked the door to a whole new beautiful world, it was there all along I just never knew about it. But now that I do, I will never leave, but continually rest in His garden of grace.

  3. Chrissy

    So many of your posts are similar in some ways to God broadening our (my and Dan’s) perspective about Christianity. We attended a small group study when Dan was in pilot training in Oklahoma and I remember driving home with him one day and he said something like this, “Chris…those people – the ones we would have thought ‘aren’t right with God because of such and such’……look how much more of a testimony they have than we do in a lot of ways. Look how many people they are truly helping because they are truly loving with the type of love that Christ had.” Our year in Oklahoma…..in the middle of nowhere, with no church to call our church ‘home’……..I think God did that on purpose so that we could have a extended time of our lives where we learned from HIM.. Like you said, not that church isn’t important, and even though God instituted the church, God showed us that He is not limited to the church. For that year where we really changed, I felt like God was our pastor. He changed us and gave us confidence to not worry about what others (those from our past still in legalistic ways) thought.

    • I’m so glad that God has taken us on this journey and taught us these things. The military experience has definitely opened my eyes so much because you are thrust into a community where your best friends have to be people that you used to think you could never even hang around (at least that’s been my experience) – only to find out that THEY are the ones teaching YOU! I’m still in awe sometimes when I think about it!

  4. Kat Forader

    Welcome to the ledge. God will use you mightily and take you great places when you trust Him and jump. I’ve be out here for a while (on the ledge). I am glad to have the company. 🙂

  5. […] Introduction: some self-observations about legalism Part 1: what is “legalism”? Part 2: standing under the broken heart Part 3: hiding in shame, packing up my dreams Part 4: when you “trust and obey” but your heart still gets broken Part 5: when you’ve been hurt by legalism, hold onto faith Part 6: What do Brad Pitt, Josh Groban, and Sleepless in Seattle have in common? Part 7: perfection is not possible Part 8: finding healing and freedom in secular music Part 9: “I will keep believing that God still has a plan” Part 10: Plan A, 2.0 Part 11: Modesty: a picture of grace Part 12: Disconnect: when God just doesn’t seem relevant Part 13: Roses in the dumpster: seeing God in everyday life Part 14: Cheating on my church […]

  6. N. Ella Zakary

    Aprille,

    My heart is crying as I read this post. Thank you for sharing your story. Your series has been very applicable to me, and I am truly grateful.

    My dad is a pastor. I am leaving his church. He feels betrayed and hurt. But I desperately need to cheat on this church – a place that has left me with scars on my heart and mind. The abuse has been incredible, and I can’t wait to break free and be truly loved. Thank you once again.

    Ella

    • Ella, my heart goes out to you. Leaving a church is hard enough…with family involved there’s a whole nother level of emotional agony. Take it slow and let God heal you through the process. You may want to seek out Christian counseling to help you process your grief and emotions.

  7. Alexandra

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing!!! In the past three years the Lord has put my family and I in the same journey. After growing up in a legalistic IFB church/BIble college (your college #1 sounded so much like ours :)) and then through my teen years imbibing even more legalistic views on college, courtship, and modesty through various books/websites, the Lord finally got our attention after a failed courtship. After it ended (very messily), I began to examine those courtship beliefs, and from there, every other aspect of the “rules” in my life and saw how unBiblical they really were. It’s been so tough, but the Lord has done so much! Your series was *such* a blessing as I was nodding along in agreement with everything. Thanks so much again and God bless!

    • Thank you so much for sharing your story! And please come back and keep reading! I’m only about halfway done with the series and have so much more to share!

  8. Thank you for sharing you story! “A lot less finger pointing and a lot more loving” is a great reminder for me in all areas of life. Even with my husband and children.

  9. Mish

    We haven’t had the “church issues” so much as “life issues” to overcome. But I have seen this sort of thing in the church we recently left. It was a small country church where everybody knew everybody’s business…and the majority of the members have forgotten that we’re all part of the same body and blood. It seemed like almost every Sunday we were walking into a war zone, constantly being evaluated to see whose side we were on. I loved our pastor and some of the older people a lot, but it was demoralizing trying to worship in an atmosphere like that.

    Thankfully my sons had been going to a youth group at another local (different denomination) church for several years, and they’re very comfortable there. (I’ve been holding back going, not wanting to go without my husband; but we’re “unequally yoked” as it were, and he’s using the break as an excuse not to go at all.) The funny thing is, the new church is actually more “strict” Biblically-speaking; but they are far more welcoming than I ever found our previous church to be. I’m not a real people person, and frankly they frighten me when they get up in my face and get all exuberant about me coming to church with the boys (who they all know by name).

    Oh…and that song by Miranda Lambert…”Heart Like Mine?” That’s me and God–wine, tattoos, and all. LOL

  10. What a great post. When my family and I moved from MD to Fl back in 2004 I had no idea that God was about to do something amazing in my life. I had been saved in a very strict Bible teaching church, which is what I exactly need it at that time. Yet when we moved to Florida God took up my world and showed me that he was so much more than the little box of legalism that I had him in. It was so freeing and I sensed the Homy Spirit pour into me like never before.
    Many blessings to you as you follow the path that God has you on!!

  11. Ryan

    Hi Aprille, I’m a bit late to the party but I myself am now also dealing with the baggage of legalism, I’m a 22 year old due and I to used to go to a fundamental baptist, KJV only and only singing hymns kinda churches, at first with discussions with some people at that church I would disagree with them on some things, but out of fear of being judged by the group I found myself slowly conforming to their views out of fear and I was not being myself, and in man ways my conscience has been confused as to what God says is right/wrong based on many of the traditions they held. I’m now in the process of trying to calibrate my flawed conscience to what God says in his word rather than what the baggage causes my conscience to feel and I’m also having to re learn God’s grace and how it applies to a believer like me who struggles with try to earn God’s favor with my life rather than rest in his finished work and his promises. This article was refreshing because when I “cheated” on my baptist church last year I also found a church that was quite like the one you went to and I was able to finally Learn how to start to love people as they are, and it’s still something I’m learning now and will continue to learn, I also found small group where I was able to be vulnerable and people where able to just breathe life and encouragement into me, even though the church has some secondary theological issues that the last couple of weeks I wasn’t sure should be make or break issues for me in a church, this article encouraged me that Mabey I should stay so I can re learn God’s grace for my life and let him continue to heal me, anyways I just wanted say that when I came across your blog and read parts of your story I could relate to many parts of it especially the heavy anxiety and not being able to just rest and find peace because my mind is always racing with thoughts and questions, and that your blog is helping me

  12. Hi, Aprille! I have been reading your series and also listening to the Recovering Fundamentalist podcast. I relate to the exhaustion you described in a previous post, trying to work full-time, follow the rules of fundamentalism (ie being in services 3x a week, playing the piano and husband as song leader, helping in every way possible at the church, KJV only, etc.), and having two children – Justin having severe, non-verbal autism, as well as a school administer and farmer. I struggled so much trying to follow all the rules and check all the boxes. Meanwhile, I listened to “unapproved” music and dressed in pants and jeans. I often would drive to evening services by myself with our boys. I would then need to go to the furthest Sunday school room to take over for a church member that would be watching after Justin when I wasn’t playing piano. I have a picture from back then where I am sitting in the fellowship hall with Justin. I see that and several others where I am so thin and unhappy. I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders. You have to understand that I was literally born into the IFB world as my parents took us to an IFB church from the time I was 3 yrs old. My mother sacrificed so much to take us to church when Dad was at work or didn’t go for some reason. He was almost always working in the “sound room” recording services, so he never sat by her or us when we were there anyway. That must be why I felt like I had no other choice than to be at every service as an adult. There was SO much guilt if I had to call the pastor to tell him I couldn’t be there. I can relate to the fact that your life as a military wife didn’t square up with the IFB ideals. Mine didn’t either as the mother of a child who was severely disabled and who was stronger than me from the time he was 7 yrs old. Much more could be said, but eventually I got so worn down physically, mentally, psychologically, spiritually that my soul was completely dry. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the Holy Spirit was literally pulling me away from that little, country church I had devoted years of my life to. I still loved the pastor, his wife, and the people there, but I could no longer keep living that life, that ridiculous situation, and continue to go on giving everything I had at work, at home, and at church. My husband didn’t even understand when I wanted to talk to the pastor about giving up playing piano. From there it was just a few weeks before we broke free and stopped attending there. I spent the next 3 yrs reading the Bible (RSV by that time which is another story) to really take it in and be able to read it without the lens of IFB rhetoric and all the legalism and the traditions of men attached to the true message of God’s Word. The beauty and the freedom of the Bible transformed me over that time. I became a much more loving, caring, invested person in my community. I could finally see that my ministry was not constrained to the parameters I had heard my entire life. I didn’t have to be perfect, although that continues to be a struggle also. God loves me in my brokenness, in my everyday life, and his beauty could live through me every single day just by loving, caring, and engaging with the people he put in my life, for whatever reason. There isn’t an “us” and “them – there is just us. No fences that separated IFB Christians from other Christians with fewer restrictions, no fence between IFB Christians and “the world.” My life was healed through loving anyone and everyone without feeling superior to any of them, because that is a false narrative. IFB Christians are no better than anyone else. We are all human and can be human. Grace covers a multitude of sin, and I started living with a much better understanding of that grace, mercy, and forgiveness. When I did, it changed everything. I could help by loving in a way I just didn’t understand before; how can you when you feel like God is constantly finding you at fault for something? That was a life of feeling guilty every day. Preachers yelling and shouting from the pulpit week after week. I am thankful I could find peace in God’s Word and as Danny Dokey sings it – learn to live again.

  13. I wasn’t clear in one of the sentences. My husband was a school administrator and beef cattle farmer. He has since retired, and I am loving our time together. As a farmer, Ag teacher (first), and then administrator he was gone and we were apart a lot. I spent a lot of years resenting his devotion for the farm since he would come home, often late, and then walk right back out the door to care for the farm. God has redeemed our marriage and relationship since then, and for that I am truly thankful.

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