Summary of responses

This is a summary of the responses I received from the research into the perspectives of people I went to church with in the 1990s. Read the Introduction and background to this research.  At the end of this section there is a link to my reflections on the responses.

The 7 questions are numbered and in italicised larger font. I have grouped a selection of the responses under sub-headings to give coherence and show the key themes:

1. What years were you at the church?

The group the research was aimed at was people who had been members of the church for more than 6 months during the period 1994-2001.

  • Of those who responded, the longest attender of the church was 15 years
  • The shortest was 2 years
  • Total of 196 years attendance at the church was represented by those who responded
  • The responders had spent an average of 5 years attendance at the church

2. What did you most appreciate about the church?

 2.1 Being part of a genuine community

This was the most common factor that people look back on and appreciated.  Many refer to the fact that it was a relatively small congregation with lots of people living in the locality. Also there was a sense of being a group of like-minded people of similar age who had a lot in common. This bred deep friendships which were reinforced by social activities.

  • I loved the family, friendship and closeness
  • Palpable sense of close Christian community which to be honest I haven’t found to the same extent in other churches
  • Community, good friends and chances to be together
  • Those years were golden years, full of rich fellowship and learning and great blessing. I think the friendships formed were helped by the fact that we were mostly a similar age and stage in life and were in and out of each other’s homes all the time sharing life in so many ways.
  • There were a lot of supportive friendships. Great feeling of community. People who genuinely cared about each other. It provided a good forum to discuss deep questions such as values, beliefs, relationships, parenting, politics, career choices etc
  • The sense of community and purpose. The combination of many people of a similar age but also some older local folk. 
  • Many people lived locally so there was lots of spending time together round a kitchen table or in the pub and it always seemed to be someone’s birthday!
  • I knew that first Sunday I had found a home.

Woven into the appreciation of community is acknowledgment of the basis of this community: the commitment to follow Jesus:

  • Real sense of community, and people like me, and a desire to follow Jesus
  • I have so many good memories of dinners, nights in the pub, the art contests, singing our hearts out, goofing around with kids while we taught them deep truths from the Bible, dancing in the church office, and eating healthy soups in the church flat.

2.2 Being inspired by other Christians

It was striking how often the word ‘inspiring’ was used in the responses. This was clearly part of what people valued and is expressed through both what was led plus also the collective community:

  • The church had ‘a lot of driven people that I was inspired to be around
  • Fantastic group of people who are interesting and inspiring
  • Here was a group of ‘normal’ young people who were also passionate about Jesus and living out their faith. I just loved being part of the church community and having such secure friendships with a wonderful group of people at that stage in my life.
  • The people inspired me to know God more and to talk about God.
  • The friendships themselves were with people who were like-minded – people who wanted to learn about God and put our faith into practice. Having ‘God’ conversations was a totally natural thing – and being able to pray for each other at the drop of a hat. It also meant it felt easy to invite friends who weren’t Christians to events (church and social) to get to know my Christian friends and see that we were all (relatively!) normal – which led to some really good conversations about faith with them.
  • I loved the community, the group of people creatively inspiring others to live the best they could for God.

2.3 A fresh and different form of church

Part of the appreciation was that it was not seen as a conventional church. The factors of meeting in an old pub, an informal approach to services and using the arts as a way of expressing faith added up to something people encountered as fresh and refreshing:

  • There was none of the sleek trappings often found in younger congregations. Shabby chic you might say. It was real and it had real people.
  • Faith expressed naturally and confidently – less rigid than many churches
  • there was a strong commitment to use the arts as an expression of faith – I really appreciated being able to exhibit my paintings
  • refreshing group of like-minded people
  • Young vibrant congregation, lack of pretence, a welcome departure from the high church/ceremonial/liturgical approach of many Christian churches

2.4 Good teaching

There is also consistent appreciation for the Biblical teaching. As well as the weekly sermons, a number of people referred to the ‘Gifts of Grace’ course which all new members were encouraged to complete which helped people understand how they could contribute to the life of the church.

  • The teaching was relevant to me. It helped me connect the Bible to my real life.
  • It was also solid in terms of teaching – bringing good bible teaching week in week out.
  • I remember the ‘Gifts of Grace’ course, where we explored our areas of gifting and encouraged what we saw in each other. Teaching was followed by action and encouraging good works.
  • It was quality teaching, worship and community in a relaxed manner

2.5 The sense of ownership and involvement

Connected to the sense of community was appreciation for the way that the church gave opportunities to lead and  be engaged. Not to be a ‘consumer’ of church but contribute to a church community.

  • The size meant you knew people, got involved
  • I was able to lead services, lead worship, lead a home group, serve on the district church council (DCC) as the mission prayer coordinator, lead the 8-11 children’s ministry, and go into local schools to teach the Bible through creative arts. This was such a fun time of life for me!
  • A loving group to be part of, a sense of excitement about building something new. Being integral to setting things up especially when the morning services started

2.6 Engagement in local community

There were also some references to the way the church facilitated engagement in the local community:

  • Being involved in Decorating & Gardening (D&G) which made faith practical and tangible.
  • D&G, youth work, drama performances, art competitions
  • Strong pastoral concern both for congregation members and local community

3. How would you describe your faith during that time?

 3.1 My faith was growing and being stretched

Many references were made to how being a part of the church helped people grow in their faith.

  • The church was a great encouragement, particularly as I had a bit of a rubbish job at the time. I think I would have struggled in my faith without it.
  • My faith was pretty strong as it had developed out of sheer desperation! I came back to God in my early 20s after wild teenage years. It was a painful, turbulent time so finding God was like a lifeline. Being at the church was a time of great healing for me – God working through his church.
  • I certainly grew in my faith from sermons, home groups and wise friends
  • Committed, whole hearted, very trusting in the leadership to help me to understand and follow the bible.
  • I also grew in my faith through the home group Bible studies, and opportunities to serve.

In particular there were references to being stretched and encouraged to break new ground:

  • Those years were characterised by a period of spiritual stretching…As a result of ‘gifts of grace’ course, I was able to clarify my ‘calling’ to the most vulnerable and subsequently started at Tearfund and was posted abroad
  • Growing, learning, seeking, pushing boundaries with myself and God. Deepening.
  • I was so excited by my faith then and it grew quickly. We practised what was preached, taking risks and learning through trial and error.

3.2 ‘Strong but narrow’ – critique of conservative perspective

Alongside the appreciation, there were also a number of comments about a later realisation of the conservative nature of the teaching:

  • I think my faith was fairly strong, but personal, in that I knew Jesus loved me and died for me…On reflection though I didn’t realise how conservative the teaching was (gender equality being an example) which must have jarred with my values.
  • Looking back now I would say I had a fairly narrow perspective at the time.
  • Initially strong and very active, but also a faith that I had grown up with and never fully examined in the real world. It was during that time that I started to become disillusioned with the conservative evangelical narrative.

These quotes capture an ambivalence about how these respondents see their faith during this period in retrospect:

  • Alive, zealous, nourished, passionate, consuming, directing, driven, hungry. And also: unexamined, dependent on church, naïve, judgemental, people-pleasing
  • Growing and transforming over the years I was there. Very different by the time by I left than when I started… from black and white to many different coloured hues.

 3.3 Difficulties and struggles

A number of references were made to the issues that people struggled with during this period.

There were references to the lack of emphasis on social justice:

  • I felt there wasn’t enough of a focus on social justice and I tried to rectify that through my jobs for various Christian charities.
  • I had a concern for faith in action and wanted to see the church more active on issues of poverty and social issues

 Two people referred specifically to mental illness and inadequacy:

  • I had a strong faith and was active in the church family, but throughout still struggled with challenges of depression and feelings of inadequacy.
  • I wanted more vulnerability to the struggles of faith, and gravitated towards people who felt able to engage in this level of authenticity with me. There was lots about the Christian faith that I felt uncomfortable with, and I felt at my most unhappiest and least mentally well during my years striving for acceptance

 One person referred to ‘complementarian’ theology (men and women having differently defined roles in church life based on gender) and expanded on the earlier quote around gender equality:

  • I wanted to serve and be mentored as a preacher. This opportunity was unavailable to me, as a woman. The complementarian faith culture was probably the most frustrating and difficult part for me.

4. Are you regularly attending a church now?

Out of 26 responses, 18 (69%) said they still regularly attend church and 8 (31%) do not.

18 people said they did still attend church

Of these, many responded with the name of the church they are now part of.

There is quite a range of comment and tone in the responses. At one end of the spectrum, 5 of the respondees are now church leaders. Others verbalise ambivalence about their current church attendance:

  • But not as particularly active members. I am wary of my own kids having Christian teaching being imposed on them that they may later need to unlearn.
  • I am just about part of a church, that has shrunk to about 12 people, but am thinking of moving to another one after lockdown. I struggle to find a church with a dynamic bunch of people and good teaching that I want to be part of.
  • Although after I’d moved I did really struggle to find a church that I felt as ‘at home’ in. I was always hankering after the feeling I had at that time!
  • I have struggled on and off – the first church I attended I ended up not going to the main meetings, but rather just going to the homegroup meetings, as that was more personal. But I did lose desire for God and church. I then discovered a small house church plant where I was much happier and supported, and my faith was developed – and where I was able to give out as well.

Others reflect their journey since those years:

  • I am linked with my local Church of England church. I am interested in non-traditional church fresh expressions / emerging church. I am involved with two meditation / contemplation groups and a children and families outreach project. I also attend Open Table which is a LGBT+ affirming spiritual gathering…I am in training to become a Lay Pioneer Minister.

 8 said they no longer attend church:

Most of the analysis of this group will be shared in the later answers. One of this group does not go to church despite an obvious on-going Christian faith:

  • Because Church generally seems to be quite introspective and doesn’t seem to see it has a role in influencing culture. It seems rather that current secular cultures\trends influence the Church…I am uncomfortable with that and don’t want my son influenced by that way of doing Church.

Another explains that they are now committed to a different form of spirituality:

  • I have over the years lost my belief in the church, and do not attend any church meetings. I have in my view expanded my faith into more land-based spiritual practices, which feel much more connected to my own soul. I feel more grounded in my beliefs, happier…Christianity was part of my journey but is not a belief system that I currently hold, or act from.  

5. How would you describe the development and/or change of your faith or spiritual perspective since you were at the church?

General reflections on the on-going journey of faith

There were many very honest and powerful comments shared about the journeys that people have been on over the last 20 years:

  • Owned and worked through some of my own emotional shit. Think being at the church had allowed me to kid myself and hide from some adolescent pain. Hid behind being busy at church and doing Christian things and when that was taken away it revealed some stuff that needed bringing in to the light. Had therapy! Still asking the question… what does it look like to be a follower of Jesus? What is church? Does church really matter? Who is it for? How can we learn from as well as lead others to Jesus?
  • Having grown up in a Christian family and very conservative Christian teachings, e.g. the universe is 6000 years old, sexual sin is the worst type of sin and homosexuality is the worst of all, Buddhists, Hindus and Catholics are of the devil etc, I’ve had to reconcile my faith as it was as a child and young adult with that of what I’ve read in science textbooks, and seen lived out in friends and family since. This is probably a journey that will be ongoing.
  • The growth and changes in my faith that I experienced over my time at the church continued after I’d left. My faith now looks very different from when I joined the church at about the age of 19 or 20.
  • Still growing, still slowly working it out. My faith at that time seemed to be much more dynamic and I loved the Word and prayer. Now just trying not to be disillusioned by the Christians and the whole church scene here. The flip side is that my prayer life is stronger than ever, for which I am really thankful.

Specific ways that faith has developed and changed:

5.1 Faith has deepened and matured

There was a significant number of people who stated that their faith had deepened in ways similar to the trajectory that the church encouraged them in. These people particularly overlapped with those who continue to attend churches broadly of a similar outlook:

  • I have been amazed to see God answer some big prayers, and take us through some seemingly impossible conundrums since that time, including my wife’s terminal cancer. I have been fortunate to work with local Christians around the world, and have loved learning from them and seeing the strengths of diverse expressions of faith. I feel my faith has deepened.
  • A maturing of my faith, particularly as a result of experiencing and working through life events.
  • I think it has continued to grow and deepen. That transformation has continued as God is working away in me. I think my spiritual outlook has not changed but become deeper.
  • My time at the church formed some significant ideas – particularly the idea of us all being missionaries in the city – that have grown and matured since then.
  • It has deepened and become more rounded. I now work for the Church of England through a church school and that has been a great influence on my faith…

 5.2 A shift towards a broader, more inclusive perspective

Overall the most significant factor was a shift towards a broader, more inclusive perspective. One respondent wrote this which would encompass many of the issues:

  • A piece of writing by Liebert on the stages of spiritual development which I found very helpful. She talks about transitioning from a conformist stage where everything is very black and white to a conscientious stage where you are more questioning of the truth, and able to handle uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity.

I have summed up this large area of response into 3 sub-headings:

a) Greater appreciation of other forms of Christian spirituality

  • My experience has broadened, through working with more liberal, traditional and high church colleagues in the Church of England. My theology and spiritual outlook has remained fairly similar but charismatic beliefs and practices have become more important to me, as has a desire to share God’s love in practical ways with those in need.
  • I would say that 18 years later, I have a greater breadth of understanding of the Bible and the kingdom of God. I have a greater understanding of the mission of God, and the holistic nature of the gospel. I have a deeper appreciation for contemplative spirituality.
  • I would like to think I am more open to other perspectives than I was in those days. I feel more happy with uncertainty. Some things have not changed – I still feel most connected to God when out in nature.
  • I mix up how I pray….I found I was in a rut with talking to God and so now I pray, meditate and do breath work and walk in nature to feel closer to him

b) Less conservative, more inclusive perspective

  • I was always pro-women preaching but I am also clearer about my perspective on including gay people than I was in those day and more attuned to multi-cultural and multi-ethnic perspectives
  • I have developed in my thinking to realise the conservative nature of church thinking regarding gender stereotypes / some aspects of social justice doesn’t sit with my spiritual perspective.
  • Definitely less black and white about what I believe. More open to questioning and not as conservative as I was. For example, I would accept someone’s choice about their own sexuality now.
  • I am less inclined to try to persuade someone of my views from a biblical perspective and more open to listening to them.
  • I have realised through real relationships and jobs and conferences that there are more ways to read the bible than I realised

 c) Moving away from the Evangelical form of Christianity

  • I’ve moved away from the evangelical Christian faith as I increasingly felt that it did not adequately represent my basic beliefs. I found the evangelical faith too restrictive, simplistic and reactionary. I’ve actually become quite allergic to evangelicalism as I find that a lot of evangelical beliefs are detrimental to society. Evangelicals on the whole tend to be quite homophobic, conservative and superstitious. Despite initially finding it attractive, I was eventually repulsed by the charismatic movement which seems to thrive on this superstition.
  • I still identify as Christian, but not evangelical. I would consider myself a lot more liberal. I have a much bigger view of God’s love now. I am comfortable to accept truth and love from all religions and none. My beliefs have changed in that I have rejected key evangelical teachings e.g. substitutionary atonement, hell as a destination for all except those who profess faith in Jesus, violence as a means of resolving conflict. I am universalist now. I feel quite ashamed of most of the vocal church. I needed time off church for a few years in order to get over the anger, spend time in therapy and straighten out after all of the negatives.
  • My beliefs are now more liberal and I’m comfortable with not knowing the answers. I am still very much in a process of deprogramming from a prescriptive approach to faith/church (which I would consider the church at that time subscribed to despite its more creative approach) and discovering a freer personal relationship with God, one that is more joyful and healing.
  • I have lost some fervency and drive for evangelism. I have gained more understanding of meeting people where they are at, and trying to make faith local, relevant and a driver for social change
  • I did the Workshop course run by Noel Moules which I absolutely loved and it opened my eyes to other ways of thinking as the teaching was much more “some people think this, whilst other folk would think that” rather than telling people what they must believe. I felt we were treated as thinking adults in a way you are often not in Churches.

5.3 Moving away from Christian faith

Three respondents articulated a decision to step away from Christian commitment:

  • No Christian faith whatsoever, I now find much to do with organised religion distasteful. Much of my spiritual life is exploring older pathways, those pathways suppressed but not erased by Christianity.
  • My mental health issues continued to plague me and gradually over time eroded my faith as I struggled more and more with less clarity in the direction of my life. I built a new life, met my partner, married and started a family and found these relationships became my source of contentment and purpose.

6. What issues or situations have been most significant in this development or change?

 6.1 Difficulties and disappointment with church

There were many references to difficulties with church, and 4 responses specifically related to issues of inclusion and acceptance of LGBT+ sexuality:

  • We were attending a church plant for a while and some of the teaching was quite off the wall, there were some awful examples of mismanagement of staff and I felt that the way they treated people in the name of ministry was very manipulative.
  • Having more gay Christian friends, being disappointed with church situations and leaving one church in quite painful circumstances
  • Becoming aware of controlling behaviours in church leadership and abuses of power. Being a single woman over 35 and becoming aware of exclusionary practices within churches. Then realising how many people are excluded.  Studying practical theology and realising so much of how the church operates is so far from how Jesus treats people. How have I been reading the Bible for so long and missed so much?
  • The often hateful language and position used against the LGBT+ community. The churches glacial progress on women’s rights. The terrible handling of child abuse within the major organised religions. The obsession with a book over the needs of living people.
  • I was repelled by views of LGBTQI community at the time, I now work and am part of this community locally and a feel much more part of this community than a Christian community that made people feel sinners for their sexual orientation!!!
  • 85% of American white evangelicals voted for Trump. For me, this is the ultimate proof that evangelicalism – especially the type promoted by the US, which is also very influential in the UK – is a farce and not worthy of consideration. Since abandoning the evangelical faith I feel much happier with myself and my view on life.
  • Getting older / realising I can have my own opinion and don’t have to agree with leaders / chronic illness giving more perspective. A recent project at work focussing on gender equality has made me even more aware of how ingrained gender inequality is in society, e.g. in the language we use. How engrained this is in the church as well. Being a woman, and single (or rather, divorced – even more to frown at!), has centuries of church teaching and history to deal with

 6.2 Getting married and having children

Marriage and having children was also given as significant factor in a change of outlook:

  • Getting married and having to learn to compromise! Moving overseas and experiencing a number of very different church situations where we were ‘outsiders’
  • In 2002, I met the person I married…it clashed with what I knew the bible said about marrying a non-believer. But my faith has continued to be central in my life and he pretty much accepted that it was important to me and let me get on with my church thing…for the last four years or so, being married to him became more and more difficult. I eventually sought outside help last year because I could no longer cope with his behaviour towards me…we have now separated.
  • Marriage and motherhood gave less time and headspace for faith. Faith has become more applied in local community (running mums groups and local Alpha and community outreach).
  • Having children has been faith enhancing in many ways but also really challenging!
  • Having a family and trying to do church locally and with my family. Being part of a local community and wanting Christianity to make sense for my community
  • Becoming a mother of two girls has shaped my spirituality and understanding of God as father and mother.
  • A lot of my struggles have been to do with the churches I have attended, but also being single was a massive factor for a while (it’s very hard to enter a new church when you are on your own) – and then being married with young children (small church is hard when there are more small children than adults)!
  • Being a parent and realising that if God is a loving parent, God would not be cruel, worship-seeking, nor would they ask their children to deny their true selves.

6.3 Dealing with bereavement, illness and difficulties

These experiences were both a basis for strengthening and struggling with faith:

  • Accompanying my wife through cancer to her death last year, and rebuilding with our children afterwards.
  • Probably the death of my parents, me moving abroad, getting divorced and moving on with my life in a very positive way.
  • Life: bereavement, marriage, changes in circumstance, being a dad. But also changes in those who have helped me grow in faith…
  • I was diagnosed with cancer a couple of years ago and I found the reaction from some Christian friends was really unhelpful. I felt that their faith didn’t have room for bad things happening and they struggled to handle it. I found I did not want to go to church during my treatment and preferred to meet up individually with the people that I wanted to be with.
  • Struggles with depression and purpose in life.
  • Life! Significant relationships with non-Christians.  Discovering ‘the world’ is not how the church portrays it.

6.4 Moving out of London

  • Moving out of London, trying out a few different churches and struggling to find the same depth of friendship and level of teaching.
  • Definitely not having nearly as much access to the conservative evangelical teaching we had in London. Also not being part of a home group here, so I have to find my own sources and ways of learning about God. Recognising how interconnected we all are.
  • Moving from inner London to outer London.  We moved into an established community that had been here for several generations, unlike the transient community that makes up a significant percentage of Islington.

6.5 Engagement with disadvantaged communities

Again, these experiences were both a basis for strengthening and struggling with faith:

  • Seeing deaf and dumb children in Jordan worship; seeing the Christian hospice movement in Eastern Europe challenge how the sick and dying are cared for, and tackle the political and business systems
  • Working in disadvantaged communities. Realising that ‘evangelism’ (in the conservative evangelical sense) is mostly irrelevant and can be incredibly patronising and even damaging.
  • I have been on a steep learning curve in the area of faith and racial reconciliation…I see this as integral to our calling as ambassadors of reconciliation.

6.6 Resources and practices that have been significant to my journey

People named some specific people and practices that they have found helpful:

  • My own theological training and working as a priest has also changed my outlook and my faith.
  • Finding resources for faith online, and making the most of them both in good and bad times (e.g. Rick Warren’s ‘Pastor’s Toolbox’, ‘Ask NT Wright’ podcasts) 
  • Another significant factor in my spiritual growth is the discovery of spiritual direction and contemplative spirituality, especially Ignatian spirituality.
  • I’ve been involved in the St Helen’s Bishopsgate church partnership which is very much focussed on people in the City being missionaries. This idea is probably one of the main reasons we still live in London.
  • I have been deeply influenced by people who are broadly Christian but combine elements of other faiths…. All have been through loss and pain and found deep meaning spiritually within themselves but identify strongly with Jesus in the sense of activism and being of service to others.
  • Spending more time in contemplation. Having a revelation and change in consciousness – about God being the Love of the Universe and all being One. Changing from an individualistic view of redemption, towards a belief in redemption of the whole of creation, through creation. Attending ACA (a 12 step recovery fellowship).

 7. If you could return to the 1990s and give some faith-related advice or guidance to your younger self, what would it be?

In response to this question there was one reply which was bluntly negative about Christian faith but this was very much an outlier in the responses:

  • Don’t go near Christianity! Because to be frank I found it toxic.

One respondee reversed the challenge of the question:

  • To be honest, its more the other way around – I’m so aware of the danger that faith and joy can be choked by the pressures and hassles of life. So its more about being reminded of a time in life when faith was more straightforward and I was more single-minded about serving God wholeheartedly.

It is not straight-forward to group this feedback into areas but I felt these headings were relevant. I will let the answers speak for themselves:

7.1 Be more accepting and less judgemental

  • Don’t be so flippin proud and judgemental! Stop trying to be right and start trying to listen and love. Its too late to tell my younger self but I am prayerful that my future self is listening.
  • This is a process – a journey – and you’re on it. Stick with it… but don’t get cocky – you really know so little of life and of God.
  • Listen to what YOU truly feel, and search for a spiritual path that feels congruent to your own self, do not let shame and guilt be put on you by others in the church – but develop your own self in the way you should be. You are not wrong or bad. Speak up and don’t let yourself be silenced. Value the friendships you made at the church as they are a group of people you will have in your life for the long term – love them well, allow them to be as vulnerable as you can support them to be and support them to find their own true selves.
  • To ignore the fundamentalist beliefs that are so prevalent in the evangelical church and to turn more to the progressive/liberal side.
  • Keep the passion and integrity but remember you only know a tiny little bit about this great mystery that is life, listen to others and what they have to say. And life is fragile, you are going to have to know how to dig deep into yourself, trust God and not have the same group around you in the future. But you will be okay x
  • Do not let teachings about sin make you feel guilt and shame. Do not deny your true self. Accept and celebrate your sexuality. Be bold to reject anything you hear being taught which is not of love. Don’t worry about it, or follow it, if it isn’t leading you to a bigger view of God. Do not fear wisdom from other faiths or views.
  • Explore other spirituality outside the narrow view handed out by church. Have genuine, reciprocal relationships, e.g. not ones where you are befriending others in order to bring them ‘to the light.’ Get therapy instead of praying. Find a 12 step fellowship to get healing.

7.2 Grow in faith and friendship

  • Growing your faith in Christ is the best resource you can invest in for life, and for meeting death. Learning to think like Jesus is the happiest, healthiest and most healing way to live.
  • Trust God more. To see troubles as challenges rather than as problems.
  • Enjoy this time and build deep, spiritual relationships but hold onto it lightly; our core relationship is with the Lord and that is the one that you should spend time investing in – these friends can help you deepen that relationship. Don’t be too intimidated by the ‘A’ star Christians; God loves us all regardless of our talents or wisdom.
  • Do not engage on social media platforms. Live simply, model creation care, love one another deeply. Above all seek His face and His kingdom – discover what His kingdom looks like and live accordingly.
  • Don’t hold back – the church is its people
  • “The best things you can have in your house are your friends!” Friendship has got to be one of the greatest gifts God gives us, so we need to treasure it.
  • Make the most of this time, you don’t know how good you’ve got it!

7.3 Don’t be hard on yourself

  • Chill out. Stop trying so hard to please God. You are God’s beloved child. Learn a range of spiritual practices, including the practice of seeing a spiritual director. There is no one perfect way of connecting with God. Encourage yourself and your fellow followers of Jesus to be honest about their struggles and journey with them. Be more grace-filled, but don’t sweep problems under the rug. Counselling is not just for weirdos!
  • Don’t be hard on yourself. Being a new mum makes it impossible to do church like you used to. That’s normal. Do keep listening to God, whenever and however you can. He has the best ideas and plans. If God nudges you out of your comfort zone, listen and act.
  • God is a better judge of you than you are. Don’t be so harsh on yourself, chill the heck out! These people will be your Christian buddies; they will sustain your need for fellowship in years to come. Choose wisely, invest and stay in touch. These are golden years to treasure but let go of what was, God has got you and it might not be the same again but you WILL be ok.
  • My main pursuit now is to really come to know and believe that God loves me. That would be truly liberating and life-changing.

7.4 Grapple with the big questions

  • Be more open to discuss with close friends/confidants my struggles and doubts rather than trying to appear spiritually strong and purposeful.
  • Question your motives and priorities – be truly conscious of the values that are most important to you. Question the church’s motives and priorities/values – not with the aim of agreeing or finding fault with them, but so that I am conscious of them.
  • Don’t shy away from asking the big questions, they won’t go away.

Read my reflection on these responses: Community, Conviction and Complexity