Can You Grow in Church?

"Can You Grow in Church?" cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward
“Can You Grow in Church?” cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward


Many people view leaving the church as a failure: either on the individual’s part or on the church’s part. 

Often it is not a failure on the part of the person who leaves. Let that be an encouragement to you if you have left.

It is possible to grow in church.

Some churches provide a safe space for people to grow into themselves at their own pace in their own way. These are rare.

Some churches promise a safe space for people to grow but place controls and limits on what that growth ought, must, and should look like. There are many of these.

Some churches say they will let you grow but only by following the strict guidelines they specify. These are the majority.

My experience and observation is that, in order to experience complete freedom to grow into ourselves, most of us had to leave the church.

Most people would prefer to stay because as they grow they may continue to enjoy the fellowship and support of the community, receive some spiritual direction on how to grow in a healthy manner, and learn how and experiment with how to use their personal growth to benefit the church as well as the broader human community and the world.

What has been your experience? 

Could you grow into yourself and stay?

Or, in order to grow into yourself, did you have to leave?

Maybe you are right at the brink of that decision.

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5 Replies to “Can You Grow in Church?”

  1. In healing from Spiritual Abuse, I first had to leave the abusers. That meant leaving a husband I had helped through S. Baptist Seminary and Fundamental Conservative “Christian” churches. My first foray back into churches was through the Unitarian Universalist’s and then Congregational United Church of Christ. I found a home in the second, but it was too far to physically travel. Then it came to me, maybe back in the Episcopal Church I could just be. As a young adult, I left that denomination for non denomination and then S. Baptist. It took years of difficult emotional, spiritual, and intellectual work with the facilitation of Pastoral Counselors to achieve healing. That said, there is nothing I have been through that hasn’t enabled me to help multitudes of people. Also, my life on the other side of healing is much better than before the experience. Thank you for this opportunity to share part of my story.

  2. Yes, there is a way beyond “the haunted church” of our past. There is a way to created an open & welcoming community of faith. There is a way to reclaim the stories & symbols of our faith. There is a way to partner with an international network of Progressive Christians. There is a way to be a constructive force for peace and justice in our world. There is a deep yearning & hunger for new avenues for living the questions. Our faith development deepens on it!

  3. I found a church that allowed for a lot of spiritual exploration, story telling, meditation, Native American ceremonies. I definitely grew there. Then I happened to meet up with my pastor for lunch and someone I didn’t know as well. My pastor used completely different language with that person, more traditional. It took a few more years, but I realized he was simply adjusting his message depending on who was in the room. It wasn’t so much spiritual growth as marketing.

    We would talk about all these new ideas about how we could live like 1st century Christians in the modern world and we’d even send some up the chain of command sometimes, but that was more for show, or at least those ideas never got much of anywhere. The spiritual exploration stuff works on the local level, but you don’t see those explorers advancing in the ranks. That kind of “growth” happens over many decades if it happens at all.

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