Disclaimer: I typically stay away from religious content on this space, but feel this is the only place to publicly air this piece of information that has been on my mind for too long now.
As some of my most loyal of followers will probably already be aware, almost exactly four years ago (I’m too lazy to go look and find out) I launched a website with a friend of mine called, simply, leadme.org. I remember the moment clearly, as I was on vacation and found myself anxiously awaiting the backlash this site could have caused.
Of course…we didn’t actually let anyone know the site existed at that point, so the very idea that immediate backlash would occur was silly, but I digress.
The reason for this fear was simple. It was a religious-themed blog, with an intended focus on those from the church my friend and I had grown up in. Although our intentions were never to convince people to leave that church, we knew that would be one of many intentions we would be seen as having.
The actual/original intention was actually quite innocent. As two people who had left the churches we had grown up in, we were well aware of the issues that young Christians face when they begin to question the activities (not to mention the doctrines) of the churches of their youth. For many who grow up in a church, your faith really does, in many ways, hinge on that specific church. This isn’t something that only occurred within the church we grew up in, nor in the larger denomination. This is just a pretty standard occurrence for people who grow up as part of a church. That specific church is, in many ways, the embodiment of your faith.
Knowing that, and knowing that there were many who, like us, were questioning the activities (and doctrines) of this same church, we wanted to provide something of a support group, a place where people could see that the actions of a church or a group of churches, or even of the majority of Christians throughout history, doesn’t actually change God’s message, or how it should affect us. We wanted to show that it was possible to question the church without being required to question one’s faith.
I’ve never told the story (my side of it, at least) of why it faded out a little over a year later. In fact, I’ve never publicly stated that my involvement in the site was complete.
First, I should note that the site does still currently exist, under completely different management and with a completely purpose (or so I believe, I honestly haven’t been there in quite some time). Neither I nor my friend have any involvement in the site at this point. I won’t speak as to the reasons for my cohort’s dis-involvement, as I don’t believe it is my place (nor am I completely certain of them).
Anyways, the site did gain some immediate traction, after we started spreading the word. In fact, that site played host to many long debates about a wide breadth of topics, mostly concerning the Spirit. It was exciting. There were very few situations in which people actually agreed with each other wholeheartedly, but the discussion was open, something that happened to be one of our main complaints against the church we had left, something that we believed was the larger cause for such a large departure of youth from the church. It never really felt as though you were allowed to question doctrine…here we found a place where people were willing to not only talk about it, but were willing to hear opposing thoughts.
Almost as quickly, unfortunately, the feared dark side did begin to arise. There were a few early visitors who immediately dismissed everything about the site (I want to note that this was before any questionable doctrine was actually brought forth). I have officially lost more than a couple friends merely because I started the site. They, unfortunately, did so without so much as a word and I have never been allowed to defend myself. In fact, I wouldn’t have even known they were disowning me if it weren’t for mutual friends making me aware. Others were bold enough to come onto the site, or approach one or both of us directly and ask of our intentions, generally leaving feeling a bit better about the whole mess. But…I fear they were the exceptions to the rule.
Before long, it was brought to our attention that there were some public addresses that were being made by one of the more visible members of the church which were discussing us and our site, albeit without naming names. A long series of rather spiteful sounding addresses were given over the course of a year (and possibly longer, I really don’t know, I stopped paying attention) which indirectly questioned why people would do such a thing as we were doing. To be fair, we were bringing up some rather radical doctrines by that point to see what our readers thought about them, but they still weren’t the actual focus.
I’ll admit it was exciting to see these addresses coming through, making us feel validated in that, although we weren’t being directly called out, it seemed unlikely we were not the focus of these discussions. But, that excitement was rather hollow considering how misjudged we felt. Our honest attempts at offering people an outlet for their concerns regarding the church was being viewed as nothing less than Satan’s work. I don’t care who you are, that doesn’t leave a very comfy feeling in the pit of your stomach.
At the same time, I was dealing with further spiritual issues of my own. My family and I had joined a new church with a pastor who shared the compassion we were looking for and finally felt at home once again…only to find the dark side to this church as well, which eventually led to this pastor leaving his pulpit due to the actions of a small-minded few. I found myself struggling with many of the same issues that had caused me to leave the church I grew up in, and, well, I honestly was no better equipped with how to deal with it.
It became harder and harder for me to focus my attentions on this website that was honestly making the spiritual struggle more difficult for me. It was supposed to be a place where people could feel stronger about their faith, no matter what it might be…because of all the attention the site was getting, it only served to weaken mine.
My posts became more and more irregular, as did that of my friend, until finally neither of us were posting at all anymore, without so much as a comment to the other regarding it. At this point we had brought on a third writer, a regular visitor to the blog that we felt had a lot to say. He had unofficially become the sole writer on the page.
In fact, not until about six months ago did I finally contact my friend and ask him his thoughts on the site, while also offering up my official resignation, somewhere around two years after my last post.
There was not originally a conscious decision to leave the site. In fact, there are still many topics that I had begun on there that I would like to complete exploring at some point. It was simply a decision based on personal needs at the time.
Yes, there was a lot of drama surrounding the site, drama that I hope actually did some bit of good in someone’s mind somewhere, but it only served as a portion of the reason I left. There were still some of my own demons I needed to deal with…demons that came back to light because of my involvement in the site.
For those of you who were around back then, I want you all to know that I appreciated your involvement, even if it was just to be a regular reader. I sometimes feel bad for leaving without a word purely because we did have that regular audience.
But…this look into the past has gone on long enough, especially considering the fact that very few folks from back then have stuck around this long…at least so I’m guessing… The future is bright, as always. And who knows, perhaps some of what happened back then will find its way into some future work. I can tell you that much of this inspired the creation of the character Dominion in THE LEGEND OF BUDDY HERO, allowing me to work through some of those demons in a creative way. So…who knows, maybe even more of it will crop up again someday.
For now, the sun is shining, and I’m ready for the weekend.
Have fun out there!