An Open Letter to iTown Church

To the Pastors and Staff of iTown Church:

When I first started attending your church, I knew I was bound to irritate a lot of people with my newly re-discovered love and passion for Jesus. After being non-religious and not sure of what I believed after the death of my 4-month-old son, I’d begun to believe that the God of the Bible was nothing more than an elaborate fairy tale. It was too painful for me to think that God would allow such a horrible tragedy to happen to my family. Because of this, I’d managed to build close friendships with many people who consider themselves atheists, and at that time my husband was an atheist, too.

As soon as I got the courage to begin posting on social media and openly talking about Jesus, the backlash began. Friends who’d always been so kind and loving began deleting me from their social media accounts in handfuls. I was so excited about your church that I couldn’t stop talking about it… and that irritated so many people. It hurt my soul, but I moved forward as I reminded myself that I can’t save people, only Jesus can. And your church taught me that.

Over the last few years I’ve had many painful conversations with friends that I love deeply who ended up deleting me from Facebook because my posts about iTown were simply too much for them to handle. They’d been too hurt by religious people and churches in the past to believe that I could be talking about something that’s actually different.

(I almost didn’t share this because I didn’t want my friends who are still struggling to believe in God to have more of a reason to turn away from Him. But it’s not God who hurt me, or who hurts anyone… it’s people.)

I often professed that iTown was so different and so accommodating. I began recanting the key phrases I’d heard reiterated on Sundays to all of my friends, “Everyone is welcome. Everyone can be involved. It doesn’t matter who you are, or what you’ve done, or where you’ve been. EVERYONE IS WELCOME HERE.”

When I first walked in the doors of iTown, it was enchanting. The music was so great, the production was so awesome…. The SHOW was spectacular. Pastor Dave, you are a gifted public speaker who is able to engage and capture your audience with witty anecdotes and catchy key phrases like “Hurt people hurt people.” I loved how your stories were so relatable, and how your message stuck with me long after I’d left.

And in a few months time, my husband was actually so curious about this new church I’d been investing my time into that HE decided he wanted to attend for Christmas Eve with our kids. I couldn’t believe he wanted to come and I hoped so much that he would raise his hand during the salvation call* so that he could be saved.

I’ll never forget the looks on Bryce’s face, and on the faces of my children as they watched the Christmas Eve service in 2013. It was nothing short of enchantment… much like the looks of children entering Disney World and seeing Cinderella’s Castle for the first time. (Which you’ve actually said is your goal. For your church to be like Disney World.)

It only took two weeks for Bryce to raise his hand during the salvation call, and I was so excited for what lay ahead for our family and iTown. (See my blog post about Bryce’s salvation here: https://karibundy.com/2014/01/01/2-weeks-ago-my-husband-was-an-atheist/ )

We couldn’t wait to jump in and start serving*. Bryce was hesitant as he waited for the ball to drop, and for the church to turn into a hypocritical place, and so he didn’t immediately jump onto a team to serve. But I did. In fact, I was already done with the Grow Plan* by the time Bryce attended service for the first time.

That first winter semester (January 2014), we jumped all in. Bryce and I started the year with the Daniel Fast and we got up at 6am every morning to pray. I joined a small group, a women’s book club (that my mom actually attended with me, even though she had no intention of attending church), and I began serving on the Red Tent team where I greeted new guests, told them about the church, encouraged them to attend the Grow Plan and join a Go Team*. I was so excited about your church that I couldn’t stop excitedly trying to usher people in.

As more and more of my friends started to attend, I was so excited for them to join teams and small groups and be a part of “the great revival of Indianapolis” as you called it. That spring, Bryce and I made the decision to move out of our suburban neighborhood and buy a house on land to start building an organic, non-GMO farm. Although he was hesitant, Bryce went to the White Tent* after church service was over to ask them to pray for him and on an offer he planned to make on a house. This was a HUGE step for Bryce… because he put his trust into your church and began laying out his vulnerabilities.

Bryce also called on a Pastor to help us look at an issue with our house for sale, and he willingly came out with his dad to look at the issue that needed repair. Bryce got some great advice and we marveled at how kind and generous he’d been to come out and take a look. We were so thankful for being lead to iTown.

We made an offer on that house and miraculously, we got it. It was ours. We couldn’t have been more thrilled. We moved our family to our new house and felt like with your church and our new house that we were really living the life that God was calling us to lead. We were so excited to start getting real food to the people of our community, the people in our church family, and to anyone around us who needed quality food for their families.

That summer, Bryce and I both led small groups. Bryce was also in your leadership program, ITLA (ITown Leadership Academy), which required him to serve all weekend services doing whatever was needed, and to attend workouts 4 times per week in addition to a weekly Chapel night. At this point Bryce was breathing, eating and sleeping iTown. He was there over 40 hours a week helping and loved everything about it. And this is where I began to feel very uneasy.

We bought our new house without selling our old house. (Live and learn… it’s a mistake we will certainly NEVER make again). And even though our house had been listed for sale with price drops every few weeks, we didn’t seem to be getting any closer to getting an offer. Bryce was so passionate about ministry, and about discipleship that I didn’t want to ruin this time of enlightenment for him. He was so eager to learn and so joyful for the first time in years, that I just wanted him to be able to pursue that. We had enough in savings to last through the summer, and so he didn’t get a job because he wanted to pour all of his effort into your church and ITLA. Which was wonderful!

Until it wasn’t.

In August, Bryce shattered his collarbone. His right collarbone. Which meant he wouldn’t be able to do any farm work (or any work that required the use of his right arm whatsoever) until Spring. With no equipment, and a garden that Bryce had been hand tilling, this left me with a LOT of responsibility on my shoulders.

Bryce was so passionate about serving your church that I had to drive him from the ER – the night he shattered his collarbone – to the church at 5am, so that he could participate in your 21 Days of Prayer. I stared at him through the entire prayer service… he was so optimistic and full of light and so lost in the worship and prayer. He had a loyalty to your church that you honestly did not deserve.

Bryce had also been so excited to help set up the second location of your church. He was so excited to be a major part of your Castleton team, and he showed up every Sunday morning at 530am eager to help and bring the love and light of Jesus to the lost.

However, once Bryce lost the physical ability to help, he was shoved aside and immediately replaced by others who could do the work– even though he’d poured all of his time, sweat, energy and tears into your church for months; along with continuing tithe off of our savings account regularly. He was burnt out, and so you moved on to the next new willing participant– someone who could memorize your script a little better.

I began to despise what I began to refer as “iTown key phrases” which included comments such as: “It’s just not the season for that”, “Trust the vision”, “Bad company corrupts good character”, “Just jump on a team”. Every time someone spoke those words around me it felt like boiling water was being dumped on my head. As each newly trained Go Team member would begin chanting those same phrases, giving the same responses and sounding uncannily like the other, my discomfort with the way the church was going grew. I can only describe it one way—it seemed like people were literally being brainwashed.

Any questions we had were met with the comment “Trust the vision.” And not only by staff members, but also by those who were idolizing iTown. Those who were idolizing YOU, Pastor Dave. Anytime we would ask a question about a situation or a decision that didn’t quite seem to be right, we were shut down and essentially told not to question your vision. We began to realize that the expectation of us was that we should be silent, conform, follow directions without question and be willing to serve in any way possible.

We were expected not to think for ourselves. And it worked. For a while.

I couldn’t stop asking myself, “Did things change?? Or is this how it’s always been?” I know I wasn’t alone in that sentiment, even then. But I know I’m not alone in these thoughts now.

By the end of August, we’d been hit with property taxes we didn’t realize we had to pay and we were in a REALLY bad spot. It was because of our poor choice to buy a house without selling first, I’m the first to admit that the blame for being in that hardship falls squarely on Bryce’s and my shoulders. We had no money in the bank, literally $0, a spot we’d never been in before. And then our power went out for 12 hours. We lost ALL of our food and had no way to buy more. Grace had a food bank that turned us down because our car was considered an asset. We were so humiliated. And we had nowhere to turn.

But here’s where the biggest hurt comes from… When we got to the point where we didn’t have food… you saw us drowning, and you turned away. You did nothing.

In fact, the one small bit of help we got from the church didn’t come from a pastor (although he is a pastor now). It came from the production team, and various people who each donated a few dollars to get us gift cards for groceries. We were SO THANKFUL for this that I remember sitting in my car sobbing as a friend handed the card to me. I stocked up our fridge with groceries and praised God for those people who were so willing to help.

I didn’t even know what someone being the hands and feet of Jesus looked like until the next day when an 18 year old young woman from church, whom I’d never met, showed up at my house, awkwardly handed me a VISA gift card and left. I told her I couldn’t take this from her. That she was just a kid and that I REALLY appreciated it, but I just couldn’t accept it. She looked me in the eyes and said, “I don’t have kids and I live at home with my parents. What do I need this for? Take it for your kids.” And in that moment, I SAW Jesus. I FELT Jesus. I KNEW Jesus.

Looking back I realize that I never got that feeling from your church. (And when I say “feeling”, I don’t mean an emotion. I mean that I’d never discerned that Christ-like spirit emanating from anyone in your entire church, other than Pastor Kelly, who is no longer there.)

By the time we sold our house in November 2014, we’d been without water for an entire week due a pipeline breaking, and my kids had gone to bed hungry numerous times. We’d only survived because a friend from church had been giving their tithe to us, instead of to you. Because they were perplexed as to how you hadn’t reached out to help us.

By September, we had a Pastor come to our house, sit us down, and let us know that he just didn’t feel like we should lead a small group that fall. He felt like we just needed to focus on our family and on healing and on having others pour into our lives. (Something that was confusing given that the church hadn’t really been interested in helping us with groceries at that time). He also told Bryce that he wanted to pour into him..

He also told us that we shouldn’t feel profound sadness anymore about our deceased son (his birthday was coming the following month), and that we hadn’t truly given that up to God yet if we were still feeling such profound sadness. He told us that God really would take that all away from us if we would just let go. This seemed to insinuate that we lacked true faith, and it felt like we were being punished, by not being able to lead a group, due to our inability to “let go.” He told us that when his wife died that he had a supernatural peace that has allowed him to be free from that pain. And that we would have that too, when we fully gave the pain to Jesus.

Even after that discussion we stayed at iTown. I even wondered if he was RIGHT in assuming that I just wasn’t fully surrendering to God because I did hurt SO badly when I thought about my son Mason’s upcoming birthday. I only told one person about that conversation then, and her immediate response was, “Why would he even think it’s okay to say that to you? You KNOW that’s not right. Right?”

But I didn’t know. By this point I felt so disoriented about everything that I didn’t know which way was up and which way was down, what was right and what was wrong, what was an emotion and what was my discernment. I felt like a fish out of water, trapped in a place where I didn’t speak the language. Where everything I thought I knew, was wrong.

This should have been the moment we left your church. But we still stayed. We still believed that maybe we could work through the indifference. That maybe we could just get through all of this.

That fall, a very close friend of Bryce’s left iTown. A friend who has basically fallen off the grid now. This friend left the church after the abovementioned Pastor married his former girlfriend of four years. An ex-girlfriend that he thought he was about to starting dating again August. Who was engaged to this Pastor in September.

I can’t help but think of how ironic it is that you don’t consider that decision to be an action that “causes others to stumble or Christ to grieve.” One of your lost, who faithfully served and tithed, was so hurt that he walked out the door and never looked back. And he’s just a drop in the bucket of the people that your church has hurt that you haven’t even noticed.

This same Pastor had a very loud verbal altercation with Bryce and I the lobby of the church in December where he ended up walking away after towering over me in an attempt to intimidate me into submission. He also warned us that we were not to talk of the discussion to anyone. But this felt more like a threat than a request.

What should have been the final “be all, end all” moment came in April. Bryce and I led a small group that included a lesbian couple. It was obvious that they were a lesbian couple from the moment they walked in the door. My first thought when I saw them was, “I’m SO LUCKY that I have a church that accepts people for WHO THEY ARE.” It wasn’t about theology or semantics… it was just about loving people and meeting them right where they are. I was so pleasantly surprised by this that I got down on my knees right after group and thanked God for your church. This couple had never tried anywhere else because they could tell they weren’t welcome. I was so glad I was a part of a church that included them, even if they didn’t agree with their life choice.

This couple, who I will refer to as Sally and Jane, went through the Grow Plan. The leader of the Grow Plan happened to be very close friends with Jane’s brother, who also attends iTown, and was aware that Sally and Jane were in a homosexual relationship. They completed the first three Grow Plan meetings and upon arriving at the fourth meeting, Grow Plan 401, they were excited to pick a team to serve on. Upon entering the door, the leader of the Grow Plan excitedly asked the two women, “Which team are you guys thinking about serving on?” They gave him their reply and hurried in for the meeting.

As they sat through the meeting, they already knew which teams they wanted to help with and were getting ready to sign up with the team they chose. This is when they were called to the corner by the Grow Team leader and told that they couldn’t serve because they are gay. This was then compared to alcoholism, and they were told that when alcoholics want to serve they are asked to get help, get better and come back and serve when they’re doing better. The women were told they could do the same, get better and come back and serve on a team.

At this time, Bryce and I were serving next door giving out Easter boxes. I’d worked all weekend to fill these boxes and was having fun giving them away to the families who were excited to host Easter Egg hunts for friends in their neighborhoods to invite them to iTown. In the middle of this, we were pulled aside by the Grow Team leader and ushered quickly into your office, Pastor Dave.

You made us aware of “the situation” with Sally and Jane and let us know that if they continue to come to our small group that we needed to direct all questions and concerns to you or another pastor. (Which we did—we definitely did not want to handle those questions.) I expressed my confusion on why they were allowed to go through the Grow Plan at all if the plan had never been to let them serve. You expressed that you didn’t know they were gay, Pastor Dave, even though they said they walked up to you and introduced themselves, said they came all the way from Greenwood and wanted to make sure it was okay that they were coming to church together.

I find it hard to believe that you didn’t know they were lesbians, but I’ll extend grace and say that you didn’t know. My next question was why you didn’t handle this situation yourself. To date, the biggest hurt they have is that you didn’t talk to them in person. If everyone at the church is following your vision, Why couldn’t you have talked to them directly? It’s something that honestly should have come from you. I don’t recall getting an answer to that question, but I’m sure you did. I’ve just forgotten.

Bryce then asked what the church would say about their relationship if gay marriage became legal. You told him that regardless of law it wasn’t ever going to be right because we aren’t allowed to have an opinion, because God already has an opinion. And it’s in the bible. (There was no other context given.)

What we got out of this conversation was that we needed to reference the position of the church and God’s word (more on that later) and that we don’t have to say anything else and can just direct them to the pastors at the church. I was so confused about how I could possibly continue to love this couple and try to show them Jesus when I felt so very conflicted. But we walked out committed to honoring the churches values and passing those on to the girls.

I wondered what Sally and Jane were feeling and looked down at my phone to see I’d already missed several calls from them. While I was in the meeting with you, the people you entrusted in my care had already reached out to me. And they got no response. In a matter of MINUTES, they were shunned by the entire church, including their small group leader. How alienating that must have felt for them! There aren’t even words for how DEEPLY that hurt them (and Bryce and I.)

We continued our small group for the summer semester. Hoping to be the hands and feet of Jesus, we continued our Homestead small group and I led a college girls small group. I’d led the college group last summer and was excited to see God’s works in the girls’ life from the past year. We picked a book to use as our curriculum called
“Every Young Woman’s Battle: Guarding Your Mind, Heart and Body in a Sex-Saturated World”. I knew how hard it was to address these topics and thought the girls needed to be aware of how to handle the college years when everything, from movies to clothing, seems to be about sex.

I didn’t anticipate being in the middle of this group when the Supreme Court ruled on Gay Marriage. In fact, this ruling came just a few hours before my small group convened. Being that we were a small group about this Sex-Saturated world, I wanted to remind the girls that we are to be the hands and feet of Jesus. That while the Supreme Court decision has the potential to ruin friendships and family relationships, that we are called to love like Christ and simply treat others as we want to be treated.

Several girls wanted to talk about it, but my small group coach* was there and the discomfort in the room was obvious, so I moved on without saying much else.

As the Supreme Court ruled that day, I could just tell that the leaders at the church were being examined with microscope precision by the staff (and those who want to be staff) as to the content of their social media pages. The message didn’t have to be said out loud, but was entirely clear, we shouldn’t post any opinions regarding the Supreme Court decision.

By Monday morning, I had received a phone call from the hub Pastor*. She let me know that my coach had told her that I discussed homosexuality with the girls and that she wasn’t clear on why I brought it up at all, and that she was especially confused about why I didn’t give them scripture to show what the bible says about homosexuality. I told her that the room felt very tense and uncomfortable with the small group coach there and so I decided to drop the conversation and move on. The hub Pastor was very irritated that I didn’t give scripture and began telling me that I should have told the girls that it’s not the right lifestyle choice, and that homosexuality is a choice. She said that you aren’t born homosexual. She went on to say that (and I quote), “Homosexuals are going around saying that they are just born homosexuals, just like now we have Child Molesters walking around saying they are just born attracted to children. And that’s not right.”

This comparison of being born homosexual vs. being born a child molester knocked me off of my feet. I hoped and prayed that this wasn’t the churches position and I managed to stammer out to her, “That is NOT the same thing AT ALL!” She then asked me my personal views on homosexuality. I told her that was none of her business. She continued to say she needed to know because everyone in leadership has to have the same views in order to lead. I told her again that it was none of her business. At this point she told me, “I’ll just have to report this to Pastor Dave and Pastor Kate and let them handle it.” Which is honestly where this conversation should have started once my small group coach had this concern.

I was so glad for the opportunity to talk directly with you, Pastor Dave, because I was tired of having information go up and down this communication ladder that resembled a Pyramid Marketing setup. I’d learned in Elementary School that the telephone game never ends accurately and so I really wanted your insight. When you called I was pleasantly surprised by the tone of the conversation. I was reassured to hear that you did think people were born gay, that it wasn’t a choice, and I was glad that you didn’t agree with the wording the Hub Pastor had used when she compared child molesters to gay people.

I did feel slightly embarrassed for you when you asked me why I even brought the subject up in my college group. You said that you’d have understood if the group was a bible study on sex, but that you didn’t understand its relation to the college small group. When I realized you had no idea that our approved book for our small group was ““Every Young Woman’s Battle: Guarding Your Mind, Heart and Body in a Sex-Saturated World”, and that the approved content WAS about sex, I felt incredibly embarrassed for you and for me.

I was embarrassed because I’ve been wasting my time in a church that doesn’t even know what my group is about. A church where I’m turned in like a child being sent to the Principal’s Office for every grievance someone has against me, and that this happens without fact checking to make sure the information is accurate first.

The conversation ended well and I was glad to hear that you were going to be making it perfectly clear where the church stood when it came to homosexuality. After being scolded by the small group coach leader for not giving out scripture, etc. I was glad that the girls would have your words to guide them in this. I didn’t want to discuss YOUR vision, or put my interpretation of scripture onto the girls.

So when you talked about it at First Wednesday, I was ready.

(Here is iTown’s Official “stance” as given on First Wednesday https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AariMCPRR6Y )

But you didn’t say anything. Where was the scripture? Where was the stance? Where was the opinion? Where was the guidance we were all sitting there WAITING to hear? We had people asking if we understood what your stance was. We felt like a million hungry wolves were surrounding us waiting for answers that you still hadn’t given, and that we knew perfectly well we couldn’t give either.

Why? Because our gut instinct, our “feeling”, our DISCERNMENT tells us that this isn’t the way to handle this. That this isn’t the way Jesus wanted this to be handled. He made his view on divorce CRYSTAL CLEAR and yet the church has no “policy” on that. But there is a “policy” on homosexuality, which wasn’t even made clear. For all we know you could have been talking about the Supreme Court decision regarding Obamacare at First Wednesday. The words “homosexuality”, “gay”, “LGBT” were not even spoken.

The church, as a body, needs to know that you will not allow anyone in a homosexual relationship to serve on any team—whether that be working with kids, handing out worship guides, stuffing worship guides, folding t-shirts, working in the production booth, etc. They also need to know that if a leader QUESTIONS any aspect of this, that they have their small groups immediately taken from them and no real discussion takes place. If we question the history, the theology, even if it’s just to clarify (AND IT IS), we are banned from leading until we conform and agree with every thought of the church.

After First Wednesday we were ready to leave. I’ll admit, it was already planned and already decided that we wouldn’t be calling iTown our home after groups and the kid’s conference were over. But that wouldn’t have affected how I led my last college group, how we lead SERVE Day, or how we lead at Summer Rocks. Homosexuality has nothing to do with any of those things or with our commitment to the groups of people we were leading. It was CRYSTAL CLEAR what we were and were not allowed to talk about and we didn’t plan to discuss anything other than Jesus and Serve Day this week.

But on Sunday, after we prayed for the Summer Rocks Conference, Bryce and I and Terra Barlow turned around to find that the crowd behind us had parted SO MUCH that it looked like Moses had been there, and standing behind us were two of your pastors. We were strategically pulled from the front of the auditorium, separated, and interrogated. I use the word “interrogated” because I was asked the same question no less than 15 times.

Bryce and I were face to face with one Pastor, and Terra had TWO MALE pastors confronting her, asking the same questions and willing her to conform. The Pastor talking to Bryce and I was fishing for a response he wasn’t going to get, saying he was simply trying to “clarify” when in reality he was simply trying to get me to change my answer. He also told me that when I’m working with youth, and he’s in charge of Youth, that we need all of the leaders to be especially clear on the homosexuality views.

This Pastor also went on to say that while people may be born gay, it doesn’t mean they can act on it. He said, “I can tell you that, and this may not be true for you Bryce, but from the moment I hit puberty I have wanted to sleep with every woman that walks by me. Even as a married man that’s something I have to chose not to do.” Personally, we don’t like hearing that from a man in charge of teenagers. It was very disturbing to all of us. It paints all men in this horrible light. These disgusting words were also told, nearly verbatim, to Terra, by another Pastor. It really doesn’t feel genuine when discussions are clearly scripted.

Terra’s story is her own, but suffice to say that there NEVER should have been TWO male pastors alone with her discussing anything. You had a staff of females all around and one of them could have gone with a single male pastor to talk with Terra. Do you understand how unnerving, intimidating and inappropriate it is to have two male Pastors walk up to a 4’9” woman, without her husband present, and begin drilling her with questions? It’s inappropriate. And it wasn’t handled correctly. If someone did that to your wife, Pastor Dave, you would be LIVID.

We realize that this is a LOT of information all at once. But we just wanted to show you that this decision to leave your church is not based on a one time event. It’s not about homosexuality or your stance (or lack of) that has led us to leave… this letter has only been a highlight of the negative moments. There are many more.

But my point isn’t to tear you down.

It’s to enlighten you as to why you need to be prepared to see many more people leave if things don’t change.

People are leaving because iTown isn’t a “Come as you are” church. It’s not a church that “meets you where you are” and includes everyone. There are parameters set up that a lot of people would be shocked to learn about. I don’t think most people know that you won’t allow gay people to serve in any capacity.

This isn’t about theology. It’s not about if homosexuality is sin or not. It’s not about if you’re going to marry homosexual couples. We get that you’re not going to, and that’s fine. Who would want to be married by someone who doesn’t believe in his or her relationship? I don’t think you’ll have people insisting that YOU marry them.

I honestly don’t even think that people want to hear you say that you think homosexuality is okay. That certainly has never been our expectation. The only expectation we’ve ever had is that everyone be welcome to learn and to grow. That everyone be included in helping the church grow to reach more people.

In fact, this week Bryce posted a photo with a cross in front of a rainbow. A huge debate ensued that involved many iTown people. In response to this, Jane (mentioned above), sent me this text: “I never once asked anyone at iTown to accept me as being in love with another woman or believe the same thing I do about everything. I expected to be respected as a person. That I was not. And neither were my friends. But guess what… I walked into another church [Mercy Road] who’s leaders may very well feel that I’m sinning, but they respect me… and they even let me serve with kids!!! Unbelievable, I know. But what’s also unbelievable is seeing people in a Christian Church really loving people like Jesus did. Some of the people commenting [on the post] should check it out sometime… it’s pretty amazing to experience.” And that experience could have been had at iTown if we weren’t so focused on defining everything.

I can’t stop thinking about the story in Luke where Jesus visits with the Samaritan woman at the well. He tells her that he knows she doesn’t have a husband, but that she’s had five husbands, and that the man she’s with now isn’t her husband. And yet that didn’t stop him from using her to fulfill his purpose. She acted like an apostle and spread his word everywhere, and got the Samaritan townspeople to believe in Jesus. He didn’t ever ask her to stop her sinful behavior, he didn’t get trapped in the semantics or rules, and he didn’t condemn her from fulfilling his purpose because of this sinful lifestyle.

Jesus met her right where she was, and used her to fulfill His purpose.

The scripture even tells us “Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony.”

Because of her, many people were saved who wouldn’t have been saved otherwise.

What if all these people we aren’t allowing to serve because they are gay, are the ones who hold very important pieces of the ministry puzzle? What if their influence circle reaches in directions that yours or mine will never reach?

It’s not the semantics of the bible that I think we need to focus in on as much as we need to focus on the body of Christ. One of my favorite resources to hand out to people is “Four Teachings Of Jesus That His Followers (Almost) Never Take Seriously”, and to paraphrase:

  1. Jesus, not the Bible, is God’s living and active Word that brings life.

 

“You don’t have His word living in you, because you don’t believe the One He sent. You study the Scriptures because you think you have eternal life in them, yet they testify about Me. And you are not willing to come to Me so that you may have life.”– John 5:39-40 HCSB

 

  1. The only way to enter the Kingdom of Heaven is through DOING the will of God. 

 

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 7:21 ESV

 

“An expert in the law stood up to test Him, saying, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”“What is written in the law?” He asked him. “How do you read it?”He answered: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.“You’ve answered correctly,” He told him. “Do this and you will live.”– Luke 10: 25-28 HCSB

  1. Condemnation isn’t Jesus’ style.

I have not come to condemn the world, but to save it.” John 3:17 ESV

“Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”– John 8:11 ESV

What’s funny is that as one examines the teachings and life of Jesus, we find him not only befriending, loving, and affirming some of his societies most despised and vile people, but chastising the religious leaders who condemned them for their sin.

  1. You’re supposed to sacrifice yourself and speak words of blessings for those you disagree with the most.

“Love Your Enemies and Bless Those Who Persecute You” Matthew 5:44 ESV

Christians are called to a radical position of nonviolence and forgiveness, grace, and even blessing of our enemies. There is no way around it. And when Christians chose to ignore these clear teachings, our hypocrisy is glaringly obvious to the watching world.

We’ve been called to love. Not to judge. And that’s really, really hard sometimes, I know. But we should be striving to lean in relationally and love others. Because we can’t save others if we don’t have a relationship with them, and condemning them from the start makes a relationship impossible.

In the famous words of Mother Teresa,

“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”

We are praying for your church.

Wishing you the best of luck,

The Bundy’s

*Salvation Call – a call where you can raise your hand and commit (or recommit) your life to Jesus

*Serving- Volunteering in the church in any way

*The Grow Plan- a series of four training meetings (101, 201, 301, 401) where you are trained on how the church works, what the church believes, how the teams work, and then training for a specific team.

*Go Team- Different teams where you can serve after you completely the Grow Plan. These teams include kids, worship, hospitality, prayer, parking, greeting, ushers, etc.
*Small Group Coach – in charge of a group of small group leaders

*hub Pastor- the person who oversees the small group coaches

God, Hope, A Camaro and Fair Weather Fans

A few days ago, out of nowhere, Bryce randomly let me know that he thought it was time for him to sell his Camaro. Anyone who knows my husband knows that he loves cars, especially fast ones…. Especially this Camaro.

He bought his Camaro when we were pregnant with Mason, and was so excited to hold onto it until Mason would be old enough to have it. A father and son experience that Bryce never had with his own father, and which he unfortunately was never destined to have with Mason.

It was a cold rainy night in March when Mason died. Bryce and I were just going up to bed for the night a few minutes after midnight. I’d checked on Mason less than an hour before, and as I got ready to go to sleep, I bent over his pack n’ play bassinette in our room to kiss him goodnight. But as I touched my lips to his sweet chubby little cheeks, the chill in them told me all I needed to know… In the hour since I checked on him last, he had somehow slipped away and died. Laying right there in that sleep safe environment, on his back, with no blankets, no toys, no pillows…. Even though I’d done everything “right”… my baby died.

I stumbled backwards from the pack ‘n play screaming to Bryce, “Oh my God, the baby is dead! THE BABY IS DEAD! MASON IS DEAD!” Why I didn’t pick him up, I’ll never know… I stood there… frozen. All I could do was scream. Bryce pushed me aside and picked him up, held him to his chest, and let out a scream I have never heard before (and hope I will I never hear again), that can only be described as a primal howling- like the sound of an injured animal.

And as soon as his howling stopped, he ran out of our bedroom with Mason in his arms screaming, “I’m taking him to the doctor.” Without shoes or a coat, he jumped into his Camaro with his baby in his arms and tore out of the driveway with such speed that I was terrified I would be having a funeral for both of them.

I’ll never know what happened inside of his car that night. But what I do know is that as I ran in the house to get my phone to call my parents, I glanced down and saw the time was 12:06, and Mason’s hospital admission paperwork said they arrived at 12:08am. A drive full of roundabouts, in freezing rain, that should have taken Bryce 10 minutes or more. A drive that I’m confident Bryce survived only because God protected him in his pain and wreckless driving.

I tell you all of this, dear reader, so that you can attempt to wrap your head around Bryce’s deep-rooted painful reason for keeping the car. It’s the last place he had Mason in his arms. The last place where he had Hope. Once I got to the hospital, and he realized that Mason wasn’t there anymore, and that what we were holding and screaming over was simply an empty little vessel that had once belonged to our baby… Bryce had run out of Hope. And so had I.

When we got home in the early hours of the morning; after the police, CPS and detectives had left, Bryce got on his computer and immediately started ordering a decal for his Camaro. A decal to honor Mason, remember Mason, and something that Bryce said would “make it so we never forget.”

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The car became a bitter memory of the worst night of our lives, and the pain that can only be compared to what I imagine Hell feels like. Bryce didn’t drive it for a long time. It became quite literally a very expensive, painful memorial.

I remember Bryce continuing to tell me that we would never forget him, and looking at the decal on his car and thinking, “Are we focused on not forgetting Mason? Or are we being constantly reminded of this excrutiating pain?” It was a sentiment I kept to myself, because our grief was so new… I didn’t know what the “right” way to handle any of this was.

I think that car has held Bryce (and I) hostage to a situation where we felt utterly and completely hopeless. A car meant to be passed on to his firstborn son that will never be passed on to him is a brutal reminder of this agony on a daily basis. The sticker, once shiny and new, peels off now, as a somber reminder that it’s been nearly four years since our sweet Mason left us.

And I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that every time Bryce gets into that car he feels pain and sorrow. How could he not?

I think as people we are conditioned to attach emotions and sentiment to objects. Especially when it comes to such a taboo subject– Infant loss isn’t an easy subject to discuss. Bryce’s friends didn’t have a clue what he was going through or how to help, and even though everyone tried as best as they could to help him (to help our entire family), no one quite knew what to do. And so this Camaro memorial was supposed to provide healing… but ended up keeping us (especially Bryce) trapped in pain.

This is hard to admit—especially as a man. We aren’t supposed to be swept up in emotion. We’ve been reminded on more than occasion in sermons from our pastor, Pastor Dave, that emotions lie to you. They trick you. And to have emotions like this be so all-consuming, and so many years later, makes it feel like you’re a failure. Especially when you realize that what you thought was helpful, was actually a painful roadblock- keeping you separated from where you are and where you are supposed to be.

We don’t need to be emotionally chained to that horrible night in March. I don’t need to remember it with picture perfect clarity, detail by detail. We don’t need to remember the profound pain, the devastating heartache, the immeasurable sense of loss.

We need to remember moments.

The memories. The photos. The videos.

These moments can only be remembered when we have a heart that is content.

I’ve finally been able to separate memories from emotions. I’m finally at a place where I can write about him, talk about him, look at pictures of him, and remember him without feeling excrutiating pain. I could even write this without crying.

After years of painful, nearly constant self-questioning and endless nights of playing the “What if? Game” trying to figure out if I could have possibly intervened to save my sweet, precious baby boy, I’ve come to find that the answer is no. No, I could not have saved him, prevented it, or helped the situation in any way.

I know this because Psalm 139:16 tells us – Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before on of them came to be.

It’s a verse I’ve pondered many times over the last year, most recently with a dear friend of mine who lost her 29-year-old son just a few months ago. Every moment of our lives has already been written, the beginning and the end (and all of the moments in between) are already known to our God who planned it all.

I used to be bitter with God. If it was all a part of his plan then how could I ever love or worship or even BELIEVE in this God?? Why would this happen to me? I know that these questions are the reason Bryce was an atheist after Mason’s death… It was incomprehensible how any God could allow us to withstand this kind of pain.

Just like Job, some of us are tested in ways that seem extreme compared to the way others appear to be tested. (For those who aren’t familiar with the book of Job, here’s a summary: https://www.gci.org/bible/job/trial )

I grew up in a football obsessed, Indianapolis Colts-loving home. My dad has gone to every Colts game, with the exception of three, since the team came to Indianapolis. Through the years, I often heard my dad talking about how angry he was when “fair weather fans” would show up during a good season, hogging all the seats and calling themselves the “biggest Colts fan ever”; and then abandon the team, not buying tickets or coming to the events, during the bad seasons. I remember my dad being so incredibly frustrated with this, and telling me on more than one occasion that I should never be a fair weather fan—you stick with your team whether they are good or bad. Because that’s honor and commitment.

I can’t help but be reminded of this as I think about the times of trial in our own lives… the times where we are tested, and struggling beyond measure. Times when most people choose to “give up on God”…. When we have a need we ASK God. When we get our need fulfilled we PRAISE God. But when we don’t get what we want… we decide God isn’t worth our time? We choose not to honor our commitment to God? Seems a lot like the “fair weather fans” my dad warned me about when I was younger.

Is it fair to be excited about God only when things are going our way or when things are okay? Is it okay to walk away from God, or refuse to believe in him at all, just because things haven’t gone our way? Because we’ve experienced an all-consuming pain, immeasurable hurt, or a devastating tragedy? Isn’t this being a fair weather fan?

God’s lessons are everywhere… Whether tucked into the memories of nearly three decades of football talk from your dad, or buried in an object filled with emotions and regrets and pain that you just can’t let go.

If we could all learn to embrace the good memories, let go of the pain, and trust God, even in the bad times, we may discover the emotional freedom that we’ve long been searching for.

So, as we sell the Camaro and move on from that emotional prison, we will remember our moments with Mason. And we will thank God for them.

Over the last few weeks, scripture from the book of Galatians has been popping up everywhere for us, from the bookstore, to a coffee cup I like, to a bumper sticker on a car in front of me on the interstate, to being referenced in the church worship guide on two separate occasions…. We just can’t stop running into Galatians 6:9:

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

I don’t know that I would have learned any of these important lessons, or been able to receive any of what God has to teach me, if I hadn’t experienced the pain and hopelessness and brokenness of some of the hardest experiences of my life.

Today, I chose to remember Mason’s life, and let go of the pain..

Won’t you join me by doing this in your own lives?

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If you find yourself in need of a little hope, I encourage you to seek comfort in scripture:

But if we hope for what is still unseen by us, we wait for it with patience and composure. Romans 8:25

For whatever was thus written in former days was written for our instruction, that by endurance and the encouragement from the Scriptures we might hold fast to and cherish hope. Romans 15:4

May the God of your hope so fill you with all joy and peace in believing [through the experience of your faith] that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound and be overflowing with hope. Romans 15:3