Un-Caged: A Journey Of Getting Un-F*Cked By The Church

By David Stephenson
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Trapped in a cage with no way out. Trapped by my own choices and those of others, pacing, always pacing. I see the groove I have worn into the floor by my feet traveling the same path over and over again. Never truly succeeding and beginning to feel the freedom outside of these bars was truly unreachable.

I have written this from the perspective of someone who has been involved in the church for four decades and involved in church leadership for over ten years. I have preached, prayed, led worship, evangelized, planted a church and countless more works for furthering the church's ministry, and I have begun to see a disturbing trend.

For many, church has become associated with pain, defensiveness and attack. They came to this gathering of people hoping to find a place where they could belong and feel accepted and instead have been confronted by expectations they cannot truly meet and requirements they have to continually fulfill.

Personally, I found myself constantly jumping through hoops and giving more, working harder and stretching further, all in hopes of being seen as worthy of my leaders' time and attention. The more I did, the more was asked and expected of me until I found myself in a cycle of never being able to do enough, or do it well enough, to ever truly feel like I was acceptable. I found myself in a place where shortcomings and human error were simply not tolerated, either in me or in the people we claimed to be trying to serve and help. Any perceived lack of perfection or backward movement in “mature Christian living" was met with judgment and discipline.

Literally unable to continue in this mode any longer, I was forced to step away and try to regain some semblance of normalcy and health. As I did so, I began to see just how unhealthy and wrong the situation had become and what led us to this place.

This is an attempt to answer the "why" many have asked as they also, feeling burned out and betrayed, have walked away from this organization they once had so much dedication to and vision for.

This is also an attempt, for those who are still inside the walls of the church, to ask them to look around at what they are holding in their hands and ask serious questions about what they are doing to the people around them. Is it really what Jesus meant for it to be?

About the Author

David and Nicole Stephenson and their four children spend much of their free time hiking, camping, and enjoying outdoor activities. Their children are still living at home and participate in many sports and activities including wrestling, running, gymnastics, ballet, and countless other pursuits. David and Nicole are also involved in the community working with victims of domestic violence and ensuring they receive the support and resources they and their families need to leave behind the cycle of abuse that can be so hard to break. In his professional life, David was in the navy, a pastor, a personal trainer, and is currently in law enforcement.

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Published: 2022
Page Count: 164