Home Outreach Leaders Articles for Outreach & Missions A Heartbroken Missionary Writes to the American Church

A Heartbroken Missionary Writes to the American Church

authentic church

Daryl Fulp and his wife, Wanda, serve as the Directors of Hope for Home Ministries. They live in San Antonia Aguas Calientes, Guatemala, where they work with orphans. After years of taking in children—some with disabilities and life-threatening conditions—the Fulps have seen more than their fair share of heartache, but also joy. Daryl writes about the need for authentic church and life as a missionary, a believer and a father. Find out more about the Fulps’ ministry here

This one is a hard one to write. It requires me to first be very transparent about my own weakness. Then it requires me to be very transparent about the church. Neither of those are easy or popular. But this has been burning inside of me for a while now, and I no longer feel as if I have choice. So, here goes…

Learning the Importance of an Authentic Church

A couple of weeks ago I began meeting with a friend of mine, Drew Metcalf, who is an amazing Christian counselor. He works mainly with children in the orphanage setting, but he is also pretty incredible at helping broken missionaries like me. Drew had been encouraging me to get together with him to talk through the loss and trauma that I have experienced over the last seven years. And that really was a hard decision for me to make.

I grew up believing that real men suck it up and move on. We certainly don’t sit down and talk about our feelings and ask for help. But several things brought me to the point where I felt I had no choice. So, we sat down over lunch (twice) and chatted.

I spoke with him about the children we have lost. I told him of the guilt that I carry from a couple of those deaths. And I spilled my guts and told him the following:

  • I live with fear that I am going to lose another child and it will be my fault.
  • I sometimes jerk awake at night because I think a child has stopped breathing.
  • I have nightmares in which I relive the deaths over and over again.
  • I can’t walk past a sleeping child without stopping to check to make sure they are breathing.
  • My heart races when anyone speaks in an urgent tone.
  • I have flashbacks that are triggered by certain sounds and sites.

For most of my life, I knew that children sometimes die. But I always took comfort in knowing that it was rare and unlikely. But, over the last seven years, that perspective has changed. Now it seems likely that a child will die and rare that they survive. And that causes me to live with an ever-present fear. I know that is wrong and not from God. I have prayed about it and asked for healing. But the fear and guilt have remained.

Drew listened and nodded occasionally. And, when I was done, he explained that all of that was the result of trauma, and it was normal in light of my experiences. And then he explained that the only way to move past that trauma was to unpack it and address it with God’s help. We all have a tendency to run away from the things that hurt us, but the only path to healing was back through the pain.

So, that is what I have been doing. I have been unpacking and reliving the loss and trauma by talking about it with God. I have relived doing CPR and watching the life fade from children’s eyes. I have relived claiming my daughter’s body from the morgue that had been carelessly stuffed in a plastic garbage bag. I have relived the feelings of powerlessness and the overwhelming guilt of feeling responsible for death. I have told God how unable and unequipped I am to face any of it. And I have cried out to Him for the healing of my heart and mind.

And, slowly, it is coming. I am sleeping better, and I am feeling more peace. And the fear is less. And, as I continue this journey, I believe more healing will come. And that is important, because I know more wounds are on their way.

As this healing has begun, God has shown me broken areas of myself that I don’t like. And the biggest of those breaks has manifest itself in a harshness toward others that does not honor God or those He loves. It has caused me to be too condemning and to walk in the horrible sin of self-righteousness. And I was broken by that revelation.

Specifically, this broken part of me has led me to be too hard on those who do not know and understand the world in which we live. We live surrounded by death, suffering, and urgency, and I have been far too impatient with those who do live with the same.

This has caused me to say and write a lot of things that are true, but to do so with a heart of anger instead a heart of concern. That is wrong, and I am sorry.

There is an old story of a man who went to a barber shop for a haircut. The following conversation ensued:

Barber: I hear you got a new pastor at your church. What happened to the old one?
Man: Nobody liked him. He was always telling us that we are sinners on our way to hell. He kept telling us that we need to repent and know Jesus.
Barber: Well, do you like the new pastor?
Man: Oh, yeah! We love him! Great things are happening and lives are being changed!
Barber: Really? What does he preach?
Man: He preaches that we are sinners on our way to hell. He tells us that we need to repent and know Jesus.
Barber: But that sounds exactly like the old pastor!
Man: Ah, but this one says it with tears in his eyes!

God has shown me that I need to speak and write with more tears and less gritted teeth. And that is the challenge that I face. Somehow, I have to learn to share the truth of God without mixing Daryl in with it. I have to show the passion of God with love. I have to be a tender fire, while allowing others to be the same for me.

I have been asking God to show me what He would be like if He lived this life. What would He do? What would He say? What would He write on Facebook and a blog? I still don’t know what I would look like if I were truly like my Jesus, but I am sure trying to figure it out.

Let’s be honest here. I am neither a prophet or the son of one, but I know there are things that need to be said to the U.S. church. I also know that there are far better people that could say those things. But the problem is, not many are saying them. And the message is burning in my heart as I see the culture robbing the heart of the church. So, even as I feel God asking me to speak, I am asking how to do so with His heart. And I will do my best while asking you to be patient and merciful toward me when I fall short.

Face it, if we were to strip away everything we have been shown and told the authentic church is and then read scriptures without that filter…well, the church would look very, very different. The typical believer would look very, very different as well. Without realizing it, we have wrapped the culture around our faith and the church. And, in doing so, we have castrated our faith. We are not an authentic church. The church has prostituted itself to the gods of man as we submerge ourselves in the politics of earthly kingdoms instead of surrendering ourselves to the eternal Kingdom. We have invested ourselves in the answers that men have to offer instead of investing ourselves in the only true Answer. And, in many cases, we are leading people to hell while convincing them that they are on their way to heaven.

And we wonder why we don’t see revival. We wonder why the Gospel isn’t transforming our communities, cities and nations. The answer is quite simple: We are not living the true Gospel in our lives and churches. We don’t live out God’s priorities and heart. And the world is dying, both physically and spiritually.

Francis Chan gives the following analogy regarding the failure of the modern church to be the authentic church:

I sometimes feel like we’re playing a game. I almost feel like it would be like walking onto an ice skating rink and seeing a bunch of people throwing fish at little hamsters that are running around. And you walk in and you go, “What are you guys doing?” And they go, “We’re playing soccer.” And you just go, “…Oh. Where do I start with this?”

I feel like that in church sometimes! Especially Bible Belt church. I’m serious. I’m sorry, but at least in California, if we don’t believe in Jesus, we’ll say it. Here, it’s like, “Oh, yeah, I’m a Christian. You know, we all get dressed up. We don’t swear a whole lot. We don’t drink a whole lot. We come read the Bible, sing some songs, and go home, and that’s church.” And then I read the Word of God, I read the Bible, and I’m going, “I…I don’t even know where to start.”

When I read Scripture, I see a group of people that were willing to die for their faith. They gave up homes, possessions, safety, security, and family businesses to follow Jesus. And many paid for that decision with their lives. They were beaten, imprisoned, tortured and slaughtered. Yet the church grew in record numbers and the world was transformed. Why? Because they lived out the heart of God. They lived out the heart of the Gospel. They were so in love with Jesus they didn’t care about the price, no matter how high. I see an authentic church.

Today we see quite the opposite. Security and safety have become the indication of “discipleship.” When someone steps out of the pack to radically follow Jesus, the church often seeks to hold them back and encourage them to be cautious and “sensible.” Christian financial counselors teach Christian families to have three months of salary in savings and retirement plans as a basic tenet for Christian stewardship, which directly contradicts the teachings of Jesus. (I am not saying that it is absolutely wrong to have those things, but it is wrong to teach it as the responsibility of those who are good stewards.)

The world is literally dying and entering a Christ-less eternity, but do our churches’ budgets and meetings reflect that urgent need? Or do we pat ourselves on the back because 10 percent of the church’s budget goes to missions? Our we urgent about reaching the lost, or just urgent to meet our budget? Why are we unwilling to be the authentic church?

All this, and more, is the struggle and tension that I face. At times, it feels as if there are millions of drowning people in the water, and we are doing our best to rescue as many as we can. There are precious too few lifeboats and rescue workers. And those workers are exhausted, even as they continue to pull people into boats. And they cry out for more helpers and boats, but they are not coming. We can see the cruise ship, overflowing with food, space and resources. So many could be saved, but those onboard refuse. “We are already sleeping two people per cabin, and we can’t crowd ourselves further. And we have our own problems. Some of the air conditioners are broken and we only have 10 working ice machines for all these people. And climbing out of this big safe ship into those small, dangerous boats just doesn’t seem smart and safe.”

And they fail to realize that the ship they are on was designed to be a life-saving vessel. But, over time, it was gradually converted into a cruise ship and filled with those who feel entitled to comfort and safety.

We are averaging three calls a day, asking us to receive children into our homes. But our homes are completely full. And we are short staffed and overworked. So, we tell them no and those children are being sent away to government homes where neglect and abuse are rampant. And many of those children will die from a lack of proper care.

Several times a week I receive calls or messages from parts of Guatemala where we do not yet work. In each case, they tell me of children who need help, many of whom are dying. And they want us to come and help. But we don’t have the manpower or resources to go there yet.

We need more workers in Guatemala. We need more workers in Liberia. We need help. So many could be saved, and the fields are ripe. But over and over I see families called to come who turn away. They convince themselves they are not really called because it is risky. Because it is hard. Because it will cost them and their children a price. And they have bought the lie of cultural Christianity instead of being the authentic church. So many could be saved, but they are dying instead.

I am not writing these things with gritted teeth. I am actually typing this in a public place with tears in my eyes. And I am not writing just because we need more workers or money. I am writing, primarily, because I know what believers are missing. I know why they don’t feel fulfilled. I know why churches are stagnant. I know why many church-goers go to bed at night wondering if their life matters. And I know why that man and woman continue struggling with the same sin that has plagued them for years or decades. And I want to see that change. I want to see the authentic church.

I want to see mothers, fathers, and families come alive! I want to see the authentic church raising up living sacrifices that change the world! I want to see a radical generation of Christ-followers rise up in power! And, yes, I want to see lives saved and drawn to the Author of Life!

It can happen. Just start by forgetting everything you thought you knew about the church and Christianity. Jesus…and the world…are counting on you to be the authentic church.

Meanwhile, I will keep fighting for lives while unpacking my pain with God. And I will believe that Jesus will use these scars for His glory.

Because of Him!
Daryl, Wanda and the Crew

This article about the authentic church originally appeared here.

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Daryl Fulp and his wife, Wanda, serve as the Directors of Hope for Home Ministries. They live in San Antonia Aguas Calientes, Guatemala, where they work with orphans. After years of taking in children--some with disabilities and life-threatening conditions--the Fulps have seen more than their fair share of heartache, but also joy. Daryl writes about life as a missionary, a believer and a father.