Kelsey Hebert grew up in the church. But instead of unity, love, and the Gospel, what church came to mean to her was judgment, gossip, and hypocrisy.
Until Kelsey was in her mid-teens, her family was constantly switching to a new church, investing time and effort into becoming a part of the body of Christ only to end up feeling on the outside of community they fought so hard to find.
“During this time of church-hopping, something happened in my early teens that changed my outlook on Christianity well into my early 20's.”
As a thirteen-year-old, Kelsey was wrongfully accused by church leaders in her town of leading a sixteen-year-old boy, someone she considered a friend, into sin. Though Kelsey was innocent, she felt judged and mistreated by others in Christian circles who had heard rumors about what happened.
“After that, school was horrible for me. I was shunned by those who knew about the scandal, because I was bad woman, a woman that led a man's eyes to wander and lust after me. I was dirty in their eyes. The guys I grew up with for the previous twelve years would not look at or talk to me. I suffered through judgment for a full year before my parents could not take it anymore, and sent me to a new school.”
After that, Kelsey wanted nothing to do with being a part of a church, because she thought that the way she had been treated is how all churches treated women. In her desire to reject the hypocrisy that had hurt her, she ended up rejecting the church altogether.
“I maintained that ‘Yes, I am a Christian. But no, I do not want to be affiliated with the church in any way, because organized religion is hypocritical. It is just a set of rules, and they are missing the point of freedom within Jesus.’"
During college, Kelsey continued to live life as she had been raised to live, avoiding many temptations that so often arise in that stage of life, but also rarely attending church, which she still viewed as oppressive and twisted.
“I never denied God. My friends knew what I believed, but I didn't stand up for what I now know is one of the most important parts of earthly life.”
God began to change Kelsey’s heart last November. She began to meet up regularly with an old friend from her childhood, whose church she had previously attended.
“Whenever we would talk, the conversation would always come back to salvation, Jesus, grace, and everything wonderful and powerful that He has done for us. I often brought up, just like I had done so many times before, that though I love Jesus, I did not love the church.”
It was during one of those talks where this friend looked her in the eye across the table and said, "You know, Kels, I know you are a Christian, but a Christian cannot grow without community."
In response, Kelsey maintained that she had her family and was doing fine. But she couldn’t shake the impact of that statement on her heart.
“It stuck with me all week long until 7:15pm that Sunday, some cold evening in March. I caved and attended Resonate, and low and behold, the sermon was about how a Christian cannot grow without community. I was floored.”
She stayed until the service was done, and then left immediately without talking to anyone. The next week, she went again, only to hear another sermon about being known in the church, not just sticking around for the sermon and then disappearing as quickly as you came.
Kelsey was floored again.
“Something was happening. After about a month of going to Resonate every week, I went to village, saw friendship and unity, and I had the realization that all my life, I have been talking about how my family is what is most important to me. I have a tattoo that says ‘ohana mua,’ which means ‘family first’ in Hawaiian. And yet, here was an entire concept of family I have been turning my back on because of wrongs done to me. How can I call myself family-oriented if I continually avoid being part of a spiritual family?”
Kelsey has struggled with trust since childhood. But slowly, the Lord has opened her eyes to a true understanding of what it means to live in community, being vulnerable and open with her brothers and sisters in Christ.
“Finding myself in a place surrounded by friends whom I love, pastors I submit to and trust, a lack of gossip, and flourishing unity is something I honestly thought I would never find in a church setting. And yet here it is, staring me in the face, hugging me when I need it, reeling me in when I want to run away. I now want to protect, serve, and promote it with all that I have and all that I am.”
Through this process, Kelsey’s community has helped her realize what it means to love the Lord. She recently went through ownership classes at Resonate Church, excited about committing to this family and being able to start serving their mission to spread the name of God in the Palouse.
“We are the church, the bride of Christ. The Church is His. When I meet with my village, or find myself surrounded with raised hands and ecstatic voices praising Jesus for His ultimate sacrifice, I feel safe and humbled. He gave His life to give me a second chance, for me to tell whomever I can of His greatness.”
Though Kelsey rejected church for many years, she couldn’t be more grateful for what God has been teaching her.
“My story is one of forgiveness. He forgave our sins while bloody, swollen, bruised, and beaten, hanging from the branches of a tree. What kind of daughter would I be if I held a grudge against a brother or sister? By running away from the church, I was selfish. But now, I am forgiven.”