I spent 17 years attending a UPC church, but I left and have been gone now for over a year.
I believe that God is "deprogramming" me slowly each day.
For the first 11 years I was just pretty much caught up in the emotionalism. But eventually after some years I started to look at the church and ask myself is this really the true church? And I began to see that the long hair, no jewelry, no pants, no makeup, speaking in tongues, dancing around all the time and shouting, wasn't what God was all about.
It was like this group of people claiming they had the answers and that they were the true church, but I saw no evidence as to the true teachings in the bible.
They didn't help the homeless, widows, hungry, poor, instead they focused on appearance and judged others by appearance and adherence to their beliefs.
The UPC pastors all seemed to live well, though many within their congregations are lower middle class.
And I don't know where the money went, other than to the pastor and to put up new buildings.
There never was a offering to help a church member pay for some emergency or assist them through a financial crisis. The only offerings were for gifts given to the pastor or someone else that sat on the podium with him. Maybe an offering for new carpet at the church or new A/C, something like that.
UPC churches differ from one to another. Some won't even fellowship with other churches, because they were slack concerning some holiness standard, such as hair, clothing or wearing make-up.
I wondered if as the "Body of Christ" we were really accomplishing something?
I didn't see anything.
We got people to come to our church and dragged them to the alter. We told them to repent and then they would get the Holy Ghost. But if they didn't speak in tongues we made excuses. Somehow the problem was always somewhere within them. I saw countless people go to the alter and leave disappointed. Some even felt rejected by God.
While I believe in speaking-in-tongues and that it has a role in the church, I don't think it is necessary for salvation. It's by His mercy and grace that I am saved and by nothing more.
I have seen such damage done to people by the UPC, to good people, people that really only wanted to serve God. And while I have suffered some of this damage myself, that is not why I left the church. I left because I got tired of just going and hearing the preaching, speaking-in-tongues, jumping up and down, giving my money and then going home trying to justify it all by saying I was with God.
Where was the love that God spoke of?
The love for one another and the love for those outside of the church?
Doctrine doesn't save, but love and charity last forever.
I guess my point is that I am ashamed that I wasted 17 years of my life looking holy, acting holy, but never really making a difference. I want to make a difference in people's lives by showing the love of Christ.
"My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you." John 15:12