How I Left Church and Found Faith

I can’t truly define myself as a Christian. I can’t truly define myself as anything.

Raised Catholic by my dad while being brought up by a gay mother will make your head spin when it comes to deciding what’s right, what’s wrong, and what ultimately to believe in.

After being pulled in two completely opposite directions, when I was 15, I had a falling out with the Catholic church, and ultimately, my Dad, because of our differences in beliefs.

Admittedly, I don’t know a lot. I’m not what you’d call “educated” in my faith. I can’t quote a Bible verse. And when I’ve had “debates” related to religion, I fall back on my subjective beliefs.

I doubt a lot. I question everything. But at my core, in my heart, their are certain unshakable beliefs…

I believe in God, but maybe not the God your church wants me to believe in.

I believe in free will, that the decisions we make, the choices we’re faced with, and ultimately, the salvation we’re after, is a path not predetermined by fate, but chosen by me, and me alone. And while I’m faced with things that are ultimately beyond my control, I’ll always possess the power to choose.

I believe I have a purpose, but not one that’s been destined and hand-picked by the Greater Good, rather, a purpose that through my experiences, I define for myself.

I believe in equality. Something that the church often claims to promote, but in practice, defines itself by who is welcome, and maybe more importantly, who isn’t.

Faith isn’t exclusive. It can’t be. There isn’t a “right way”, there IS, and only is, “your way”.

Faith is deeply personal. It’s an internal, life-long journey toward discovering your best self. Finding your own salvation. Finding that euphoric place that some call heaven and others, enlightenment.

I, along with thousands of other people, watched the video below yesterday, and while I can’t openly admit that Jesus is in fact, my Lord and savior, the message rings true: That Jesus, or maybe in my case, personal faith as a whole, is far greater than “religion”. 

Faith has no bounds. Faith sees no end. Faith isn’t exclusive. Faith drives and defines you on a deeply personal level.

Amidst a generation that doesn’t do much talking about faith and religion, I hope my message, and the message in the video below, sparks something within, and gets you thinking about your own faith relationship. Maybe with a church in your neighborhood. Maybe with a group of friends who share similar beliefs. Maybe a blogger like me who hits a chord. Or maybe with yourself. 

What do you believe?

Can’t see the video? Click here.

Want a full transcript of the poem? Click here. | Photo credit


48 Responses
  • Rob Reply

    love it dude, so awesome. i’m reading a book called beautiful outlaw that is uplifting like this. thanks for sharing a little about your story, not easy.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Thanks buddy. I’ll have to check out that book. Would love to read/explore varied perspectives on this. Cheers!

  • Jessie Reply

    I love this – appreciate your honesty in this post. I was raised by a Jewish father and a Catholic mother, so I’ve never had any formal religious training… I’ve always believed to just be good to others and what will be will be! Maybe it’s a little hippie-like, but it’s worked for me so far! Thanks for sharing :)  

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      That’s the beauty of it, Jessie. It’s not about preaching a “right” or “wrong” way. It’s about following what works for you. Thanks for coming by!

  • Anonymous Reply

    Thank you for your post. This was brave and honest. 

    I was brought up Lutheran after my grandmother left the Catholic church after she was goosed by a priest in church. I left the Lutheran church when it appeared they were going to come out against LBGT people. I didn’t want to be part of an organization that did that. (Ironically they’ve done an about face since then.) So I went on a quest and found the Unitarian Universalist Church. Their premise is that everyone is welcome – all faiths, including atheists. It was a a strange environment to be in at first – everyone was very open and democratic. They actually encourage discussion and disagreement. We wear name tags. People say hello. We hold hands together each service. It’s a bit in your face and overwhelming at first, but then turns nice once you get used to it.
    The church has a history of social activism and was heavily involved with women’s rights, the civil rights movement and now gay rights. And many brilliant minds, including some of our country’s founding fathers have their roots in the church.But perhaps the best part of the church is that every time I go I learn something. In fact, many church members hold phds, masters degrees etc. During service they talk about Buddism, Hinduism, Christianity and science among others, equally. It has helped me on my journey to my spiritual truth.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      This is awesome! It sounds like you’ve found a great, strong direction for your faith, and that’s really what it’s all about. While I believe faith is a deeply personal and internal experience, having that journey alongside others on a similar path is certainly a great thing for support and guidance. Cheers to you, and thanks for sharing your perspective!

  • Rebecca Thorman Reply

    Great post, Matt, and I really enjoyed the video. That guy is talented.  I didn’t know all your history – I guess I missed those posts! Was interesting to me to go back and read. I am mostly agnostic – so I believe in a higher being, but not necessarily religion or God as it’s often defined. I think this is pretty common with people in our age group. I think it will be interesting to see if those beliefs hold as we grow older, settle down, and have families. History shows that young people traditionally eschew religion, but then take on their parents’ beliefs once they have kids. With the Internet, and more education, I wonder if that will stick. 

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Agreed – it will be interesting to see how things change once kids are in the mix. I think I know absolutely wont I will and will not do, but I’m sure my path and direction will change, or at least be tweaked, when a little one’s in the mix. You bring up a GREAT point, in that I think he Internet can be attributed to much of the way our generation approaches and embraces faith and religion…

  • Amelia Reply

    I am an atheist. My family never talked about religion. I was a Christian for a few years in high school and college because of peer pressure. Christianity just never  made sense to me. There are too many questions in it and nothing sounds realistic. I really enjoy being an atheist. I focus on enjoying my life to the fullest because this is the only life I have.

    I went to an atheist conference at Unitarian Universalist church. I was very impressed by that church, though I have no belief in a god.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      I think the thing I side with the most, regardless of faith or religious affiliation, is a sense of free will and above all, knowing that at the end of the day, the choices we make are our own. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Amelia.

  • Vicky Done Reply

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  • Bryon Reply

    Great post!  Life’s a journey, keep on traveling.  I grew up with a diehard Christian family.  However, what I was reading and what the church was doing didn’t exactly set to well with me.  I took about a 5-6 year sabbatical to rid myself of what the church said God was.  Let’s say it was a little refreshing and in time before I totally walked away from my faith.  I do see many things very very differently know than my family.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      I think that’s a big difference in my generation, and for future generations – we’re much more proactive about exploring our own faith, rather than settling into whatever our parents tell us is the best path. Ultimately, that has to be what faith is, an inward journey, and a path of discovery…

  • Micah Smith Reply

    In his book Velvet Elvis, Rob Bell talks about truth saying:

    “The philosopher Arthur Holmes is known for saying, ‘All truth is God’s truth.’ It is such a great statement, because what other kind of truth could there be? So as a Christian, I am free to claim the good, the true, the holy, wherever and whenever I find it. I live with the understanding that truth is bigger than any religion and the world is God’s and everything in it.”

    He goes on to say, “If it is true, if it is beautiful, if it is honorable, if it is right, then claim it. Because it is from God.” I believe there is a lot of truth in what you’re saying. Free will, equality, purpose… Those are all God’s truth.  A lot of times it’s hard to find this kind of honesty in the traditional church, but unfortunately the church usually does a really crappy job of demonstrating what redemption and grace look like. 

    Your post makes me think of another quote too… There’s a story that goes with it, usually attributed to an unnamed Harvard chaplain, but he (talking to an atheist student) says, “Tell me about the God you don’t believe in. I probably don’t believe in that God either.” 

    Just because you aren’t sure if you believe in the God the church wants you to believe in, doesn’t mean you believe in the wrong one. Whenever I dedicate time to know the God of the Bible, I’m surprised by how insanely incredible and dynamic He is… And how lame we end up making him seem sometimes.

    I’m kind of rambling I guess… But I’ve been thinking about these things for awhile, too… Only I have a little bit of a different perspective.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      I love it, Micah. Especially this: ”If it is true, if it is beautiful, if it is honorable, if it is right, then claim it…” – There is no “right” or “wrong”, there just IS. What you believe is what you believe, as long as you can have passionate faith in something, whatever that may be, that’s more than good enough…

      • Tobias Reply

        That is Philippians 4:8. You’re nearly quoting scripture without even knowing it.

        Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

        That is what bugs me about this notion of “what’s true for me.” Faith is belief. Beliefs need to be founded on something. That foundation has to meet certain requirements to be worthy of belief. If it does not, what you have is not faith, but wishful thinking.

        So, maybe it’s okay to start with a hopeful notion. Something that inspires you to do better. But ultimately, you need to examine whether it can withstand scrutiny. Not necessarily all scrutiny, perhaps. But if it crumbles when you start to examine it, be wary. I think that is the weakness with most Christian religions. The religious structure that people have built up around their Christianity really can’t stand when trials come in life. But, perhaps, if you shed as much of the religious baggage as you can, and take the bible itself as your foundation… well, it’s hard to find a truer foundation.

        I think it’s all too easy to mistake the success we may be enjoying now, as confirmation that our current belief system is the right belief system. Again, it is trials that prove the worth of your faith. When trials come, where will your “what’s true for me” faith carry you?

        CS Lewis pointed out if Jesus is not the only way, he is not any way. That is, Jesus said that no person comes to God the Father except through him. That’s either a true statement, or it’s not – there is no middle ground. It’s fun to think we can believe whatever we want, but if it’s not real (ie Truth) all we’re doing is creating a god (or cosmic force, or lack of god) of our own design.

  • Wes Hopper Reply

    I, too, have had a rocky spiritual path to get where I am today, so I really relate to your story and the video. What I’ve come to realize is that there is a transcendent spiritual dimension to life, and it has nothing to do with an old man in the sky. This puts me in the middle between the Bible thumpers and the militant atheists,  but I’ve found I have lots of company here. If consciousness is primary in the Universe, not matter, as some scientists are convincingly arguing, then we are truly all connected. That’s a spirituality I can believe in.

  • Patrick Copeland Reply

    I think religion sucks and I hate that being called a Christian has bad vibes around it. I also used to think when my pastor referred to us as “Christ Followers” that he was being cheesy, but honestly he was being more accurate. Here’s a fun article to read – http://www.esquire.com/features/best-and-brightest-2009/shane-claiborne-1209 – and if you haven’t ever read anything from Shane Claiborne, I highly recommend it (esp. The Irresistible Revolution).

    I agree with you, Matt, about free will. I believe in a God that created us in a way that let’s us choose our path. And over the years I’ve found it easier to choose to have faith in Christ rather than be a part of a religion. 

    • Kate Hall Reply

      @0fff62e7a6da5af7cab26d5f5dd2eb8a:disqus :
      “…And over the years I’ve found it easier to choose to have faith in Christ rather than be a part of a religion.”
      Ditto.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Great thoughts, Patrick – and great article you shared. I especially like this:

      “In closing, to those who have closed the door on religion — I was recently asked by a non-Christian friend if I thought he was going to hell. I said, “I hope not. It will be hard to enjoy heaven without you.” If those of us who believe in God do not believe God’s grace is big enough to save the whole world… well, we should at least pray that it is.”

      Couldn’t have said it much better. I highly doubt God is selective in his love. It’s us, who somewhere along the way, decided that faith in Him should be exclusive, and there’s something very, very wrong with that…

  • Suzanne Shaffer Reply

    Jesus said he is the WAY, the TRUTH, and the LIFE–no one comes to the Father but by Me. It’s not about religion, it’s about a relationship with Christ. Jesus said, “you will know them by their fruit”. Which basically means that you can see what people believe based on how they act toward their fellow man. However, you can’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. You just have to find the right church (not religion) that follows the principles of Jesus.

    God created us to have a free will and we all must make the ultimate choice–believe or reject belief. I hope, Matt, that you find that Jesus is the answer. Until then, and I mean this with the utmost humility and concern for you, I will pray that God guides you to the answers.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Hi Suzanne. I appreciate you coming by and sharing your perspective. More than anything, I believe that there’s multiple paths, maybe unlimited, to find the enlightenment and grace we’re looking for. Some see it in Jesus, others in Buddha’s teachings, and countless other paths to perfection. 

      That, to me, is the beauty in faith. It’s not “Christ or nothing”, but rather, whatever empowers and inspires you, and you alone. I appreciate the “concern”, but know that while I may not align with one particular religion, I’m very much secure in my faith. :)

  • Kendrick Shope Reply

    Matt, It is like you stepped into my head and pulled out so many of my struggles.  I was unlike you; I had basic/exclusive beliefs-I can quote a million Bible verses-at church every time the doors opened.    As you know having Halianna and  have opened my mind to new possibilites but it also challenged every belief I had.  I joke all the time to Blake that I have lost my religion but found my spirituality!  This was so timely for my life.  THANK YOU for sharing.  

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Thank YOU for sharing your perspective. I think what’s so great about faith, in it’s truest definition, is it has the ability to not only drive and define us internally – but has the ability to bring people, of extremely varied and diverse backgrounds, together. There is no right or wrong, there just is, in the most pure sene of the word.

  • Kendrick Shope Reply

    BTW, I have been talking to my mom so much about how I love your blog, she just signed up!

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Awesome! Now you just have to get the rest of the clan on board! :)

    • Kendrick Shope Reply

      Brother signed up as well but it was the “Saved By The Bell” reference that did it for him.  He loves that show and can still quote it today!  You all would get along well!!

      • Matt Cheuvront Reply

        I can throw down on Saved by the Bell quotes/trivia with the best of them. Bring it. 

  • Samantha (samemac) Reply

    For me, it’s a relationship more than religion. Knowing that I have free will to make stupid decisions is one thing. Knowing that I have a relationship with Someone who sweeps away all my wrongdoings with the ultimate form of forgiveness and unconditional love is completely different! Great, thought-provoking post, Matt.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Thanks, Samantha. I agree 100%. Faith is a deeply personal relationship, with Him, but more importantly, with yourself. Cheers!

  • Daniel Richard Reply

    Hey Matt. Wrote something similar to yours on faith too. Geared towards having disputes and a fallout with fellow Christians that I had for the past 2 years, but how to move on with life and walking in faith. :)

    Plug: http://thedanielrichard.com/moved-on-walk-in-faith/

  • Suzanne Shaffer Reply

    Hey Matt. If you haven’t read “The Shack” you should pick up a copy. It would be great to add to your reading list and help with your search for true and life-changing faith.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Thanks, Suzanne. I’ll have to give it a look!

  • Theresa Moretti Reply

    One of my favorite quotes from Joyce Meyer is “Jesus didn’t die so you could have a religion; he died so you could have a close, personal relationship with Him.” So true. I was raised Catholic and have run far away from all the dogma. I have a much deeper relationship and greater faith now than I ever did having “the rules” in my daily life. I love your story, and thanks for sharing this awesome video.

    And P.S., why does religion/faith/beliefs only seem to matter in election years? When this country wants to take the word “God” off our money and out of the Pledge of Allegiance, why does everyone seem to want to protect and declare religion in an election year? It’s okay to pick a candid ate that way, but then Tim Tebow gets a bunch of flack for kneeling? This country is crazy.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Love this quote, Theresa: ”Jesus didn’t die so you could have a religion; he died so you could have a close, personal relationship with Him.”

      And I agree with you re: the topic of religion becoming more prominent during election years. I think it’s brought to the forefront because of candidate’s use of religion in campaigns and in their (legal) beliefs – such as equal rights. It makes us think more critically about the separation of church and state, and how blurry that line continues to be.

  • Anonymous Reply

    “Amidst a generation that doesn’t do much talking about faith and religion”

    This is precisely why i commend you for even writing this post. I don’t believe as many of us are as quick to denounce faith as the media and academia would have us believe

    In any case, i too left the church years ago, but never, ever abandonned my faith. The belief itself and the institution are NOT one and the same. Another great post Matt – courageous, thoughtful, and with just the right personal touch!

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Thanks, Karen. I think we should be open to speaking much more freely about our faith. Being open, allowing yourself to be a little vulnerable, that’s how we enlighten others as to other views, new perspectives, fresh ideas. It’s my pleasure to share my thoughts – I hope it inspires others to do the same! :)

  • Neil Reply

    Your view is closer to where I am now that where I’ve been. I’ve often said God’s church is a great place until we bring living breathing people into it and they complicate it by trying to make God over in ‘our’ image instead of the other way around.

  • Billy Delaney Reply

    ‘Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen… The book of Hebrews… Billy

  • Kat Reply

    I really like the title of this article. Raised in a born-again christian family, my family members shared a general “intolerance” for the beliefs of others; intolerance of all the christian “cliches”: homosexuality, disdain for evolution and science, profanity, rock music…
    Although, many bring up the argument that this attitude in not reflective of all Christians, and is dependent upon the level of interpretation of the reader (of the bible), I feel that the “culture” of Christianity, generally speaking, is fairly intolerant of others, for instance consider the frequency of the word “judgement” used by Christians and the bible. 
    So, as I became an adult, and started to question more, I broke off from the Christian faith, one that I never felt very connected to. I find when I visit and talk with my family members, that I am far more open, more caring, and more loving, more compassionate for others than I ever was as a “good Christian”. And so, I feel that I didn’t really know what spirituality, nor cared, until I “left the faith”. Hence, how to the title drew me to your article.

  • A W Reply

    Love your blog Matt, especially when you get into how you broke away from the day to day monotony and started your company. Keep it up bro! Pretty good devotional I think relates to this blog post and peoples comments.

    The LORD warned Israel and Judah by every prophet and every seer, saying, “Turn from your evil ways and keep my commandments … But they would not listen, but were stubborn, as their fathers had been, who did not believe in the LORD their God. 2 Kings 17:13a-14

    I’ve never been through a hurricane.
    I’ve weathered tornadoes, forest and prairie fires, earthquakes, blizzards, and floods, but never a hurricane. That’s why I really can’t understand how a person feels when the leaders of the community or the federal government order my neighborhood to be evacuated.

    Since I don’t like the idea of sitting on my rooftop, waiting for a friendly neighbor to rescue me in his flat-bottomed duck boat, I think I would leave.

    This is more than some of the folks in Plaquemines Parish did when Hurricane Isaac hit. With a levee eight feet high and a predicted storm surge of 9 to 12 feet, getting out would have seemed like a reasonable thing to do.

    But some of those folks were stubborn, didn’t listen and ended up waiting for someone to show up and take them to safety.

    You know, it’s not just hurricane warnings which bring out the stubborn in people. I remember how some folks were stubborn and refused to go when they were ordered to leave the area around Mt. St. Helens before it blew its top. Even worse, our text from 2 Kings points out that the Lord sent prophet after prophet to His people. Again and again the Lord’s representatives called for people to repent. And what happened? What did those folks do?

    The Lord tells us what happened. He says: “But they would not listen, but were stubborn, as their fathers had been, who did not believe in the LORD their God.”

    That kind of stubbornness and refusal to listen to the Lord is not confined to the Old Testament.

    Every week The Lutheran Hour, as well as churches and congregations come together and say, “God wants to save sinners. So your salvation might be a reality, He sent His Son into this world as our Sacrifice. Through Jesus’ life, suffering, death and resurrection, all who believe on Him as Savior are redeemed.

    And what is the result?
    It is the same as it was when 2 Kings was written. About our age God can still say, “Many will not listen but are stubborn as have been those who went before them, stubborn like those who didn’t believe in the Lord their God.”

    No, many will not listen … but some will. Some will be touched by the Holy Spirit and be brought to repentance and faith. Some will be saved. And since we can’t tell who they will be, we’ll just keep telling everybody: Jesus lived, died and rose for you.

    THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, I give thanks You have called me to faith in my Savior. Now may I do all I can to share the story of salvation with those who are stubborn and don’t hear. Open their hearts and minds to the wonders of Your gracious love. In Jesus’ Name. Amen

  • Brent Reply

    Saw this posted over a year ago. Any change in your faith beliefs?

  • Ana Reply

    You say that you believe in God. Excuse me, but which God do you mean? It does not sound to me that you are talking about the God of the Bible. The God of the Bible says crystal clear that the only way to Him is Jesus, his son. You can have faith in many things, but they will not bring you to God. I agree with you on religion, much harm has been done by man-made rules and empty rituals. You can’t find God through religion. The video says the same – it’s God who finds you. And he wants you to see the truth and come to him with an open heart, because he loves you more than you can imagine. The problem is that you have to acknowledge that you can not come to God by your own means, because you live in sin (=separated from God) since you are born, and you have to accept that you need the sacrifice done by Jesus. It is not fasionable today to talk about sin and evil. And yet it is a reality in our world. But Jesus wants to set us free from that. He wants to give us real, abundant and eternal life. He wants to transform us so that we will be more and more like him. There is nothing that compares to having a personal relationship with God. Nothing.

  • Ati Aziz Reply

    I’ve only been here sporadically, and then I found this post. It echoes so much of what I’ve been ruminating in my minds in the past year it just further strengthens my conviction that I’m not alone as a young person who struggle with their own/family’s/society’s beliefs.

    It’s just that nobody talks about it. Especially more so where I come from (a Muslim country).

    The thing is, more and more these days, I’m beginning to think that it’s actually okay to talk about it.

    Thank you for putting this out to the universe!

  • Jonar Reply

    I watched the video. The guy is preaching protestant reformation theology. Its still a religion because he is siding with a particular interpretation of the bible, although he means well I hope.

    To me its not the answer. People need to individually seek God and not cling to catholic, protestant, charismatic or other religious ideas..but who am I to say anything?

    Jesus said to certain religious people ” If you were blind you would not be guilty of sin but because you claim you can see, your sin remains…

    Think about it carefully.. Claiming to have all the answers is a dangerous place to be in. Why not believe Christ is a great mystery and become like a child in your faith.

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