Author: Dr. Monica Y. Jackson, Ph.D. | February 2015
Dr. Rob Spina was in the church, his wife left him and he’s still able to smile. Have you ever said that you would never go to church because people in the church are not different or better than people who do not go to church? Perhaps you see churchgoers doing, saying and living the same way as non-churchgoers, Monday through Saturday, after “hallelujahing” all day, and I do mean all day, on Sundays. Unfortunately, one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch, if you allow it. Everyone is fallible, some more than others. Having an unrealistic perspective or expectations of people who go to church will disappoint and discourage you every time. Chose not to be disappointed and reevaluate your expectations.
“I caution you not to give anyone power over your life, outlook or outcome.
That doesn’t allow you to move forward or live in abundance”
You may have even said that you will never return to a church because you were so wounded. Maybe there is some credence to those feelings and thoughts. However, I caution you not to give anyone power over your life, outlook or outcome. That doesn’t allow you to move forward or live in abundance. Instead, it will keep you living in scarcity – bound and lacking.
If anyone has the right to say I never want to attend church again, it would be Dr. Rob Spina. You see, he was employed at a church for many years and very close to his pastor. He served as a youth pastor and grew the children’s ministry from three to 500 children. By modern day standards, you would say that the children’s ministry was thriving and successful. However, tragedy struck and it appeared to have a domino effect on Dr. Spina’s life. First, his best friend (father) died. Three months later, his wife left him and she left with their pastor. Yes, the same pastor that Dr. Spina was friends with and served alongside. After that, the church fired him. Then, he lost his house and found himself living in a 350-square-foot garage with their three sons. The garage was not plush. There was no heater, air condition or other amenities in this small garage, only a broken bed and a microwave. Dr. Spina and his boys called this place home for two years.
As you can imagine, Dr. Spina was distraught, disheartened, discouraged, disappointed, despondent and downright depressed. During this time, he made three promises: “ I will never trust another pastor.  I will never trust another woman.  I will never go back into ministry.” Like I said earlier, he had every right to feel this way. Well, that’s just my personal opinion and I probably would have had those same feelings and more.
What’s amazing is that Dr. Spina broke every one of those promises. That should encourage, inspire and motivate anyone who is experiencing darkness. The light does and will shine again. However, you have to allow and want the light to shine and you must let your light shine. Dr. Spina regained his trust in pastors. He founded his church, Hope International (Monrovia, CA), where he served as the pastor for 22 years before passing the baton to his son in September 2014. Dr. Spina has been in ministry for more than 32 years. He has upgraded his living quarters to a 4,000-square-foot home with his wife, Tanya. He has authored five books: Breakdown or Breakthrough, The Wisdom of James, Changing Your Life by Changing the Way You Think, Better Days Ahead and Picture Perfect.
“If you decide to exercise courage and wisdom, you will not allow yourself
to breakdown anymore. Anticipate your breakthrough, alter your thoughts
about life, expect better days and look forward to a picture perfect future”
Pay close attention to the titles of those books. If you decide to exercise courage and wisdom, you will not allow yourself to breakdown anymore. Anticipate your breakthrough, alter your thoughts about life, expect better days and look forward to a picture perfect future. It’s a choice and it takes courage to move from garage mentality to a mansion mindset. “God gave us a mind to use. What comes out of the heart (thoughts and feelings) is from the mind. We will always speak what we think,” says Dr. Spina. What are you speaking? What are you thinking? During a message, Dr. Spina challenged us to take a new selfie and obtain a different picture. That is how we upgrade life. He said, “Don’t give into someone else’s picture. It keeps you from your vision.” What are you seeing? Is it time to take a new selfie?
“It didn’t look like better days would ever come, but they did!”
I just had an amazing revelation. When I met Dr. Spina, last year, I purchased Better Days Ahead and read it daily while commuting on the train to a job that I simply hated. It was one of the most unethical, challenging environments that I had ever worked in. It tested my core values and character. Thankfully, I passed the test and there were better days ahead. I am employed where the environment is truly heaven sent. It didn’t look like better days would ever come, but they did!
Let me talk about one of Dr. Spina’s sons, for a moment. When Robert was 28-years-old, he lost his wife to cancer. As a young widow, he found himself raising their two sons alone. All things truly work together for the good (Romans 8:28). If Dr. Spina had not experienced what he had, his son would not have such a great example to follow or have the strength to raise his sons after his wife died. Robert was able to endure this difficult journey because of the journey his father traveled. Speaking of cancer, please be sure to read two articles on our website, Brought Back to Life to Bring Life to Others and Food Trumps Cancer. Know that trials transform lives, make us stronger and cause us to act. Reframe the way you think about trials, regain your vision, restore your faith and revive your life.
“Trials transform lives, make us stronger and cause us to act. Reframe the way you think about trials, regain your vision, restore your faith and revive your life”
Again, don’t permit what you have seen keep you from truly seeing. I grew up in the church and saw much of what Dr. Spina experienced. I saw single members dating members, with affairs outlasting many marriages. I saw pastors leaving their wives and marrying a different church member. I saw the original wife remain faithful to the church as her husband paraded around the church hand-in-hand with his mistress. I saw members steal purses as parishioners walked to deposit their offering. I saw pastors preying on hurting women. I saw pastors rob the church. YET, I continued to serve in a church, somewhere. I’m sure some of you reading this think I am nuts, along with other Christians. These encounters probably contributed to reasons why some people do not attend a church. However, being unconnected to a Bible-based church can actually make life much more challenging. Being connected doesn’t mean life will be perfect; it will give you a stronger foundation, resources and guidance that you cannot and will not find anywhere else. It makes life better than leaning on your own understanding.
“Life’s trials and experiences have purpose outside the four walls of your home”
Over the years, I have learned to do what I’m supposed to do. I barely have enough time to keep up with myself and all of the things that I need to do, let alone worry about what others are or are not doing. Plus, I need to sweep around my own front door before I try to sweep around other doors. It doesn’t mean turn a blind eye. It means keep things in perspective and move to another church – necessary endings, as my pastor says. Yes, there are times when it’s time to move on. Sure, a church environment can be disheartening at times, but it will never get better without you contributing and adding the value that only you can bring. I would not be who or where I am today – building, inspiring and modelling excellence in the underserved – without my faith and the churches that have instilled biblical truths. Know that your life’s trials and experiences have purpose outside the four walls of your home, if you are obedient and apply the knowledge. You will be rewarded and have a new selfie, if you stay in the race, remain faithful and make it to the finish line. You never know who you will inspire and encourage along this life’s journey. Do your part and allow others to do their part. The sun will not always shine and you will experience dreary days, but you have to choose to weather the storms, in or out of a church. Choose wisely! ♦