Book Review · Books

Once You Go In

Some memoirs you read and wonder where has this particular author has been all your life. If you have been disenfranchised by the church, dealt with spiritual abuse, or are wanting to find a different church expression then this book might be calling out to you.

Carly takes you into her homeschooled world of Northern California. She’s always felt different, wanting to belong and one day when she discovers Pine Canyon Assemblies Of God Church she thinks she may have found a place to fit in.

This book is Carly’s journey into the world of the charismatic church. Her descriptions of what the services can be like is spot on and the peer pressure to speak in tongues even when you may think the whole idea to be weird is huge. When Carly does finally speak her special language she describes the spiritual high she gets from it and how everything else in life sort of fades away when she’s in that mode.

I recall when I visited a charismatic church and there was pressure to be slain in the spirit. When the piano player timed the music a little too, planned I sensed the whole sham that I felt it was. Were church goers truly under the Holy Spirit’s power, or was it a false spirit? Is having what looks like seizures truly a move of God, or demonic? I left that service with my charismatic interest snuffed out.

This church is Pentecostal and on fire for Jesus which includes speaking in tongues, long prayers and being monitored by the leadership. It’s all in love right? Carly’s parents are believers, but not as intense as this church body is. She longs for approval and to be seen as worthy, to be as spiritual as her youth pastor’s wife, that befriends her.

When something goes terribly wrong on a mission trip Carly tries to chalk it up to her not listening to the rules for the trip. Other things happen where logically she feels the leadership is being overly legalistic. Carly wants so badly to do the right thing that she brushes off her gut reaction.

How do you know when a church is unhealthy, or spiritually abusive? How do you stand up for yourself when your spiritual leaders have you under their spell of sorts (not an actual spell)? Carly deals with these vital topics and more.

I received my complimentary digital copy of Once You Go In by Carly Gelsinger from She Writes Press, care of NetGalley. The views expressed are of my own will and mine. I commend Carly for writing so candidly about her church experience and faith journey. It’s not easy to share such personal moments. Thank you for baring your soul, so others know they aren’t alone in their journeys to find their spiritual home, whether that’s in a church or in a park.