Why I Stay In Church.

I walked out of church during a service with no intent to ever go back.
Once.
I was twelve, maybe thirteen. We were visiting my Grandma and she went to a church that believed in “faith healing.” The guy preached a “good” sermon (I say good because every time I hear the story I hear that it was a good sermon). He preached, he prayed, and then he started healing people. He’d call one guy up and then he started talking about him and whatever his disease was. Then he hit the guy upside the head, said some word I’ve never heard of and BAM the guy fell over. I remember my brother’s eyes got really big. Then the preacher called up another person (I think a woman this time). My mom grabbed my wrist and started pulling me towards the door.  We were Baptists and we didn’t believe in what was happening so we were leaving.

As an adult, I’ve thought about leaving the church. I’ve thought about just walking away and calling it a career.  I’m serious. My “reasons” list is long and colorful:

  1. I’ve been lied to in church
  2. I’ve been lied about in church
  3. I’ve been hurt in church
  4. I’ve had things stolen from me in church.
  5. I’ve heard some of the meanest, nastiest, most terrible things in church
  6. Some of the meanest, cruelest, nastiest people I’ve ever met have been in church.
  7. I’ve seen grieving mothers told to “just suck it up and get over it” at church.
  8. I’ve seen relationships stop because of where someone went to church
  9. I’ve seen mass emails sent out as prayer requests because of church
  10. I’ve sat through numerous gossip sessions prayer request times

I’ve tried to paint the broadest of strokes there in order to protect the innocent and the not so innocent.  After our last church, I really thought it was time to leave. There were so many problems, my wife felt used and abused and I wasn’t too far behind on her that path.  The truth is there are so many problems in the church. Right now, I have at least five friends that are all thinking about getting out of ministry completely. Not just leaving their church but leaving church completely.

Here’s the problem. They can’t. You and I can’t. Seriously, we are the church. We are this thing that gives so many of us so much trouble.. We can no more leave the church than we can leave the human race. We’re in it. We ARE it. Short of death, it’s still there. Even if I stop gathering with other believers weekly, I’m still part of the body. There is no “out clause” in Scripture. It’s a vicious circle. Railing against the church is like railing against oxygen. It just isn’t all that profitable. Now, I know it’s cool to do it now a days. I even realize that I’ve done it too often. Kary Oberbrunner is the first one to make me stop and think about how I do it.
And how God might view it.  In his book, Journey Toward Relevance he says this:

… a couple of years ago I found myself badmouthing somebody else’s girl. The first time it happened , I was sitting in a coffee shop with a few of my buddies. I didn’t intentionally bring it up, it just happened.  We somehow got on the topic of a guy we all knew. Pretty soon we started to talk about his girl and negative comments started flying.
I kind of felt bad for the guy. We all liked him; he was our friend. His girl just really annoyed the heck out of us. … I suppose degrading this girl was pleasurable because it made us feel separate from her.  …
I think the problem was that this girl was so ugly. It was an ugliness that was both internal and external. …

It went on like this for several months. In fact more people knew her than I first thought. It became an opening line to talk about this girl. I even went to parties and initially met people by communicating my distaste and shame for this girl.

Then one day I ran into her guy. It was not cool, let me tell you. I didn’t expect to see Him. I just kind of bumped into Him. He turned around and just looked me in the eye. He said to me, “Kary, why? How could you talk about her like that?”

I felt really low. I could see how much He loved her, and I could feel how much I hated her. I guess I just felt wounded by her. I felt judged by her….
pp. 58-59

That book started my healing and my wrestling. Because we have to wrestle with this animal called the church. We have to figure out how do we love the Bride of Christ when it just absolutely drives us nuts? If you haven’t read the book you should.

The problem is that I need the church. I need other believers around me. I need to be in community with those other people.  My list of things that I want to see change is long, but I’ve learned there just isn’t that much to be gained by going all “Ken Silva” about stuff I don’t like.

About two years ago a friend recommended a book where the central question of the book was/is “What if God designed marriage to make you Holy not happy?” That question changed much of my life. It also drove me to change how I view church. I’ve already talked about how I think you will be marked by regularly gathering with other believers if it is important to you. But this goes further than that. What if God designed church to
work like marriage? What if God designed church more to make us holy than he did to make us happy?  Now, hang with me here; God could have done this thing we call church any way He wanted to do it. He is God after all.

I mean He didn’t have to create church this way. He could have done it another way.  How many people in church annoy you? How many people in church are just irrelevant to your life? How many people are lying to you? How many are cheating on their spouse? How many could care less if you can’t pay your bills this month?

So why did God design it this way and why should we stay. What are some common problems in the church and how might we wrestle through them? I hope to address those questions and more over the course of the upcoming weeks.  I am going crazy busy with school, work and family right now, but I think this is important. What would happen if we looked at church more as a means to make us holy than we looked at it as a means to make us happy?

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About Joe

I am a simple guy. I live in West Michigan and have a counseling business. I also do public speaking. I'd love to hear your story.

15 thoughts on “Why I Stay In Church.

  1. Nice thought! Being in youth ministry for 20 years I have and do feel the same way. One thing that I have learned, communicate often and in different ways. I get bunched up most of the times when I hear something wrong or say something that was taken the wrong way. I look at the church body and say that someone has to be the armpit:) Be encouraged and blessed!

  2. Hey Joe…I for one have not been turned off by ‘the church’…but by organized religion and those who head such.

    Sorry I haven’t been commenting or posting lately. We were dealing with a little thing called Hurricane Ike. He was nasty to us here in the Houston texas area. we just got power back today.

  3. Its pretty messed up. Situations like these always bothers me. I can say I went through something similar between me and a sister in my church. I could even say that I grew to hate her. I soon as I realized what I was doing I fell on my knees and asked God for forgiveness. I know I’m not perfect but I don’t want to be a hypocrite either. I strive to be a christian that can love and help no matter who it is because the love of Christ compels me.

    All of these problems boiled down to this: whether believer truly trust Christ and they make it a mission to be like him through prayer and reading his word. Your words speak volumes, I pray that you don’t lose that first love due to some knuckle heads in church. Maybe a change of environment would be the answer here. Thankfully there are churches that do behave like a true bride of Christ.

  4. Hey pretty good post…Please don’t take anything I say as directed at you, but just generalities towards the church.

    The biggest problem with the church and it’s issues is that very few people DO anything about them. We sit around and talk about problems, people, pastors etc, but never go beyond that. We are the body just like you said, and that at the same time if I had a splinter in my foot wouldn’t I use my arms to help remove that splinter in my leg? Or wouldn’t I use my mouth to feed my body? Or my heart to supply blood to my body? Comon people…not directed at anyone…let’s help each other out. I am one of those people that can’t stand all the junk in the church, but I am one of the first things to help bring change.

    I work very hard at loving difficult people because it is there that I find God’s love. When I can love the unlovely I can see how God can love me…the unlovely. We are all the despised and rejected, but with Christ we are welcomed, beautiful, precious, and perfect in the sight of God. This isn’t because of anything we do, but because of who God is. The issue is that for some reason we think that we have it all together and that no one has anything to say against us…How many people in our lives would differ from that opinion? Our own spouses may despise us because of our weaknesses etc. We all have problems…not just the people who are difficult…I mean we are all difficult in our own way.

    I say all that because Jesus’ prayer for us in John was for us to dwell in unity. He longed for us to be ONE with Him as He was with the Father. If that is His prayer then it definitely is His will. Let’s choose to walk in the will of God which apparently is to love one another…Not just the lovely.

    dustin
    endurelife.com

  5. very… interesting reasons, nevermind that it has absolutely nothing to do with the faith. “in church” “at church” have you ever considered it was actualy the location not the religion? or maybe you have a problem with the way they do things in that christian sect, Either way it dosent matter the definition of christian is being a follower of christ who gives a damn about which church thinks what, salvation is with christ correct?

    well who cares what it think, heck I didnt even read the whole post. im just bored with Calculus. Im sure god intended, that only a third of the world would be saved. well who cares about everyone else who wasnt born christian. and Im sorry if this comment has made you feel bad in anyway. surely you’ll find the time to pray to god, for the strength to forgive me

  6. “What if God designed marriage to make you Holy not happy?” “What if God designed church to work like marriage? What if God designed church more to make us holy than he did to make us happy?”

    I like your analogy between marriage and the church, but I’m not sure it works for the “Holy not happy” issue.

    Given your comments about how other Christians in church have acted, it would be analogous to a spouse who also acted in unholy ways, making you miserable. So your happiness is one measure of holiness, in this case. If you couldn’t work out your differences, then you leave the marriage/church, take some time off for healing and reflection, and look for another person/community that better matches you.

  7. You know, this really struck a chord with me. I’ve been hurt a lot by church in the past few months, I’ve had a lot of people who I respected very much in the ministry walk out on me, and I’ve had a lot of false doctrine preached that I blindly accepted, and later saw the dark fruits of.

    Thanks for this blog. It’s encouraging.

  8. This is a good blog thanks, we have much to think about. I personally can testify that though I have met some bad people in church I have also met some of the greatest and most sincere friends there.

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