19 January 2012

Leaving The Church Is Not The Answer

In 2011, did you stop attending church? Or was it just another year that you didn't darken such doors? Over the years, both Believers and non-Believers have shared with me their absence was due to hypocrites being in the church. So, what they're revealing is that something another person said or did became a great excuse for them to not go to church. Fact is, we're all hypocrites. We all say one thing and do another. At least occasionally. And some of us are bonified experts.

We're all human. We're all flawed.

However, are people being flawed the reason others are absent from churches? Hypocritical people is such an easy and lame excuse. I'm thinking there's more to it, and spending a few moments researching online yielded dozens of accounts to how people view church attendance.


Leesah Marie says here that there needs to be less judgement and more love in churches.
I think if Jesus were to come down from Heaven this moment, He’d stand outside these churches, wipe his brow in exhaustion, and say with embarrassment, “Geez, look people, I appreciate it, really I do, but I think you completely missed My point ... LOVE each other. That was what I said. Stop hating each other. Stop judging each other. Be kind and forgiving to each other because that’s what I’ve done for you, and that’s the greatest thing I taught you.” (Well maybe the Son of God wouldn’t speak in run-on sentences, but you get my point.)


And that’s why I stopped going to church every week. I can’t tolerate being around judgmental people. I can no longer make myself stand behind one line and chastise the people standing on the other side of the line. I’ve read the Bible many times, my mind is (almost) in constant prayer every moment of every day, I’ve been baptized, confirmed, AND saved, and I continue to speak to God daily. He has never told me to judge others. Yet the people who claim to be closest to God are all too often the most judgmental people I’ve ever met.

Stephen Lamb explains here how those sharing "the Word of God" use Him as their Body Guard so they can share their views which aren't always Scriptural.
Like thousands of sermons I heard growing up, the speaker opened his sermon by assuring people how bad of a preacher he was, that whatever the sermon was about came from God and not from him. It’s a brilliant set up, if you think about it. It means that people know up front that if you disagree with anything they say, you are not disagreeing with them, but with GOD. Using the phrases so familiar from my childhood, the words that provided the comfort and assurance that come from knowing you are absolutely right in everything you think, that not only is there absolute truth but that you have a complete grasp on it, the speaker that morning left no doubt that God was on his side – and you would be too, if only you weren’t so intent on rebelling against God (or him; the distinction was a little blurry by this point).

Washington Times religion editor Julia Duin writes in her book, Quitting Church, that many Christians dropout of church simply because they're burned out. She says many feel they're not getting meaningful worship, teaching, or fellowship and that they've heard all the sermons and served their congregations for years. This has produced Believers who prefer private devotions or informal home groups.
"The folks that I've interviewed who had left church were all surprised that no one ever came after them. No one asked why they were gone," Duin points out. "Businesses find out why no one wants their product anymore. Why can't churches do a little bit of asking the hard questions?"

A commenter named Freda shared here that she felt condemned at church.
My whole family is fragmented because of the harshness and corruption of the "Institute they like to call church." No love, no compassion, no peace, no joy, no understanding, fed up with seeing the backs of people's heads with no face to face conversation! No real fellowship with real relationships to form. Just talking about money and giving and "sowing a seed of faith." Too busy for me when I just needed a friend, instead I got a leader to whip me into shape with a verse or three! No edifying, just condemnation. Need a break from all of this so that I can be built up again by Jesus Himself, thank God for Jesus' ministry!

Another commenter named G. Jensen shared here that church is a reflection of society attended by people focused on money and themselves.
I have quit church because of all the small 'p' politics and masks that people wear. Church is basically just a reflection of the society in which it exists. People are focused on money and taking care of themselves first and foremost. I was once told that religion has nothing to do with how people treat each other, and have found this advice to be very true. Claiming to live by biblical principles is the easy part - the real test is to apply it in real life. Pastors are pretty much useless when it comes to conflict resolution. If you are not a major financial contributor then you mean nothing. Many pastors are very focused on their incomes and so it's the big money givers who count and they are the ones who call the shots. You see people on Sunday, but they don't really give a rip about you if you're not in their little clique.

There's over 200 posts like this. This phrase speaks volumes: You see people on Sunday, but they don't really give a rip about you if you're not in their little clique. I've felt that way before. How many others have?

There are some people who seemed to have allowed others to dictate their views on church.
I have tremendous faith, but I have no love for organized religion. Truthfully, most churches are filled with hypocrites. People who would rather go around telling others what they’re doing wrong, rather than deal with their own house.


Decent people like that write gossip blogs, they don’t stand on pulpits.


Seriously, to me, churches, synagogues, temples, any house of God, should be working with their parishioners and the community to make this world a better place. Feeding the poor, giving counsel to those in need. NOT organizing bus trips to protest Lady Gaga.

Others stopped going to church because they felt that they could learn more on their own.
I stopped going to church because I couldn't make myself go when there was nothing to learn. I knew the Bible inside out and I knew everything the preachers did. I wanted to be inspired in some way and the church totally failed to inspire me. In fact, I would often feel worse after church than before church, the reason being that I went in hopeful for a good time of fellowship and music and learning/inspiration. It didn't happen. I got more out of private Bible study at home and a walk in the bush or park.

Some have "lost their faith" or at least stopped going to church because The Church doesn't accept a sexual lifestyle when the rest of society seems to do so.
Many church principles simply don't reflect the views of young Americans. A recent study discovered that young people are more accepting of homosexuality: 63 percent of young adults believe that homosexuality should be accepted within society, versus 50 percent of adults in general. In most churches, discussing homosexuality is a taboo. "There's denial about homosexuality in the church," said Boyce Watkins, Ph.D., founder of the Your Black World Coalition. It's "even to the extreme where you have people who believe that if you pray enough, you will not be gay anymore," he adds.


We live in a society where open homosexuality is becoming common, but most in the church have yet to accept it. If God accepts us as we are, then why do some homosexuals feel unwelcome in church? Skepticism concerning church teachings about the Bible may be the reason 67 percent of young Christian adults say they don't read it.

We too often forget that prayer for those not in church is a very powerful thing.
Pray for your friend. My brother stopped going to church for a year. I asked him over and over if he would come to church with me and he always made up some lame excuse. I decided that there was nothing that I could do to change his mind (or heart), so I gave him over to God. When I began to pray for my brother everyday I began to see God work miracles in his life. When you pray for your friend, expect God to answer your request. Once you begin to see progress, keep praying. When your friend begins to open up, tell her that you are praying for her and ask her if she has any specific needs that you can pray about. If there is less of you, there is more room for God to work in and through the situation. He is faithful, so keep the faith!

Maybe the difference is as simple as our motivation for going?
So I’ve decided I’m not going to “church”- I’m going to worship. I’ve decided not to go to “church”- I’m going to serve. (Isn’t that why it’s called a “service”? Maybe we’ve turned it into a serve-us…)


What if we stopped going to church consumed with our needs (God will take care of them anyway), and started going consumed with the needs of others? What if we stopped going for what we could get, and started going for what we could give? What if we stopped going to church to fulfill an obligation, and started going to express a passion? What if we stopped going to church to sing about God, and started going to sing to Him?

Maybe we should realize that we shouldn't go to church...we should have church.
“I stopped going to church a long time ago.” I have heard that comment a lot lately from people I meet every week . Just today a lady at Safeway asked me about what I do as a pastor. I invited her to come and join us and find out. Her first comment to me was, “I have not gone to church in almost 25 years.”


I have to admit I did not have a great response, but after thinking about it for a few minutes I decided that the next time someone says to me, “I stopped going to church five years ago”, my response will be “Great, me too… I stopped going to church along time ago.”


Church is a people, not a place, not an event, and not a building. So in truth I have never really “gone” to church, it is only just recently that I came to understand the message Jesus taught me more than 2000 years ago.

Maybe we all just need a new perspective and remember that we are the church.
Sometimes the church looks like a pizza party, and sometimes it looks like a sports utility vehicle. These kinds of churches will have momentum and communion, mission and community that attract others: not to an event, but to a family. Christians and non-Christians are joining the family. Why? Because they have found a believable church, one with community and one with mission.


Don't give up on the church. Instead, start giving things away, sharing your life, and see what happens. Stop going to church, and start being the church. You'll be glad you did.

So, what about you? Have you left The Church or just a church or denomination? Did something done or not done...said or not said...force you to conclude that it was time to leave?

My simple take on this is that leaving The Church is never the answer. The "Lone Christian" cannot survive in this world. We need other Believers to encourage, motivate, challenge, pray, and fellowship with us. This is crucial.

However, leaving a church is an answer. Maybe one needs to consider leaving a denomination. The comments above are just a drop in the proverbial bucket. I cannot help but think if each of these people would find a church home that welcomed them with open arms and loved them just as they are...how different their stories could be.

What are willing to do to change your story?