On the Brink of Leaving Church

I’ve missed the last three weeks of church in a row. I didn’t realize how easy it was just to not go. It’s been great to have a break from the routine. But now I’m feeling a little guilty. I’ve sort of broken Hebrews 10:25 – “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” The last time I was there, one of their members asked if I was new. I was not. I had been going there for an entire year. Their people do not draw me to church.

It’s just, I don’t feel encouraged by my church, either. Take the new Sunday School program, it’s a carousel. We go round and round, from one study to the next. There may be a few ups and downs, but really it just takes us nowhere. Not only that, but the men and women tend to naturally segregate themselves into their own little groups. I’m not really excited about the prospect of just sitting there and zoning out while ladies carry on conversations about the lazy entitled youth. We did a Bible study about gifts and managed not to ask anyone what they thought that their gifts were. That’s like doing a Bible study on prayer and somehow avoid praying for the duration. It’s like doing a Bible Study by not reading the Bible. I have questions I couldn’t ask but I doubt that they could have answered them anyway. Their Bible Study program isn’t what draws me to church.

Perhaps it’s not having been raised Methodist that I still feel like it isn’t my church. I don’t understand all of what they do or why change seems to be so slow and so difficult. Then again, the problem might be with me. I was recently reading about the concept of ‘cultural commuting’ – the idea that minority cultures adapt themselves to the majority culture in which they find themselves in. My love for contemporary music puts me in the minority. The majority of my church very much enjoys it’s hymns. So I give up what I like to get along with the rest of the group. But it gets wearying to be a spectator in a room full of people singing hymns that seem so difficult. It’s not as if there’s no such thing as Methodist church that does a contemporary service – it’s just that there aren’t any in this county (and very likely in any neighboring county.) Their music certainly isn’t what draws me to church.

I thought people were supposed to go to church for the spiritual community, the Bible studies, and holy music. Are they not the common elements in all churches? I guess they are when you’re just like everyone else – but when you’re not, it’s different. It’s like being in their world but not of their world. I’ve been in their church, but I’m not of their church. I’ve been to enough churches to know that ultimately belonging is temporary. But there’s this other church, pieces of it exist in all churches.

It’s the one church – the one written about in Scripture. The one that is connected to Christ. That’s what I keep searching for. I keep hoping that it’s light will restore all the fallen churches. I keep hoping that it’s truth will free the churches enslaved by lies. I keep hoping that it’s glory will destroy the idols of authority and family that are on display for all to see. It draws me to itself even when I have every reason to walk away from every other church there is. It is what gives me peace about attending such an ill-matched church. It gives me hope that something somehow will prove beneficial. It’s what tells me to keep on seeking it everywhere I go. It’s what tells me to stick with it a little while longer – for what, I do not know. But it’s worth waiting for to find out.

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6 thoughts on “On the Brink of Leaving Church

  1. Your words of truth have touched me, I to had a experience with a corrupt priest. But I believe we all need to stay connected with others at church. And the way that you know your at the right church, is by how ur welcomed

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    • I’m so very sorry you went through that. Something about authority seems to go to their heads and hardens their hearts – the result is that they hurt people in lots of different ways. The pastor of the church where I graduated school from was sort of like that – eventually he declared that everyone who didn’t believe exactly as he told them to were heretics. Things went south after that. I find that every church is welcoming, but eventually the welcome wears out. That’s where I have most of the problems with my former churches.

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  2. Well, we are in the same boat, as you well know!

    It is wearying to constantly be in places where we don’t “fit.” My husband and I keep hoping we will find that magical church where, yes, we don’t love or agree with everything, but will feel comfortable and can grow. Sometimes we wonder if it exists, but I have faith that there has to be something at least better than where we’ve been. Here’s hoping it’s out there for us and for you too! As I pray about my own journey, I’ll be praying about yours.

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    • Sometimes it has felt like the churches wanted me to grow only so much but they just didn’t realize that God has this ‘Miracle-Gro’ touch on my heart and it feels like I’ve out-grown the container. Perhaps I’m just there to flummox them or to open their eyes to the possibilities if they just let themselves exist outside of the order and limits they have created for themselves.

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  3. Your last paragraph hit on something that you may want to give more thought to, and that is finding a church that is connected to Christ. The church that put’s Jesus at the center, and what He has already accomplished by His life, death, and resurrection, objectively, for you, is the church that has Christ at the center of it’s theology. Practice flows out of theology, in almost all cases. Where the practice leaves you hanging, you can bet the theology behind the practice has abandoned the Word of God. Evangelical churches are famous for this.

    A little research into Methodism, and where that came from, might help to explain some of what you see and experience. But eventually you will experience a famine of the Gospel, if you haven’t already, and then it will be time to move. I firmly believe that is what drives a lot of people to go from church to church. They almost all say they are looking for something. Well, that something is Jesus, and where He promises to be found; Word and Sacrament. When you take those two away, the sheep are left to fend for themselves no matter what kind of excitement (or not) goes on Sunday mornings.

    Sometimes staying away from a harmful environment is the best thing you can do for your soul, and that is not a violation of Hebrews 10:25, especially when your heart is turned toward Christ, which yours obviously is.
    Blessings!

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    • I like some elements of John Wesley’s beliefs particularly that Scripture, reason, tradition, and experience must be balanced in our interpretation and application of the Bible. But I’m not really sure I’d want to believe in John Wesley or Charles Wesley any more than I would John Calvin or Jacobus Arminius – these men all contributed to Christian thought, but they are not the end-all and be-all of Christianity. With the Southern Baptists, I saw how progressives, liberals, and moderates were thrown under the bus by the conservatives who used their power to establish their teachings their way at the cost hurting people whom Jesus loves. The Methodists are in the midst of a big conflict that threatens to split the church so it may very well be only a matter of time before the decision is made and it’s time to try to find another spiritual community. I just don’t live in a big city where there’s a variety of denominations and styles. There are four or five Southern Baptist churches for each one that belongs to all of the other denominations combined. That just leaves the internet and I’m not looking forward to that. I’d miss having conversations and debates about what we believe and why we believe it.

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...Anyway, that's just how I feel about it ... What do you think?

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