Searching for Church

I never thought that I would be one of “those” people, writing one of “those” articles, but here I am, having come to the conclusion that I really don’t like going to church.

Now, that isn’t to say that I don’t go to church ever. I do, but I don’t particularly enjoy it and I can easily go two or three weeks in between before I even realize that I haven’t been to church. And I don’t miss it at all.

I also hope that it goes without saying that it isn’t like I’ve walked away from my faith, just because I don’t like attending the institution that is the church. That’s not the case at all. In fact, I feel like I’m currently closer to God right now, going to church maybe once or twice a month, than I was a few years ago when I was at church every single weekend.

The main reason that I don’t feel the need to go to church and thus don’t go is that I don’t feel like I get anything out of it at all. When I’m sitting there (usually in the balcony), I feel like I’m in class, constantly checking my phone for the time, discreetly trying to scroll through Facebook or Instagram to pass the time, and occasionally taking notes if I do happen to hear something that I want to remember. And I feel guilty for it. I ask myself what’s wrong with me. Why am I not enjoying being in the house of the Lord? Why am I always so bored and half falling asleep? What does this say about me being a Christian?

For me, I think it boils down to what the church is supposed to be, and what it actually ends up being. The church I see in the Bible is a tight-knit community of believers who live life together, worshipping together in their homes, sharing meals together, studying Scripture together, discussing hard issues together, and just supporting each other in general. I see a picture of groups of people who actually know each other on a personal level and see each other more than once a week. I see a picture of people who welcome non-believers into their circles and show the genuine love of Christ to everyone they interact with on a daily basis. Most of all, I see authenticity, something that I think is profoundly lacking in the modern day church.

What I see a lot of in the modern church is people wearing masks, and that extends to other Christian communities in general, such as Christian universities. I see people who are broken inside, but force themselves to put on a mask and cover it all up in order to appear like they have it all together, like a “good Christian.” I see people who are struggling with dark things, real things, who don’t talk to anyone for fear of being judged for what they’re going through. I see people who don’t consider their Christian communities to be safe, and I feel that way a lot of the time too. How can I feel safe when everyone is trying to look like they’re perfect and when so many of my friends have been hurt by the church?

The reason that I don’t like going to church is that I want to be able to do what the early church did. I want to be able to do life with people, on my own terms. I want to open up and share my life and my struggles with people that I trust, with people that I’m close to. I don’t want to be assigned a small group by church leadership, assuming that I’m just going to pour out my soul to people who I just met, people who I don’t feel safe with.

I think that the things that made the early church great need to happen organically. As much as churches want to “facilitate” those things, the church has to realize that they can’t force it to happen. Those things come out of building relationships, something that can’t be forced.

Finally, I think that I don’t get anything out of going to church because in a sense, it enables Christians to be lazy. They come to a building to sing a few worship songs, listen to a sermon, and “be fed.” In my opinion, I think that a lot of Christians go to church because it’s easy. There’s no real effort that has to be put in. You come, you show up, and you get an ‘A’ on your Christian report card. But how many Christians have been faithfully going to church for years, or even decades, and are still stagnant?

Personally, I get so much more out of spending personal time with God rather than participating in “corporate worship.” The majority of my spiritual growth has come from reading and studying the Bible for myself on my own time, writing letters to God, and dialoguing with Christian friends that I trust, because it’s my own effort that I have to put forth. I have to want it. I have to think about what I believe, and I have to seek God for myself.

Thus, while I don’t like going to church, I love having a relationship with God. I talk with Him a lot. I cry to Him with the things in life that are hard. I get angry at Him when I feel alone and when I feel like everything is going wrong. I sing to Him and I write letters to Him, and suddenly it becomes a relationship instead of a religion, for real.

So, no, I don’t hate the church. I’m not boycotting the church. I just think that the church needs to be place of safety and love again, instead of a place for pushing political and argumentative agendas.

POPULAR AT PATHEOS Progressive Christian
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  • http://stephenmatlock.com/ stephen matlock

    When I’m sitting there (usually in the balcony), I feel like I’m in
    class, constantly checking my phone for the time, discreetly trying to
    scroll through Facebook or Instagram to pass the time, and occasionally
    taking notes if I do happen to hear something that I want to remember.

    Huh. You, too?

    I actually enjoy my church, and I make the attempt to attend weekly, but there are times when I think “What am I doing here?” — not in the sense of being surprised that I’m there, but the literal “doing” as part of my presence.

    I think there is a point when you’ve been “fed” and know enough. I have the basic facts down. I know the starting point and the ending point, according to scripture. I know the commands and the teachings, the doctrines and the disciplines. I’m not going to be surprised by a new element of revelation.

    So what am I doing in church?

    Like you point out, church is perhaps not intended for instruction anyway, even though it’s become that.

    I have no answers. But I’m not given up yet.

  • http://www.www.patheos.com/blogs/andygill/ Andy Gill

    I think for me I’m coming to find the importance that is within “ritual” and/or the repetition of discipline. I miss going to Church, to be honest… I was telling a pastor friend the other day in a revelatory moment that it’s not that I don’t want to go to Church, or that I’m against the structures and services that make up this Church, it’s that I just spent so many years trying to find it, but came up empty. I think quite possibly I’ll try again, years down the road – maybe sooner… no promises haha! But yeah, not sure where I’m going with this, always appreciate your comments though, Steve!

  • http://livingliminal.blogspot.com.au/ Living Liminal

    “I see people who don’t consider their Christian communities to be safe…”

    Mine wasn’t safe! I experienced bullying and abuse, and I was told to submit to it!

  • http://www.www.patheos.com/blogs/andygill/ Andy Gill

    Yes, this is so unfortunately the experience of far too many…

  • Barchetta123

    “The church I see in the Bible is a tight-knit community of believers who live life together, worshipping together in their homes, sharing meals together, studying Scripture together, discussing hard issues together, and just supporting each other in general. I see a picture of groups of people who actually know each other on a personal level and see each other more than once a week. I see a picture of people who welcome non-believers into their circles and show the genuine love of Christ to everyone they interact with on a daily basis. Most of all, I see authenticity, something that I think is profoundly lacking in the modern day church.”

    I’m not sure I see that at all Andy. What I picture when I think of the early church is a people who were essentially underground. Think Acts 8:1 I suppose. Out of the thousands that were in Jerusalem only the Apostles were left. So they were down to how many? A dozen more or less? The early church had to depend on each other for their very survival and they were pretty damn cautious about receiving people who were not of the way lest they were found out and perhaps killed. What a luxury we have to freely worship or, in your case, to choose to not if we so decide. Dunno bud. You sure seem to complain a lot about what everyone else is doing ( or not ) in your writing.

  • http://www.www.patheos.com/blogs/andygill/ Andy Gill

    I didn’t write this…

  • Barchetta123

    Well Andy then I guess I should apologize for two things. One for not even noticing you didn’t write that post, which there’s no excuse for, and two for my inappropriate response.