Why I Don’t Go to Church

why i stopped going to church

I don’t really go to church services often.

When people ask why, I normally just say something like, “I dunno, I just haven’t found a good fit yet.”

Which is true, but it’s the watered down sorta, “I’m not really trying to enter into a conversation about this right now” type answer.

The real answer is I just can’t really stomach it anymore.

It exhausts me.

You know, that whole doing the same thing over, and over, and over again, when it’s not working.

I just see it pointless to remain complicit to a programmatic model that is seemingly doing more harm than it is good to the Kingdom at large.

In the same way you’d get annoyed at hour long infomercial’s selling you a “magical fruit tree” but yet clearly bears no fruit, I’m getting a bit annoyed with the church selling others a gospel that bears no witness to love.

Sometimes I strongly question whether or not we’ve created a hierarchal system in which perpetuates the lives of the privileged, while it oppresses the lives of the disenfranchised. All the while, in doing this, we’re using the humans predisposition to be desperately in need of a savior, in order that we manipulate or coerce them into our cult church.

Instead of handing people, greatly  in need of freedom, we give them a weight, a shame, and a guilt, in order that they constantly stay “in need, and in their place”. If you think about it, it’s kind of similar to abusing people, or it is exactly that.

Is this not what Jesus was against? This was part of the reason in which Jesus stormed through temple over turning tables. We’ve done a magnificent job of creating leaders, and church buildings that are just white washed tombs, but yet are filled with bones of the dead.

So in short, I’m looking else where, for alternatives that will be of better service to our world.

If I want a community of men and women that I can discuss a book in which I want little impact or change from, I’ll join a Harry Potter reading club [which actually sounds like a really good idea…].

I’m not sure what or where this is but I do know that I’m looking for a body that won’t shut out other races, and therefore (unintentionally) create an acceptable means of segregation. I’m looking for a congregation that cultivates a space in which welcomes a person no matter their economic status. I’m looking for a congregation that acknowledges the disparity between the privileged and the not-so-privileged.

In the end – I think the more logical and reasonable question is, “Why do people continue to go to these churches?”

Something’s happening.

The stage is set.

It’s our choice as to whether or not on that stage we want to present ourselves or Christ.

What about you guys? Do you still attend church? Why or why not?

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • http://dbartosik.com/ David Bartosik

    Help me see Andy from your perspective what this “programmatic model” looks like and the challenges you see with what you have observed. I caught a couple in there but it feels like there is more.

    YOU SAID: “I’m getting a little annoyed with the church selling others a gospel that bears no witness to love.”

    So in part what does love look like if that was happening? How would you know that people were bearing witness to love? What are the measurements?

    YOU SAID: “Jesus stormed through temple over turning tables. We’ve done a magnificent job of creating leaders, and church buildings that are just white washed tombs, but yet are filled with bones of the dead.”

    Im guessing you mean there are people in the church who don’t treasure christ— that think they are saved but they arent—what would you say we do with them? How do you solve this?

    YOU SAID: “If I want a community of men and women that I can discuss a book in which I want little impact or change from, I’ll join a Harry Potter reading club.”

    Feels like the depth of intellectual study doesn’t meet a standard- the community that it exists in is content with that — and you want no part in it. what would look different? How do you change it? If you were driving the train what would you encourage people to discuss? or not discuss?

    YOU SAID: “I’m not sure what or where this is but I do know that I’m looking for a body that won’t shut out other races, and therefore (unintentionally) —–I would say sometimes VERY intentionally—- create an acceptable means of segregation. I’m looking for a congregation that cultivates a space in which welcomes a person no matter their economic status. I’m looking for a congregation that acknowledges the disparity between the privileged and the not-so-privileged.”

    Though potentially the two most obvious, are race and finances the only forms of segregation? In the ideal world what does this picture look like? How do you make those two seemingly contradictory cultures work together?

    Great stuff Andy, Id love to hear more because I hear your grief but I would love to hear your heart for the positive side.

    You gave a lot of criticisms of the church that you have experienced….help me see what it would look like in a positive sense.

    Help me understand eph 3:10 from your perceptive.

    much love man, look forward to hearing from you and really really love your thoughts and would be down for a skype conversation sometime with guy on the east coast cause I would love to flesh some of this stuff out more- its refreshing to hear.

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

    Thanks for your words David, I was literally thinking the same thing as I read your questions (which are such great challenging questions) that we should probably just Skype haha, so let me know when you’re around. Shoot me an email agill23@gmail.com

  • Joel Ball

    Challenging post!

    Church attender here.

    Gatherings for Christians are very important. However, to say what a gathering “constitutes” would be erroneous. The church is not an address but people.

    I get what you are saying about the hierarchal system.

    It’s sickening. I left a denomination in which I was working towards being an ordained elder, because of it. And a lot of churches are driven by people who are more interested in feeding their ego’s then feeding the poor.

    So while church services aren’t important, discipleship does take place in community.

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

    well said Joeal, preciate you sharing.

  • http://www.janaleemiller.com/ Jana @333 Days of….

    Sometimes, but it’s harder and harder to stomach the stuff there. It feels like a show, and not genuine and more about numbers that grace and love. It’s good and it’s bad at the same time, getting orphans in Africa out of orphanages but yuck to needing to start church franchises all over the world. I’m still trying to figure out where I need to be.

  • John Prickett

    ONE answer (I am sure there are MANY of course…some of which are based on good and beneficial reasons/motivations and some of which certainly are not) I would like to give to your question “Why do people continue to go to these churches?” is that a lot of people have not had the same bad, negative, and hurtful experiences that you have had in those Church settings but have had experiences that are encouraging, life-transforming (for the better), and God honoring. So maybe to put it more simply…because they want to, like to, and enjoy the people they go with. They enjoy the community of which they are a part.

    Also, I could be misreading your article, but from the sound of what you are saying above and the fairly broad-sweeping generalizations you make regarding the “church”, The Harbor is squarely lumped in with these “churches” of which you speak that is doing more harm than good in the Kingdom. So as a result, The Harbor is a white washed tomb and I am dead bones along with the others who are a part of our community. Personally, I don’t think we have a bunch of dead bones in our community at The Harbor. And furthermore, when I live my life with a desire to walk with my Father and know His voice (John 10) I certainly don’t feel like a heap of dead bones. Just sharing from my perspective as a pastor of one of these churches that you write about above that is apparently a “white washed tomb” full of “dead bones.”

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

    Hey John, I was excited to see you comment (and then I read it, lol). I can see how you felt as if this is coming out of my own personal bad experience… Though it’s not. I can also see how you felt personally attacked as a pastor within a church. I did generalize and honestly man I just want to apologize if I hurt you that was not my intention at all…

    I do want to clarify a couple things: (1) I actually have had very good experiences in Churches, in regards to having, what you label as “encouraging, life-transforming, ‘God honoring'” experiences… Though to be fair using your wording, those are also very broad sweeping generalized statements in which across churches and denominations mean very different things. So in terms of what I think america generalizes as good experiences as opposed to spirit-filled experiences, mine were good. (2) When you said, “So maybe to put it more simply… because they want to, like to, and enjoy the people they go with.” I feel this is speaking into my point… that being, “It’s predominantly all about us in the American Church.” Though again, your statement is broad and general and can mean many things… (3) Going back to the “broad-sweeping generalizations” – I know you are smart guy, I know you’re familiar with using broad sweeping generalizations as a means of hyperbole – a rhetoric device in which I used to evoke conviction (I guess it worked?). In fact this is used through out both the OT and NT, Jesus being the who most famously used it, referring to religious leaders of course. (4) I don’t think any religious leader Jesus was referring to felt like he was a “White washed tomb” in fact – i’m lead to believe that Jesus speaking with such harsh analogical hyperbole is part of what lead these religious leaders to get so angry and team up against Him.

    Having said all of that, we are clearly in disagreement, which is very surprising to me honestly.

    I am passionate about helping the poor, being a voice for the voiceless, and seeking out equality, liberation, and freedom for all. I know in doing this, people will be offended, and feelings might get hurt (though that is still yet never my intention to offend or hurt – i just know this is a repercussion) I hope you can understand but if not, for this I will not apologize.

  • John Prickett

    I genuinely got a LOL out of that first sentence of yours in response! Sorry that you didn’t find the feedback more encouraging. The first
    part was actually a legitimate attempt at one answer to the question you posed although it would seem that it wasn’t the sort of answer you were looking for.

    And just a heads up for the second part…definitely no worries or need to apologize, I was not hurt or offended in any way. You were just sharing your heart! I check in regularly with the Lord about the topics you have addressed in your article and so I’m pretty secure in my relationship with Him regarding those areas. I guess I just wanted to clarify whether or not you saw myself and those I pastor as among those in the white washed tomb and dead bones category. Which it sounds like we are. I personally think Jesus would NOT see the Harbor as either of those…but again, as you mentioned, those who Jesus was rebuking didn’t see themselves that way either. So I guess maybe we are and I’ll need to seek Him a little more about it.

    Also, thanks for your thoughtful response, by the way. I really appreciate it. It stirred my thinking about some good stuff. And just
    to be clear, I wasn’t trying to be antagonistic or anything and nothing I wrote was coming from a place of anger or frustration. I don’t necessarily find the things you write all that convicting per se but I do find them thought provoking and helpful for self-examination.
    One of my favorite profs taught me the importance of learning from those who are critiquing me or the people to which I belong. That I shouldn’t despise them or get defensive but rather I should be thankful because they are doing the hard work of helping evaluate my blind spots. He also cautioned that we didn’t need to necessarily agree with their answers or solutions, but that we should always at least be open to receiving the insights from those who are examining our own blind spots. So yes, I would say that I think we do probably disagree about a lot of things as you mentioned (which doesn’t
    actually surprise me all that much) but that is fine and I appreciate the way I can learn about potential blind spots in my thinking/action. I’m glad to learn from the ways you are critiquing and thinking through the ways the Church in America (of which I certainly belong to) is not representing its bridegroom and Father well. I just find I don’t think I usually agree with your end results, but that doesn’t mean I’m not thankful for the process, journey you are on, and some of your insights. Despite being called a heap of dead bones in the process ;)

    Oh one other thing…did my response cause you to de-friend me
    on facebook?? I enjoy following your stuff but it appears we are no longer facebook friends. And oh yeah, I was especially thankful for your last section about the things that you are unapologetically passionate about and feel called to speak out about. Good stuff :)

  • John Prickett

    And I guess I never answered the questions you ended the article with. Yes, I still attend church. For a number of reasons but one is because the Lord consistently meets me week after week in that context and as a result it is one means of grace that God uses to help me walk out bringing the Kingdom of God wherever I go in the rest of my life.

  • BR

    I still attend. My heart isn’t 100% in it anymore. I feel disconnected. I enjoy seeing the very few people I could actually call “friends.” I love God. I love Jesus. I love the worship music. The people? Not so much. It’s a fashion show. It’s a “look at my MK watch; my Dooney & bag Burke; I’m such an awesome singer/musician/[insert musical instrument] player.” I want to find a new church that fullfills me. I can’t even verbalized to anyone that I’m Christian. I don’t believe a person has to attend church to be a Christian, anyway.

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

    BR thanks for sharing, I’m sorry to hear this has been your experience, I agree with you, to attend a church service you definitely do not have to be a Christian :)

  • Jb

    Which churches specifically are you talking about? Because you certainly cant be talking about the thousands upon thousands across the nation of different styles, people, structure, services. It seems like youve had a bad experience with a small amount of a certain style and feel qualified to condemned the whole. Either way, after seeing a post like this, I would never have you come speak to my church, filled with “these people who still go to church” you are so befuddled by. You dont attend church, that is, unless you are speaking that week.

  • Erin Crocker

    Hey Andy, I really feel ya on this post. I’m currently looking for a church to attend in my area…..it’s just a dragging and laborious process. While one mega church just makes me feel as if I’m going through the motions with its mediocre preaching but expensive worship equipment, there’s the hipster church that really challenges students but can also be hard to follow with its too folk worship and style. I’m going through a lot of spiritual and family problems….and quite frankly, I just don’t find comfort or anything I need at the ol church house.

  • Janet

    Churches like that do exist! I have seen them. I go to one. Full of real people who spend very little time online. They care a whole lot about the people in their community. They’re more comfortable with a teen mom than a successful business professional. It’s not the least bit trendy. It’s more of a family than a tribe. It’s upside-down. It’s the church.
    Perhaps you “do” church rather than “attend” one? :)

  • http://littlebooklet.tumblr.com/ Kelsey F

    I had a conversation with my field ed pastor this week, who said that she sees future worshiping communities forming in response to people gathering to do justice work in their communities, in contrast to the way things are now, where people gather to worship and then try to fit in some sort of “outreach.” The more I think about it, the more it seems that this seems like it might be one of the only viable models for church as we move forward. What’s important is the community of people who gather together with a common vision and purpose as the body of Christ – and it just so happens that they meet together on Sundays also to join together in worship of the God who empowers them to go out into the world to be the hands and feet of God’s Son.

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

    wow – really well said Kelsey. I think it’s exciting to see and hear about other people and leaders gathering for change, moving towards not only justice but with a common vision and purpose as the body of christ!

  • Rick Henderson

    Hey Andy,

    I’m a pastor at a church in one of the top 25 cities to live in, in America. The average income in my community is $98k a year. My community is number 1 in:
    -plastic surgery
    -teen suicide (2x that of the #2 state)
    -antidepressant use by women
    -online porn subscription

    Sounds like a shallow place, right? I should let you in on the fact that we are in Utah. In our church we have former and active polygamists. Imagine what it’s like counseling a polygamist on marriage after he chooses to follow Jesus! We have former and active LGBTQ folks. We have a lot of former strippers and a thriving ministry to strippers that is led by former strippers. We have many, many former LDS folks who now follow Jesus. And we have many current LDS folks who are considering losing much to give their lives to Jesus.

    When an LDS person gets baptized here, it’s normal to face real persecution. People lose jobs or pay or bonuses. Families will disown you and sometimes even hold a funeral for you. This is no joke.

    I could go on and on with stories that would blow your mind. Today, I’m putting the finishing touches on my message, but we have so many people getting baptized that I don’t know that I will have time to preach. That’s not hyperbole.

    Oh, and we are a multi-site, mega church. I’m 35 and still like to think of myself as young. I grew up in a waste of time, judgmental, mean and boring church culture. So, I think I get it. Yet, perpetuating a negative attitude about “the church” at large does nothing but harm.

    There are big, big problems. There are too many local churches that seem focused on anything and everything but the Gospel. Here’s the deal. You have influence. If you have over 6k followers on Twitter and well read blog, you have influence. How do you want to invest it?

    If I maligned my wife on my social media or from the stage, I would lose all credibility. Pastors, church leaders and Christian voices never seem to lose credibility when speaking cavalierly about Jesus’ bride.

    I’d like to invite you spend time in churches like mine before continuing this conversation publicly. I’d love for you to come to my church. I can’t afford to fly you out, otherwise I would. But I’ll take care of all your accommodations and food.

    I’m easy to reach: rick.henderson@smccutah.org

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

    I feel a better analogy or comparison is if someone stole your families last name. A name in which your fathers, and fathers father, and fathers father father had built up, sacrificed for and died for… and this person who stole your last name, your families identity, began to do terrible things with the authority of your last name behind his actions… Doing things in which are the opposite of what your fathers have taught, causing a stir of people in your family to walk away from their family and isolate themselves alone and unsure of everything.

    In the same way this person isn’t a Henderson just because he calls himself a Henderson, a church is not a Church or a person is not a Christian just because they call themselves and/or recognize themselves as a church or as a Christian.

    Your wife is clearly your wife – Just because I interrupt your life, and correct you and say, actually “I’m your wife” simply would not be true, it would be rather absurd. Once again in the same way, its jus as absurd for many american churches to say they are actually “churches”.

    So in short I don’t “malign” the bride of christ on social media, neither am I “speaking cavalierly about Jesus’ bride”. I say this simply because the American church is not the church, let alone the bride of Christ’s. Does this mean all churches that are located in America? Of course not. There are many amazing Churches. But recognize the use of hyperbole as a means to simply get my point across and cause conviction.

    The numbers speak for themselves, the American church is dying, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I think most american pastors are so far blinded, and deafened by their own sickness that even if they had the hand of God write on their bedroom wall “the american church is not the church” they would still remain dumbfounded at blog posts such as these…

    Whoever has ears, let them hear…

    (this post i wrote a week ago might better help fill in any gaps I missed http://www.patheos.com/blogs/andygill/reformation-the-american-church/)

  • Rick Henderson

    Hey Andy,

    First, thanks for taking the time to reply to my comment. I have accidentally written some stuff that went viral. I know that there is a great weight of thought and passion behind each post. In the blogosphere, clarity sometimes gives way to brevity. And I know that the desire to respond to each person often exceeds our capacity to do so. So, thank you for taking the time to respond to me.

    Our choice of analogies reveal our starting points. I can yield to yours if it is applied to a church whose pastor is a false teacher and is built on a false gospel. That seems to be your estimation. To apply this so broadly is a difficult step I can’t justify taking.

    I read your other article and it did fill in some gaps, but left too many others exposed and wanting. You are a thinker. You are a provocative and compelling voice. And I think you care. But I believe that something is missing. That something is clarity.

    How are your readers supposed to identify hyperbole when there are not contextual clues to warrant such? I get the “American Church” does not mean all churches. The difficulty is that church or the ideal is never defined. Plus, your article reads as though you can’t find a church worth joining. It would feel a lot more like hyperbole if you eventually found a church after much searching.

    This an ongoing frustration I have with this kind of conversation. Church in general is critiqued without ever critically engaging particular churches. I should wrap this up. I half-heartedly apologize for the length of this comment. Allow me another analogy.

    What if I taught a series of sermons on marriage? What if those sermons only talked about misguided, frustrated, unhappy marriages? What if I said, “There are some marriages that are good, but most are false marriages. We are ready for those marriages to sink!” What if I did all that and I never offered help to those in hurting marriages? What if I did all that never clearly articulated why some marriages are false and some thrive?

    This is my frustration with this kind of conversation. It’s easy to express appropriate anger and disappointment. Eventually we have to be helpful and hopeful (in the manner that Jesus was). We have to offer doable steps toward the Gospel life.

    It’s OK to leave a kind of or set of churches. I did. But if we are going to lead people to do that we must celebrate and lead people to the churches that are good. Your post, as it stands, only goes half way. Most public conversations like this seem only to go half way.

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

    I think the question is how was Jesus helpful and hopeful? The pharisees (which I am NOT calling you a pharisee, so please don’t hear that) were the one’s who felt Jesus was crazy, one-sided, demon possessed man who lacked credibility.

    I stray away from definitions, and 3-12 step “how to” processes because i think we have enough of that… so much so that we’ve become this “moralistic deism” based on do’s and don’ts.

    In regards to clarity – I think both of us feel as if the other might lack clarity…

    What I’m calling for is reformation. In order for radical change to happen there must be radical words spoken. Though I am not here to please man, but God, I still would love to continue this conversation with you – if you have time next week or even this weekend I’d love to chat via Skype or phone, anyways Rick I’m truly thankful for this conversation, I hope we can keep it going as I feel that is the other half of this blog post and my personal way of “engaging particular churches”.

  • Rick Henderson

    Andy,

    I’d love to skype or share a phone call with you. Just email me at your convenience, rick.henderson@smccutah.org

    Depending on the day, you might be right to call me a pharisee. I’m at the same time a grace addict and recovering pharisee. If you are correct that this is a time of reformation, I certainly don’t want to play the part of Erasmus.

    Jesus was helpful and hopeful in the sense that his “yoke (teaching) was easy and his burden was light.” I think the Apostles continued this as they penned the N.T. The Gospel life is doable. It brings joy and freedom to the believer, not burdens with each act of obedience.

    I’ll grant you, his tone was clearly not helpful and hopeful when talking to most pharisees.

    I’d love to unpack those thoughts further when/if we are able to talk.

  • Rick Henderson

    Hey Andy,

    I’m a pastor at a church in one of the top 25 cities to live in, in America. The average income in my community is $98k a year. My community is number 1 in:
    -plastic surgery
    -teen suicide (2x that of the #2 state)
    -antidepressant use by women
    -online porn subscription

    Sounds like a shallow place, right? I should let you in on the fact that we are in Utah. In our church we have former and active polygamists. Imagine what it’s like counseling a polygamist on marriage after he chooses to follow Jesus! We have former and active LGBTQ folks. We have a lot of former strippers and a thriving ministry to strippers that is led by former strippers. We have many, many former LDS folks who now follow Jesus. And we have many current LDS folks who are considering losing much to give their lives to Jesus.

    When an LDS person gets baptized here, it’s normal to face real persecution. People lose jobs or pay or bonuses. Families will disown you and sometimes even hold a funeral for you. This is no joke.

    I could go on and on with stories that would blow your mind. Today, I’m putting the finishing touches on my message, but we have so many people getting baptized that I don’t know that I will have time to preach. That’s not hyperbole.

    Oh, and we are a multi-site, mega church. I’m 35 and still like to think of myself as young. I grew up in a waste of time, judgmental, mean and boring church culture. So, I think I get it. Yet, perpetuating a negative attitude about “the church” at large does nothing but harm.

    There are big, big problems. There are too many local churches that seem focused on anything and everything but the Gospel. Here’s the deal. You have influence. If you have over 6k followers on Twitter and well read blog, you have influence. How do you want to invest it?

    If I maligned my wife on my social media or from the stage, I would lose all credibility. Pastors, church leaders and Christian voices never seem to lose credibility when speaking cavalierly about Jesus’ bride.

    I’d like to invite you spend time in churches like mine before continuing this conversation publicly. I’d love for you to come to my church. I can’t afford to fly you out, otherwise I would. But I’ll take care of all your accommodations and food.

    I’m easy to reach: rick.henderson@smccutah.org

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

    I feel a better analogy or comparison is if someone stole your families last name. A name in which your fathers, and fathers father, and fathers father father had built up, sacrificed for and died for… and this person who stole your last name, your families identity, began to do terrible things with the authority of your last name behind his actions… Doing things in which are the opposite of what your fathers have taught, causing a stir of people in your family to walk away from their family and isolate themselves alone and unsure of everything.

    In the same way this person isn’t a Henderson just because he calls himself a Henderson, a church is not a Church or a person is not a Christian just because they call themselves and/or recognize themselves as a church or as a Christian.

    Your wife is clearly your wife – Just because I interrupt your life, and correct you and say, actually “I’m your wife” simply would not be true, it would be rather absurd. Once again in the same way, its jus as absurd for many american churches to say they are actually “churches”.

    So in short I don’t “malign” the bride of christ on social media, neither am I “speaking cavalierly about Jesus’ bride”. I say this simply because the American church is not the church, let alone the bride of Christ’s. Does this mean all churches that are located in America? Of course not. There are many amazing Churches. But recognize the use of hyperbole as a means to simply get my point across and cause conviction.

    The numbers speak for themselves, the American church is dying, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I think most american pastors are so far blinded, and deafened by their own sickness that even if they had the hand of God write on their bedroom wall “the american church is not the church” they would still remain dumbfounded at blog posts such as these…

    Whoever has ears, let them hear…

    (this post i wrote a week ago might better help fill in any gaps I missed http://www.patheos.com/blogs/andygill/reformation-the-american-church/)

  • Rick Henderson

    Hey Andy,

    First, thanks for taking the time to reply to my comment. I have accidentally written some stuff that went viral. I know that there is a great weight of thought and passion behind each post. In the blogosphere, clarity sometimes gives way to brevity. And I know that the desire to respond to each person often exceeds our capacity to do so. So, thank you for taking the time to respond to me.

    Our choice of analogies reveal our starting points. I can yield to yours if it is applied to a church whose pastor is a false teacher and is built on a false gospel. That seems to be your estimation. To apply this so broadly is a difficult step I can’t justify taking.

    I read your other article and it did fill in some gaps, but left too many others exposed and wanting. You are a thinker. You are a provocative and compelling voice. And I think you care. But I believe that something is missing. That something is clarity.

    How are your readers supposed to identify hyperbole when there are not contextual clues to warrant such? I get the “American Church” does not mean all churches. The difficulty is that church or the ideal is never defined. Plus, your article reads as though you can’t find a church worth joining. It would feel a lot more like hyperbole if you eventually found a church after much searching.

    This an ongoing frustration I have with this kind of conversation. Church in general is critiqued without ever critically engaging particular churches. I should wrap this up. I half-heartedly apologize for the length of this comment. Allow me another analogy.

    What if I taught a series of sermons on marriage? What if those sermons only talked about misguided, frustrated, unhappy marriages? What if I said, “There are some marriages that are good, but most are false marriages. We are ready for those marriages to sink!” What if I did all that and I never offered help to those in hurting marriages? What if I did all that never clearly articulated why some marriages are false and some thrive?

    This is my frustration with this kind of conversation. It’s easy to express appropriate anger and disappointment. Eventually we have to be helpful and hopeful (in the manner that Jesus was). We have to offer doable steps toward the Gospel life.

    It’s OK to leave a kind of or set of churches. I did. But if we are going to lead people to do that we must celebrate and lead people to the churches that are good. Your post, as it stands, only goes half way. Most public conversations like this seem only to go half way.

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

    I think the question is how was Jesus helpful and hopeful? The pharisees (which I am NOT calling you a pharisee, so please don’t hear that) were the one’s who felt Jesus was crazy, one-sided, demon possessed man who lacked credibility.

    I stray away from definitions, and 3-12 step “how to” processes because i think we have enough of that… so much so that we’ve become this “moralistic deism” based on do’s and don’ts.

    In regards to clarity – I think both of us feel as if the other might lack clarity…

    What I’m calling for is reformation. In order for radical change to happen there must be radical words spoken. Though I am not here to please man, but God, I still would love to continue this conversation with you – if you have time next week or even this weekend I’d love to chat via Skype or phone, anyways Rick I’m truly thankful for this conversation, I hope we can keep it going as I feel that is the other half of this blog post and my personal way of “engaging particular churches”.

  • Rick Henderson

    Andy,

    I’d love to skype or share a phone call with you. Just email me at your convenience, rick.henderson@smccutah.org

    Depending on the day, you might be right to call me a pharisee. I’m at the same time a grace addict and recovering pharisee. If you are correct that this is a time of reformation, I certainly don’t want to play the part of Erasmus.

    Jesus was helpful and hopeful in the sense that his “yoke (teaching) was easy and his burden was light.” I think the Apostles continued this as they penned the N.T. The Gospel life is doable. It brings joy and freedom to the believer, not burdens with each act of obedience.

    I’ll grant you, his tone was clearly not helpful and hopeful when talking to most pharisees.

    I’d love to unpack those thoughts further when/if we are able to talk.

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

    wow – really well said Kelsey. I think it’s exciting to see and hear about other people and leaders gathering for change, moving towards not only justice but with a common vision and purpose as the body of christ!

  • Joe P.

    Christians are called to be a part of a local body. A Christian can no more thrive outside of that fellowship than can my foot or hand long separated from my body. That said, when a small number of Christians in Dublin found that the local churches had strayed to far from the Word of God to attend, they met together and broke bread. That was the foundation of what has become known as the Plymouth Brethren. God may not be calling you to join a church, but He does call us to “assemble together”. Perhaps there are others that you can meet with. Break bread. Study the Bible with. Who knows what can happen?

  • Byron

    Fantastic point Joe!

  • Joe P.

    Christians are called to be a part of a local body. A Christian can no more thrive outside of that fellowship than can my foot or hand long separated from my body. That said, when a small number of Christians in Dublin found that the local churches had strayed to far from the Word of God to attend, they met together and broke bread. That was the foundation of what has become known as the Plymouth Brethren. God may not be calling you to join a church, but He does call us to “assemble together”. Perhaps there are others that you can meet with. Break bread. Study the Bible with. Who knows what can happen?

  • John Prickett

    I genuinely got a LOL out of that first sentence of yours in response! Sorry that you didn’t find the feedback more encouraging. The first
    part was actually a legitimate attempt at one answer to the question you posed although it would seem that it wasn’t the sort of answer you were looking for.

    And just a heads up for the second part…definitely no worries or need to apologize, I was not hurt or offended in any way. You were just sharing your heart! I check in regularly with the Lord about the topics you have addressed in your article and so I’m pretty secure in my relationship with Him regarding those areas. I guess I just wanted to clarify whether or not you saw myself and those I pastor as among those in the white washed tomb and dead bones category. Which it sounds like we are. I personally think Jesus would NOT see the Harbor as either of those…but again, as you mentioned, those who Jesus was rebuking didn’t see themselves that way either. So I guess maybe we are and I’ll need to seek Him a little more about it.

    Also, thanks for your thoughtful response, by the way. I really appreciate it. It stirred my thinking about some good stuff. And just
    to be clear, I wasn’t trying to be antagonistic or anything and nothing I wrote was coming from a place of anger or frustration. I don’t necessarily find the things you write all that convicting per se but I do find them thought provoking and helpful for self-examination.
    One of my favorite profs taught me the importance of learning from those who are critiquing me or the people to which I belong. That I shouldn’t despise them or get defensive but rather I should be thankful because they are doing the hard work of helping evaluate my blind spots. He also cautioned that we didn’t need to necessarily agree with their answers or solutions, but that we should always at least be open to receiving the insights from those who are examining our own blind spots. So yes, I would say that I think we do probably disagree about a lot of things as you mentioned (which doesn’t
    actually surprise me all that much) but that is fine and I appreciate the way I can learn about potential blind spots in my thinking/action. I’m glad to learn from the ways you are critiquing and thinking through the ways the Church in America (of which I certainly belong to) is not representing its bridegroom and Father well. I just find I don’t think I usually agree with your end results, but that doesn’t mean I’m not thankful for the process, journey you are on, and some of your insights. Despite being called a heap of dead bones in the process ;)

    Oh one other thing…did my response cause you to de-friend me
    on facebook?? I enjoy following your stuff but it appears we are no longer facebook friends. And oh yeah, I was especially thankful for your last section about the things that you are unapologetically passionate about and feel called to speak out about. Good stuff :)

  • John Prickett

    And I guess I never answered the questions you ended the article with. Yes, I still attend church. For a number of reasons but one is because the Lord consistently meets me week after week in that context and as a result it is one means of grace that God uses to help me walk out bringing the Kingdom of God wherever I go in the rest of my life.

  • Deepak

    I remember having a conversation with a friend recently about this. Her woes were similar. At first, I sympathized with her.

    But the more I thought about it, I realized that there were some new forms of seeing the church as a place to serve her needs than a place for her to meet God and serve the needs of others.

    She shared much about how she gets fellowship with her soccer club, she can hear a sermon online, she receives much good teaching at seminary, she enjoys nature, she can serve the homeless at a mission, so why a church?

    I wish I had answers to tell her then, as I have some answers for you now.

    None of us can enjoy communion on our own. The Lord’s body and blood are given to the community to be enjoyed within the community. If anything, I would say that the only reason why we should go to church is because we cannot do communion on our own. Sadly, there are many other things we can do within the Christian faith on our own in these days, even though we aren’t reaping the full benefits of it by doing it with community. Communion however is not one of those things. It just cannot be done by oneself. By practice, it needs a symbolic mediator to give the church-goer a piece of bread and a sip of wine/grape juice.

    None of us can serve the church outside of a church. (this is of course barring those bitter church-goers who nobody will miss when they leave). As Christians we are of course called to serve and minister to the lost. But we are also called to serve and minister to our brothers and sisters in the faith. Paul’s “one an another” commands are virtually impossible outside of a church setting. And where else to find a place to serve in a church than a church that we hate being at! It’s like marriage in it’s finest glory, to be sanctified by the very people we are tired of, and yet be a servant to them. Of course we aren’t going to enjoy it. Who said discipleship was supposed to be easy? Who said discipling others was going to be easy either?

    I can see your reasons to not go to a church, or going to a church occasionally. But I wonder if you truly are placing Christ and his body and blood in the center of your thought-processes, or even your despicable Christian brothers and sisters in the cetner of your thought-processes.

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

    attending a sunday morning program is not “church” – this construct we’ve made sacrosanct is no where to be found in the text. So to say the only reason why we should go to church is because we cannot do communion on our own is simply to imply that true Christian community cannot be found else where, and that it is only found in a building at 10:30am on a Sunday morning. Once again, the bible never speaks of Sunday morning, programmatic structural rundowns to be “church”. One cannot be, as you say, “outside of a church setting” when they are themselves the incarnation of the church. The church is us as people. The church is NOT a building or program.

  • Joan Bennett Humphries

    The Bible does tell us that Jesus’ disciples met on the 1st day of the week. They commemorated his death, burial and resurrection and encouraged one another.

  • Deepak

    I remember having a conversation with a friend recently about this. Her woes were similar. At first, I sympathized with her.

    But the more I thought about it, I realized that there were some new forms of seeing the church as a place to serve her needs than a place for her to meet God and serve the needs of others.

    She shared much about how she gets fellowship with her soccer club, she can hear a sermon online, she receives much good teaching at seminary, she enjoys nature, she can serve the homeless at a mission, so why a church?

    I wish I had answers to tell her then, as I have some answers for you now.

    None of us can enjoy communion on our own. The Lord’s body and blood are given to the community to be enjoyed within the community. If anything, I would say that the only reason why we should go to church is because we cannot do communion on our own. Sadly, there are many other things we can do within the Christian faith on our own in these days, even though we aren’t reaping the full benefits of it by doing it with community. Communion however is not one of those things. It just cannot be done by oneself. By practice, it needs a symbolic mediator to give the church-goer a piece of bread and a sip of wine/grape juice.

    None of us can serve the church outside of a church. (this is of course barring those bitter church-goers who nobody will miss when they leave). As Christians we are of course called to serve and minister to the lost. But we are also called to serve and minister to our brothers and sisters in the faith. Paul’s “one an another” commands are virtually impossible outside of a church setting. And where else to find a place to serve in a church than a church that we hate being at! It’s like marriage in it’s finest glory, to be sanctified by the very people we are tired of, and yet be a servant to them. Of course we aren’t going to enjoy it. Who said discipleship was supposed to be easy? Who said discipling others was going to be easy either?

    I can see your reasons to not go to a church, or going to a church occasionally. But I wonder if you truly are placing Christ and his body and blood in the center of your thought-processes, or even your despicable Christian brothers and sisters in the cetner of your thought-processes.

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

    attending a sunday morning program is not “church” – this construct we’ve made sacrosanct is no where to be found in the text. So to say the only reason why we should go to church is because we cannot do communion on our own is simply to imply that true Christian community cannot be found else where, and that it is only found in a building at 10:30am on a Sunday morning. Once again, the bible never speaks of Sunday morning, programmatic structural rundowns to be “church”. One cannot be, as you say, “outside of a church setting” when they are themselves the incarnation of the church. The church is us as people. The church is NOT a building or program.

  • Joan Bennett Humphries

    The Bible does tell us that Jesus’ disciples met on the 1st day of the week. They commemorated his death, burial and resurrection and encouraged one another.

  • http://ryanjordan.com Ryan Jordan

    Andy: I love that you are challenging the status quo of a church model for which there is but a tenuous connection to the biblical idea of “the church”. You will be persecuted for this. But these are good questions to ask and good models to challenge – the tribalism of today’s church model is extraordinarily dangerous. I won’t agree with you on every point, but I will stand wholeheartedly behind you for having the courage to challenge all of us towards Christlikeness and His vision for the church.

  • http://ryanjordan.com Ryan Jordan

    Andy: I love that you are challenging the status quo of a church model for which there is but a tenuous connection to the biblical idea of “the church”. You will be persecuted for this. But these are good questions to ask and good models to challenge – the tribalism of today’s church model is extraordinarily dangerous. I won’t agree with you on every point, but I will stand wholeheartedly behind you for having the courage to challenge all of us towards Christlikeness and His vision for the church.

  • Erik Parker

    Hey Andy, I found your blog after you followed me on Twitter. Great post! It has given me some insight to the issues within American Evangelicalism.

    I am excited to keep reading. And from one pastor to another, I won’t tell you to get to church. But I will recommend Martin Luther, I think you might find some kinship with him. Plus I have to promote him as a Lutheran… It is a rule or something.

  • Erik Parker

    Hey Andy, I found your blog after you followed me on Twitter. Great post! It has given me some insight to the issues within American Evangelicalism.

    I am excited to keep reading. And from one pastor to another, I won’t tell you to get to church. But I will recommend Martin Luther, I think you might find some kinship with him. Plus I have to promote him as a Lutheran… It is a rule or something.

  • http://hyattregency.wordpress.com/ Sarah

    Thanks for this. I grew up in church and have primarily good memories from it, and the bad ones are the same bad memories that would accompany any sort of family and so never resulted in a negative opinion of churches. That church eventually fell apart and so is no more. I worked at a megachurch for three years or so and had a mixture of good and bad experiences there. Afterwards, I attended a small church similar to church I grew up in and liked it.

    But I don’t really go anywhere now. Like you, I’m tired. I’m just weary of it, and honestly, reading the comments, I’m reminded of so many of the things I’m just tired of. I don’t dislike the church, I MISS the church. I still grieve the loss of my childhood church that is now an office building, and I last attended there 10 years ago. But I’m so weary of the church apologists that come out when you say things like this or speak against any church. The megachurch I worked for was especially bad about this, people are such fans of the church that everyone jumps and rushes to, “BUT MY CHURCH IS DIFFERENT!” before they even listen to what someone is saying. I’m just done with it.

    Just listen. Just listen first. My experiences or dissatisfaction or weariness is not saying everything about church, or a church, is bad. It’s not saying I expect a perfect church. It has nothing to do with hypocrisy or Sunday mornings or being the church vs. going to church. I actually find myself longing for a more traditional model – while I agree that we, as Christians, are the Church, I miss the act of going to church. I miss it being different and special but also like a second home, and not just another rock show or coffeeshop or book club, or another fandom promoting local church celebrity culture.

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

    Wow – really well said Sarah – thank you for sharing…

  • http://hyattregency.wordpress.com/ Sarah

    Thank you. I think this blog put words to a lot of things I’ve felt and struggled to explain.

  • http://hyattregency.wordpress.com/ Sarah

    Thanks for this. I grew up in church and have primarily good memories from it, and the bad ones are the same bad memories that would accompany any sort of family and so never resulted in a negative opinion of churches. That church eventually fell apart and so is no more. I worked at a megachurch for three years or so and had a mixture of good and bad experiences there. Afterwards, I attended a small church similar to church I grew up in and liked it.

    But I don’t really go anywhere now. Like you, I’m tired. I’m just weary of it, and honestly, reading the comments, I’m reminded of so many of the things I’m just tired of. I don’t dislike the church, I MISS the church. I still grieve the loss of my childhood church that is now an office building, and I last attended there 10 years ago. But I’m so weary of the church apologists that come out when you say things like this or speak against any church. The megachurch I worked for was especially bad about this, people are such fans of the church that everyone jumps and rushes to, “BUT MY CHURCH IS DIFFERENT!” before they even listen to what someone is saying. I’m just done with it.

    Just listen. Just listen first. My experiences or dissatisfaction or weariness is not saying everything about church, or a church, is bad. It’s not saying I expect a perfect church. It has nothing to do with hypocrisy or Sunday mornings or being the church vs. going to church. I actually find myself longing for a more traditional model – while I agree that we, as Christians, are the Church, I miss the act of going to church. I miss it being different and special but also like a second home, and not just another rock show or coffeeshop or book club, or another fandom promoting local church celebrity culture.

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

    Wow – really well said Sarah – thank you for sharing…

  • http://hyattregency.wordpress.com/ Sarah

    Thank you. I think this blog put words to a lot of things I’ve felt and struggled to explain.

  • JP O’Connor

    Andy,

    Let’s grab coffee. (public pressure!)

  • JP O’Connor

    Andy,

    Let’s grab coffee. (public pressure!)

  • Huuuu

    Just read this. Good stuff man!

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

    haha – thanks John or “Huuuu” miss ya man.

  • Huuuu

    Just read this. Good stuff man!

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

    haha – thanks John or “Huuuu” miss ya man.

  • Jon Davis

    I’m still looking for a church that defines worship as self-sacrifice and not music. Where the “worship team” is the eldership and the ushers and those who are going out on the street, and there happens to be a musician who comes on stage from time to time who also self-sacrifices in the background. I’m thoroughly utterly bored of the notion that “church service” = “worship service” == “musical concert plus a message”. If I could find a church that recognized music as a tool instead of the core, perhaps even setting it aside such that a church gathering didn’t even have any music, I might be interested. Discipleship does not mean “worship music”.

    That said I don’t go to church either. I have to be careful that I don’t qualify myself for the common statement, “Well if you don’t go to church because you can’t find one that isn’t full of hypocrites, please don’t come to ours and make it worse,” or some variation. I’m not talking about hypocrisy, because in order to be a hypocrite you have to be saying the right things even if you’re not doing them. I’m having difficulty finding churches that say much at all. So watered down half the time. So many modern, nice things to say, modern-day proverbs. Very rarely essential pursuit of the pursuit of God and exercising His power.

  • roglindan

    I go to Calvary Baptist in Mesa. There are several very solid active Bible-believing churches. Look at church websites, as they give a great indication of what their services are like and how often the people meet together, the preaching, the music, etc. (our website even has the constitution, covenant and such all there) Our worship service doesn’t even have a “worship team”, as we all sing together from (you’re not going to believe this) a HYMNAL!! And on Wednesday nights we have actual PRAYER MEETINGS, along with a challenge from Scripture. Lately, on Sun. mornings our pastor has been preaching through the book of Joshua – a couple weeks ago it was about the sin of Achan – SIN!! We sure don’t hear much about SIN anymore at church. On Sun. nights he has been preaching/teaching through the Book of Revelation. Well, hopefully by now you have found a good solid biblical church to attend, worship, fellowship, and serve with other Believers.

  • Jon Davis

    Thanks. I’ll check this church out, at least online for now (no gas money to drive down to Mesa).

    All my memories of “real church”–preaching the Word, preaching against sin, not making church a concert–are childhood memories. Just poking around so far if nothing else reminds me of community in Christ.

  • Jon Davis

    I’m still looking for a church that defines worship as self-sacrifice and not music. Where the “worship team” is the eldership and the ushers and those who are going out on the street, and there happens to be a musician who comes on stage from time to time who also self-sacrifices in the background. I’m thoroughly utterly bored of the notion that “church service” = “worship service” == “musical concert plus a message”. If I could find a church that recognized music as a tool instead of the core, perhaps even setting it aside such that a church gathering didn’t even have any music, I might be interested. Discipleship does not mean “worship music”.

    That said I don’t go to church either. I have to be careful that I don’t qualify myself for the common statement, “Well if you don’t go to church because you can’t find one that isn’t full of hypocrites, please don’t come to ours and make it worse,” or some variation. I’m not talking about hypocrisy, because in order to be a hypocrite you have to be saying the right things even if you’re not doing them. I’m having difficulty finding churches that say much at all. So watered down half the time. So many modern, nice things to say, modern-day proverbs. Very rarely essential pursuit of the pursuit of God and exercising His power.

  • roglindan

    I go to Calvary Baptist in Mesa. There are several very solid active Bible-believing churches. Look at church websites, as they give a great indication of what their services are like and how often the people meet together, the preaching, the music, etc. (our website even has the constitution, covenant and such all there) Our worship service doesn’t even have a “worship team”, as we all sing together from (you’re not going to believe this) a HYMNAL!! And on Wednesday nights we have actual PRAYER MEETINGS, along with a challenge from Scripture. Lately, on Sun. mornings our pastor has been preaching through the book of Joshua – a couple weeks ago it was about the sin of Achan – SIN!! We sure don’t hear much about SIN anymore at church. On Sun. nights he has been preaching/teaching through the Book of Revelation. Well, hopefully by now you have found a good solid biblical church to attend, worship, fellowship, and serve with other Believers.

  • Jon Davis

    Thanks. I’ll check this church out, at least online for now (no gas money to drive down to Mesa).

    All my memories of “real church”–preaching the Word, preaching against sin, not making church a concert–are childhood memories. Just poking around so far if nothing else reminds me of community in Christ.

  • Beats and Sheets

    we are called to assemble together with other believers. i can tell you i have had experiences in churches where i could see all that was wrong and always left feeling wronged and empty. and i always left with a sense of “why am i even doing this.”

    i was tempted to give up on attending church. in my life outside of church, i dont spend time with people who make me feel manipulated or shamed or what have you. i dont hang out with people who only want to spend time with the pretty and the popular rather than with real people and all people. and so, why would i want these things in a place where i should be able to freely worship and fellowship and assemble with other believers? but my not going regularly meant i was finding other uses for my time and spending time with people who genuinely didnt care what i was doing with my life. so i had to come to the realization that i needed something. and so i started looking.

    well – it took time and a lot of frustration; i literally entered churches where i was stared at for being the only black girl there, where there were only black people, where i was apparently “under-dressed,” and the one that frustrated me the most where not one person said anything to me other than a passing “hi.” but i am happy to say that i am attending a church where i dont leave feeling empty, where i know i can go and worship freely, where i know i can come as i am. and best, a place where i’m not just getting a sunday morning pep-talk but being truly taught the word of God, not just the stuff that sounds nice and leaves no conviction. (and it may be a me thing, but i like being called out when im wrong).

    really hope that makes sense – and thanks for being open to response.

  • Beats and Sheets

    we are called to assemble together with other believers. i can tell you i have had experiences in churches where i could see all that was wrong and always left feeling wronged and empty. and i always left with a sense of “why am i even doing this.”

    i was tempted to give up on attending church. in my life outside of church, i dont spend time with people who make me feel manipulated or shamed or what have you. i dont hang out with people who only want to spend time with the pretty and the popular rather than with real people and all people. and so, why would i want these things in a place where i should be able to freely worship and fellowship and assemble with other believers? but my not going regularly meant i was finding other uses for my time and spending time with people who genuinely didnt care what i was doing with my life. so i had to come to the realization that i needed something. and so i started looking.

    well – it took time and a lot of frustration; i literally entered churches where i was stared at for being the only black girl there, where there were only black people, where i was apparently “under-dressed,” and the one that frustrated me the most where not one person said anything to me other than a passing “hi.” but i am happy to say that i am attending a church where i dont leave feeling empty, where i know i can go and worship freely, where i know i can come as i am. and best, a place where i’m not just getting a sunday morning pep-talk but being truly taught the word of God, not just the stuff that sounds nice and leaves no conviction. (and it may be a me thing, but i like being called out when im wrong).

    really hope that makes sense – and thanks for being open to response.

  • Patrick

    Andy, I don’t go to church services either. I participate in corporate worship, I model worship for my son, and I lead others in studying the Bible. I’m not on staff, and I’m not seminary-trained.

    “Going to church” is pointless. Joining together with other believers to express our response to God’s revelation is the point. Maybe you didn’t intend to write it this way, but your post comes across as a consumer, not a producer, and that’s not what Christians are called to be.

    I hear what you want at the end, and there’s no reason that “the church” as you so generically categorize it, can’t be that. You’re missing the opportunity to see Ezekiel 37 in your own lifetime.

  • Patrick

    Andy, I don’t go to church services either. I participate in corporate worship, I model worship for my son, and I lead others in studying the Bible. I’m not on staff, and I’m not seminary-trained.

    “Going to church” is pointless. Joining together with other believers to express our response to God’s revelation is the point. Maybe you didn’t intend to write it this way, but your post comes across as a consumer, not a producer, and that’s not what Christians are called to be.

    I hear what you want at the end, and there’s no reason that “the church” as you so generically categorize it, can’t be that. You’re missing the opportunity to see Ezekiel 37 in your own lifetime.

  • NoBosoxFan

    figures

  • NoBosoxFan

    figures