Taking Space: When You Love The Church Too Much To Go To Church

Sometimes, the loving thing to do is to take some space.

Church is often touted to be the cure to many diseases, but sometimes it can actually become the poison. An unfortunate fact, but a realistic one.

We have many dreams for what church could be or should be, but sometimes it just isn’t any of those things. We have high hopes that it will be a place of safety and refuge; a place where we’re accepted and loved, and find our batteries being recharged.

And sometimes, those hopes for a church are dashed against the rocks. Sometimes, instead of being an institution designed to give life, it becomes one that takes life. Instead of a place of healing, all too often church can become a place of deep, deep wounding.

This morning I’m remembering there’s a difference between the “Church” and “a church”. The former obviously applies to Christian expression at large– including all believers everywhere– while the later refers to individual, local, congregations.

I’m a major fan of the Church, but right now I’m not a major fan of church, with a small “c”.

Over the course of this last year, we poured everything we had into the small c type of church. We had hopes of finding deep and authentic community, hopes that we’d find a group of people who all agreed that living out the teachings of Jesus was the best way to live, and hoped that we’d find life… but in the end, didn’t. Certainly, we met a few other co-conspirators for the Kingdom Jesus came to build, and they became and will remain great friends. But wading through the power addictions and idol worship in order to find these few gems, came at a high emotional price for us- and for the other Kingdom builders.

This past Sunday was our last service. Today, I hand the keys of the building over to a passionate friend who I pray, will build something culturally subversive using our old building and the remaining resources.

The experience took a lot out of Tracy and I, and we’re going to need a season to recover. For me, it seems that the wounds caused by church seem to cut deeper than any other type of wounds. Perhaps not because the cut actually goes down deeper, but because church is supposed to be a refuge where you can escape cycles of wounding.

Unfortunately, it’s not, nor will it ever be- especially in churches where Jesus is worshiped but not followed. Sometimes, we’re healthy enough to move on and try again. And other times, we’re so tired and wounded we realize rolling the dice another time could have disastrous consequences. People walk away from church every week, never to return, because they rolled the dice too many times, and in too close succession to each other. Eventually, there are too many different wounds from too many different places, and instead of living and growing in authentic community with other co-conspirators, they simply become de-churched.

I love the Church (big C) too much to let myself ever completely become de-churched, which is why I think we need to be honest and tell people: sometimes the loving thing to do is to separate and take some space.

My family and I will be taking a season where we will be separating and taking some space from church, and this is actually a healthy choice. If we were to roll the dice again and jump right back into a new church, a negative experience would likely be the last time we walk through church doors, ever. Taking space and giving yourself time to heal from a negative church experience is the good and wise decision to make.

Think for a moment in terms of romantic, dating relationships: when one experiences the end of a relationship, do we advise them to jump right back into a new one? Or, do we encourage them to spend some time healing while being single? I hope we’re encouraging them to follow the later advice– and I think this is the same advice we should give people when a church relationship becomes toxic.

Sometimes, the loving thing to do is to take some space.

Even the most conservative missionaries have long known this. Most foreign missionaries are actually required to take periodic seasons of “furlough” which is time away from their ministry context. For example, after serving 5 years in country, their sending agency may actually require them to take a full year off and spend it back in their home country. Time apart, it seems, can actually be the healthy choice in many situations.

Pastors do this too, something we call a “Sabbatical”.

So, if Pastors and Missionaries take a season away from church in order to get refreshed, why shouldn’t a wounded church-goer take a season of peace, rest, and healing?

Too often instead of giving people sound advice that will lead to healing, church gets treated more like an abusive relationship. People are told, “you can’t leave”, or “if you leave, you’ll be sinning and God won’t bless you” and all sorts of other flat out lies designed to control and intimidate.

But the truth is, in some circumstances, not going to church might actually be the most healthy choice for our relationship with God and something that can save our relationship with the Church at large.

Right now, I love the Church too much to go to a church. I don’t have the emotional energy to survive another painful church experience– another one in quick succession would undoubtedly mark my last attempt at making this relationship work, and I don’t ever want to get to the point of completely giving up.

Yes, sometimes the loving thing to do is to take some space.

Because right now, I love the Church too much to go to a church.

If you’re in a similar situation, please know, that sometimes taking space might be the good, wise and healthy thing to do– and I’ll be here to journey this season with you.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • http://abnormalanabaptist.wordpress.com/ Robert Martin

    Go with blessings and find shalom…

  • http://www.formerlyfundie.com/ Benjamin L. Corey

    Thanks my friend.

  • Willow Bird Baking

    I am very much in a similar space, and I appreciated this article a lot.

  • Laura Mae Shattuck

    Thank you Ben. Reading this meant a lot to me today. I am grieving and I can’t help but wonder if God didn’t have a different end in mind. Cindy and I were talking this morning and we agreed that if nothing more came out of this than the opportunity to meet you, Tracy and Johanna, we have benefited anyway. If people only ever read your blog, they cannot imagine the passion you have for being a Jesus’ follower and how you live that in every thing you do and say. I have watched as people put you through the fire and I watched you.respond with love, compassion, and concern for those who were hurting you and others. I know you are human and fallible but I know you will finish well. Praying for you and your family.

  • Joy

    Been there, done that. It can be very healing to just take a break. Thankfully my parents understood and were okay with it (I was a teenager at the time.)

  • Guest

    Thank you for your words. Reading this entry, I marveled again at the perfection of God’s timing. My family and I are with you on this journey.

  • Terry Firma

    “Not going to church might actually be the most healthy choice for our relationship with God.”

    If that’s true, the Lord is gonna love this non-church-goer!

  • Rob Bear

    The Lord already does, but that’s probably beside the point.

  • Jonathan Dollarhide

    Thanks Ben for helping to put language to how I feel. I spent most of my life in a church system that did not allow me to feel. So sometimes it’s really hard to find the words to express how I feel, and your words are always life to my soul. Thank you.

  • LC

    Love this. I have been to many churches over the years, established churches and church plants. I can’t think of a single time that it did not turn out this way. People just cannot help themselves when it comes to their need to control others. Unfortunately, Christians are some of the worst among us in this regard–God is a God of order, but many Christians love “order” too much, not leaving any space for individual freedom/discernment, life choices or even some minor aspects of theology. I am currently transitioning from a church and I am visiting another–just visiting–incognito. I have decided that seeking official church membership is something I will never do again. It makes leaving too hard when the controllers arrive or find me.

  • Randy Barnetson

    It was bound to happen eventually. The cause-driven, sacrificial, military-expedition which is the Church leaves behind this generation of me-and-mine-first easily offended consumers of christianity. It is not unlike marriage (Nw Testament metaphor) where the easy way out is to cut and run, the Christ-like way is to love and give even if we feel in is unreturned. There is a sadness in divorce and I hear it in this article.

  • JenellYB

    The bait on that doesn’t work anymore on us that are at this point Randy. We can feel the barbed point of the hook under it.

  • Queen Alice

    well said jenell.

  • Scarlet

    There is always sadness in divorce. As a divorced woman, I can tell you it was no easy journey. However, it was the best journey for me. Seeing something not work out is always going to be hard, but is it really in the best interest for people to stay in a relationship when it does nothing but damage both parties? Getting a divorce was the best choice I’ve ever made. There is NEVER an excuse to stay in an abusive relationship. And this author definitely sounds like he was in an abusive relationship within the church.

  • gimpi1

    I think your attitude of judgement might just be one of the things Ben needs a break from. I know it would drive me away in a fast car.

    If you want to paint an unpleasant view of your beliefs, well done. If you want to pontificate, good job. If you want people to take an interest in your beliefs, or to share your faith as a good example, you failed. Badly.

  • Katie

    My husband and I were, in essence, driven out of the church we had been attending last April/May. We fought to stay but the pastor was not interested in reconciliation and those he gossiped about us to wanted nothing to do with us. We had to leave. We have not been back to church since.

    I like your relationship analogy. That is one I have often used this past year. We have no problem telling a woman in an abusive relationship to get out, yet when one is being abused by the church we tell them they must stay, they can’t leave. To regain health they may have to leave, to be single for a while. It does not always mean they are giving up God, it means they are leaving their abuser. Just like how not all men abuse women, not all churches abuse their congregants, and sometimes singleness is needed to heal before looking for another relationship.

  • Queen Alice

    Amen.

  • CroneEver

    Great post. Besides, people act as if the church (whichever denomination it is) is THE church that Jesus set up and hasn’t changed a lick, so it would be a sin to leave and, even worse, NOT LIKE IT. But church services have changed over time, from order to music to sermons to everything. The way I see it, denominations and churches are all a matter of taste. What way do you like it? Liturgical? Home church? Standard Sunday (5 hymns, 3 prayers, 1 sermon)? Praise service? Whichever it is, go to that one. It’s okay.

    And years ago I got sick of the line that it isn’t the pastor, it’s the church: Nonsense. In most churches, especially Protestant churches, the pastor is the driving force, the sermon is the word from on high, and if you don’t like what you’re hearing, or the pastor is driving you crazy, you’d better move on fast, because it’s not going to change for you. At one church I attended, the powers that be sent a man who had Asperger’s Syndrome. (Imagine Sheldon on Big Bang as a pastor.) Didn’t have a clue about social skills, social relationships, none of it; couldn’t visit anyone, especially the sick or home-bound, and couldn’t do anything but the actual for funerals because he was totally uncomfortable after 2 minutes, and absolutely ran from them; could barely shake people’s hands after the service. Not surprisingly, people left in droves.

    Anyway, yes, sometimes, it’s good to take a sabbatical. Enjoy.

  • JenellYB

    That guy had problems beyond Asperger. I and one of my children are high function autism spectrum, with characteristics at times called Asperger. Asperger Syndrome was eliminated 2013 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, and replaced by a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder on a severity scale. Autism is considered by most in research and treatment fields as a neurological condition, rather than a mental disorder. . I also am degreed in psychology, and served an internship in a major autism research and therapy project. What you describe would not accurately apply to most of us. Take care with stereotypes. Always keep in mind, any and every stereotype and the myths associated with it, that any of us may allow into our thinking, and more so, our interactions with others, we not only run the risk of encountering someone affect by it, but of making our ignorance obvious when we speak.

  • CroneEver

    I did not mean to be offensive to anyone. I was simply trying to express what we were dealing with.

  • Pat68

    Amen, brother. Right there with you. This sentence sums up my experience well: “wading through the power addictions and idol worship in order to find these few gems, came at a high emotional price for us”.

    I left the last church I was at 3 years ago and have been a part of another church for about 2.5 years. But I’m not involved. I come for worship, the pastor’s mid-week class and I give financially. But that’s all I can muster right now. I served as an elder, taught Sunday school, but the disrespect and disregard that I endured too its toll. You are right about breaks being healthy and I feel no guilt about not involving myself more. Right now, I’ve got to get emotionally healthy and more than that, I just need a break. I invested so much of my life into the work that I did (and believed in), but now I’m in a season of rest. Not to mention that I’ve had some significant life changes since leaving that church. My father died in November 2012 and I moved in with my mother. She is now my ministry.

  • JenellYB

    My empathy for you in this. I’ve come to acceptance that after a stormy on again off again relationship of over 40 years which the churched community, the last attempt, 15 yrs ago, was such a dreadful disaster, it was, this time, really THE last attempt. I tried a bit of visiting around a few as that fell apart, but it wasn’t to be. And the woundings were so deep the last time, many just the ripping open again of old woundings that had already been ripped open to have to try to deal all over again, too many times before, I would now be so on the defensive I’d likely hurt innocent people that have done me no harm and don’t deserve that, and I don’t want that, either. But that last time was different in another way, a more positive way. From it, I’ve healed from feeling the problem was all about me, and now, I understand it isn’t, and never had been. I’m coming to forgiveness, but accepting, as in finally breaking free of an abusive spouse, I can do that, without it meaning there will ever be reconciliation.

  • Mginiafriend

    I couldn’t agree more that taking time to heal from a painful church experiences is a great idea!! I love church, the community, the connectedness but….after leaving my denomination of several decades over orientation issues, it’s wonderful to not be tied to one particular church or place. It’s a great time to explore options and hear/see/feel God wherever I happen to be.

  • Xenoman

    I found myself in a similar situation about two years ago. Abused from a church I was forced to leave for various reasons, then abused from another church I left due to changing theological ones. I went to another church almost immediately. That church did nothing wrong and was filled with good people, but they weren’t doing anything to noticeably separate themselves from any other congregation so I left and found myself having become a non-believer entirely in the process.

    I don’t exactly lament the fact that I no longer believe, but I have to agree that if I’d take some time off, as you say you plan to do, things may not have turned out as they did.

  • Queen Alice

    Brother, please, please don’t fall into the same trap that I fell into for so many of my years of wandering in the desert – I confused the actions of the church with the will and actions of God. If you don’t know this site, it might help you on your journey – “The Poached Egg”. Reading CS Lewis might help you as well – his writings certainly helped me, and continue to do so in my many wrestlings with the angel by the river. I too was deeply hurt and disappointed in God because of my dad’s death from cancer and the subsequent actions of the church I attended at the time (and a few other things – satan is so devious). But continue to seek His face – I promise He hasn’t abandoned you – If He didn’t give up on me and some of my foolishness, He certainly doesn’t give up on anyone! The Church is God’s, but sadly, as stated so well in this blog, the church frequently isn’t.

  • Xenoman

    I didn’t leave my comment in order to be evangelized or prosthelytized to. I appreciate the concern you show for former believers, but trust me when I say I have no struggles with faith any longer and am quite at peace with the conclusion I’ve come to. Sometimes the best thing to do for a former believer is to accept their choice and allow them to be themselves rather than prodding them on to rejoin the group, as that can often times push us further away if we don’t think you have the right intentions.

  • Queen Alice

    And I didn’t leave my reply to piss you off. I just hate to see someone have to traverse the same ground I had to in order to get where I am today. Sorry if it came off any other way. If you are happy where you are, then peace to you.

  • Xenoman

    I’ll admit I found it a little annoying at first until I read the comment a couple times and really tried to understand your intent behind it. I didn’t believe you meant any ill will or were trying to be rude with what you were saying. As stated, I appreciate the concern you show for others who have left the faith, and especially those who have done so going a similar path as you. Just realize that those of us who have left get a lot of illegitimate concern from others trying to guilt us back in, you may want to find a different way of phrasing things. No hate or ill will your way. =)

  • Queen Alice

    Sorry if it came off as guilt inducing, as that was certainly not intended. Only sharing as I also walked away from the church a long time ago due to actions of the church and ppl in it and my, at the time, incorrectly connecting the dots to God. What got me rethinking that part of my fallacy in reasoning was someone suggesting I not equate the actions of man and people with God. I’m probably just stupid, but I had never really thought about it that way. Its been, and continues to be a journey and a big part of that journey is on the intellectual front for me. I don’t want to have to be “brain dead” in order to follow God, and for a long time (and judging by the actions of some people who claim to be Christians) it was my opinion that that is exactly what was required. Reading the stuff I mentioned above helped me enormously, and again, for whatever reason, I had just not read them before. So not intending to imply that you NEED that stuff or had not possibly already read it, just sharing that it had helped me.

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Censorship Censored

    C.S. Lewis, the alternate Savior for proselytizers everywhere.

  • Scarlet

    Thank you, thank you! In my experience with churches, I’ve always found myself coming away from services feeling angry and frustrated. There are many reasons, some including not feeling welcome, but mostly I found myself getting frustrated with the teaching. I have a minor in theology from a CMA University and I’ve been conditioned to receive real meat. I loved going into classes and debating and learning and exploring and I felt like going to a church was much like returning to elementary school after having graduated from college. It became that the church was no longer a place of growth for me, and really started setting me back. I don’t want to feel resentment or restraint. I want to grow with people.

  • JenellYB

    Scarlet, that was a difficult problem for me in my contacts with church communities even BEFORE I had returned to college a few years ago. I was, the last time, in y 50’s, and felt like I had set myself down in among a bunch of people whose cognitive abilities, and mental and emotional development had been arrested at some time in jr high school! And whether preacher’s sermons, SS classes, or bible study, yes, it felt so simplistic and immature, like adults talking to little children or admonishing adolescents to remain chaste! After majoring in psychology, but also with minor in Religious Studies, and some courses that covered such as the bible, history of the church and branches, Christian ethics, and the origins and development of many significant theological doctrines, and some introduction to biblical scholarship, as well as a rather less than stellar venture into biblical Greek, and a good deal of independent study from there, and that has made it WORSE! That so puzzles me. The whole culture, at least the conservative evangelical, fundamentalist, and Pentecostal/charismatic that strongly prevails here, is just so marked by pervasive immaturity, childishness, pettiness, whether inside the churches, or in their lives outside their church. I know even less now how to try to relate than before I undertook more serious study into this religion.

  • Queen Alice

    Are you familiar with a site called “The Poached Egg”? It is wonderful. And I agree with a great deal of what you have said. As I mentioned above, at the moment I am not affiliated with a church, but I find Church everywhere I go. I have a suggestion that has helped me: while it is totally awesome to study and learn and grow in knowledge, don’t let that mislead your heart from loving even “the least of these”. I am not trying to say here that you are doing that, but I know as one stretches ones knowledge, it can be frustrating to live in community with those who don’t and/or can’t. That’s why I so agree with what Brother Ben has written. I look for knowledge on some of the awesome sites like that mentioned above (where there can also be fellowship and certainly opportunities for defending the faith (Satan sends his trolls to those sites regularly so knowledgable defenders are great and will get you exercising your knowledge “muscle”, leaving you free to love the Church in the places and situations you find it. And those who have not yet found the Church.

  • Steve Russell

    I am an ordained minister and this past summer I left a church feeling exactly like you. I hated the idea of going back to church, but I did Love God and the Church. I was absolutely done. I couldn’t take another battle with Pharisees. I do attend church from time to time. I do not want to get involved. Not yet. Maybe someday. I often feel alone. The church I left doesn’t understand. I’ve lost my faith according to them. I have no good friends at the new church. My family doesn’t understand (except my wonderful wife) It seems to them I’ve lost my faith too. Yeah, not much healing in the church. Don’t know how long it will take to heal if ever but I know God is there for us. At least I have that hope.

  • Angel Thomas

    I think this is sad, I am a “PK” and yes my dad would take a break , but not from God, we still went to church . He just didn’t preach. I feel like this is a cop out, but that is just my opinion. I’m glad Jesus never needs to take a break!

  • http://www.formerlyfundie.com/ Benjamin L. Corey

    Jesus never needs breaks? If you check the Gospels, it actually says, several times, that Jesus went away to have some time alone. So, it seems that even he takes a break from ministry to recharge.

  • Angel Thomas

    While Jesus was “alone” He was usually communing with His Father (God) and seeking His guidance for His next step. We are all instructed to rest ,we learn that in Gen.but not quit,for an extended time. I said it was just my opinion,
    I am definitely old school, I don’t feel entitled to anything in life, I am honored to be Christian,to have been saved by grace, Jesus died for me and He expects nothing in return and for that alone, I want to give Him my all, and I want share with everyone about His Love, Grace, & Mercy.

  • Xenoman

    The author never said he was quitting Christ or the Church though, just the church (little c) for a season. You do not need to have a church to be a Christian or be part of the body. Depending on how old school you really are you should know this.

  • Pat68

    And you are entitled to your opinion, but the little snark at the end of your statement about “I’m glad Jesus never needs to take a break!” seems unwarranted. Also, what part of Benjamin’s post says he’s taking a break from God?

  • Angel Thomas

    Pat, I wasn’t being “snarky” . And as I as I have already said it’s my opinion that the whole post lends its self to taking a “break” , if not from God then What?

  • Pat68

    Taking a break from the institutional Church.

  • Y. A. Warren

    Jesus did take breaks, of forty days, at one point in his life.

  • Angel Thomas

    Yes he did, and was tempted, we are not perfect as HE is , Will you be able to withstand temptation that comes your way while your on a “break”

  • Y. A. Warren

    My greatest temptation when in church is to throw the hypocrites and money changers out of the temple, so I have made a temple of my own home where all are welcome to come and rest at our well-laden table.

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Censorship Censored

    You go, girl!

  • Y. A. Warren

    It sounds like you may have a similar set-up in your “neck of the woods.”

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Censorship Censored

    Affirmative. :)

  • Xenoman

    I fail to see how this is a cop out. The comparison to missionaries taking sabbatical was also an analogy. The idea that you have to keep doing something when you’ve become burned out on it is a horrible idea, as it’ll only lead to further burn out.

  • Angel Thomas

    Quitting on God is also a terrible idea, you can take a break and still continue to worship and praise Him, and we are called to continually serve .

  • Xenoman

    I agree with you that Christians are called to do that, however if one loses the ability to find faith or believe in god at all then it’s hollow worship that means nothing at all. And if there truly is a god, I’m fairly certain he’d not appreciate hypocritical worship coming from someone just for the sake of doing it because they feel they have to.

  • Angel Thomas

    You are absolutely right , that type of worship would not honor God, If you have lost your faith , then I’m very sorry for the pain you must be going through and will pray for you if that is ok.

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Censorship Censored

    “Pray for you” decodes into: (a) “Gossip about you” and/or (b) “I’m holier than thou.”

    No charge for translating church talk for the first 5 minutes here.

  • http://www.formerlyfundie.com/ Benjamin L. Corey

    Did you even read the article, or did you skip directly to the comments? Because it specifically says that I don’t ever want to give up, which is why I’m taking a season to recharge.

  • Angel Thomas

    Yes sir, I read the article. and once again I will say this is “my opinion” take your season and recharge. You have to know it is always harder to restart something we stop. I would never assume to know what is in someone else’s heart,if this is what you feel God has told you is right for you.your family and your followers; then I pray you find peace and rest.

  • Pat68

    I took a break of a few months and then found another church. I also know of others who have taken a break of sometimes longer than a few months and also started back. I too am from a traditional Christian upbringing and know that the usual view is that it’s harder to start back, but I’ve found that is not always the case. In some instances, it’s conventional thinking that isn’t always borne out. But we’ve sometimes been able to convince (and dare I say, threaten or guilt) people into not leaving and seeking God in a different way.

  • Queen Alice

    Apparently you still aren’t understanding the difference between church and Church. Church is what surrounds us by the grace of the Holy Spirit and it is where we meet and praise and console and witness and live in accord with our brothers and sisters in God, through Jesus Christ. church, little “c” means the building and the structures where people attend, pay tithes, do Sunday School and whatnot. Sometimes Church can be found within church, but what many people are saying here is that sadly and more often than not, it isn’t. And if the church experience is actually robbing someone of the ability to have a Church experience, then even Jesus Himself advised us to shake the dust from our shoes and move on. If you are a member of a church/Church, AWESOME and therefore it may be difficult for you to understand what those of us who have encountered the church and been deeply wounded by it are talking about.

  • Angel Thomas

    I will reply once more, as i have said this is my opinion! Big C , Little c, I completely understand the meaning of both. I have endured my struggles, I have been through my share of trials more then i care to share with people I don’t know.And if you think I haven’t seen the hateful side of church people as a “PK” your wrong, I’ve seen, and experienced many negative and nasty things inside the church. But I will continue to worship at my church, and i will continue to serve God the way I feel is right for me. In the gospels there is a an account of Mary & Joseph looking for Jesus, In Luke 2:49 And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?
    I just want to be about my Father’s business . God Bless.

  • Norman Walford

    What is a PK?

  • ModestoBecca

    Pastor’s Kid

  • Y. A. Warren

    I am so sorry for your loss. I walked away from my church over 40 years ago and am still grieving. It is so much easier to grieve and get over someone that has died than to continue hoping for a miracle that will enable you to re-enter the relationship.

    “churches where Jesus is worshiped but not followed. ” These words certainly resonate with me.

    I write extensively about the difference between “Christians” and the followers of Jesus. The most compassionate thing I can say about the “Christians” is that they don’t seem to follow Jesus as their christ.

    I hope you find family that will join you in your following of the joyful Jew named Jesus.

  • Sophie Ponsford

    Having just read ‘toxic churches’ and now seeing this, it both saddens and comforts me to know that my pain is not isolate. No one can know the heart-wrenching destruction that comes from being wounded by ‘church’ and those who have suffered will understand how it feels like death to your very soul. It takes some recovery x

  • http://christianonthefrontline.wordpress.com FrontLineXian

    I’m right in the middle of this at the moment. I’ve stopped going to church because of the issues I have with it at the moment.

    http://evidence2hope.wordpress.com/2014/01/10/going-round-in-circles/

  • Meredith Guest

    My sabbatical from church has been about fifteen years, maybe twenty – I lose count. I miss it – and I need it. I just can’t find it.

  • Norman Walford

    Your distinction between Church and church is a good one, and too often overlooked. Likewise often overlooked is the distinction between church and God. Sadly many people leave the church and think that they are inevitably leaving God at the same time.
    This is a disastrous misconception.

  • Norman Walford

    The only problem with taking a break is that sometimes when you want to come back you find yourself thrown right back in at the same point where you left. That was my experience anyway, as I described in “How to Survive in the Pharisee Church”.
    It can be tough.

  • Rob Bear

    Interesting thoughts, Ben.
    After having been tossed out as minister of a church beset with “power addictions and idol worship,” I was so shell-shocked, I wan’t sure what I could do. So, as part of my recovery, I started going to a different church — not even a church in my own tradition. (The one thing that helped is that I knew the Bishop there. He said I was welcome to worship any time, and welcome to take communion any time. We do, indeed, get by with a little help from our friends.) So, that became my place of refuge. I never intended to become a member there. I was just there for worship — a dance to “grow my soul.” And relax.
    Later, I went back to a congregation in my own tradition — first sitting in a pew, then being the minister for part of a year, and staying on afterwards. I doubt I could have done any of that without first having been to a place of refuge.
    Blessings in your continuing pilgrimage!

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Censorship Censored

    De-churched 20+ years. Community+Music found elsewhere. We group of neighbors sometimes call it a church replacement, except no preaching and no head games, and we make our own music. I’ve thought sometimes about going back to church, but it’s never going to happen, because all churches of which I’m acquainted are a bunch of damned busybodies involved in either one war or the other war against things my neighbors do of which I am tolerant:

    • Right Wingnut War on the feminine aspect of humanity, e.g., reproductive rights.
    • Left Wingnut War on the masculine aspect of humanity, e.g., gun rights.

    So it’s real tough to respect local CNN-Jesus liberal and FOX-Jesus conservative churches who 100% (at least around here) reject my neighbors who are lesbian and have concealed carry permits.

    As Ambrose Bierce defined the word: — Christian, n.: one who believes that the New Testament is a divinely inspired book admirably suited to the spiritual needs of his neighbor.

    Whatever happened to MYOB as a Christian value?

  • MeriMakr8298

    I will tell you, so long as human beings (with their Golden Calves and Idol worship) decide to dictate what Church looks like, there’s always going to be a huge issue with church. I’m sorry to hear you’ve given up on your dream – but some dreams are just that – dreams.

    I belonged to a radical church that attempted to bring The Kingdom back to Christendom, It failed because the pastor/reverend/eventually priest’s wife was a control freak who isolated her husband and did it with gusto.

    Anyone who was close to her husband suddenly developed ‘pathological’ tendencies. It would have been funny if it hadn’t been that he was a good guy with poor skills at seeing his lovely wife for the person she was.

    I met some truly wonderful folks in that institution – but they were the vast exceptions and didn’t stay with the Church because they couldn’t deal with the hypocrisy.

    I can only imagine how much sadder it would be to be that poor man.

    My great condolences.

  • Nighten Gayle

    Uncanny, that you mirror my thoughts about the church today. My late husband was in Christian radio and one of the things he used to say was ” The Christian army is the only army that shoots it’s own wounded.” Think back to the troubles of Christian artists such as Amy Grant, Sandi Patty, Michael English and (this one really dates me) BJ Thomas. The Christian community shunned these and more when they experienced failures in their personal lives. The point being, all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Thankfully, I’m a sinner saved by grace. I don’t have all the answers but I know one day I will see Jesus face to face.

  • Kristen Adams

    All I see here are a bunch of angry, hurt people talking bad about other angry, hurt people. Calling someone a hypocrite is a cyclical sin, so be careful with that. Sometimes the person you think is a hypocrite is just another struggling person, just like yourself. No one is perfect, and I’m sorry that your all were hurt, but realize maybe the person that hurt you is not perfect either. They might think they are, but they’re not. Who is and who isn’t a hypocrite is definately for God to say, and God alone. You don’t know the heart of a person, only the Lord does, so leave it in His hands. There will never be a congregation that will not fail you. Only God never fails. Peace to you all, sweet siblings in Christ.

  • http://chrismartinwrites.com/ Chris Martin

    Great article. I’ve been one who has been anti-church (little c) for a long time. It’s a failing system full of flaws. Having said that, we, as humans are all failing with our own flaws. Today’s churches are screwed up, no doubt, but they serve a purpose. It’s taken me several years to come to that realization. I believe there are some genuine Christians in church who live to serve and disciple others into the Kingdom. I think it’s great that you want to take a break. Nothing wrong with that. We don’t have to be inside the four walls of a church to be in communion with God. Praying that you and your family find peace. God bless

  • TJ

    I find myself in the same place, for the third time. Like you I claim to belong to Christ’s Church. I am weary of attending community churches with the hopes of experiencing genuine worship only to be part of SS classes that become group therapy sessions, and services that are little more than social gatherings where we reiterate weekly announcements, joke about sports scores and hear a quick 20 min. Message of a watered down version of the gospel. In studying the Biblical guidelines for churches I find it does not resemble what we have today. Most discouraging in the church we left recently was a class watchinga DVD series lead by an agnostic. When I called attention to it no one objected. I just can’t be a part of this man made, man centered organization and sleep at night. “DO NOT BE UNEQUALLY YOKED TOGETHER WITH UNBELIEVERS.” 2 COR. 6:14 ” COME OUT FROM AMONG THEM AND BE SEPARATE SAYS THE LORD…” 2COR. 6:17 I will pray for God’s peace and guidance in your life as well as my own. God bless.