Not In or Out

Now that I am not on the payroll of a church, I have no voice. I am “just a layman”. I don’t have any authority to critique the church. This is not just the opinion of some, but an inner conflict I’ve wrestled with for years.

Strange! When I had authority in the church, as a pastor, I wasn’t allowed to critique it because that was disloyal. I was biting the hand that feeds me. It was disrespectful and hypocritical.

Now that I am no longer a pastor I’m not allowed because I’m no longer a part of the club and I’m just bashing. I’m considered bitter or resentful. I have no right to critique something I’m not a part of.

Conclusion: there is an incredible agenda to protect the machine that gives some power and silences all other voices. I’ve been on both sides many times now and it just becomes more clear to me.

I love the church, believe in its right to be, and am passionate about people gathering in healthy ways. I’m critiquing only that which is wrong with the institution, that which doesn’t belong, and that which would and does pollute and compromise her.

About David Hayward

David Hayward runs the blog nakedpastor as a graffiti artist on the walls of religion where he critiques religion… specifically Christianity and the church. He also runs the online community The Lasting Supper where people can help themselves discover, explore and live in spiritual freedom.

  • Cecilia

    David, I must confess… I fear you have allowed your power to be taken from you in this regard. Who, precisely, is “not allowing” you to speak? I think every one of us, ordained, not ordained, who is a member of this body, has a responsibility to open and honest critique of the body. I don’t disagree– powerful forces are in place to stave off that critique. But I wish you’d been able to make it no matter where you stood.

  • stacey robbins

    Ahh yes, the double standard that never seems to benefit anyone.

    I’m with you, David. I’m about looking at what works and what doesn’t in life. I want to be able to address with freedom when I see where workability exists and where it doesn’t.

    Some people are very anti-church and they don’t want to hear where there is goodness and light within it.

    Some people are very pro-church and don’t want to hear where there is darkness and bondage within it.

    Neither one of those stances are marks of freedom. Freedom can see something, say it (or not) and still love.

    Keep on…

  • Rocco

    David, excellent words. And a great job of exposing the lies of the institution.

    If it smells like poop and tastes like poop, well….

    Critique away my brother!

  • nakedpastor

    Thanks everyone. Cecilia: Oh… believe me… I’m not going to stop. What I posted here is what others are saying, and I don’t agree with their opinions.

  • don bryant

    I’m listening. The fact that there can be critique means hope.

  • John


    Just a thought…

    The gifts you have been given by our Father go with you for life. Just because you left any given church location doesn’t mean that you leave your gifts there.

    Look at the early churches…they grew because everyone was sharing all of who they were in Christ.

    Stand firm in Christ, brother! Your voice, gifts, talents, etc… are desperately needed in the church at large. More so, I believe, than in any one given congregation.

  • Brianmpei

    The only real ‘power’ is in relationship, not in titles or jobs. As part of “the machine” I don’t feel the need to protect anything. Don’t feed “the machine” by telling it that the illusion of it’s power is real!

  • Gary Walter

    When did this happen. Join the club man. And believe me, until they take me out back and crucify or stone me, I’m not going to quit exposing the hypocrisy or lies.

    And I know you won’t either!

  • Cecilia

    OH! Well then. Carry on friend!

  • JohnCW

    I feel similarly now that I am not longer a christian.

    When I was still religious my doubts, concerns, questions, and critiques were labeled and dismissed. Now that I’m not longer a christian, I feel like I’m attacking my friends.

  • don bryant

    Hey, John. I am one of your pastor friends. I don’t feel attacked. How about a beer????

  • Luke

    the church is a whore, she is also my mother. -Augustine of Hippo

  • Mama Bean

    Good thoughts. It must be a frustrating sort of double standard from your position. I think you have a great platform here, and certainly the credentials (or whatever) to speak what you have to say. There’s plenty of people listening, right?
    Does it sometimes feel like you’re “preaching to the choir” out here in internet-land?
    Anyway, it’s always frustrating to feel like your credibility is challenged just b/c you’re not part of the inner circle, as it were. I feel strongly it’s more efficient to change things from the inside, but yes, the system does more or less protect itself from that in many ways.

  • Lynn Hopkins

    I feel you, pastor. I’m in a mirror-image position — not YET a pastor, but in the candidacy process. Of course, there is the incentive not to criticize because it could hurt my professional prospects, but that has never been much of an impediment to me (probably not as much as it should be, if I were prudent).
    The real challenge is this: As a lay person who is critical, I have no voice — or at least not one that carries beyond my small space. As a candidate who is critical, I worry about hypocrisy and inauthenticity on the other. Can I be honest and sincere, criticizing a society that I seek, with all that is in me, to join? In doing so, do I fail to practice the compassion and mercy that I hope it affords to me?
    The wrestling always brings me back to a deeper question: Though we hold up the failings of the institution rather than its individuals, and we want to say “it’s not personal”, we are holding up personal attributes — intransigence, emotional violence, power mongering, exclusivity, and the like. Is it really possible to do that, without it being “personal” — especially when our relationship with the institution is so intimate that we are/have been/will be one of those persons who make up the body? (may I just say, parenthetically, that sometimes the prophetic calling really sucks?)
    Your words always energize and encourage me… don’t EVER stop, whatever forum or platform or audience you find. I need you, we need you, and the Church needs you.

  • Tiggy

    Fuck authority! I don’t believe in it and I never have. You have as much right as anyone else to critique the church. Because I didn’t have parents in the normal sense, I’ve never had any sense of hierarchy and I’m glad of it. It should have no place in the Christian faith. Did Jesus say submit to the Pharisees because they know better than you? When he wanted to give examples of wisdom he pointed to children, women, foreigners and religious outsiders. Religious authority is one of the most powerful covers for abuse. It’s way TOO powerful. I’ve been bullied and physically threatened by religious leaders who have tried to control every aspect of my life and to force me to accept a distortion of the truth.

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  • ( | o )====:::

    A number of us have followed your exploits and, here’s the thing, inside a church affiliation or not, you will always be part of the church that is known by her simplicity, so your voice may not be recognised by some, but let me assure you in no uncertain terms, there are many of us who are singing harmony to your blues.

    The sweet thing is, outside “the camp”, that’s where the stars can be seen, away from the campfire of the fearful.
    Welcome to a rediscovery of His Majesty’s sky.
    He knows each star by name, and he knows each of us as well.

    It’s also a lot more quiet, except for the rocks and stones…
    …beautiful music, ain’t it?

    ( | o )====:::

  • Tamara

    I know someone who thinks we should only build the church but never critique it – or at least keep that to only pointing out blatant heresy. But then we lose out on Luther and Calvin and Zwingli (oh no, she’s Reformed!!!). I’m not comparing you to them, sorry to say. But what I am trying to say is that if we love the church, then we will look at what’s wrong and try to fix it…

    Regular pleb, or paid staff… We can all change things, if that’s the change God wants for His church and we work through his power and not our own embittered pride or bruised egos (and there I’m speaking about me more than anyone else…)

  • Victor

    Isn’t this just a sub-set of the whole human condition?

    You see problems in the church and express them. I may agree or I may disagree, but you are entitled to express your views (irrespective of whether you do it from inside or outside).

    Other people disagree with you and voice their opinions. They may be right or they may be wrong, they may do it gently and lovingly or they may be downright obnoxious. But surely they still have the right of free speech. (And some of your statements provoke people to disagree – as you know.)

    Why do you feel you have no “authority” to critique the church as a layman? What “authority” do you need? How is your voice more influential if you have “authority”? Do you expect people to be more willing to follow your leading? And does it take away your “authority” if somebody questions it?

  • arulba

    I remain conflicted. We returned to church after having been out of it for 10 years and what continues to bother me the most is not the actual community. I love the community. That’s why I returned. But I don’t like the power its authority figures hold sway. I’m not anti-hierarchical. I just think the church very often confuses political power with spiritual hierarchy.

    What I wonder is if maybe this is the way it’s always been? People recognize the hypocrisy and so call it out, and in so doing, start something new, fresh and vibrant?

    Rather than denying what came before, it is a sort of undoing that allows for an overcoming. The new doesn’t discard the old, it simply provides for a much broader view.

  • Reluctant-Andrew

    You know, Christianity could really do with a new denomination. I mean, that sort of thing has always cured the churches of the past.

    Reform is a sure-fire way to get it right.

    (Ever hear of the writers’ platitude: great works are never completed, but only abandoned…)

    (BTW, noticed the new About Me and love it. There’s something so appropriate about the phrase ‘free-range’ and the title ‘pastor’ finally getting together in the same sentence.)

  • Polly Esther

    It’s quite simple in one of two ways…either I follow and believe in the philosophies of the church, which isn’t all bad, or I take what knowledge I’ve acquired from MY life, a strong stance, common sense and the courage of individual thought and conclusion to conduct my life. Naturally, a person has the ability and opportunity to inherit a positive and productive lifestyle, with many faults and mistakes to make room for intellectual growth and wisdom. In the end, that is what it is…philosophy and freedom of thought and lifestyle. It is one of the purest forms of self-truth…which is where it should all begin. It is all we have as a base to build a strong faith…no matter where the faith originates from or where it takes us. It isn’t necessary to be “part of a church” to share knowledge, religion based or other. If it is the goal of the church to spread the word of God…I think the word has been SPREAD. Everybody other than those who are too young, have been exposed to or have heard “the word of God”. One of the real main goals of the church is to recruit members…and I ask myself WHY is that so important…and we know the answer to that question.
    As a church member it would be up to me to share my knowledge in or out of a church, and leave it up to the person receiving it, to choose what to do with that knowledge…not to dictate to him or her what they should learn and how they should share that knowledge, and how they should live their lives. I would never want to add insult by proclaiming to be THE ONE who “KNOWS” and THE ONE who is “RIGHT”.
    I am a human being with many weaknesses, faults and regrets and as a whole, my life experiences have built a strong level headed, kind and considerate woman, without religious input and influences. I am proud of that. With everything we are taught to hate about ourselves, be ashamed of, and judge others and ourselves for…in the name of the church, I am sad to think there may be a God out there somewhere who is in turmoil over the mass religious based philisophical chaos going on in the world.
    Realistically, we know so little.

  • Polly Esther

    *embarrassed*…hehehe…sorry for the redundancy in the use of the word KNOWLEDGE…:-S