I’m One of Them

Almost everybody I talk with now are not in the church*. Here’s the demographic:

  1. They never have been a part of one.
  2. They used to be but aren’t anymore.
  3. They are connected to one but never go.
  4. If they are part of one, they are trying to figure out how to leave.

I totally sympathize with every one of these groups. I completely understand why they feel the way they do and empathize with the decisions they’ve made. I’m one of them.

Of course, I myself have left the church for what I think are good reasons. But I still believe I am a part of the church. I appreciate my Christian heritage and acknowledge that no matter how or what I communicate, my roots are found in and my nourishment has come from the rich soil of the Christian faith and the church life that has nurtured me for decades. I will never deny that.

But I see this not only as a way to be honest about who I am, but also as a kind of window into the religious life and spiritual experience of all people. Indeed, my z-theory is an attempt to articulate what this “window” means to me and what I think it may mean for others.

I think I am on a very interesting journey and I’m excited about it.

*When I say “church” I mean a local congregation of gathering Christians.

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  • speakingwinds

    I’m most closely fit with #4, but not totally desiring to leave. Just desiring that things could be at least a little different. I still differntiate “church” as both my local congregation of gathering Christians, and “church” as the body of Christ. I am both.
    And I am learning to live in and offer grace to those who defintely think I’m a bit of an anomoly. And living in grace and mercy on a Sunday morning when all I want to do is run.

  • and there a lot of people like you there speakingwinds.

  • myheartsinlynchburg

    My wife and I left a particular denomination about 8 years ago after we were told by the pastor – “God would never call you into the mission field because she is divorced.” Amazingly (that we didn’t walk away from church all together), we started attending another church fairly frequently. Over the past 8 years, I’ve questioned everything I was ever taught.

    A few weeks ago, my son wanted to attend the fall festival of his school friend’s church (same former denomination). They had an entertaining juggler and an assembly line altar call at the end. I really wanted to puke and found myself hoping that my children would not go forward after “praying that prayer for the first time.” However, part of me missed those days of being told what and how to think. This questioning and “thinking on my own” is tough. But my relationship with Christ is a true one; not shallow, judgmental, and elitist like it used to be. My faith now has feet – I’m not hoarding it behind the “brickland” walls feeling sorry for all those sinners on the outside.

    Now, we managed to hang on to the church thing. But, I really can sympathize with anyone who has had a faith-shattering experience and are now in groups 2-4. And if anyone in group 1 encounters the church, I pray it’s not similar to my former church because it’ll only be a matter of time before the “High and lifted up” pastors and/or deacons say something really stupid in an attempt to speak for God and rob them of their new-found faith.

    Sorry for the long comment….

  • Tobias

    Me and my house group are connected to a church and begin to feel a part of it but up until now nobody is a member yet. Since they haven’t made up their mind about membership of gay people in a relationship I cannot yet be a member (and what’s more I’ll probably leave this town soon). One of my friends now applied for membership but refused to sign the “statement of belief” they added (which is the statement of belief of a German alliance of churches.

    Our pastor does certainly not have an easy time with us. But he’s a great guy and I feel very close to that church.

  • myheartsinlynchburg

    My comment concerning feeling sorry for those sinners outside the church should’ve been in quotations. When I re-read my comment, it sounded very pharisaical… and, I certainly don’t want to give the appearance that I have the same mindset that caused me and my family so much heartache.

  • fat radical

    It’s a classic “can’t live with / can’t live without” situation isn’t it, even if someone no longer attends a church meeting they still need to connect with others on some level even if it is in cyberspace. Was it the hand that said to the foot “I have no need of you”? Myself I am not resourceful enough to go it alone nor would my family want me/us to. I have already left one church after 25 years & don’t relish doing that again 15 years later. I reckon we need to spend more time sorting out our internal world than trying to fix others, if we are in a good spiritually wholesome, balanced, healed, healthy place ourselves, we can cope much better with the brokenness that manifests itself in the rest of the church & even in the leaders.We need to ask ourselves some hard questions and we need to ask others to help us in our quest.

  • I weary of feeling guilty. I used to joke about the primary motivator in most peoples’ lives is guilt. I went to church because my parents raised me to believe I should. I ran away from church because I couldn’t fit. I sauntered back because it was how I introduced God to my children, in a structured sort of way, and I stayed; even when I longed for the church of my parents, when I no longer sing because I couldn’t connect with the music. And now I see myself described in the church-less category. How important is it anyway?

  • a lot of people ask that same question charlene.

  • Crystal

    Charlene, my heart goes out to you. Guilt is one of the worst soul destroyers. I should know. I was raised on it. But, Jesus, as far as I can ascertain from my reading of the scriptures, came to set you free from all that. There’s real guilt which you can do something about – if you’ve honestly hurt someone you can ask their forgiveness and attempt to make amends, and there’s something called toxic guilt which is a feeling you have of not ever being a good enough person to come to God or anyone. You live with this horrible dumped on feeling that you’re trash no matter what you do. Please, please, Charlene, do not stay in that form of thinking. That is not God telling you that, and fellow “Christians” oughtn’t to be giving you that impression either( Correct me if I’m out of line here, David.) I don’t know where your guilt comes from but it doesn’t sound to me that you’re an awful person who deserves to feel such condemnation. And you do know, don’t you, that the kingdom of God is within you. You don’t need four walls in which to confine your faith. You are the church.

    I’m not within four walls at the moment.I fit into number two on the list, and for a long time I was stuck at number four. I’m now on a journey like David described himself to be, and have no idea what is down the road. All I know is that “God” wherever and whoever he is is traveling with me. I’m still a Christian, no matter what any of my ex church members may think. This blog is a great avenue for exploring those puzzling questions of faith.

    Hope these little comments help you Charlene—Crystal.

  • Thank you Crystal – your insights are appreciated!

  • John

    David wrote, “..my roots are found in and my nourishment has come from the rich soil of the Christian faith and the church life that has nurtured me for decades.”

    Reminds me of something William James said,

    “The most violent revolutions in an individual’s beliefs leave most of his old order standing. Time and space, cause and effect, nature and history, and one’s own biography remain untouched. New truth is always a go-between, a smoother-over of transitions. It marries old opinion to new fact so as ever to show a minimum of jolt, a maximum of continuity.”

  • Thanks John. Excellent quote!

  • Elderyl

    David’s cartoons have helped me to leave a church in the past year, but not The Church. Sometimes it seemed he was drawing just for me because something would happen and I’d open up my browser to find he’d just drawn it. It was very hard, but helped to not lose sight of being part of the big Church. This blog and the cartoons and the people who comment here helped me in my faith journey, or maybe journey back to faith. I am in a new church now and finding joy in the Church again, with less and less of the old church dragging me down. I do still love and see many of the folks in my old church, but keeping sight of that bigger picture has helped me realized the grace and mercy that God has already provided.