have you outgrown your container?

park and drive cartoon by nakedpastor david hayward
(click on image to shop OR contact David for originals and prints of his work)

This is one of my personal favorites. Sarah. Park and drive. I posted it a year ago and it received many comments. I think it stirred up a lot of stuff for many people.

This is how most of my friends, including members of The Lasting Supper, experienced their departure from church. Mine included. I mean, my departure was precipitated by some events, but it was the culmination of many years of not being able to call it home anymore. Some people leave, it is true, because of a critical event. But my observation is that most leave for the same reason Sarah did in this cartoon. They just can’t do it anymore. It’s an intellectual crisis.

On a Potluck Hangout we had last night, “I Think I’m An Atheist”… we’ve made this one public so that you can watch it… a couple of our participants said that they were about 16 years old when they really began asking questions and were met with resistance. Rather than helping people realize that questions were a natural and healthy development in one’s spirituality, they instead were told they were being difficult and even unbelieving. They were treated like second-class citizens, rebels and perhaps traitors. There was no longer any room for them. This initiated their progression, or digression depending on which perspective you come from, into agnosticism and eventually, for some, atheism. Their departure from church and sometimes religion was not like an explosion but more like a slow drifting away. They outgrew the limiting containers that were provided for them.

I believe it is possible to be spiritually healthy within the church. Especially if you can find a church that partners with you in your journey. I also believe it is possible to be spiritually healthy outside the church. Especially if you can find people to partner with you in your journey there.

What’s most important is that you think and act honestly, no matter where this brings you, inside or out.

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  • David. I’ve out grown several churches simply because they were either unable, or unwilling to explore my own growing questions about grace, the finished work of Christ, or the Father heart of God. The more Holy Spirit reveals those things to me, the more I find myself unable to be part of communities that refuse to explore the immeasurable possibilities of the One we call God and what He means when He says His love knows no bounds. I personally feel that in many cases it is more spiritually healthy to leave a church than to remain and be disgruntled.

  • I agree Shawn that it is sometimes more spiritually healthy to leave than to remain. Thanks.

  • Mark

    Whenever I’m around the fundies I grew up with, I feel like I’m the last human in “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”

  • haha and that is a scary feeling!

  • Patty

    That could be me in the car. It’s been a long road from the small twinges of discomfort, knowing that certain teachings went against my inner beliefs and trying to subvert my beliefs so that I could be a ‘good’ member of the church to a full scale tidal wave of disbelief and even anger, directed towards the church. And now, like the woman in the cartoon, I sit outside the church. It may not be a good place to be because I feel as though I don’t belong anywhere, but paradoxically I’m now free to belong everywhere and to be honest in my relationship with God, unfettered by church hierarchy who drove a wedge into my faith.

    Thanks for providing the means for a fruitful meditation.

  • it does sound like you in the car Patty! thanks for sharing.

  • Bruce Shaw

    Often this means it’s time to upgrade to a more theologically advanced church. You get tired of rehashed Bible stories intended for children. Christ’ message is found through sound theology, not Bible cherry-picking.

  • Steelwheels

    I love this cartoon! What has really hit me recently is that most of the people walking into the building are not the church! I know some will disagree but ‘church’ is people who want to be more like Jesus. Sad as it may be I don’t see very many like that in the ‘institutional church’, they are there but they are the minority, or remnant if you like.

    With that said, the choice to turn agnostic or atheist would be irrational. To deny Christianity because of how bad the ‘institutional church’ is, is like denying Algebra because of how bad the algebra teacher is (yes, that’s personal experience). Is doesn’t follow. There is the real ‘church’ out there. They’re not always in buildings, they don’t always meet on Sundays, but we so desire to gather with others who love Jesus.

  • Yep. I’ve been there. Several times I’ve not even gotten as far as the church building; turned around and gone home again. Or just elsewhere. The place just feels so much like it’s wilfully walling itself off from the wider world.

  • starbucks?

  • Have you ever read Ursula K. LeGuin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas”?


  • No but I’ll check it out.