by Ellen cross posted from her blog When Church Hurts
It was over Sunday brunch that our weekend guests brought it up. This deeply committed Christian couple who trained in missions, worked in Christian publishing, and he being and award-winning author of Christian books, she having been an administrative assistant for a mega-church pastor at one time, sat at our dining room table and very casually mentioned that they had not been attending church for several months.
After attending and serving in a church for over fifteen years, they finally realized that though they appreciated the pastor, the sermons, the ministry focus, they had not developed any real relationships in the church. They only saw people at the church when they were there on Sunday mornings and, though they had attempted to develop relationships with people over the years by inviting them to dinner or to join a bible study, nothing ever came of it.
Commuting to this church was a 30 minute drive, but they had determined it was worth it. Though they had also attended other churches over the past 40 years – when she was working as an administrative assistant at another church, they felt they should attend there, for example – they always gravitated back to this church. But after realizing that they weren’t developing any “real” relationships, they decided it might be time to look for something closer to home.
Not that the church didn’t try. They had attempted to create small groups based on location, based on interests, based on a number of things, but as our friends acknowledged, it is nearly impossible to force relationships to develop simply by putting people together on occasion.
They started considering churches in their area and he even visited a small church within a few blocks of their home. He experienced that uncomfortable “stranger in our midst” feeling as he sat amongst people whom he had never seen before in his life. The sermon was “fine” – nothing astounding but nothing to complain about – but it was obviously a church of “older” people who were comfortable with their group and weren’t all that interested in adding to it.
They would truly love to find a church where they can become integrated in community with other people beyond sitting in a pew and listening to a sermon, throwing a few bucks in the offering plate, and being pressed into over-commitments. They are leery of churches in which there is a power-family that runs everything by threat of withdrawing their financial support or of churches in which the pastor and his hand-picked leadership have total control, doesn’t reveal their financials, and isn’t interested in developing personal relationships with anyone beyond their inner circle.
I suspect that these friends of ours are well on their way to becoming “nones.” Because all of the things that they want in a church are nearly impossible to find these days. Good, solid, teaching and preaching. People who welcome, accept, and befriend one another both inside and outside of the church. People who are equal in the sight of God and man regardless of their standing financially, socially, or politically.
It’s just too bad that we live six hours away because we are looking for the same thing and were it not for distance, we could be part of the community for which they are searching. Because, what they have not been able to find, we have not been able to find either. Is there anyone out there in our neck of the woods who is looking for these same things? If there are, I would so love to find them.~~~~~~~~~
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