Monday, November 21, 2011

Thoughts on Church

I know a lady who was always very deeply involved in her church. She poured her heart and soul into everything she did and was a huge blessing on the congregation. However, because she is a woman, many people were offended by her leadership. There were many issues that arose over the years, but eventually she was pushed out of the church she had been serving for many many years. She recently told me that she has stopped going to church all together. I asked her why, and her answer was both moving and thought provoking. I’ll share her letter below.

Why I don’t attend Church.

First, I was deeply hurt by things that happened at [my old church.] especially the last month. [The pastor] did and said some pretty horrible things to me. I still don't know if he was angry because I was leaving or what was going on. He did apologize to me last year for those last few things, but not for lying to me and about me for all those years.

Second, as I was just taking a break I began to examine what was going on inside of me. I started teaching Sunday School when I was 16 and I worked or volunteered in a church somewhere for the next 34 years without a break. I've done pretty much everything that can be done in a church. And for the most part, I loved it and I was good at the tasks.

However, as the days without church went on, I felt such an utter sense of quietness and peace come over me. So much tension went out of my heart and mind and body. I realized that working in the church has been such a huge source of inner turmoil for me. I have never liked church. I'm not a social person, I could be a hermit and not miss anyone.
However, I know God wanted me ministering to people with my gifts, so I did it. I detest almost all worship services. I don't care for hymns or choruses. I especially resent greatly that one man gets to get paid to study the Word of God and then stand up every week and tell us what he discovered. and most of them do a pretty poor job at communicating. And my beliefs tend toward the traditional so of course, I'm NEVER going to hear a woman preach although I believe one should preach every other week. Men just communicate and use different examples than women and we as women have to always switch it to apply to us.

I gave one talk at [my old church] once at the end of the worship service and you would have thought the sky was falling! I was good and funny and interesting and [the pastor] hated that. And so did others. So sad.

So I realized that I have been staying busy in a church my whole life, just tolerating the social aspect (which wears me out) and the worship service (which I find a waste of time). If I was using my gifts and doing something, I actually was able to enjoy myself. I literally cannot go into a church and sit and feel anything but anxiety, panic, disgust, anger, frustration and criticalness.

I'm not upset with the Church. I think that local churches could do better, but I understand ALL the barriers and issues toward change.
Many many people are served and helped and led to Christ because of churches. I'm not mad or upset with God or Jesus. I know with 100% certainty that Christianity is the only worldview that makes sense and can transcend every culture and every time period. I love Jesus.

I just find church a complete waste of time, unless I am doing something... and I can't do anything anymore. I'm hurt and tired and don't want the fight. And I certainly could never sit back submissively and let all the men make the decisions.

So I worship all week with amazing little vignettes within my life. I'm resting. It has been almost exactly 4 years. I have only gone to church once and it was because my whole family was here. with all the girlfriends or wives and everyone looked so striking I wanted to go show them off and we sat in the 2nd row and we had so many comments. Not very spiritual. :) But there it is.

I find being part of the unchurched very interesting. I am now just beginning to explore what would bring me back to a church. I have very interesting thoughts about that and how to market the whole church experience. For instance, why is the only gateway into church life through the worship service itself? It is really hard to pick and choose and be part of a church society without attending the all- hallowed worship service, why? It is such a narrow gate and one I find many people just endure in order to get the other things they need like a pastor for a funeral or wedding or conversations over coffee etc.

Sorry it got so long. I could keep going. But I'll stop now. It is the first time I have written it all down. Thanks for asking! That was a nice little gift you gave to me without even knowing it.

Have you been hurt by the church? Is there anything you would change if you had the chance? I’d LOVE to hear your stories!


  1. I do not believe church is necessary to the Christian life. I know most Christians would disagree, but that's my belief. It's supposed to be the fellowship that's important, and when criticism takes over, that is lost. The most convenient way for most Christians to fellowship is through the scheduled service, but each person should feel free to choose what works for them. We worship God daily if we are truly committed to Him. We just have to remember that fellowship is not the same as socializing. Fellowship is to share praise for our blessings, bear one another's burdens, and encourage one another in righteousness.

  2. Oh god, church has damaged me so much. I wouldn't even know where to start. There was the time I was trying to leave an abusive relationship..I was nineteen, and asked for prayer and support at a youth conference. CRISIS. The youth leaders agonized about what to do, they informed my parents, I was asked to reconcile with my abuser and made to publish an apology online for damaging his reputation. There was the time a few of us college students tried and tried to kickstart some sort of group for our age group and were alternately shut down/hushed up, and occupied by older, more conservative members of the church who didn't trust us to manage ourselves and our ideas of doctrine. The time I mentioned to the college & career pastor that his disgust at a colleague's Facebook profile photo of himself and his partner disgusted /me/, and then he confronted my sister about me ("Is Talia okay? Do you think [he] might be struggling with the sin of homosexuality?") without my knowledge or consent, and how she in turn passed that conversation on to my parents.
    For starters.

  3. Our good pastor was ousted by an ambitious assistant pastor, and he was replaced by a very patriarchal, condescending man. I was assaulted at a youth group meeting, and the youth leader blamed me for provoking the guy into twisting my arm. The church effectively divided the sexes, made lots of sexist jokes, and pumped up the males in the congregation while putting down the females. I left after a while. It's been over four years since I attended church regularly, and my life has been much more laid-back, pleasant, and freer of anxiety. I don't think it's a coincidence.