Three More Questions: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

September 20, 2010

Hello again, my friends.  It is time to kick off another exciting week of whatever it is you do.

First of all, congrats to the winners of our drawing last week, Frank and Collin!  Their amazing skills at being randomly selected from a pool of contestants mean that they will be enjoying Leonard Sweet’s Nudge and SoulArize Vol. 2 (the secret prize.) 

I’m kicking off the week by asking you three more questions to assist me with my off the record writing project.  I have been absolutely amazed at the variety of responses to the questions I have asked previously.  It is amazingly humbling and challenging to me to hear stories from all of you which are so different from mine.  Today, I’ve got some big questions to ask.

Here we go.  Answer one or all three as you wish…

1.  Everyone has some kind of beef with the church.  I make light of those criticisms regularly here.  What is your personal biggest disappointment or disagreement with where the church is headed? (Your own home church, or the church altogether.)
2.  Why, despite having huge disappointments with the church, have you stuck around or kept your faith?
3.  If you no longer consider yourself a Christian, or you are a Christian, but you are “wandering” without a church, why is that?  Is your life better without church in your life?

You know, for me, I’ve had massive disappointments and pain caused to me by people who considered themselves Christians, even church leaders.  I think what kept me in church was almost a blindingly determined attitude that those people were not going to steal anything more from me than they had already.  They would not be vindicated by my faltering in faith. 

Ah, but enough about me.  I really want to hear answers to all three, but I think I’ll be a bit short on the third question.  If you know anyone who would be able to answer any of these, get them over here to leave a comment!  And hey, if you missed the other questions, you can find them here and here.

37 responses to Three More Questions: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

  1. i think my greatest disappointment with the church today is just plain old disobedience. not that we’re horrible people necessarily, but obedience seems to have taken a back seat to knowledge. many of us study the bible with a group of christians 3-4 times a week. and some of us study the bible outside those times as well. we act as if gaining knowledge about the bible or even God has some value in and of itself. and we are disobedient to that which a small child can easily understand. [ie. do everything without complaining, love one another, feed the hungry, etc.]

    i just think we’re far too intelligent to be as disobedient as we are. and if that’s what bible study for knowledge’s sake has gotten us, then we ought to reconsider it’s value.

  2. 1. My beef with the church in general is along the same lines as James’ concerns – what’s the point of more Bible knowledge if we don’t do anything with it? I have a friend who insists that the role of the church is to teach, and to build up its members in the faith. And that’s clearly part of what the church is. But I think the purpose of the church goes beyond that, to be Jesus in the world, so that the world might see him. The church is there to be the hands and feet of Jesus, and to encourage us as we go out and make disciples.

    2. Why do I stay? Because I think a new generation of leaders is beginning to make the changes that are needed to get us from head knowledge to action. Those leaders need the support of people who are already there to make it happen.

    3. Been there, bought the t-shirt. It was lonely on many levels. I used to love lazy Sunday mornings but felt God’s call back to church nearly 20 years ago. My faith and my life are much more full as a result. I thought I had a relationship with God on my own, but the truth is I needed the encouragement of other followers of Christ in order to grow deeper in my faith. I needed the church to help me take the leap from believer to follower. I couldn’t have done that without the encouragement of the church.

  3. -1 Getting hurt in church is a national pass-time – pass the beer and pretzels, and don’t touch the remote.

    I have long since thought that most of the churches that I have attended were more about pastoral and leadership personalities than Jesus. I can’t imagine folks going to a church were they were not valued for their gifting – forget being loved as they are.

    The hardest thing for me was to be loved for me – not for my contributions. Conversely, it has been tough to fit my gifting (prophetic, teaching, sarcasm) into most churches; as you know, I am no pastor. I have been asked to leave more churches than I have attended.

    This weekend I was on a retreat with the men. I left a post on the pastor’s FB wall – “Thanks for hanging out.” His reply, “Thank you for being you; you are really quite an incredible guy.”

    Matt, that stuff changes everything.

    -2 Jesus! I love Jesus, I have to answer for every careless thing I have done, and quitting would just be another one. More importantly, God has ordained good works for me to step into – how self centered and immature it would be to blow those off for the sake of a pity party. It is about me and Jesus, and God can use anything to get His will done if we are obedient.

    -3 I have tried the “The Church of the Churchless Christian.” Taking time off to reflect after a bad experience is often a good thing. What I found is that I began to turn into a religious hypocrite… and the gospel was just lip services to a failed belief system. I once brought someone to Christ, and then I didn’t know what to tell them after that. Umm… read your Bible (I don’t really anymore), pray (I am not really having a track record of answered prayer here), and don’t go to church, (because I am the only true Christian you are ever going to meet).

    • Think you’re onto something about the fact that everyone wants to be loved for themself, instead of for their contributions. I know that I’ve been hurt several times in churches by feeling like I was only valued when, and for what, I contributed.

      Adore your response to question #2

  4. 1) My Beef: Young-Earth Creationism — more specifically, the church-mandated (or denomination-mandated) rejection of evolution and inflexible adherence to a literal 6-day creation 6,000 years ago, accompanied with proclamations that those who believe otherwise aren’t Christians.

    2) Why I’m still Christian: Parts of the Bible aren’t literal, thank God. (“If your eye causes you to sin…”) Through Godly communities of men and women, I have come to realize that you *can* be a Christian and accept modern science; you don’t have to check your brain at the door when you walk into church (close-minded interpretations of Scriptural passages by a subset of churches notwithstanding).

    • Johnny, I had to laugh at your thankfulness that the “if your eye causes you to sin…” isn’t literal – me too! I also have a difficult time with the hard liners about the 6-day (as in 24hr day) creationists and fail to see why they are focusing on this instead of on Jesus and the great salvation He offers, on loving others and living our lives in obedience.

  5. 1. Wow…there’s a lot of things. I would say my biggest disagreement is the number of churches who turn a blind eye to sin in the name of being “inclusive” and “welcoming everyone.” I have no problem with letting someone know God loves them and wants all to come to Him; I have an issue when churches willingly ignore His commands to us so someone doesn’t walk away because they would have to give up a vice (excessive drinking, etc.)

    2. There’s no place else to go. You can’t escape God. You can’t deny Him. He says the church is His bride and that we need to gather together. It’s just the way it is. So no matter how much it may hurt or we may want to go our own way, there’s one way. His.

    3. I’ve had times where I’ve almost stopped attending churches because most of the time the membership is insignificant unless it’s helping the church build it’s status, power and influence. Those churches really didn’t care about the people but rather wanted cogs in the machine they were building. And it’s way too common in too many churches.

  6. 1. As nerdy introverted kid, I hated that church was so much about socializing and “fellowshipping”. I hated that youth group and young adult Sunday Schools were more about making church cool and fun than about serving and growing together as the body of Christ. I hated that I couldn’t escape the dumb middle school/high school social jungle even in church. As an adult, I’m still uncomfortable with how much emphasis is placed on making church more appealing and “relevant.” Outreach and fellowship are important, but not at the expense of conforming to the world’s standards or practices.

    2.I almost didn’t. But I realized that I couldn’t escape God, His love for me, and my love for Him. I realized how important the Church was, and moreover, how important it is to work and worship with others in Christ. Like Augustine said, “The church is a whore, but she’s my mother.”

    3. I wandered for a long time largely because after I moved to NYC, I was overwhelmed by the number of churches I had to choose from. I soon discovered that non-denominational does not mean the same thing, doctrinally, every where. My moderate social anxiety also made “jumping in” to an established church body rather difficult and it’s taken a lot of prayer and support from my husband to be able to do that.

  7. With my church: In preaching and the lyrics of songs, they’re content to swim in the kiddie pool. I know some people might appreciate simple lyrics, but I appreciate things that make a person think.

    With the worldwide church: Throwing other Christians under the bus as a way to make ourselves look or feel better. Finger-pointing and judging isn’t any better just because it’s coming from people who drink beer and wear jeans to church. Yes, the Bride has issues, and one of them are those of us who complain about “the church” while forgetting that we are a part of it … and its problems.

  8. hey matt,

    i came over from margaret’s place and am so glad i did.
    our kids love to come to kansas city and soak at the 24/7
    worship spot.

    sorry to disappoint, but i don’t really have a beef with the church.
    the church taught me about Jesus and how to sing to Him and
    about HIm.

    the church surrounded me with people who love me, bring me
    meals when i need them, and kind notes when i’m in distress.

    wherever it has failed me, IF it has failed me, seems like nothing
    in comparison to what it has given me.


  9. My beef with the church is that it seems like everyone’s running for Congress or something. Nobody wants to share their pain or heartache, and when they share it’s trivial, but gets the point across so they can set an example for people with “actual” pain and brokenness. Plus, there are still things you just don’t confess at church, especially if it hurts your credibility in whatever role you play in the church.

    I’ve stuck around because I understand the need for a community of people who share similar understanding of the way the world works, spiritually and physically. Heck, it’s the same reason I read Christian blogs more than secular blogs. The spiritual component to conversation, confession, and encouragement is vital.

  10. My biggest disappointments with the home church are two-fold. First, their slogan is Reaching the Next Generation For Christ. I think they do an excellent job with that. However, I think that if you are over 30, you tend to become forgotten. This is especially true if you are content with heaven insurance and want to keep your butt firmly planted in the pew. I’m not content, but finding places to be a part are harder because they are looking younger most of the time.

    Why do I stick around? My wife is content and my children are part of the future. Recently, I asked what I was supposed to do. I was told that I’ve reached an age that I need to step back and just work with the youth or younger people to let them do the work. I’m only 41 and I am not ready to step aside.

    • @Frank – are you kidding me????? I am 52 and look out Kingdom of Darkness. I am co-leading a ministry team at my church, and on it are young and old. I shook them up when I asked them to allow kids 10 and up to join it. Like kids have a junior Holy Spirit or something.

      How long do we have to be Christians before we can pray for others with needs? I am also hoping to lead a trip to Brazil – anyone that wants to come, can. In January, I am doing a 5-week apostolic school to train, demonstrate and equip others to do team ministry and use their spiritual gifts to love others.

      We need to reach the next generation by using this one!

  11. Being-the-bride-church; that one? I can’t do without it. But pastors who abuse and call it a godly rebuke, criticize and call it godly exhortation, or belittle your efforts based on opinion and assumptions taint their supposed “calling” and misrepresent Jesus….. I can do without it easily! I’ve lost respect for the institution of church because of it. I don’t want tricked again, can’t trust again and won’t follow anyone except Jesus.

    I’ve never lost my faith in God, nor have I lost my desire for fellowship with believers. I don’t believe going- to -church is the same thing as being the church and struggle with wanting to be part of the business of it. Books like ‘Pagan Christianity” “Unchurched” “Mere Churchianity” help me know I’m not alone. Like conversations like this. Thank you, Matt.

  12. 2. Why, despite having huge disappointments with the church, have you stuck around or kept your faith?

    My faith has nothing to do with the church and yet my faith calls me to BE the church….so I stick around hoping to figure it out w/likeminded…soft hearted ….Jesus loving people

  13. Great questions Matt.

    Thought provoking answers here too.

    Here’re mine:
    1- Biggest disappointment or disagreement with where the church is headed?
    I’m really uncomfortable with the whole numbers thing. It seems like in American churches we often equate large numbers with meaning we must be really serving God the “best” way. I’ve noticed a few people commenting above on some of the same concerns that I have with the results of the numbers game such as: What are we sacrificing in order to be “inclusive”, “relevant”, and “seeker friendly”? Do large groups of attenders always indicate God’s blessing? Can we be obedient to exactly what we believe God is calling us to do as a local church and not end up with large numbers of congregants? Is “how many” really where our focus should be?
    I also think David made a really valid point above about how everyone wants to feel for loved for who is he is, not what he can do for the church.

    2 – Why have you stuck around or kept your faith?
    I adore Peter’s words recorded in Matthew 6:68 about how where else would he go – only Jesus has what he needs – I feel the same way. So even though there’s things I don’t really understand or like about Christianity, I stay because I love Jesus. I stay in church because although there are things I don’t like, I have been so blessed repeatedly though the church. I’ve been taught and challenged, and I’ve been loved (not always and not perfectly but I HAVE been loved). I also stay because I’ve seen that when I, and others I’ve known, stop meeting on a regular basis with other Believers to focus on the Word, I begin to drift away from God and His Kingdom lifestyle.

    3 – I’m not wandering without a church. I’ve always been able to find a local church body to connect with no matter where I’ve lived. I’ve never found the perfect church (of course if I did, it would cease to be so the moment I walked through the door), but I’ve always been encouraged in my faith, had opportunities to reach out in my community, been blessed to serve others of like faith, and formed friendships through the local church.

  14. 1) Well, minister’s kid here, so plenty of church-related cynicism, bitterness, angst, and hurt still bound up inside me in unexpected places. But right now, the biggest problem I have with my current church is that their goal in life (and I mean this – it is our “vision statement”) is by 2012 to be “the most spiritually-impacting, multi-cultural body of believers” in our area. When 2012 rolls around, I shudder to think how they’re going to measure that. Are we going to call up other churches and ask them if we are more spiritually-impacting than they are? If so, what metric will we use? Will we count the nationalities in their church and say, “Nah, nah, we’ve got more countries represented!”?! Will we see who’s baptized the most? (I can tell you for certain, sadly, that it won’t be us.) Who has the largest numbers? And they wonder why the mature believers are gradually drifting away (and taking their large and consistent tithes with them!). But since those mature believers aren’t making a stink as they go, the pastors keep turning a blind eye to it and asking us to just give more.

    On a separate note, I think that the universal church (and my local church as well) have gotten off track about the _purpose_ of the church, specifically who the _church_ is for – is church for the unsaved? or the saved? I think it (i.e., “the body of _believers_”) is for the education, edification, and encouragement of _BELIEVERS_. Not the “unchurched” or “seekers.” And I think that by gearing all our services and programs to the “unchurched” (hate that term – who cares if they go to church? Shouldn’t we care more about the un_SAVED_? God can take care of their obedience in terms of church attendance. It’s just easier for us to assume that if they’re at church semi-regularly, then we don’t need to talk to them about Jesus, we can leave that to the “professional Christians.”), we’re dumbing down the church, and as a result, raising up a generation that has only ever subsisted on milk instead of solid food and will be easily swayed away from a belief system that they don’t really understand, they’ve just always done.

    2) The church is described as a family. I don’t have a choice about who is in my family, and I’m expected to love them whether they hurt me or not. The universal church has hurt me deeply and repeatedly. The local church that I currently attend is one at which my dad _used_ to work. Things didn’t get so far as them officially kicking him out, but it was recommended at one point that he start sending out his resume (he’d already been doing so for several years at that point, and the place we moved to was a resume that was sent long before the recommendation was made). But the church (universal and local – and to some extent especially local) is made up of sinful people. Yes, it catches you by surprise when someone who is _supposed_ to be following Christ’s example stabs you or your family in the back…but they’re sinful people, just like we are. No better, no worse, no more or less in need of salvation. My only job is to remain obedient to God’s will for _my_ life, and it is made clear in His Word that we are not to neglect the fellowship of the believers. So I go to church.

    3) the only time in my life that I haven’t attended church VERY regularly was the last year or so of college (and interestingly, when I was serving long-term overseas…but that’s another story for another time). There was a Catholic boyfriend involved. We broke up. I started coming back to church. Can’t really help much on this one.

  15. What is your personal biggest disappointment or disagreement with where the church is headed?

    Huge question. I guess my biggest concern for church in general is that they seem to be creating a culture that then is considered “the” way to live a Christian life. This isn’t new, it has been going on for centuries. I wrote not long ago that i’m finding it makes me nervous when a Christian is more excited about their church/church programs/church culture than they are about their God. I’m just not comfortable with the church degrading into simply another culture.

    Why, despite having huge disappointments with the church, have you stuck around or kept your faith?

    I don’t feel like i have a lot of “faith.” There are times when the way the world is & what the church teaches about God in the world just don’t mesh or make sense to me. There are times when i don’t particularly even like God a whole lot. I don’t understand God. However, i choose to trust that there is a God out there. He’s bigger than what i can understand, & that the things i don’t understand will work out into some logical conclusion in time (not necessarily in my lifetime or that i will witness while living). This is a choice to trust this way.

    The other side of that would be to stop believing that our world of complex organisms simply came into being & i find that just too difficult to believe.

    If you no longer consider yourself a Christian, or you are a Christian, but you are “wandering” without a church, why is that? Is your life better without church in your life?

    Currently we are not church members/are “unchurched.” We gave up being members recently after a difficult situation. The pastor of the church has gone off the deep end (including preaching what is not scriptural) & no one in the church is holding him accountable. I began researching the denomination that allows this, & was very disturbed at what i found. At this point, having been pretty severely burned, we are not desiring to join another church nor even settle down to attending one regularly.

    We have been making the rounds of several churches in our community: Methodist, Lutheran, Baptist, Presbyterian, a couple of independents, & occasionally Catholic. What we are seeing is that each church has its good points & its not so good points. We are blessed in different ways at each one. We still attend church because we believe in the fellowship of believers & accountability to one another. We believe that fellowship with other Christians (as opposed to watching TV or simply reading the Bible as individuals) is important to our lives as Christ-followers. We are not going to become folks who “do church” by watching TV. But we are also not willing to commit ourselves to one doctrine nor to one (man-made) authority. We are soon to start a small, mid-week group “house church/Bible study” so that we will have regular fellowship with the same group of believers, but we are a long way from ever settling into one church again.

  16. 1. I hate dogma. We’ve been wrong on so many things over the years, yet we’ll cling to “the truth” on so many issues now. And somehow think that people in the past weren’t just as sincere in their beliefs and just as convinced that the Scripture backed them up. We have this incredible arrogance that somehow our interpretation of the Bible is the one that’s going to stand the test of time and that those poor people of old were deluded fools.

    2. On a depressed day I’d say that it’s because I’m just too weak to leave. Can’t give up the myth. All of that stuff. Because really, none of the “proofs” for God work on any kind of intellectual level for me. I’m an awful, awful Christian if you ask me any kind of apologetics question. But my experiences are just too real to me. Not tons of them, but enough to be unwilling to give it up. And really and truly, giving up would be easy, especially after my husband told me a year ago that he was no longer a believer. But really, I’ve just felt love in times when there is no other explanation for it but God.

  17. My beef: different churches’ stances on homosexuality. I feel they are either on the far left saying “Gay is OK” and putting our “tolerant” culture over God’s Word, or on the far right saying that all homosexuals are going to hell. I know plenty of same-sex attracted Christians who are seeking God rather than their flesh. Jesus never said, “No one comes to the Father but through me… and heterosexuality.” Just because it’s something you don’t struggle with doesn’t mean others don’t.
    I stick around because ignorant people may make up the body of the Bride, but that in no way justifies staying away from the Bridegroom. I believe in Him independent of what others believe.

    • seriously! Why is it that as a single woman I am expected to deny my desires for physical intimacy with the type of person I am attracted to, but there is a big problem with asking a homosexual to do the same? It is made out to be this big tragedy that homosexuals can’t act out their gayness if they are Christians; a single man or woman shouldn’t act out his/her lusts either and that isn’t an issue.

  18. I’ve been passing through this blog a few times now and I find the conversation engaging and relateable. I agree with most of the comments and it’s tough to narrow down the sizeable disappointments I have with church in general, so I’ll stick with my church in particular.

    Bible illiteracy. Our children’s program made a concerted effort to encourage the kids to bring their Bibles to church. I was excited to see the change until I asked my son one morning on our way out the door to go back and get his Bible because I could see he didn’t have it. Why? he answered, we don’t do anything with them anyway. Too true.

    What’s the point in teaching the children the discipline of carrying a Bible if we don’t open it. In the adult service, the scripture is on the Powerpoint presentation at the front, no one needs to look it up.

    Why do I stay? I’ve asked the Lord that over and over again in the past year and he answered:

    – What did I say to you when you first entered my building?
    – This is where you will serve.
    – Right, have I said anything different lately?
    – No.
    – Okay, then. Stay in position.

    And so, I stay and pray and I decided to get involved with the children’s ministry, teaching AND using our Bibles.

    I know that many people leave if they are dissatisfied but I know from the moment that I started attending my current church that it wasn’t about what I was going to get out of church, but what I was going to give to the church. I know the Lord sees (El Roi), he cares and he’ll move.

    Thanks for asking.

  19. My husband and I left a church we had been members of for 12 years. This was the first time we left for reasons other than moving out of state. There was a doctrinal issue that was the last straw for us, but before that, there was such a power grip in the leadership that was hard to take. Many times we saw people being hurt and leaving because the leadership appeared to have more interest in being doctrinally correct than in reaching out to heal hurting people. And I’m not talking about anyone in the equation spouting heresy. We were very involved in many ministries of this church. When we did leave – very quietly, btw – we only received one phone call from our Sunday School class leader. No call from any pastor or the pastor’s wife who I had worked with closely. Speaks volumes.

    We are now attending a new church. We looked for about 6 months. It is important to be in touch with other believers. That’s why we kept looking. This fellowship will not be perfect either, but they don’t seem so intensely fixed on being in control of everyone.

  20. “What is your personal biggest disappointment or disagreement with where the church is headed?”

    The lack of spiritual maturity of Christians in the church who have been churched most likely their entire lives. Something has failed if that happens.

  21. 1. Everyone has some kind of beef with the church. I make light of those criticisms regularly here. What is your personal biggest disappointment or disagreement with where the church is headed? (Your own home church, or the church altogether.)

    I would love to see Baptist churches wake up, because they seem sort of dead. (I’m allowed to say that cause I grew up in Baptist churches and am still currently a member of one). Christians should NOT be weirded out when God makes His presence and His power known.

    Also I recently read “Why Men Hate Going to Church” and it really opened my eyes to how feminine and “sissy” churches have become. I would love to see more strong, masculine leadership because the only thing that begets masculinity is masculinity. A girl can learn to be a feminine woman from her dad, but a guy does not learn to be a man from his mom. With the moral and family degeneration in our society, it is even more important that the church steps up to provide it’s congregation with strong, Godly leadership (I’m speaking of adults here, not children’s ministry)

    2. Why, despite having huge disappointments with the church, have you stuck around or kept your faith?

    I do not worship the church, I worship the creator. He has made it clear to me that the church is never going to change/grow into the bride He wants her to be if all the people like me who see things differently hide out in our homes, criticizing from the outside. We are also commanded to not forsake the community of believers (Heb 10:25)

    3. If you no longer consider yourself a Christian, or you are a Christian, but you are “wandering” without a church, why is that? Is your life better without church in your life?

    The eras in my life in which I was not rooted firmly in a church, but wandered from church to church or ceased going at all were the times when I was spiritually farthest from God and weakest in resisting temptation. Even being involved in a church with a lot of problems, or one that had a “stuffy” atmosphere, was better than not going at all. Best scenario is when I have been involved as a volunteer in some way, even something minor.

    sometimes the reason christians who stay out of churches and criticize them are staying away from church is because they do not want to be held accountable. They put on a holy mask and find a beef with the church in order to excuse themselves from getting involved because they are covering an area of their lives that is not right before God.

  22. 1. The church is not a business. It is a family. Business rules are different than family rules. Your worth in a business is measured by what skills and abilities you offer the business. Your worth in a family is measured by the fact that you are a member of the family; you’re valuable no matter what. Businesses are service and product based. Families are love based. I don’t need to spend more time “doing” stuff. I need to spend more time loving people.

    2. Because I love Jesus, and he loves me and the messed up people that make up the church no matter what. That’s not going to change.

    3. I am definitely still a Christian, but my wife and I are currently “wandering”. My wife was a staff member at a church. It’s a great church, and they do church better than any. We love the people in the church. But I think we’re tired of church the organization, and we’re ready to find church the Bride.

    My church is now everyone I know who is a Believer, no matter where they attend services is on Sunday. I am now seeking to fellowship and worship with these people as regularly as I can. I am not sure what that looks like, but we’re just starting this journey.

  23. Wow, what a loaded group of questions! Our beef with the church started 10 years ago when we left a Pentecostal church of 14 years, after 13 years at a Mainstream church. We were looking for More-we chased the “revivals”, saw no power there and gave up after visiting over 30 churches in our area and found they were all pretty much the same-good looking young worship team, shallow lyrics to songs, good looking preachers with messages that tickled a lot of ears. We were in the “wilderness” for 4 years and discovered Messianic Judaism. We were excited that this was finally what we were looking for. After 5 years there and major doctrinal flaws, we left. Each of the congregations we have been a part of has been a learning experience, but we are DONE with organized religion for good. We have a home fellowship now with a faithful few and are continuing to pursue the Feasts of the Lord, of which we are in the middle of 3 now. We have seen the deliberate clouding of the Jewishness of the faith and even Jesus by the church for centuries and are trying to get back to the Hebrew roots of the Christian faith to the point of worshiping on Saturdays and foregoing all of the Christian “holidays.” We have left behind family and friends who think we are nuts, but we have to answer only to God and His Truth, so that is where He has us now. As my husband says, “Salvation is free, it just costs your EVERYTHING.”

  24. #2 Church is about God and me, not about me and the other people. People are flawed. (This is why we need God, is it not?) They will disappoint, they will goof up. Getting it right is each individual getting right with God.

    So long as we are focussed on self and the relationships we have with others, church will disappoint. I’ve stuck with it because it is right so to do. Corporate worship perhaps helps each of us to get her/his mind on the Lord whom we are there to worship.

    If we can’t hold a “Christian” attitude for an hour on Sunday morning while surrounded by other “Christians,” how are we going to convert the lost during the other six days? Oh, my, we are in deep weeds now.

  25. 1. i definitely share james brett’s longing for obedience…he worded his response very well. i am also under the persuasion that many local churches are not living toward redemption and reconciliation now and instead seem to be content learning about it later – or some not even later, they just continue to withhold forgiveness: the pivotal axis on which these two spin.

    i firmly believe that we must be a people living in the habit of forgiving others as we’ve been forgiven, unconditionally* or we will surely become a people indebted to much more dangerous things than people.

    B) i am still “around” because there is no escaping one’s body. that’s really the great thing about conversations like this, even if followers of jesus said, “to hell with this!” or “i don’t like my local church/pastor/the new concrete floors/etc.” we are all still the church. if these people are not followers of jesus, then, certainly, they can walk away from our gatherings, the body, etc. but for followers, we ARE the body. you may not attend a gathering, which is actually impacting the very one you’re not attending, but we’re all still the church.

    …) this is not applicable to me, but i am always interested to hear and actively listen to people’s hearts on this question and issue. thanks for asking it, matt.

  26. 1.This is probably so cliche…but I hate denominationalism. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my Catholic upbringing; it’s not that I hate that there are variances in traditions (they can be very meaningful and help facilitate and focus worship), but I HATE when people honestly think God likes THEIR worship style or THEIR traditions more than another church’s. It’s caused me a lot of grief in my current dating relationship and in relationships with friends. My boyfriend and I were both raised with strong biases (or at the very least, fear) against other denominations. Thankfully we’ve worked through our differences and fears, and we’ve both grown exponentially because of it. But there have been days that I’ve cried for the Church…I just don’t understand how we let it get this way. I agree with some other comments…it seems like we just really like to make ourselves feel good about OUR way.

    Rant #2: Regarding my home parish…some Catholic churches these days actually carry what are called “Missals” (not to be confused with missiles,) in the pews. These are books that contain the readings for every week (or sometimes every day) of that year. You know, so people can actually process what’s being read. Our pastor at home removed them because he thinks they’re distracting. He thinks readings from THE BIBLE are distracting during church. Perhaps he’s confusing THE BIBLE with the latest copy of Cosmo.

    It’s because of issues like this, and the fact that Catholic churches are known neither for their thriving small groups nor their pastors’ engaging preaching skills, that I have found myself going to a 100-person strong non-denominational church (The Well). Yet I still really, really miss the Catholic church of my high school days. It’s hard sometimes, to be quite honest…

    2. I stick around because I have hope and faith in Christ. I know he’s SO bigger than the earthly church and our failures. And because I’m blessed enough to have a small group of people who support me in my church-going decisions and even share my opinions in that area. If I were totally alone in all of this (this being not going to a Catholic church very often in the past year) I don’t know what I would have done. I probably would have become painfully disillusioned and possibly stopped going to church altogether, at least for a while.

    3. Hmm…honestly I still sort of consider myself a wandering Christian at times. I tend to lean towards a more liberal (for lack of a much better word or explanation) theology in some areas, and living in the Bible Belt makes this hard sometimes. Especially since I’ve recently “ventured” away from the Catholic Church I’ve felt at times very much alone in my search. Growing up in a specific denomination means you end up feeling very secure in that place, and moving away from that was really scary for me. There was a lot of doubt. At times it left me feeling empty and very, very hungry.

  27. 1. My biggest beef with the church is I feel that if Jesus were to come back today, he would be attacked by the people who claim to follow him.

    2. I haven’t really.

    3. Before I lost my belief in God, I felt that church was no necessary for me. I went to school for Geology and found that I felt closest to God when I was out doing Geology and appreciating the beautiful world that he created for us. My struggles with faith now don’t have a lot to do with me not being in a church or me having a beef that if Jesus were to come back he’d be attacked by his people, it’s got to do with the fact that I’m not sure I’m really getting a connection with God as I originally thought that I was. I’m having a hard time with “was that God speaking to me or was that just intuition tapped from my well of background knowledge?”

  28. 1) Beef with the church (in general and as per my own experience)-Adherence to ideas because ‘it’s always been done that way’ or ‘so-and-so said it and if it was good enough for them, it’s good enough for me’. Also, cliches. Newcomers won’t know what the cliches mean. The message should be clear and plain. Another problem-cliques. I came to the conclusion a long time ago that I don’t fit perfectly into any label, unless the label reads ‘eccentric’ or ‘weird’. Of course, this means that I really don’t know anything and that my opinion is just silly…all the time. Really tired of that. (Wearing your ‘Sunday best’ falls into this clique category, too. Because if all I have is jeans with holes in the knees, that’s what I’m going to wear.) I suppose my struggles began with an …interesting… circumstance while I was still in high school. My parents /never/ let me wear anything ‘questionable’ to church. Everything I wore covered me modestly. I once wore this little black dress. It was kinda short so I wore cotton bike shorts under it (for modesty’s sake) and it had a lace up front so I wore a black camisole under it (again for modesty’s sake). Apparently, my parent’s idea of modesty didn’t equate to one other person in the congregation. He complained to the pastor…and then we never saw him again. And yet, I could never wear that outfit to church again? Whatever…

    2)I have kept my faith because God has /never/ failed me, whereas humans usually will at some point. I know that God has a purpose for my life that I may not always understand but I do know He loves me and wants good things for me. My husband and I haven’t really stopped going to church, we just attend less often. It’s a pity because I really thrive on participation. The really sad thing about classes is that if I decide to put my two cents in, it’s pretty much a given that it will be shot down with little effort to tell me why or show me in Scripture where I’m wrong. And heaven forbid that God has shown me a different interpretation of a scripture than a teacher. It’s just better for us not to attend classes, rather than cause strife. I’m pretty sure God has a higher purpose for my life than ‘Strife Causer #1’.

    3) I’m pretty sure my other two answers are great for this one. But I will say our favorite place of worship was a small, traditional Methodist Church at our last duty station before my husband retired from the Air Force. We were never pressured to attend or threatened with ‘bad things happening’ if we didn’t attend. The only thing I really didn’t like was the lack of other children for my kids to do things with. But the sincerity of the attendees, the love they showed, the acceptance…were things I had never really encountered before then. Up to that point, church had always been about a list of do’s and don’t’s, even though many of those same pastors would strongly say it wasn’t. I, too, appreciate listening to things that are truthful and about life and make me think. For years, I’ve just heard the same things over and over and over again. I want to progress in my walk with my Heavenly Father. I just can’t seem to do that in the church we’re attending right now. I just glean…

  29. 1. Biggest disappointment with the church (my home church) would have to be its interest in self-promotion and growth in number of campuses and attendance. Sadly, I see no spiritual growth.
    2. Why have I stuck around? I keep waiting for the level of holy discontent to get high enough for people to demand changes in the way things are done. Or maybe it’s just plain ol’ German stubbornness.
    3. I’ve entertained the notion of wandering, but I’m just not to that point yet.

  30. 1. Wow, where to start? The vast majority of churches are run as business organizations with buildings and staff salaries to pay for, and typically this is where most of the money collected by the organization goes to. People are encouraged to believe that the act of supporting these organizations with time and money is equal to being a follower of Jesus, which is a lie. People attending these organizations are generally encouraged to be passive spectators, instead of ministering to each other in a meaningful way. These organizations have segregated Gods people with divisions over theology, music, culture, etc, etc, etc.
    2. I’ve been gone from the institutional expression of the church for several years and have found my faith in Jesus to have grown stronger and my priorities as His follwer much better defined. It was only after stepping away that I was able to really see Jesus more clearly and begin to understand what it means to be a disciple. (Boy, do I have a long ways to go on that one!)
    3. I define the church as those who follow Jesus; I don’t define it as the organizational 4013c’s I see on every corner. So I haven’t left the church as I see it; I look for opportunities for real fellowship wherever I am, and look for opportunities to be Jesus hands and feet when I can. I’ve joined a group of Jesus loving people who are serving the community, and I would love to find a group of believers to share worship and study with in a New Testament kind of way (meaning each believer participates, each believer exercises their gifts within the body, money is given to the poor, look up Frank Viola or Keith Giles if you want more details). At this point, I have zero interest in the typical ‘1 hour every Sunday’ routine.

  31. I haven’t been to church in a while, and it’s because the church I was going to was incredibly huge and impersonal, and I felt like a number. I hated it.

    They did provide a lot of ways to get involved in small groups, but absolutely no way to get involved in a physical mission project or any way to use my own skills to help. Suggestions would go in a box which I’m sure was emptied out every day by a blind person.

    Everything these days at a church seems to be directed around our feelings and relationships and nothing toward actually _doing_ anything to help anyone. I haven’t found a church where I can actually contribute. I’m not one to sit around and talk about my feelings. I just want to build something or supply something physical for someone who needs it. Anybody know of a church out there that does that anymore?

    Do we just sit around and talk now?

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