There is a change working in me, I’m going to try to explain it here though I know that I can not do it justice. I’ve always been a Christian, I was raised in the church. Even as a young person when I was not loving God in the way that He called me to, I still knew Him, talked to Him, heard His replies. Over the years I have found my way back to God many times and I have just as easily been lost to Him again. As I have been led over the last two years to seek after God in a different way I have found myself closer to Him than I have ever been before. I find that He is now making clear the path that, I think, will lead me home to Him. While the light still only shines on the next step I trust that it will be there for the following step at the moment it is needed. It should be said that I didn’t discover this relationship with Christ in the way I thought that I would.
I was one of those believers who thought that by going to church, serving the people of the church, following an outline of Christian steps, I would grow my relationship with God. I think that a lot of people take this path and I guess I would equate this to the wide road. That is accusatory, hear me out though; I know many people would never learn about God without the church building and the servants inside it’s walls. The church serves it’s purpose in the world. I’d claim that the church is broken a bit too, lost in some ways itself. I struggled with being okay with that while in the building and later, after I left, I struggled with wondering “Just how bad was it again?”. I have guilt over pulling my people from that space when maybe it was just me who felt that God wasn’t in it. Perhaps it was me who was not made for that building and my husband and children will suffer because of my selfishness in leaving.
Most of you know where I used to go to church and where we’ve attempted to find a new home. I worry that this might make a few of you unfriend me if I don’t explain myself well enough, maybe you are the ones in that place who are really, truly working for God. Or you believe you are in the best place for your family and that you are growing followers of Jesus. I’m not here to convince you otherwise. I’m writing out why I left because it’s true for me. I need to put this out there for the one who is still waiting for the miracle to arrive while knowing in the depth of their soul that it will not happen in this building, whichever building they may call their church home. My specific place of worship is not the problem, they are all, at least, doing some good and that is why I still struggle with having left.
I have no horror stories from my church days, no tales of brokenness to share. My separation from the church building simply came one morning sitting in a Sunday service. God’s voice in my very soul; “I am not in this place…”. Had I created it? After all my church did so much good for our community, the churchgoers volunteered, went on mission trips, spoke the word of God. Well, a select group of them did anyway. A larger majority went through the motions every week. To my church’s credit they did turn out a large crowd. They were teaching about God in their sanctuary and people were showing up to hear the message. I wondered, was it getting through?
I’d propose that the church as a whole is broken, not any one denomination or building. They seem to be saying the right words, but without the right meaning. They continue to speak the gospel, relate the parables, and quote the scriptures, but it feels empty. They are just words, tossed about without the power that should be there behind them. It’s as if over the centuries we have become more and more accepting of this calm, common-place Jesus. We hear about the things He did, accept them as truth, and know that it doesn’t work that way anymore. I ask why? Why are we okay with this? Why do the affluent or the well-behaved or the ducks-in-a-row people claim the church as their own? Where are my fellow broken sinners? Why are we not the ones who control the church? Why are we not standing up in the aisles of our local churches shouting “No! More!”?
I would claim that the church is failing us, well me at the very least. The words they repeat from their pulpits have lost meaning for me. The acts of service they encourage or require seem empty, done only to uphold an image. Of the youth who head out on mission trips only a fraction of them are truly there to serve. The rest posting of their good works endlessly on social media, collecting “likes” as awards for their service. Then, on Sunday we are shown all that the church is doing, boasting at it’s finest in the “good” they have done. While volunteering is beneficial, are our acts alone enough to set us right with God? Especially when many of those acts are done from a place of comfort, with minimal sacrifice on the part of the churchgoer. What is our collective intent? What do we hope to do in the world with this behavior? Why do we sit through this watered down message of God’s amazing power when He is what calls to us deep in the wildest places of our being? Where is the passion in our church families?
Wow…this got pretty angry for a post-Christmas post. I hope you can hear me pleading with myself, I basically beg myself every week to go to church. Instead I sit with my Bible for an hour or so every morning, wondering over the verses and how they are meant for me. For some reason the building feels false to me, a place to go and worship what we are doing instead of praising what God has already done. I know I could do good in a church, through a church. I could teach Sunday School and make meals and be the hands and feet of God, more. I also know that I can teach my children how to be Christ to their friends even without Sunday School. I know that I can make meals for people who need to be blessed without an email from the church office. I can do all of the acts that the church can do, on a more personal scale, without the direction of the church. Ultimately, I don’t need the church to tell me what to do.
What I lack from the church is spiritual guidance, conviction in the areas where I am failing, education for a deeper walk. I can only do so much with the word of God on my own, but I love God. I love Him with every part of me, and the church has made that relationship less important somehow. It has instead caused me to focus on the act of service more than the reason why I serve. That is possibly the largest reason I stay home each Sunday, I feel like I know what I can get from a Sunday sermon, an impactful message is a gift, but is it truly causing me to walk closer to God?. Or is it forgotten once I’m home making lunch for my family? I realize that a lot of this is my own personal struggle. Perhaps I’m really not meant to share it with anyone else.
There is more I should say, about how there have been wonderful friendships made through the church. About how the church helped us when even our family wouldn’t. About how by taking my kids to church we all, in our own ways did grow closer to God. The church has blessed us and I should write about that too. I have no rational reason to be this disappointed with the church. Yet here I sit, wondering at how I could not take my family to Christmas Eve worship when a few short years ago it was what I most looked forward to at Christmas. My wandering spirit is working on this.
I think I will find my way back to a church someday, I have this quiet vision of the place in the very deepest part of my soul. I trust that I’ll get there. While I wait, I know that I’ll keep doing the hard work of growing closer to God. I’ll keep serving His people and teaching my littles how to love like Jesus. I’ll probably try to teach them how even the church is just one more broken piece in this fallen world. Maybe I’ll regret this time away from the church, but I believe that I’m heading in the right direction. I trust that God is lighting this step on the path too, there is no reason to fear.