Monday, July 23, 2007

I love Jesus, but I hate church

I want you to know that from here on out, I am expressing my views and opinions. I don't want to presume that I can speak for Honey on these matters and I don't want him to feel like I've assumed that he agrees with me on every point. Also, for the sake of this post, I want to make clear that I am using the term "church" very loosely to describe in very general terms church in America 2007. I do not intend this to be an attack on our former church in any way. So that said . . .

I love Jesus, but I hate "church". I hate what "church" has become. I'm tired of being a part of an organization that encourages people to prove how close they are to God by staying busy teaching Bible class and volunteering to bring food to the newly bereaved. I'm tired of having my relationship with God measured by the number of baby showers I attend. I'm tired of showing up at the next appointed time only to sit on the pew and struggle with knowing that there are people "out there" who won't come "in here" because they think we're perfect and they aren't. I think busyness is numbing. I think it's Satan's way of keeping us so in tune with what is next on the schedule that we forget to form relationships. Meaningful relationships. Relationships that form disciples of Jesus. Relationships that, by the grace of God, multiply the kingdom.

I lay awake at night and dream of a church that isn't motivated by fear. Afraid of where the next complaint will come from. Afraid of when the next lawsuit will be filed. Afraid of what the old people might think . . . afraid of what the young people might think. Afraid to step out and follow the Holy Spirit because there just isn't any security in that.

I dream of a church that encourages it's members to go the extra mile to help someone in a real way. Several months ago I read something, somewhere . . . again, I wish I could find it . . . and it went something like this: A newly single mom was visiting with her Christian co-worker about her pending divorce. She was scattered, stressed and almost at her breaking point as she described how money was tight, her landlord wanted her out of her apartment, and she couldn't get a thing done because her youngest was ill. The co-worker, obviously feeling sorry for her knew she needed to help the woman. After hugging her and telling her that everything will turn out OK because God has a plan for your life, the co-worker couldn't understand why the single mom didn't feel any better. So, she took a deep breath and went out on a limb, "Why don't you come to church with me on Sunday morning?"

Although I admire the woman's courage, extending an invitation to church isn't always easy, the single mom wasn't in any shape to accept such an invitation. What she needed was someone to buy her some groceries, to come help her pack, to load the moving truck, to babysit the kids while she cleaned out her apartment. What she needed was a friend. Someone to share her burdens, someone to go along beside her and assure her that she isn't alone. Sometimes an invitation to church just doesn't make it better.

This is the reason I want to simplify my life. I want to slow down enough to really see people. To form relationships with them. To be trusted by them. To be allowed to share their burdens. To be allowed to open my life and share my struggles. What could be a better testimony to the love of God than to watch a Christian struggle, handle the crisis in a Godly way, and come out on the other side more deeply in love with the Father? My passion is to be the kind of person who can love others so completely that I can find ways to serve them and meet their real needs. I want my hands and feet to deliver the love our Father has for everyone. When I am being this kind of friend, she'll get to know Jesus. She'll come to church with me, and the kingdom will grow. It's only natural. When you find true love and acceptance, you run to it!

Over the last several months I've come to realize what my purpose in life is. I've also come to realize that I'll never find my dream church. We are all imperfect humans, and since we are the church, it will never be perfect. What I have done is come to a compromise. I want my kids to be a part of a church family. I want them to attend Bible class, VBS, and potluck fellowships. I want to be a member of a church body. I want to pitch in and help where I'm needed. I want to form relationships with other Christians there, I want to belong to the church. I know that part of that is hosting showers, and teaching Bible classes, and I'm OK with that. But I don't ever want to blur the lines again. I want to keep my focus on knowing that I am to be about loving God and loving others. And I never want to be so busy that I can't reach out to someone who is hurting.


javamamma said...

You're right about Christians often thinking witnessing or 'loving our neighbor' means inviting others to church. It's a personal decision to actually BE a Christian and display Christlikeness in a REAL way to people who are hurting.

I think there are churches like you dream about and churches that want to be like you dream about. And I'm praying for more people to BE what you're talking about.

Great post!

elena jane said...

i want our church to be a busy active church again. i want new young families to join us, i want to be welcoming and part of that. we have a wonderful SMALL church that we love. i am too scared of being disloyal by taking my kids to a VBS at a church i am unfamiliar with. i want someone to ask me to be a part of a church's activities cos our church doesn't have any.
i feel for you jen!!

sshough said...

What a revival! Lately it has come up several times that revival is a renewed obedience to God. I think you are getting it! Last year I was so busy with church stuff and kids that I took a year off of responsibilities. Now I'm ready to serve again, but I want to be careful not to be too busy like you said. I want real relationships, too.

sshough said...

Did you check out the LPM blog for Thursday--the Washington D.C. commissioning?

A D said...

Thank you so much for not being afraid to say how you feel. I too have been burdened in my heart with the lack of people's understanding what it really means to serve Christ. It is not just what you do in regards to the building or during services or to members it is how we react and love others and truly spending time in the Word. I have seen too many people be so "involved" w/church activities because they feel that is doing what a Christian is supposed to do that they completely lack the time and energy to spend time with the Lord much less their own family. We do need to follow the Holy Spirit and not what we "think" we are supposed to do and be.
Don't worry Jenni - if you read my blog, you know I vent ALOT!

jen at Conversations said...

Javamamma, it's encouraging to hear that some churches like this exist. Change happens slowly and often starts with just a handful of people.

sss, I like that, "renewed obedience to God." I haven't read the LPM blog, I'll have to check it out.

April, how do we find a balance with being involved so that there will be a church to bring the people to that we have formed relationships with? Sometimes I feel like, if I don't do it it won't get done.

jen at Conversations said...

I guess EJ's comment reminds me to be thankful for what I do have. Which is worse: to be too involved or not have any options to be involved with?

Anonymous said...

Yeah I have been feeling like the church is so complacent. Just worried about the outer appearance and not focused on the inner man. I mean who cares if I don't look right what about my heart what about my addictions what about my words and my actions. I am always searching for a church that I can be apart of that I agree with doctrinally but I think that church does not exist. If it does a wish god would tell me where it is. What about searching for the true living God that deserves to sought out. I pray that I would become someone that would love and not judge. I pray that the great god of heaven would break down the denominational walls that separate us. God bless you.

Anonymous said...

Church Man Joe

My name is Joe - that you should know
if you went to the weekend show.
The show called church, where we get fed
spiritual stuff, all Spirit led.

I go to church most every week,
appeasing God so He won't freak.
If I don't go, there's Hell to pay,
not just from God, but guilt will stay.
Others will judge and reject me
because of my complacency.

But I do go, am never late,
making it when they pass the plate.
Giving to church -- a gift to God,
Give ten percent -- I smile and nod.
Give ten percent, the O.T. states.
We're in the New, but it's church rates.
Man I hope that makes God happy,
because I'm in debt and all nappy.
But pastor said I would get blessed
above and beyond, it's my best.

Now it's time for me to sing.
My songs to God sound amazing.
I raise my arms, antenna sticks,
all to get my spiritual fix.
This song sounds like brainwashing chant;
Wish it would end -- it's like he can't!
The worship guy is in a loop,
Now the song is soundin' like poop!
Stand up, sit down, leader will say,
I don't know why, but I obey.

I just lost an hour of my life.
Time to preach, n' cut like a knife.
Pastor is mad, yellin' at all
for all their sins, and Adam's fall.
Man, I feel real sick and dirty,
Maybe I'll pray to feel purty.
I close my eyes and fold my hands.
And if I don't? Can't take that chance.
God might see my poor church manners,
For posture certainly matters.
Even my clothes God is judging,
Gotta dress up, for He is watching.

OK, now it is time to pray.
I bow my head while I say,

"Dear God, it is not about me.
This day for You, I hope You see.
I went through all this church this day,
just so that you would get Your way.
I listened real good and got fed
by the pastor, who's Spirit led.
God I'm so glad I got learn,
I even feel my conscience burn."

I think I'm better now this day,
compared to those who, in bed, lay.
While I drove my righteous self home,
I realized that I'm all alone.

sumbody said...

I'm that single, struggling mom and I sincerely want to go to your dream church...

Anonymous said...

I Googled "I hate church but I love Jesus" and I found this post. For me, I knew something was missing years ago. I blamed everyone at first but when I finally quit ten years ago I only blamed myself. At the end of this life we will find ourselves with the Lord alone and no one else involved. About three years ago a question came to me, "What if you are the only Jesus you will ever see?" I was stunned. I didn't take it as some freaky deal, some heretical lie I had imagined. I just waited, for weeks. Then something dawned on me, where else would He be? I realized I was looking for Jesus anywhere but where He said He would be for me, within me. Then something happened I never considered, He gave me a spirit perspective, from the real person He made, a spirit man defined by his Spirit Father. We are made in His image and likeness. No new doctrine just a new frame of reference which has clarified all my questions and beliefs. I have a peace so stable I can't explain it. I see people completely different, as the eternal spirit being He made. Like Paul said, henceforth we know no man after the flesh. Anyway, I wrote a book about it after putting the information on a blog for my grown kids as a reference. It's on Amazon. Just search Dusty Farrell. I think you'll like it.

Anonymous said...

I went to a church like that growing up. A phone call on a Friday night or a Saturday morning led to a Saturday spent working on problem plumbing, fixing the electrical in a bedroom, packing up the belongings of a recently deceased, or helping a single mother pack her house up. Half the time, I never knew any more than the person's first name. Most of them I'd never seen at church.

THAT was fellowship. THAT was worship. Going to the church building was about reverence for God. We were visiting God's house, and we were expected to act like we intended to meet God. God may be willing to except us as we are but that doesn't mean we should make it as difficult as possible. We ought to at least act like we're impressed with the opportunity to commune with the one made the heavens and the earth. Instead we act like we're doing God a favor by showing up. Maybe if the performance is entertaining enough, we'll come back next week.

We have distorted what worship is, what fellowship is. We need to revisit the traditions of church and take our lessons from the conversation that Christ has been having with His bride. At the moment, I think He is not pleased with her.