Ambivalent: that’s my new word now when I consider the local church.
• having mixed feelings or contradictory feelings about something or someone
It’s amazing that several times a week I find that I am not alone in these feelings. Many people just don’t know what to think about the church anymore.
Just today I ran into someone from a previous church. She had left the church a few months prior to my own departure amid some stressful personal struggles and the desire to attend a church that she felt met the needs of her children more completely.
She said that in the weeks following this decision, she began to find out what her “supposed” church community was all about. Her choice to leave the church was met with mixed reviews, with some people being downright offended. People from her small group that called her on a regular basis stopped calling. People she would call suddenly were too busy to get together. And, in the midst of her personal needs, when she really needed some of these “tried and true” friends, they were nowhere to be found. While she had served this church and loved the people there for years, she felt a mixed bag of sadness and rage at the way she was now being treated.
This lady told me today that it has been in the midst of her crisis that she has discovered what it truly means to be supported and loved by those that genuinely care for her. With some reservation and dismay, she told me that she has found that love and support more consistently from those outside the walls of the church. Many times she has felt like saying a big “F-You” to the church, but has found a safe place to attend, that is allowing her to heal and be restored physically, spiritually and emotionally.
It was truly wonderful seeing this person again today. We shared our stories and I left feeling encouraged by the encounter. It seemed that here was another soul that felt that her life began to be more meaningful when she stopped expecting the church to meet her every need. Yet most pastors are trying to create a place where the needs of people are met. The way I now view this is that most pastors are trying to create a place where people develop an unhealthy dependence on the body of Christ to meet their needs. I don’t believe pastors always knowingly are doing this nor do I think they mean genuine harm with their actions.
Lately as I have thought about going back to church, I am trying to figure out the big question, “Why?”
I just get the feeling that many church people, both consciously and subconsciously, are trying to figure this thing out. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I am inspired by the desire of the human spirit to connect with something greater than themselves. It is equally encouraging to know that this connection we seek doesn’t require a pastor, worship leader, small group leader, or Sunday School teacher. We are all quite capable of connecting to our Creator on our own. Or maybe it is our Creator that is quite capable of connecting with us in the manner with which he sees fit. Not in a way that is cajoled, manufactured or manipulated in any way, shape or form.
I describe my spiritual development now as “organic”. It is a more natural process that flows from my everyday experiences and seems less tied to where others want me or expect me to be. This doesn’t mean I live a life of isolation or possess a lack of accountability. Quite the contrary. But my life, unsurrounded and unencumbered by the weekly or multi-weekly church experience is based in a sense of reality and normalcy that I haven’t heretofore experienced. Overall, it seems healthier.
I just think we should all stop going to church, at least for awhile… well I already have, so maybe this is more directed at those of you that still are going. More and more I have come to believe that real life, real connections, and the real journey we are looking for is awaiting us outside of the church.