Messed Up People

It’s time for some positive reflection. I know, don’t freak out. After this post I will return to my cynical, skeptical self… but you should know that in all honesty I am a fairly positive person. At least I once was. I have always seen the good in people, looked for the positive in others and trusted people until they gave me a reason not to trust them.

In the midst of all this stupid churchiness and crazy personal life stuff this past year, I have been surrounded by some ultra cool people who have befriended me and cared for me in ways that I have not quite experienced before.

The other morning I was talking via instant message with one of these friends and something hit me as we said goodbye. I am very fortunate to have this person in my life at this time. Without people like this in my life I would not be able to have made it through this past year. Last night I was with another friend who has offered me unconditional friendship over and over again.

Even when I am sure I don’t deserve it, people like this have entered into my life and sustained me at just the right moment. Not to mention my children who represent the epitome of grace in my life. Being outside the church has opened up my eyes to the possibilities of sharing life with people I might have never noticed before. Now the goal isn’t to try and find a way to get these people into my church…it’s just to get to know them as they are with no “end game” of finding a way to turn my conversations into an opportunity to invite them to my next “hip and relevant” church event.

It has been said by some friends that we shouldn’t give up on God’s institution just because it contains messed up people. So, I guess the question is, why do I need God’s institution since messed up people like me are everywhere to befriend. I do not feel far from God when I spend time relating with people wherever I go.

Here are some examples of the “messed up people” (a.k.a. normal people) I have talked to recently:

• This week I have had spirtually related discussions with a group of my co-workers. They were talking about TBN and all the nuts on there that “give the Lord a f***ing bad name” (their words).
• I ate a meal with a friend that is just discovering the SCP site and we talked at length about the recent interview we did with Shirley Phelps Roper.
• I was eating dinner at a restaurant bar where I met a young couple and talked with them about their relationship, encouraging them to not sweat the small stuff. We discussed the importance of not taking for granted the friend they have in the other person and invest highly in that relationship.
• A few weekends ago at a work event, I talked with the security staff (big bouncer type guys) about broken relationships and the effect it has on children, and the effect it had on them as kids.

Listen, if you would have told me five years ago I wouldn’t be going to church, I would have said you are crazy. The church was my life. I was there when it opened and closed, several times a week. All of my friends were church friends. My work was church related. I thought non-stop about how to help my church grow, how to expand my ministry, how to reach people for Christ, how to motivate people to church events…and I must say that all of that seems silly now. It seems so narrow-focused. It sounds so short-sighted.

28 thoughts on “Messed Up People”

  1. <>why do I need God’s institution since messed up people like me are everywhere to befriend.<>Do you still maintain friendships with people within your previous church fellowship?just curious…

  2. <>“I want to hear Steve’s answer,”<>Sorry, Steve got his comment up while I was still composing. But it was a good answer, for sure.

  3. The day I manage to wring pride out of everything I do I’ll make sure and post about it. Suffice to say that while there’s probably a ration of false pride in disassociating from failing institutions, dismissing what’s being said here because your pride-o-detector is beeping… well, I’d say it looks more obvious to me that somebody’s rushing to judgment. And you wouldn’t be the first to drive-by judge this site. About once a week or so somebody cycles through and puts us all on the couch, makes some snap diagnoses and goes on their merry way.I’ll leave you to work that out to its logical conclusion.

  4. <>“or more specific, do you think it was necessary for you to leave church to have these kinds of encounters?”<>I want to hear Steve’s answer, but I have to say that for me, the answer is a resounding YES. The dynamic of the conversation changes radically when there’s no perception of an agenda (on either side). Where I might have been tempted before to offer someone hope that somehow ties back to my church, all I have to offer now is Jesus. It’s like a deep, deep breath of fresh, clean air.

  5. I guess like a lot of ‘professional’ Christians I live in an almost exclusively Christian bubble. I hate that fact on a regular basis. Sometimes just long for my old secular job and ‘normal’ life. And that <>‘God didn’t show up’<> feeling resonates with me like it obviously does for lots of others. Would quite happily jack it all sometimes, so kind of sympathise with you for taking your decision. I think there’s a lot more people like you than we realise, people who’ve jacked in ‘church’ and (here’s the bit you probably won’t like) keep their ‘connection’ via a bit of Christian TV. (And I think we’re a lot further down that road in the UK where church attendance has been plummeting for years). But my conviction is that the whole church thing should & could work. In fact I observe it working in some places … amongst animal rights activists, amongst alcholics anonymous, amongst sports teams, amongst some businesses and even amongst a few churches (particularly in the developing world)!A couple questions: Do you ever envisage getting back involved with a worshipping community? If so, what would it look like?

  6. Steve, I was so happy to find your blog and after a while you guys and others inspired me to put my own up, so thank you for that.Now you probably have answered this before, but what made you finally leave, how did you do it, and what did people say?

  7. I couldn’t have said that better myself. It feels more real of not going to church and befriending those that typical would have been the “target” to get them to that next event.

  8. I posted this elsewhere, just makin’ sure someone reads it.Ok guys. Pretty cool site. Here’s my take:The church has a lot of flaws. When I joke around with my wife, we make fun of “stupid church people.” I’ve always hated the “scene”, the jumbo trons, the empty syntax, the fake smiles, the obnoxious-for-Jesus facades, the relentless control freaks that pastors always seem to be, but I still don’t understand your means.I understand the “end.” The end for all is truth. The crux! Honest Christ seekers want some fucking truth and honesty for a change. We don’t want praise music and 15 repeated choruses with an unspoken pressure to look like we’re really feelin’ the Holy Spirit. We want to address problems, have a good time, pat each other’s backs, and leave the church feeling spiritually revived and hopeful as we enter back in the world.I’ve been to a Bible college, a liberal arts christian school, and grew up in church. My church was DIVIDED by PRAISE music. That’s right, shitty-ass praise music. My father, the minister of music and classical pianist left that church because he felt betrayed and disrespected. My point is, I got a lot of reasons to be pissed, but I’m not going to publically show that I’m pissed. I still have hope in the church. I will NOT abandon the church.I mean, how can you really be “pissed” at an organization made up of individuals? You guys sound like hippies lashing jerkedly at the “system” ( whatever the hell the system was and is…). You know good and well that alot of church leaders just don’t know any better. They don’t exactly have VIP memberships in the avant-garde crowds and intelligentsia. But they sure as hell TRY to do the right thing. In order to understand what I’m saying is to think relatively. God expects our BEST, whatever that is. Your best is probably more viscerally efficient and long-lasting than say Billy Bob’s “best” who goes to the local University and bashes the homos and liberals. Billy Bob don’t know no better. You feel me? Don’t fault him for it. He’s tryin! If God gives you a stick and matches, make fire. If God gives you X-men capabilities to manipulate light….you catch my drift. Drink beer, make fun of people in the comfort of your homes, say “fuck” and be content the God probably doesn’t care much about our language as he does our hearts, but I think it’s a bit silly to PUBLICIZE material that would OSTENSIBLY say to the target “jokes” that they are idiots. No one is an idiot. NO one. No one is spiritually stupid. No one deserves the right to be called that because they have control issues. Hey I’m all for being politically incorrect for the sake of satire and a good dose of truth, but the rash criticism of church leaders without prudence is, (and I never thought I would say this in my life) uncalled for. How do we make the church a better place? Beats the fuck outta me, but I’m not here to tell people what they’re doing wrong….ha ok maybe I’m HERE telling you that, but I think your means is flawed because you feel justified by some blatant and condoned sin the prevails in the modern church. As the old trite saying goes, “Two wrongs don’t make a right”, I think it applies here. God is love. God does not make fun of stupid people alone because to him we’re all friggin’ tailwagging buttsniffing adorable canines anyways. We’re all idiots in a metaphysical “figure stuff out” sort of way. We don’t know shit. I sure don’t. Now that I’ve meandered out of play I’ll say one more thing. I think what you guys are trying to do is EXTREMELY noble and truth-seeking. I’ve rarely come across honesty and passion like the two of you share. I’m not trying to sell you my argument with a bonus compliment, I really mean that. And, if you continue this website, no big deal. I’m not you. I don’t know where you’ve been or what you’ve been through. I just figured I had some cents to spare. Thanks.

  9. I understand that your statements reflect your views on your work at this point in your life. My question – to better understand you and where you’re coming from – is do _you_ feel that this applies to all church work? Is the entire organized church beyond hope?

  10. <>What made me finally leave ministry?<> Well the church where I was working laid me off because they weren’t growing and couldn’t afford to pay me. I guess I worked myself out of a job in a way. I was kicked out of the nest which in hindsight was a good thing.<>How did I do it?<> I was fortunate to have a friend who gave me a job and helped me get myself established in a business environment. Not sure what I would have done without that. It’s been 6 years since I left and I have been very lucky.<>What made me finally leave the church as an attender?<> Just over a year ago, my wife left and moved out… and I tried to go to church for awhile. But I remember one Sunday sitting there in this pain I was in (and a bit hungover I must add) and hearing them sing these pop songs, talk about the church building they wanted to build, and encouraging me to bring a friend to some church picnic or something…. I don’t even remember the specifics… but I suddenly found it all so trivial. I actually text-messaged my wife with these words… “Came to church but God didn’t show up today.” <>What did people say?<> You know I think at first people didn’t notice. Of course now if I went back I would face some questioning… but I don’t think people are malicious minded actually… just curious. Many know about this blog and either think I have dropped off the deep end or really like it…. and then there are those that secretly like it but can’t really say anything. My pastor has been really kind and maintains contact and we occasionally email each other. He takes this site personally sometimes but I wish he wouldn’t because I don’t think he is too blame and I know he is as frustrated sometimes with the “system” of church… but it is a hard culture and mindset to change until you get out of it and free from it. Some people would rather not do it… and I think that’s just fine too.

  11. Yeah…. it was truly the first time in my life that I felt I could identify with a person in deep pain or someone far-from-God. I was definitely coming to church looking for a God-experience (almost begging for it) and what I found that day was a show.Again, this is not an indictment on that church, because I think I could have stepped foot in most “emergent” or evangelical churches in So Cal and felt the same thing.

  12. <>“Came to church but God didn’t show up today.” <>I wonder if this is a more common occurance than we even realize…

  13. A couple of them… yes…. but it is limited since most of what we possessed in the way of communication and relationship was based on the church experience.

  14. Do you feel your cmmunication with those outside of church is more authentic, now that you’re no longer active in church?or more specific, do you think it was necessary for you to leave church to have these kinds of encounters?

  15. I must admit that this website has me perplexed.You guys obviously are very proud that you have escaped the trappings of a failed organization. You have seen the light and walked away from the church. You have proudly washed your hands of the disease.That is what your writings would leave people to believe.So the question is, if you are truly done with the church, why not just be done and move on? Why devote so much time and mind to discussing her?There are inconsistant threads weaving through the fabric of this forum. I could work them out to their logical conclusions, but I will leave that work for you finish.Thank you for your time.

  16. <>So the question is, if you are truly done with the church, why not just be done and move on? Why devote so much time and mind to discussing her?<>I think they do it because the church is so full of problems that ought to be discussed; and so those of us who are still “churched” (the “stupid church people”) can see what they see, from the outside looking in, that those of us on the inside can’t necessarily see.

  17. Steve, I feel very conflicted with the relationships I’ve built at two different churches I’m attending. One is a semi-mega church by a very prominent reformed pastor, the other is a small, emergent church where racism was the topic at hand for about a month. I love the people at both, and am gravitating to the latter, but the wake of my dad’s departure from the last church he’ll ever plant has messed me up: I don’t know if I think pastors should be paid, emergent or otherwise, and I’ve been thinking about house churches a lot, where there is no overhead of building, electricity, whatever. I am a seminary dropout. And there’s more, but all of this makes me feel so happy that you’re around, dropped out, messed up. So thank you for that.

  18. In part… yes I do… to both questions.More specifically since leaving church staff there is a marked difference in my approach and attitude. I feel I am more of an authentic person.People have certain expectations of Pastors and pastor-types. There is inevitable role-playing that occurs when you are one.

  19. Beyond hope of what?Existence??No… it’ll survive.Effectiveness??Wow… I think the numbers speak for themselves on that one. The evangelical church has never been more “relevant” and “trained in church growth” (i.e. Saddleback and WillowCreek, the Emergent church, etc), more wired (Internet, radio, TV, etc) and yet less effective in getting people in the doors (the typical goal). Attendance dropped from 49% in 1991 to 43% in 2004 according to George Barna. What I personally observed is a few people walking in the front door… and more people quietly exiting the back door….So Eric… I have a whole blog for you to “better understand me and where I am coming from” on the subject. Why don’t you enlighten me a bit on who you are and where you are coming from…. I’d sincerely like like to hear. You can either do it here or email me if you prefer…. either way.

  20. Eric…If you re-read the last paragraph of the post I think you will observe that it is almost written as a confession. I just read it again before responding and I can feel my heart kind of crying out in confession as how I often (and many pastors I know) approached my work as a pastor.How this may or may not apply to you and the brush you paint with is left for you to decide.

  21. A few months back (Oct 2005) I was asked this question in a post entitled “20 Questions”…. it was a fun time answering those questions. One of the questions was similar to what you are asking so I will post my answer again here since the answer is somewhat similar as well.<>QUESTION #20 from Jeff: What would it take for Steve Chastain to ever return to regular church attendance, if anything? What a perfect question to end this on….thanks Jeff.I was joking earlier with a friend on the phone and I told them about this question… and the first answer that popped into my head was “a funeral”… and quite possibly that might only happen if it was my own…But anyway, I am not sure what it will take. I don’t know if I will ever “regularly” attend again. I say that at this point pretty convincingly. I honestly wish that wasn’t the case because there is something secure in what the church has given me all these years. Like most people I couldn’t have imagined my life without it. (Sounds like a theme in my life for 2005)….”Things I Couldn’t Imagine My Life Without”….You know I was called to communicate. I feel that that is my gift from God. The first time around when I left full-time ministry six years ago, it was truly a death for me, because if you feel called to teach and speak the message of grace and you aren’t a pastor…where do you do it?But then I landed at my current church and the pastor there gave me a platform and allowed me to speak 4-6 times a year for the past two years…and now I pretty much have walked away from that. I got the chance to speak again, and I am grateful, but you know, it wasn’t the same because I just didn’t believe my own bull so much.I would be preparing my talk before I would speak and I would think… what do I really know about this stuff? I sure would like to open the floor and discuss this with people. Or I would think, you know I only have about ten minutes of things to say, but I need to fill 30 because that’s what is on the order of service.Why 30 minutes? Why do I need to stand on the stage? Why do I need to do a PowerPoint? Why do we need to have a movie clip or a drama to illustrate my message? Can’t I just give my main point and then invite people to share stories about their lives and how their relationships are messed up and interview them about things they would do differently in their marriages, etc….Why do we do what we do the way we do it? Why does it always have to be the same? What if I just told them I didn’t really have anything to say, but I thought it might be a good idea if we sang some songs together and then stopped the service and just all mingled together and talked for awhile.I would love to see a church do that…just free-form some and not be so constrained to the Order of Service. And my main thing… GET RID OF ANNOUNCEMENTS AND OFFERINGS… do it now! The church will survive without them. Put a flier out for upcoming events and put an offering receptacle in the back. It’ll be OK…. God will provide and if he doesn’t then shut it down. Pretty simple.OK… so maybe that gives you some ideas of what it might take. Maybe I will be back someday. Maybe I will even be given the chance to speak again in spite of the SCP site.But most importantly I have always felt a leading to serve and dialogue with people on the fringes of church. People that struggle, are disappointed and are not sure where they stand with God or the church. SCP has given me that chance and a “safe” format for me and each of us to journey together down this path.Can’t wait to see where it takes us together.<>

  22. Man, I’m in seminary now and i know there is a lot of problems. I want to be authentic and not fake. It pains me that people are turned off by Christians. I’ve seen alot of abuses. I was raised fundamentalist baptist then went through a Charismatic phase, Calvinism phase, mainstream kind of emergent phase and now Lutheran but by no means do I believe that naybody has the corner on the Holy Spirit or truth.I hope and pray that I don’t become one of those pastors that turn people off from God.

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