Why I left the church…and stayed…and remain conflicted

I have been reading Rachel Evans’ personal blog entries about why she left the Church in her 20s and why she returned at 30. Links are here.

I must admit to some empathetic nods as I read her entries. The comments on her blog from others are just as invaluable to read.

It makes me stop and analyze my own thoughts on the subject. The below questions are sifted through two truths in which I firmly believe: 1) My relationship with Christ is not affected by my struggle to find comfort in a church community and 2) I believe Christ intended us to function most effectively as a collective body of believers.

These are some of the thoughts I’ve had over the years in trying to discern a church home… (and some echoes from the comments on Rachel’s blog)…

* I have a small blog and a small readership. Is that the only way to create change of thought when it comes to the inseparable link between Christ’s mission and social issues of today? Wouldn’t my single voice be louder if combined with a larger body of similarly-minded advocates?

* Where is my iron being sharpened? I am seldom challenged to think differently and more broadly when I too often surround myself with those who think so similarly.

* Rachel lists Anne Lamott as a reason she returned to church. How can I be a conduit to the hunger for a return to a faith community in others?

* Echo: It seems the immediate societal assumption is that all Christians are Republicans.

* Throughout my lifetime of church attendance, I have felt more like an odd duck at church than a similar creature with my pew-mates. Our political positions have been so dissimilar in output (although, most likely, very similar in root intention).

* Are the majority of my relational interactions in life face to face or screen to screen?

* Echo: What services does my church provide (meals to the homeless, for example) that I cannot provide on my own (to the same extent) but can more effectively contribute to as a Body?

* I do not believe it is merely a trend that has led believers away from group worship. However, I also can’t put my finger on the exact reasons why (only contributing factors of our current culture and social media interactions.) But how do we fix the mass exodus? Should it be fixed? And how can I participate in the Change rather than the Complaint?

* The elitism (both perceived and real) of the Religious can only be defeated by the participation of more dusty and damaged peoples, such as myself.

* How do we justify coming and going from church without any authentic human interaction with others as a better alternative to catching the podcast online later in the week?

* When does a church feel like home? Like your own? When is it that the church body are the people that you turn to for encouragement and support? When do you feel like you’re contributing and feeding into someone else’s journey?

* Logistically, who will perform my funeral someday?

* Eric is funny on podcast. But even funnier in person.

* If I don’t feel an acceptance/kinship/friendship with others in the church, how do I go about finding that? Or do I just plug on in that church anyway?

* Why do so many Christians feel loneliest within the boundaries of the church, then anywhere else during their week?

* What if I would rather participate in the men’s group functions than the women’s group? Why is there a delineation?

* Echo: my gay friends need for me to attend.

* My Story might be helpful. Your Story enlightens my walk. Community is where the two coincide.

* Are some personalities more prone to feelings of Church Alienation while others easily fit in?

* I know what choices I’m making that keep me at a distance. What I struggle with is finding the motivation to overcome them. Or, quite frankly, the person who would be willing to lend me a hand out.

Do you struggle with Church involvement? I know many of you are firmly rooted in your church. But surely I am not the only one who struggles with authentic Faith Connections. Maybe I will just hear crickets. Maybe, however, someone else has questions about this subject as well. Can we try to sort through it together?

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4 thoughts on “Why I left the church…and stayed…and remain conflicted

  1. I’m in my late twenties and have been struggling with a lot of this for YEARS. I recently, finally became brave enough to seek out a new church home. It is going to be scary and will possibly eliminate relationships with friends/family who won’t agree with my decision to worship elsewhere. Your comment about “Where is my iron sharpened?” echoes the question I’ve been asking myself, “Am I growing spiritually with this congregation or in spite of it?” My answer is No, I’m not growing spiritually with them; I’m trying to fit in and stay under the radar and that is holding me back.

    Thanks for bringing this up!

  2. Interesting post and timing of it.

    “* I do not believe it is merely a trend that has led believers away from group worship. However, I also can’t put my finger on the exact reasons why (only contributing factors of our current culture and social media interactions.) But how do we fix the mass exodus? Should it be fixed? And how can I participate in the Change rather than the Complaint?”

    We just had conversations, intentional ones, after church a few weeks ago about why the church is proving “irrelevant” in 21st Century Western Culture and what it looks like to “let go” of the “attractional model” and become more missional – it’s a painful conversation for different generations and I noticed; different personalities (I have some theories on the personalities that embrace change more easily than others it was interesting being an observer) but the “church” is becoming painfully aware of this and interestingly the studies I am reading are pointing to some trends that seem wildly (and I use wildly very intentionally there) disparate and almost schizophrenic in nature. It’s bizarre that young families are trending into denominations with greater structure and what might seem more “fundamentalist” and yet the political spectrums are becoming more mainline and even leaning to the left. It’s odd what I’m reading and following lately at least from a sociological aspect.

    More personally I have always equated my church with my family. In fact I posted a note on FaceBook this week about my feelings about my church that I observed in myself over the weekend (I am trying desperately to use the words “I feel” at least a fraction of the frequency that I use “I think” – I’m getting better but still have a ways to go). At any rate I credit my parents for having sheltered me from some of the more negative aspects that church membership can and does bring so that when I went through my “evangelical existential crisis” in my 20s it made it an easier and more rational process to return once I had reached some conclusions. Does that mean that all my problems or issues were resolved in my 20s? Nopes I had hoped . . . but even midway through my 30s I found myself re-evaluating and even ditching some relationships and friendships that were having a negative influence on me mentally, emotionally and if I let myself go to that deeper place . . . spiritually. Bringing me to a conclusion that not all friendships we have are for every season of life and sometimes you just gotta cut-em-loose.

    At any rate I also think that introverts in general have a set of issues that is ignored, dismissed or generally not well-valued or respected in a culture, especially a worship culture that rewards and places a premium on those “gifts” which require a measure of extroversion (or I’m just making excuses for myself – I haven’t figured that out yet and I am beginning to think we don’t have to figure it all out) . . .

  3. We have been attending a church for nearly two years now. Only just recently has my actual involvement taken place. From my upbringing, avid bench warming was church. So this idea of community is new and alien for me. And it just so happens that community is pretty much all this chuch is about. I’ll admit, it was a little uncomfortable at first. The first day we visited, a kind lady came over to chat us up. (typical- almost) She didnt ask where we were from or our job or whatever other small talk. She asked us, outright, what we were passionate about. Which civil rights groups we support, which social reform issues concerned us, etc. At first I thought, how rude! And then I realized she just wanted to introduce us to the people in the church that were active in those areas. It was actually refreshing- a community of like-minded people sharing and doing and having a positive impact in our local, national, and international community. I used to think involvement could only mean ‘do what’s offered’. ( i.e. buy some farm animals for people in less-developed countries at easter, buy a poinsettia at christmas to raise $ for whatever) I never knew it could mean ‘how can the church rally support in ways that are meaningful to you’.

    The questions you pose are so important to one’s spiritual journey. Two+ years ago, I was certain that the place I wanted didn’t exist. Low and behold, it has been here much longer than I. For now, I have a place I feel comfortable in with my family. Keep asking. The conversation is absolutely necessary.

  4. Interesting discussion. When we changed churches (and denominations) I’m sure some of my friends thought we had lost our minds. But the message of our current church is mission-oriented, inclusive, and focuses on agreement on the central truths. Our pastor isn’t interested in debating the details or promoting a political agenda. I like that.

    That being said, I have yet to fully engage there. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because we developed close bonds with members of our previous church, then there was conflict, and everyone scattered. I know I’ll never have that same close-knit church group experience again, so I’m content to stay on the fringe.

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