Last night the dam broke. It was unexpected and messy. I’d like to say it came out of nowhere, but it has been boiling beneath the surface for years. You see…I have a secret.
I keep it hidden.
I walk around like it doesn’t bother me.
I wave it away like a gnat.
But last night, the dam broke. And the secret came out in my small group.
We had a smaller gathering than usual and the conversation traveled loosely. I love conversations like those, because people feel more at ease to share. And when deep thoughts and feelings are shared, my heart rejoices.
Somehow the conversation drifted to going to church, and that little secret came out. But with that little secret came BIG, GIGANTIC, ugly-girl tears.
So, what is my secret? What made me cry so hard I still have a headache 12 hours later?
Going to church is a struggle for me.
This has been going on for about…ohhhh….ummmmm….15 YEARS!
After I said this seemingly harmless statement, I saw them lean in and ask the question of all questions: Why? And then I threw up all over them a bunch of words that didn’t make any sense.
What they didn’t know, what I didn’t share, and what I was, clearly, unable to articulate, was that I have a SIGNIFICANT burden for the Church. So much so that I pray about it almost as much as I pray for my marriage to be reconciled.
Before we get into the why, I feel the need to clarify: I love my church. It is something special, and I knew it when the first prayer was prayed on my very first Sunday. It cares for its members in a way I’ve never seen. I’ve experienced it first hand. I love the leaders in it. And I L-O-V-E my small group. There is nowhere else I think I should be.
With that being said, here is the rub that has accumulated over the years throughout churches I’ve attended. It is not one individual church. It is countless ones. Maybe it is Christian culture that drives me up its walls. Maybe it is a Southern thing. Maybe it is a Birmingham thing, but whatever it is: it is rampant.
I’ve sat under teaching that puts milk into babies’ bellies and just scratches the surface. We need to go deeper. We need to challenge those sitting in the pews. We need to serve meat so rich on Sunday we chew on it the rest of the week.
I’ve attended churches that do not know how to minister to the unwed. Many of its members don’t know how to carry on a conversation with someone who isn’t married with children. Conversations aren’t deep. Ideas aren’t shared or challenged. People put on a smiling face when they walk in its doors. There is little authenticity. It’s all shallow and surface Sunday after Sunday after Sunday. It makes my spirit groan.
I’ve watched as the Church caters to families, but specifically, it caters to the women in the church. It has stifled the men among us. I’ve watched it destroy people who don’t look like the rest of its members…the elderly…the addicted…the broken…the shamed.
And it makes me ANGRY! Really, really ANGRY!
I know a lot of people who’ve given up on the Church. Who have walked out its doors possibly never to return. Good people. People who love Jesus. People who can make a difference. And so, I have a burden for it.
I have a burden for it because it is supposed to look different. It is supposed to be about who God is and what His word says. It is supposed to be a refuge for all walks of life, all ages, all stages, all races, all nations, all sinners coming together and focusing on what God is doing in their lives, what He is teaching them, and, most importantly, who He is. It’s supposed to be for people who are needy and broken. But it isn’t.
So, yea…every Sunday is a struggle, but most Sundays, I still go and sit among its members.
I go because I know it isn’t about my feelings.
I go because it is pleasing to the Lord.
I go because I want to change it.
I go because I believe in the God who created it.
I go because He has a heart for His bride,
And I go because I believe, in spite of all these things, there are people within its walls who have a heart for Heaven. And they shine like diamonds among the dead.
It’s a crazy feeling and it’s a wild ride once you start being truthful about your relationship with the church. My wife and I made the decision to leave the church 2 years ago and not expose our kids to its negligent toxicity. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to go back. I just don’t want to go back now.
When guilt comes about my choices I often remember that even Jesus was at odds with the “people of God” of his time. He saw right thru their bullshit and call them out. He had some very harsh words for them too! So in that sense, we’re not in bad company!!
I hope that your church body is able to see what you’re pointing out and embrace this side of you. Regardless of what happens, your focus need be on God. All else is temporary, including the church.