Hey I missed you at church on Sunday! It feels like I haven’t seen you in a while. Everything good with you these days? I said to the person in the grocery store aisle. They immediately begin their string of generic responses to me because I’m a pastor. Oh, well we’ve just been busy…Sorry it’s baseball season…Been working a lot lately. Depending upon the person, I might think those are absolutely true. While other times there is so much more going on beneath the surface that they are unwilling to share. They wish they could say things like Your church is cliquish and I didn’t fit in…I felt like every time I went people were just judging me…The sermons are too long or too short..The music is too loud, not contemporary enough or even too contemporary…I’m a democrat and everyone else is a republican so there is no way I would ever fit in at your church. There are an endless string of lists for reasons people can’t stand the church.
Do you remember any of the silly high school “drama” that went on? For many people it felt like an endless string of relational issues after relational issues. Maybe you had this same scenario happen to you. Your best friend, who you loved dearly, started to date somebody in your class and that wouldn’t be a problem except the person they started dating was crazy. You knew if they kept dating that person it wouldn’t end well. Everyone who ever dated “that guy” or “that girl” always had their heart torn into a million pieces. Knowing this yourself, you decided to lovingly tell your friend what a bad choice this relationship really is. From that moment forward, inevitably, your relationship with your friend changed.
What I just described is also the common perspective people have with church and maybe you feel the same way. You think things like: I love Jesus, but I just can’t stand the church. I’m good being friends with Jesus, but the church and I will never be close. It’s just filled with a bunch of hypocritical and judgmental people who have done too many horrible things. I will take Jesus, but somebody else can have the church. Basically, you feel good with Jesus, but you just don’t want anything to do with the church for various reasons. Allow me to share a few thoughts with this person whether it is you or a friend of yours.
I get it.
I get why you feel that way. I get why you love Jesus but can’t stand the church. Honestly, working at a church gives me a unique perspective into the brokenness of humanity, and that brokenness doesn’t end when somebody starts attending a church. Even worse, many people use religion and church as a way to oppress and manipulate all of those around them. It’s deplorable. Yet it is commonplace and you probably think to yourself: I don’t have time to deal with all of this. I get enough trouble from my boss, coworkers, HOA or whatever else. I don’t need one more thing on my list that is in the end going to be stressful and not very useful.
On top of all of this, life is just busy. I mean we are busy and faster paced than ever before. Our schedules rarely have time for the church anymore, and I honestly do get it. Between things like split families, travel ball, dance, hobbies and everything else under the sun when you finally do get a Sunday off, it’s nice to take a Sunday off from everything including church. Please understand me because I am not patronizing in any way. I get it. I completely understand why church has become a back burner or even why you don’t want anything to do with it.
Your experience is limited.
Have you ever tried to diet or exercise and you didn’t see results right away so you quit? Ok maybe that’s just me. Then when you are really trying to get fit, you go to the gym and everybody there seems to have perfect bodies. The ladies seem to not have an ounce of fat anywhere, and the men have muscles that you didn’t even know existed. You go into the gym with your high goals and expectations, but you look around and think I will never be as good as them. Plus sometimes gym rats do seem kind of snobby. All of this experience just deflated your aspirations.
The challenge is that if you would have stuck out your diet or stuck out your exercise routine, you would have begun to see results over time. When we allow our experience to dictate out actions we often miss out on the good that comes from sticking it out. The same is true for church. I understand your experience taught you that church wasn’t for you, but can I just let you know that your experience is limited. If our experiences are limited, then allow us to go to the Author of all experiences, which brings us to the third point.
Jesus loves the church and so should we.
Jesus asks Peter in Matthew 16, “Who do you say I am?” Peter would go on to say that Jesus both the Savior of the world and at the same time God himself. Then Jesus spoke these words “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”
After Jesus’ death and resurrection, I’m positive all the disciples of Jesus reflected on what he said and then took these words to heart. That’s why as soon as Jesus left the earth they started building churches. Then when Paul came onto the scene in the book of Acts he started building churches all across the Mediterranean. The majority of the letters in the New Testament were addressed to churches because from the very beginning they knew you couldn’t separate your love of Jesus and your disdain for his bride. If you love Jesus, then loving the church is not an option. They are a package deal.
So if you have left the church for any reason, can I implore you to return to the bride of Christ? The church despite all it’s bad decision throughout the ages has impacted and affected millions and millions of lives. Broken families have been repaired because of the church. Hospitals have been started because of the church. Refugees have been cared for throughout the centuries. The poor, the widow, and the orphans of this world have been loved on and provided for. People with no hope have found hope, and despite all the negatives the church still stands. The church stands because God’s plan for hope for the nations starts with Jesus and gets lived out through the church. If you have left will you consider coming back to the church because your life might be the next story changed for the better?
Let me help you take your next steps in the faith and never miss another blog post.
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