why i'm still at my church

Posted: March 24, 2009

parts of this post i started last summer after the '08 class graduated and i saw a lot of friends come back to NY after 4 years in college, abandon their home churches and begin the search for a new church that was a "better fit" for them. they were  frustrated by the "lack of life" or "lack of real community" or some other shortcoming they found at their home church when comparing it to the experiences they had in college. i think i can definitely identify with that because i experienced that when i started college... the want to also "graduate" to a "better" church. that's how i got to where i am now. looking back, i wish i didn't change churches... not because of anything related to my current church... but just plainly because i should've stayed. i didn't know better. anyway, i can't change what i've done but i can move forward.

i have always had a love hate relationship with my church. i've had more than my fair share of criticizing my church (those that know me know this is a gross understatement): we make dumb decisions, sermons are often very... incoherent, sometimes "spirituality" feels forced, communication is pretty poor, and so on and so on. being from new york, i've always had many other churches to look at. i've seen how other churches function and i often wish my church functioned differently. the temptation to just jump ship has always been right there. my friends often jokingly--or maybe it's really just half-jokingly--say i should probably go somewhere else. but i've stayed.

one reason i've stayed is because i think regular church hopping is bad for you. it feeds into this idea that the church is just some organization to feed one's tastes and wants. it's this "consumer-mentality" where we go around shopping for what we like... and if something doesn't quite please us, that's a sign to drop and move on to another. regularly doing that leads to a lot of me-thinking when the church is really about us and our relationship with God not just my relationship with God.

to help myself put this in perspective i sometimes think about people who live in places where the option of another church isn't even there... people who grow up in places where there is just one church... one body of believers. if i were in such a place would the first stupid leadership decision make me leave? where would i go? where else can i share in worship or bible study or prayer? the early church brought people together that had no reason to be together. the rich and the poor were equals in the church. educated and uneducated shared in meals together. people didn't have the option of going from church to church looking for people they would fit them better or be more like them. in such a place i think one would learn by necessity to have grace on each other... to learn to love and to live with each other despite our differences or shortcomings.

thus, another reason why i've stayed is because i've committed myself to this body. i think it's this reason that grounds me when i start thinking about leaving or when frustrations begin to overwhelm me. what does it mean to be committed to a body? again, i think it means continuing to love your church no matter what happens. it's often said that the christian life is not meant to be lived alone--it's true. i think the bible instructs us more as a body of people than as an individual. it tells us to "walk in love", to "grow up in Christ", to "love oneanother", to "bear each other's burdens"... all things that you can't do on your own. committing to a body is a way of saying "these people here, as frustrating and broken as they may be are the instrument  that God is using to make me more like himself." through others, God shows us more of himself. he teaches us his patience, his pain, his grace, and his faithfulness. isn't he committed to us? no matter how many times we disappoint him or frustrate him or disobey him? God shows us grace and shows us his love is still constant for us despite our weakness.

the church, whichever one you may be at, is made up of broken and messed up people. yes there are some reasons why you should leave a church... if your church is talking about the 4th person of the Godhead or "all roads lead to the same greater power and lifeforce" then it's probably time you should get outta there. but i think many of the reasons people move to different churches is weak and shows a very self-centered view of church. as i mentioned before, i wish i had not bailed on my previous church. i have a  great admiration for those that have stayed with their churches through extremely tough and barren times. i think that takes real faith and commitment... to move forward even when things are falling apart and it seems like you're doing it alone. christ didn't abandon us at the cross. if God came to us when we were not just disagreeable, but straightup offensive to him... if we recognize the grace and love shown us, it gives us the power to give grace and love to the body that God has called us to grow together with.

4 comments on “why i'm still at my church”

  1. my worship director and i had a great conversation yesterday regarding cynicism vs criticism. cynicism makes ME the focus: "this place isn't feeding ME. no one wants to hear MY ideas. they'll never get it right so it's better for ME to leave." criticism makes the group - and its GROWTH - the focus: "how can we change? what's already working for us?"

    that being said, i did leave my home church after many years and it was a very good decision. i will probably never go back, but i recognize that church had much to do with making me the the christian i am today, so for that i'll always be thankful and they'll always be important to me. but my personal opinion regarding that church is that their season may be coming to an end and they're holding on to old ways of "doing church" that are not as effective as they once were. anyway. that's that. another comment in your nice comment box.

  2. one thing i would add is that if one is committed to seeing things through till the end, they should do their best to promote that perspective to everyone else in the church; since it is the proper one to have.

    a practical way this can happen is, not to openly criticize the church too much with just anyone.

  3. It is interesting to see your point on "graduating" to a new church. I think the question every believe must ask should go along the line of "what can I do to let the life of Jesus flow in the community of believers I am a part of."

    I remember during the years of being members at churches, a lot of people thought I was in leadership at the churches I attended because of the impact I made on their lives. I would visit with people, call, help, encourage, teach and do whatever I can to help them grow. They thought I was a "pastor." The truth was that I did not even have a leadership role among volunteers. I was simply a member.

    That level of involvement transformed my church experience and added so much value to the church than I could imagine.

    What was beautiful about it all is that there were others doing the same thing at the same time at the same churches, multiplying the effects many times over.

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