Droves of people are leaving the church. It’s a statistical fact. Fewer – much fewer- are returning to the church.
We officially fall into both camps. We’re over achievers like that.
At the beginning of the year I wrote about our Leaving the Church. It’s one of my most commented-on posts ever. There were so many shouts of “Yes! I feel this way, too!” I did a follow up series explaining why we left the church to better flesh out our reasons and it invoked more cries of understanding.
The thing that I find most telling about the overwhelming outflux of people from institutional churches is that they’re not fleeing from Christianity itself. (Which can easily bridge into a conversation of “What is the church?“) Most of them simply feel like church has strayed far from it’s roots; That church has so often become a case of the “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men”, as ole Isaiah and my boy Jesus would say.
Now, with that prologue, I’ll go ahead and say – I didn’t want to return to church. In a perfect world our family would be a part of a thriving house church. But that may not be in the cards for us right now.
So, why don’t I like the traditional church?
I don’t like ‘em. That’s right, I don’t like church worship services. Even when I genuinely like the people on the stage and/or the songs. I don’t “worship” that way and I think it’s an altogether misunderstanding of worship. I’m not against music or teaching – not at all. I just don’t prefer the production version.
Oof, this is a big one for me. Yes, I’m one of those hippies that sits in a “service” eyeballing the stage lights and flat screens thinking, “How much did that cost? I bet they pay a fortune on their electricity and mortgage each month. Don’t they know orphans are starving or something!” I just can’t get over it. I’m not wanting to be self-righteous, but I just can’t shake the gut feeling that the church shouldn’t be using most of its resources to maintain itself in this way. I could be wrong. *shrugs*
And no, I don’t mean the Pope and his Bishops. I mean good old fashioned Pastors of various titles and their Deacons. I’m not against church leadership, but I have to say that I’ve rarely seen it played out successfully in a traditional church. Pastors become mini-Jesuses – whether or not that’s their desire – and the people become passive. Deacons become decorum bullies, in charge of really spiritual tasks like reminding young miscreants to remove their hats in “The Lord’s House” and ushering that pretty plate around the room once a service.
I want to be clear that this isn’t meant to be an attack on the offices themselves – just an honest admittance to what I’ve observed. I’ve known many pastors and deacons that I thought highly of. So please don’t get defensive if your uncle’s a deacon or your daddy’s a pastor. I’m not trying to defame them. I understand that they’re just people and sometimes they make mistakes. That being said, I think that the largest part of the “problem” is the way the system is set up within the institution to begin with. It creates inadvertent pedestals and power trips. It just does.
Because of the above mentioned top-heavy church authority, your “doctrine” is at the mercy of your leader. And, often times, as soon as they find out that you have slightly different beliefs, you are leadership shunt. And I’m not talking about really big, irreconcilable issues like “I believe Jesus was an alien and that we’re his alien babies and one day we’ll live together again on planet Zorgon”. No, I’m talking more along the lines of “Hey, we both believe the exact same things about Jesus except whether or not God hand-picked everyone who was going to be saved before the foundation of the Earth”. Yeah, I went there. Because most pastors that feel one of their highest callings is to “safeguard the doctrine” they are unwilling to support (in any real way) someone with slightly different beliefs.
Now, here’s the thing – even despite the things I really don’t like about the institutional church, I’ve already taken the first steps to returning. Why? Stay tuned for future posts explaining just that.
Have you left the church or returned to the church? Why?
*photo by Cristian Nitu