So I stopped going to church around October of last year (2017). I had a few reasons. This is me finally writing them down. The reason I’m writing them down and posting for all the world to see is because I know that I’m not the only one in this boat.
At first, this is going to sound very bitter and like I’m trying to tear something down. But I implore you read to the end. This is not me speaking from hurt, this is me speaking from my experience, so just hear me out…
My first reason for leaving was simply that I was bored. I didn’t get anything out of Sunday anymore. I only enjoyed the music, which is still the only part I enjoy.
I got to the point with things that I was learning where I had to make a decision. My first option was to reject what glass had now been shattered and remain where I was. Tough it out in the name of “being planted.” The other option was to navigate through what apparent wilderness was now in front of me. The thought of which was scary. Perhaps that’s why I stayed longer than I probably should have.
It also turned out to be extremely lonely. It’s literally like leaving a family, like a divorce. I had been a part of this particular church for almost eleven years. It was very painful and heartbreaking.
I had to decide to figure things out for myself. To figure out whether or not I actually even believed in God anymore, if I even wanted to follow Jesus. And I was very tired of asking people questions within my own faith circle and getting the same answers.
So. Out I set.
Another reason for leaving the church was a feeling that I got from people who said they were finding their true identity in Christ. It felt bogus. However, I have since come to understand that people who were finding their identity in Christ by the example of others were mimicking what they’d been shown. They weren’t trying to be fake, they truly were trying to be themselves.
And it makes sense that people gravitate toward a group of like-minded people in which they can be accepted. That’s what we all want.
Nonetheless, it felt like everyone was trying to be the same person. In my situation, this was the person they were trying to be:
A Jesus-loving person who drinks lots of coffee and closed their eyes when they talked about how good the lord is. Oh and they called Jesus dad (ew). Which isn’t even biblically accurate. They also were super nice, to the point where it felt a little patronizing (especially towards the end when I was on my way out). Oh yeah and they treat the Bible like the fourth member of the trinity.
Okay I’m just poking fun, but this is my point:
The idea of “leaving your father’s faith,” and “finding your own” was said to be very valuable. But it was only supported by your church community if it aligned just perfectly with that of the church. “That’s what the Bible says” was used a lot.
I realized that there are different ways to interpret scripture. Even the important ones.
I’ve heard pastors say things about ideas from scripture being in an open hand and others being in a closed hand. But I think you either hold everything closed handedly or you hold them open handedly. In order to live a truly enlightened life, you have to approach everything with nuance. Even the Bible. Especially the Bible.
Nothing is black and white. Everything is gray. Find what works for you.
(How many of my evangelical friends are cringing rn because I said that?)
Another reason was the overwhelming lack of education about mental health people have within the church.
I heard a speaker once say that “if you can look at what all God has done for you, depression and anxiety go away.”
Take it from someone who has tried everything the church says will take care of your mental health, prayer doesn’t always work. I would argue, actually, that usually prayer is the last thing you need to do. The first thing you need is to find someone who can actually help. Someone who has been through what you’re going through.
Let me tell you what reading your Bible doesn’t help, suicidal ideation. Especially when it feels like God has forgotten about you.
The church sometimes acts like you owe them your life. They would never say this, but it was implied. It was part of the brand.
I heard a story where someone’s dad, who was in ministry, said that “kids shouldn’t ask when they want to do with their life, they should ask ‘what does the church need from my life?’”
I don’t know about you, but that makes me wanna throw up.
The church doesn’t own anyone. My “reward in heaven” is not good enough for me to thanklessly run myself through the ringer.
This is where old bitter Christians come from. From people who spent years denying not only their own personal dreams, and in many cases, their own well-being, and the well-being of their family. All this because they obeyed the rules and spent their lives at church doing the Lord’s work.
Now don’t get me wrong, if you are a hundred percent certain that your life was meant to be spent serving God by working at a church, then by all means. The world needs people like that. However, abusing the willingness of a volunteer and shoving down their throat a “calling to ministry” is not kingdom work. That’s abuse.
The church doesn’t allow the freedoms of figuring out who God made you to be. If you like being nice to people and helping out around the church, then you must be called to ministry. And if you’re called to ministry, then you’ve got to have all your fingers in all these different pots. Otherwise, how can you call yourself a Christian?
What I’ve learned since backing away from this life is this: a life of ministry is a very noble thing. But it’s definitely not for everyone. It’s hardly for anyone.
God’s plan for your life is for you to enjoy it.
Therefore, figure out what brings you the most joy while bringing good to the world and do that
Reading this, you might think that I’m bitter. But that’s not it. I’m just weary.
But let me say this: I’m incredibly thankful for the years that I spent being so bought into something. There are too many ways to count that my life is better because of church. If it weren’t for me being there for a season of life, I wouldn’t be who I am now.
That’s why I can’t let myself be angry, because the church is helping better people’s lives, and I can get down with that.
But I’ve talked to so many people for whom this figurative glass has been shattered. The overall feeling is that we’re all just wanting our brothers and sisters to see what we have seen so that their lives can be lived more freely.
So if you’re going through something like this or have gone through something like this, let me encourage you:
Don’t give up. Keep searching for answers. Keep dancing with the complexities of what you find. It’s rarely ever “this or that.” It’s usually “this and that. And this thing over here too.” It’s so easy to throw the baby out with the bathwater here, to say “screw all of this and all these people.”
But I’d encourage you not to. Because there’s freedom in finding the truth. What’s not freedom is backing away from church and being bound up with bitterness towards it and its people. You deserve closure.
But there’s freedom in love and understanding. There’s freedom in being able to see the world through other people’s eyes. There’s freedom in acceptance. And if the Bible is your thing, then, “you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.”
But if the Bible isn’t your thing, then that’s a quote from it. It’s pretty good.
Also, don’t be afraid to contact me if you have some questions, or you’d like to discuss some of my points. I’d love to hear from you.
Remember, we’re all trying to figure this out together.
Much love my friends.