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Why I don't go to church

19 May, 2003 10:48 AM

I was talking to a friend last week about Rachel's series of posts on Why I don't go to Church where she asks people who don't attend church anymore a series of questions. My friend, who doesn't go any more, asked if they could answer them. Here is their response....its long (25 questions in all) but very interesting.

1. What is your definition of church?

In a general sense the Church is made up of all those who follow Christ — both those who choose to gather together in a formal way and those who do not. The church is not buildings or clergy, it is people who love and are moving towards Jesus.

2. What do you feel is the purpose or aim of church? What should it be?

I may be cynical but in my experience of churches there is a vast difference between what I feel the purpose is and what it should be. Unfortunately I get the feeling that the church is losing its way. This is why I have chosen to remove myself from most elements of it.

To answer the question — I believe the purposes of the church should be numerous.

It should be in the business of creating spaces for people to connect with Jesus in a dynamic way. The church is not responsible for if people do connect or not, that is the individuals responsibility, but the church should be exploring relevant ways to help people on their journey. It should be a place that resources, supports and inspires people in their love and relationship for God.

The church should be in the business of growing community among its believers. Unfortunately this is an area where things often break down. If it wasn't for the fact that we are all human it would work brilliantly!

The church should be in the business of impacting the world we live in. Call it mission, service or justice — I don't care — but do it! Jesus constantly called his followers to impact their world — to preach, to heal the sick, to cast out demons and to accept the sinner and ostracised.

As I said — I think the church has become distracted from its core call in all these areas.

3. What issues do you think the church is failing to deal with adequately?

It is failing to grapple effectively with its purposes. I think it often names them. Every church I've ever been to has had a wonderful mission statement — but I'm yet to see one that is living it out — or even really attempting to.

I think many churches are paralysed by fear. They are afraid of change, afraid of the world around them (that they are called to impact), they are afraid of 'sinners' and they are afraid to commit to real community.

One of the big failures that I see is that they are called toinclusivity yet time and time again are exclusive. It staggers me that we follow a man who entered into community with the most 'repulsive' people in his culture, yet most churches are unwilling to even consider such an act.

4. How do you see the church operating in the future?

inclusivity yet time and time again are exclusive. It staggers me that we follow a man who entered into community with the most 'repulsive' people in his culture, yet most churches are unwilling to even consider such an act.

4. How do you see the church operating in the future?

I wonder if the church will exist there. If it doesn't make some fundamental changes it will end up being an extreme minority.

5. If you were to change one thing about church, what would it be?

I would infuse it with love. What's love got to do, got to do with it? Love casts our fear. Love is at the core of everything Jesus talked about. Love, love changes everything. Hands and faces, earth and sky. Love, love changes everything. How you live and how you die

6. What do you believe to be the necessary actions/behavior of a Christian?

A Christian is a person who is in relationship with and moving towards Jesus. They are not someone who has it all worked out and they have not 'arrived'. They 'sin' but they continue to seek God and allow her transformation and healing in their lives. They seek to live lives of love for God, others and self.

7. Why are you a non-church-goer?

Complicated question. There are many reasons, let me try to sum up some of them (watch out, this could be messy!)

After years of church going I became frustrated by the way it has become institutionalised. It frustrates me that it has become so rigid and closed to change and fluidity. Jesus gives a radical call to follow him, the majority of churches have become too comfortable, they have become like clubs and they have lost the passion. Like you (ed: Darren) said last week on your site, read Matthew 10 and compare the call of Jesus to his disciples with the way your church operates. Read Romans 12 and tell me where there is a church in the West grappling with that stuff! We've lost the plot — I have become disillusioned with being virtually the only person in a community of faith that wants it to be more than a nice and safe place to come and feel all warm and fuzzy with my middle class privileged life. Attending church sucked life from me — I figured that it was not healthy for me to continue to go.

8. What role did those who were in the church have on your decision to leave?

I wasn't asked to leave, although I've heard since that some people are happy that I did. I attempted to discuss my frustrations with others in the community including leadership. They just asked me to 'tone it down'.

9. What or who finally 'pushed' you?

Two reasons.

The church I was a part of began to talk more and more about money. It was subtle, but it became more and more obsessed with raising money for its new building. The current building wasn't being utilised, we were not growing, and it was proposed that the reason was we needed a new flash looking building. A campaign started to raise the millions needed to make it so that our community would flock onto our turf to be saved. Related to this was the topic of money in sermons. Our pastor read the book called 'You need more Money!' written by a prominent Australian pastor. Some of these ideas of prosperity began to gradually creep into his sermons. I cannot remember Jesus telling his disciples to accumulate resources, buy property and get all the latest and greatest technology in order to further the kingdom. It all made me feel physically sick.

The church rejected one of my friends who was brave enough to tell a pastor that he was struggling with homosexuality. He was told to either leave and not associate with anyone in the church or to repent and change. There was no offer of counselling, there was no understanding that he needed time to talk through what he was going through, there was no acknowledgement of God's love for him — he either had to change instantly or leave. I felt physically sick.

10. What did you find most hurtful?

I watched my church slowly become obsessed with money. I also watched my friend reject God.

11. What feelings accompanied your decision to leave?

I left feeling broken and emotionally burnt out. I still feel drained years later.

12. Do you think you connect with God more, less or the same amount now as you did when you attended church?

I go through stages of closeness to God, but this is no different to when I attended church. Overall I feel more connected to Jesus now.

13. Do you still regularly meet together with other christians/groups/organisations? If so, please describe.

Not formally. I regularly connect with Christian friends for meals, to see movies, to pray and to talk about faith issues. But it is not formal. I would call it church though.

14. What other groups, organisations do you now go to to meet the needs that church did....if any.

I am very involved in community groups. I volunteer considerable time to local groups that have a social justice outlook on life. I will always serve my community — not just because I'm a community minded person, but out of my faith. I also am involved in a book club which is a place of community building and where we often talk about issues of faith. (although I'm only one of two Christians in the group)

15. How has this changed your relationship with non-christians?

I have so many more relationships with non-christians (I hate that term). I now have more time to connect with them as I'm not totally consumed with church activities. I also feel more free to talk about faith without them worrying about me trying to drag them to church to be saved. Since leaving the church I have had three non Christian friends become Christians. Two have joined churches, one meets regularly with me and another friend to pray and learn.

16. What do you miss about church now?

I cannot honestly think of anything. I feel so much more free now.

17. What is it about church that doesn't connect with where you're at?

I've said it all I think. Oh...I hate singing, I always found it to be an experience that stressed me out and made it difficult for me to connect with God. Why can't church have 'bush walking worship'?

18. Would you go back? Why or why not? Would anything make you go back to church?

I've considered it. I actually feel that one day I may go back, not because of what I'll get out of it but for what I can offer. Not that I feel I have anything much to offer, but I see some little new churches starting in my city that I'd like to support. It scares me though.

19. Which would you prefer - people inviting you to attend church, or leaving you alone in your decision not to?

My old church friends do not talk to me any more because I associate with unacceptable types. So I never get such an invitation. It doesn't bother me.

20. What are the most important/effective ways for you to sustain your christianity as a non-church-goer?

Prayer, service to others, eating with others. I celebrate life in the small things and see God in them every day.

21. What is the vision God has given you for your life?

In the normal things that I do, every day, I have the ability to be a light, to help others connect with the life that God offers. I always try to find what God is already doing in the world around me and to join him in it.

22. What do you say when people ask you "What church do you go to?"

'I don't go to A church'.

23. What question don't you like other Christians asking you?

Is your belly button an inney or an outy? Mine is a major outy...they always want to see it.

24. What question do you wish other Christians would ask you?

Nothing springs to mind. I think I've said enough!

25. Is there anything else that you'd like to mention?

No — thanks for the questions.



I'm not sure that we should 'go to church'. Yesterday I told my 2 y.o that we were 'going to church' and wondered what I was actually communicating to her about church. Will she grow up believing that church happens on Sundays in a large building? At this stage prob yes, but I am hoping her perspective will grow beyond that. I imagine that will only happen (in her childhood years) as mine does!

hamo » 19 May, 2003 11:31 AM

I believe the "church" to be the entire body of Christ, it doesn't matter what physical building you happen to do your worship and learning in... And I completly agree it should build community, infact the only churches i've ever attended do this, and I love my current "church"... I believe a phsical church building is only an extension of the body for local christians to get a service and to fellowship, and build community in Christ, once you lose that focus, you lose the people.

Travis J. Mielonen » 19 May, 2003 6:40 PM

That sounds very personal, and close to the bone for me at several times in my journey...can't say I've shaken some of those feelings...they're still around. Darren, thank your friend - I really connected with his.her responses.

Paul » 19 May, 2003 7:43 PM

This person gets it.
Thanks for sharing - linking to this one.

Mike » 20 May, 2003 10:17 AM

Your friend may have left the church´┐Ż, but I'd say that he/she is, does and experiences what church really is about. It's unfortunate she/he had to go through the "draining" process of leaving that "church," but your friend is pioneering what many of us hunger for.

ronz » 20 May, 2003 3:57 PM

I think unfortunately, even though intentions start out as good, human nature means we stuff things up. We want bigger buildings, we get more and more bogged down with administration... church becomes an organisation.
This has been my experience. As a fairly new Christian I've tried a few churches and been really disappointed. I've found all talk, no action. People are too busy organising things to really take time out and be in touch with their brothers and sisters. I've felt like its a club and I'm on the outer cos I don't want to live and breathe the church life - I just want to be a Christian and have fellowship with other Christians. Now I don't go to "church" at all. But its hard because how else do you meet Christian friends? Its a catch22.

Celine » 20 May, 2003 4:45 PM

I suspect that my friend's experience is more common than we might suspect. I think its sad and something we need to sit up and take notice of. For too long churches have allowed people to slip out of their community without understanding why and without responding to them. Often such people are just written off as being backslidden or as having failed somehow, where as its something bigger than that.

I will pass on your thanks to my friend, although I suspect they have already read your thoughts. Keep them coming.

Darren » 20 May, 2003 4:54 PM

We must get togeather. Please Email me about this stuff, your story of coming to this understanding. I just want to say hi and let you know we're with ya!

Rich Praster » 9 January, 2004 8:40 AM

I just re-read the beginning of this and realized that what I wrote doesn't apply to The host of this website. Please put me in contact with the person who is talking about church and not going to one. Thank you very much. Rich Praster

Rich Praster » 9 January, 2004 8:49 AM

My wife, children and I relate to what you have experienced. We stepped down from leadership in an institutional church over three years ago. While we miss the music and the performance from time to time we feel that for the first time we understand what the body of Christ is really about. We also feel compelled to distinguish between the institutional church, created by man and the true Church without the inventions and doctrines of man distracting and getting in the way of a real relationship with God.

Rod Campbell » 28 October, 2004 10:25 AM

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