We haven’t gone to church in a long time.
We didn’t have a lot of choices for English-speaking churches in Germany.
There’s the military base chapel, which is pretty vanilla since they have to cater to a broad audience and abide by military rules.
There are a few charismatic churches that just don’t appeal to us.
There are a few very conservative churches that are legalistic and cliquish.
I don’t want a rock and roll, laser show kind of church and it’s unfortunate that so many rely on these churchtainment distractions to get people through their doors.
We had attended a small general Lutheran congregation for the past year or so. Service began at 8:30 in the morning. Do you realize how hard it is to get everyone up, eat breakfast, get dressed, and out the door to drive 20+ minutes to church by 8:30 AM? We did it though. We went to bed early on Saturday nights in order to get up early for church.
I loved walking in ancient cathedrals in Europe and oohing and aahing at the magnificent architecture, cold smell of well-worn stone, beautiful and sometimes funny statues, chapel nooks – the sacred. And occasionally, there would be a mass and I could sit in a corner and just observe worship. I even understood some of it – the Latin, French, Italian. I always love the organ music.
Americans and Protestants don’t appreciate the sacred.
We recently moved back to the States and I don’t have great hopes of finding a church where we’ll fit in.
Before writing this, I researched “Why Should I Attend Church“? Many of the answers were interesting and even shocking to me. I expect the typical “Because the Bible says so” answer, but “Because you’re single and may meet someone” takes the cake.
I expect more.
I won’t lose my salvation. I still love Jesus.
I realize many will think I’m selfish for not dragging my family to church.
I do feel selfish.
We missed Easter. But I don’t like how most American churches celebrate Easter.
After many years of trying to discover God in church, I’ve just had enough. I need a break.
I need a break from Christians.
I can worship God – in the forest, at the beach, in a museum, while reading, while cleaning, while cooking, during meals, at the movies, listening to my children.
I am amazed by His creation and by people’s creativity, love, and kindness.
I don’t like church.
I’m a leader. I’m a teacher. I’m a counselor. It’s hard for me to just sit back and be lectured to, read to, talked at…It’s especially hard for me to keep my mouth shut when the pastor, teacher, deacon, elder, leader, board member expresses false doctrine. It’s exhausting holding it all in because it doesn’t seem to ever matter anyway.
As an introvert, I don’t like fellowship time, potlucks, events, programs, meetings, VBS, AWANA, or Wednesday night service. I shouldn’t have to apologize for my personal preferences. I’ve suffered for years so my family can participate and seem normal.
I think too many churches and church leaders allow and perpetuate abuse – of women, children, people of color, LGBTQ+, others on the fringe of society and the evangelical system.
It’s very unpopular to love Jesus and not attend church.
But I think faith is a private thing between me and God. I shouldn’t have to explain my reasons to anyone.
We stopped going to church for a variety of reasons:
The German American pastor moved away to another calling. The American interim pastor and his wife were less than welcoming. They are micromanagers. They are exclusionists of anybody who isn’t LCMS-conservative.
When we attended an American PCUSA church in Ohio, we quickly learned how they compromise and downplay the importance of social justice. They’re more about pew-warming, excluding outsiders, and pacifying their suburban elderly rich white congregation than doing God’s work.
My young son’s teenage Sunday school teacher was in a sexual relationship with his girlfriend and this was apparently well-known and accepted by his and her parents, the homeschool community, and other church members. I was glad when he and his family moved away so I didn’t have to confront anyone. I am not a prude, but I didn’t feel it was appropriate behavior for a teen church leader. It’s one thing for consenting adults to have an intimate relationship; it’s another for teens to be all over each other in the pews.
I have seen lots of abuse from adult church leaders swept under the rug. Embezzlement and sexual abuse…to gossip and bullying.
Don’t even get me started on the purity movement and Christian pseudo-psychology and abusive parenting practices.
Lack of Education and Discipleship
Sunday school wasn’t about Scripture or Christian living. It often took 30 minutes or more to corral people from the coffee and cookies into the three classrooms. There was no curricula. My three daughters’ teacher led inappropriate discussions about astrology and pop culture. The adult class often derailed into discussions better suited to the Discovery Channel or a New Age seminar. Most teachers go either legalistic or extremely liberal, no in-between.
Many churches forego Sunday school altogether or have children’s time during the regular service, showing that kids aren’t welcome in the main church.
I’ve seen Bible studies on Sunday evenings or weeknights – in the church or in members’ homes. Usually, I’m not fond of the books chosen. They’re often trite, focused on certain “problems” or by authors I find questionable.
“The growth of the evangelical church has been ocean-wide, but often puddle-deep.” ~Barry Cooper
We only felt valued when we were run ragged.
The American church is not a place of rest, but a place of constant socializing, pew warming, greetings, fakeness.
Every time we visit a new church, we feel sized up by the pastors and leaders.
What do we have to offer? How can they drain us of our gifts, time, money, abilities?
My husband doesn’t know how to set any boundaries with this and he will serve, serve, serve and do, do, do to feel better about himself in his performance-based self-esteem.
The church is not a healthy place for people who just want to rest in God.
How, I wondered, had my life in Christ gotten reduced to so much busyness, so many words, such weighty expectations? How had I gotten this far in the spiritual life without anyone ever having told me that it was OK to stop talking and stop doing and just be in God’s presence? What was I to do with the pent-up longing and frustration that was now expressing itself in these unexpected tears?
There is nothing in Western culture or even in our religious subculture to support us in entering into these times for “unproductive” being rather than frenetic doing.Ruth Haley Barton, Sacred Rhythms
No one wants to actually get their hands dirty. Everyone wants a happy clappy church with no negativity.
Everyone is certainly not welcome. You should absolutely not come as you are.
Just pray away mental illness. Just smile more. If you still have depression, you’re obviously not right with God. What is your secret sin? What did you do to deserve to be abused? What were you wearing? God allowed it for your personal faith walk and growth. Then they throw out a lot of Bible verses to back up their bad theology. This is all bullshit.
Don’t ask questions about church history, theology, scripture, leadership, church clarity, politics, or social justice. Don’t ask any questions at all. That rocks the boat and upsets people who are too comfortable in their rich white suburban evangelicalism.
Don’t express any new ideas. Don’t recommend a hymn that is too obscure for the settled congregation. Don’t try to incorporate any tradition or decoration that might offend someone who just wants to maintain the status quo of the vanilla one-hour Sunday service.
“We have turned church membership into country club membership.” ~Thom Rainer
I do miss organ music. I miss singing hymns. I miss the Eucharist. I miss stained glass windows.
What we do instead of church:
Read the Bible
I read the Bible with my son and middle daughters most mornings and we have a little discussion about the passage. I write Scripture every day with monthly themes.
We read liturgical selections from Psalms, the Old Testament, and the New Testament, with writings from church fathers every evening with the Pray Now app.
We have lots of books about church history. We love biographies about missionaries, martyrs, church fathers, and other important people impacted by their faith. We usually coincide our readings to our chronological history studies. It’s important to know.
Act Out Our Faith
We look for opportunities to act out our faith. We practice kindness, empathy, and love. We learn about creation. We pray. The church isn’t a building. We are the church.
We enjoy God’s creation on nature walks. We are fascinated by the creative plants, insects, and animals that God made just for our use and enjoyment. We love the natural sciences and learn everything we can.
Church should be more about discipleship and less about programs and opportunities to socialize.
We as a family came to the decision to take a break from church after many weeks of prayer.
I am not encouraging anyone else to leave church for any reason.
We may seek a new fellowship after we move again. I seldom enjoy church, but I want my children to have that experience growing up that I never had. They are old enough to make that choice.
I no longer use the word Christian or evangelical. Those words just mean hate these days.
If you feel led to pray for me, be careful that you are not cursing me nor my decision in your heart. Maybe look at yourself and your church and ask why people don’t feel welcome. You may not agree but you should not judge what you don’t understand. You don’t know my history. You don’t know the long and difficult road it took for me to even love Jesus. You do not not know the blood-like drops of sweat as I prayed over this difficult decision. Do not take Scripture out of context. Do not spew your hate and call it loving admonition.
If you still feel led to pray, then pray this:
Pray for church leaders that they may be more including and welcoming. That they not be vanilla and safe but speak boldly the Truth and social justice and be inclusive of all.
Pray for pastors, Sunday school teachers, elders, deacons, lay leaders, ushers, music directors, worship leaders, pastoral counselors…and whatever other titles of a church leader I may have missed. Pray that they have discernment. Pray they preach and teach Biblical Truth. Pray they are not swayed by the world. Pray they are not tempted by money, fame, media, or other people.
Pray for church fellowships to be loving, kind, welcoming, inclusive, and careful with their words to newcomers and seasoned parishioners.
Pray for the parents who are raising children in this fallen world, trying desperately to navigate these tumultuous waters of postmodernism, sexual and gender revolutions, social media, integrity issues, and political scandals.
Pray for the children who are growing up in this 50 Shades of Grey kind of world, confusing sex and social media likes for Love and Truth. Pray they find godly role models to guide them to Truth and they become world-changers for His Kingdom.
Pray for everyone who was and is abused by Church.
Pray for women, people of color, and indigenous people who are excluded from white evangelical church. All missionaries are colonizers.
You might also want to read my statement of faith post.
An interesting article: A Quiet Exodus: Why Black Worshipers Are Leaving White Evangelical Churches