Thursday, April 29, 2010

When you don't like your church/ Why do we go to church?

I have discussed some of this stuff in my blog before, but it has been on my mind a lot lately, and I actually feel like blogging, so I decided to throw my thoughts out there. They are quite random, and to any of my fellow church goers - sorry, but this is how I feel.

Why do we go to church? Is it just because the Bible says we should? And yes, it does pretty much say that. Hebrews 10:25 - And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. (NLT) So do we go because we have to?

Do we go to be around others of like faith? For fellowship?

Or do we go to hear a sermon - could do that on the radio or TV.

To worship? We could do that at home too.

I think it is kind of a combination of all of those. We go to church to worship, fellowship, be around others of like faith. But what happens if we feel we aren't getting what we need? Most people move on to another church - and sometimes another.

I am going to make a shocking statement. I'm not happy with my church. I don't feel I am getting what I need from it. Whose fault is it? Some is mine, I will freely admit, but is it all mine? I don't think so.

I moved away to another state for two years. Up til that time, I thought my church here was the best ever. When I was in Indiana, I often compared the churches, and in my opinion, the one there did not measure up. Oh, there were things I liked about it, and even places they did better than my church here, such as the emphasis on their Christian school. (I've stated that my church has become too politically correct and don't push our school much for fear of offending the home school people in our congregation).

I moved back two years ago in June, and it seemed everything had changed. Or did I? Maybe both. I used to really feel a part of the church. I felt connected. Now I don't. I find myself wondering if I quit, how many people would notice. I'm sure some would, but how long would it take for them to notice I was gone. Two Sundays? A month? A few months?

I firmly believe one issue is the new format the church has gone with for the youth - those between the ages of 13 and 22. For someone that was away from the church for two years, and then came back, it seems like that is all the church cares about. I'm sure I am exaggerating the issue, but they talk about this "youth focus" constantly. They even set aside a service a year to talk about it and have the youth do the evening worship service - this past Sunday night was such a night. I rather stubbornly stayed home with the attitude that I didn't need a reminder that all the church cares about is the 13-22 age group. Juvenile of me? Maybe, but I'm not the only member of my family who feels that way.

While the youth have their meeting on Sunday evenings from 6:15 to 7:00, there is a Bible study for everyone over that age. Don't get me wrong, I really like the guy who has it, but I wish the format was different. It really isn't a Bible study. Sometimes it is, but it is kind of like another preaching service. I wish we would do a real Bible study - maybe small groups or something along that line, but it seems the church doesn't care about us - as long as the youth are in the basement having a good time, that is all that matters.

I may sound bitter. I'm not. Disappointed, maybe even disillusioned. I long for more of a connection at church. I'm not the only one who feels that way. I was recently talking to a guy from church who is married and has two children. He stated that they felt the same way. Disconnected. Is it due to the new major focus on youth? It may play into it, I don't know. I do know that before this new format was created, they used to have get togethers outside of the church for the youth, and they would also do them for married people and people outside of that age bracket. With the new format, the latter has been dropped off the grid.

A few of my friends have talked about trying to have something for our age group who are single, but part of the problem is there aren't many of us. I organized a get together at a restaurant a couple of months ago. There were five of us, and there were a few more people that could have come, but didn't make it.

I read and hear about churches that have community. Fellowship. Connection - and I long for that, yet is there a perfect church? Of course not - and there is a danger of searching for the perfect or ideal church. I know of people who have changed churches more than I change socks. Ok, exaggeration, but they have changed way too often. All too often in cases like that, the problem is not the church or the pastor, but the person hopping churches.

So is the problem me? As I stated already, I'm sure part of it is. It isn't easy being my age and single. It is actually pretty rough. And I could be wrong, but from a guy's standpoint, it seems harder for a guy. The single women I know my age and over seem to have an abundance of other females to hang out with. Guys my age do not have an abundance of other guys to hang out with. And therin lies a lot of the problem. I'm lonely. Oh, I'm around peolpe a lot, and currently living with my parents - but you can be around people and still be lonely. I'm lonely here. I'm lonely at church.

I've looked at other churches, but can't see me changing. I hate change, and often stick with the familiar, even if things aren't going well in the familiar. Plus, looking at churches in my area, I can't see any I would be any happier at. Some are too big. Too strict. Too liberal. Plus, I don't adapt well in an environment where I don't know anyone. At least in my church, I know most of the people, and my family is there. So what's a guy to do? Stay where he is and wish things would change - or make them change. Some of we singles have talked about it, but what do I have to contribute if we did start meeting for some kind of Bible study. I've never been a leader, and lately with dealing with depression and what seems to me a mid-life crisis, I want to be ministered to, and don't feel I have anything in me to do any ministering or teaching. And yeah, I'm serious about the mid-life crisis.

I've actually considered quitting church. I think a person can worship at home, yet a big part of me feels that is a bad idea. I'm way past the "what would people think" issue - I don't much care what people think of me anymore - yeah, I know people say that and don't mean it, but I mean it.

The thing is, I used to love going to church. A lot of people would just chalk my issues up to spiritual ones. And that could play into it. I have always struggled to believe God actually loves me, and these last two years have been the worst in that department than ever before in my life - so yeah, going to church and worshipping and hearing about a God who I can't quite believe loves me isn't easy. In fact, it makes serving that God rough over all.

Is it wrong to expect more from your church? I've heard the mantra that you should go and put something into the service - not go expecting to get something out of it. But what if you're hurting, and have nothing left to give. Instead, you need something - what then? Is the mantra still true that you have to put something into the service to get something out of it?

I've talked about wearing masks in church. Maybe by this post, I am partially removing mine. Oh, I will never remove it completely. People can't handle that, no matter how spiritual they are. But I will give this peek under it: I am unhappy with my church and feel disconnected and deserted by it. There, I said it.

I'm not sure what I have to do at church to cause people to care. I used to testify in church on a semi-regular basis. Speak up and comment when the occasion called for it. Now, I'm the opposite. Does no one notice when you're dying on the inside? Why don't the people you have gone to church with for years notice something has changed? Are we too busy? Or do we not care? Is the church too big?

I grew up in a church that averaged around 70 - 90 people. If you missed a service, people noticed. You would get a phone call or two - some of them may have just been nosey, but not always. At our church, you miss - and nada.

Is part of the problem that we have become a fast food/drive thru society - that it has crept into the church? We race into church, sing, put money in the offering, listen to the sermon, then race back out of church to get back to our busy lives. We have no time to notice the hurting and lonely among us. The visitor. The person or couple who is teetering on the edge of changing churches and wondering if anyone cares if they do. If anyone would notice.

What would it take for me to like my church again? Glad you asked. Here are a few ideas:

To feel connected again. To feel I am actually part of the church.

To have more of a focus on people out of the age group of 13-22. Sure, they matter, but so does everyone else.

To have a different format for the Bible study time. Small groups or something like that.

To have some kind of gatherings outside of the church - oh, there is dangers in too many social stuff, but its good to be with Christians outside of church too.

Well, I more or less unloaded and have probably said some things my fellow church members won't agree with or like - but hey, its better than taking a sign to church with my complaints/issues.

I may get comments from people saying I need to leave - maybe they're right, but it would take more energy/work to go church searching than I have - so I will hope and pray some things change.

7 comments:

teacherprincess said...

To be honest this post was needed... I think that you bring up some good points.

I understand the feeling of not belonging. I'm no longer a "young person"... I'm not a parent... I'm not an old person... so what am I... I'm a floater and that is not a cool feeling

I agree with the idea that as a people we are too busy to care about others. Obviously that does not apply to everyone but it does apply to too many of us. It takes effort (that at times is unappreciated) time (that at times is just not there) and oppurtunity (that at times we just don't see as an oppurtunity to reach out). Sometimes it is a matter of having tried before and getting burnt in the process and not wanting to try again. I remember the days when half the church was over for Sunday lunch with the other half, but those days are no more... we leave that to the pastor and his wife to do... I'd love to see some changes too...

Thanks for bringing this to light

LuAnn said...

Our church has been without a pastor for the last few years. We've had an interim pastor, but because we don't have any permanent leadership, I haven't felt any connection to the church. I rarely go, although I feel a need during holidays, such as Christmas, Easter, etc., so I tend to show up then.

I don't want to give up on our church. It's a very small congregation and has provided me with an intimate setting to share my faith. I know we will someday find a pastor.

It's a struggle many churches have right now. There just aren't any applicants available. Plus, we are such a small area and a small group, not many potential pastors want to join us.

It has, indeed, made it difficult.

geee said...

Hey Mark, I know I dont go to your church, but I understand alot of what your saying. Personally I really enjoy small group studies that focus on the bible and its application towards our lives. I was attending 2 different bible studies on wed and thursdays at 2 different churches, since I have school now on wed evenings I cnt attend the one I really like and I really miss it. Unfortunately I fell out of favor with the church that had the thursday groups, this church was 2 concerned about increasing the size of the congregation instead of making a stand on a firm doctorine and foundation. There was a man in the class who was struggling with salvation and admitted to being an alchohlic, he told me that when he gets drunk at bars he feels like talking about God, I told him that was a mockery of God, and he needed to refrain from doing that as well as drinking all together. He felt like because he gave his heart to God,he was saved but he couldnt quit drinking and said he was a tad envious of me because I could state the exact time and place I got saved and he couldnt. Unfortunately I learned soon afterward that this church did not have a firm stand on falling from grace, in fact it didnt have a firm stance on much of anything. Unfortunately that is why this man was being mislead, I wish I would of told him more, I never saw him again and I wish I would of told him he needed to take all of his sin to the cross, not in part but the whole. I also wish I would of told him if he didnt know when he gut saved or if he was saved then make today the day. I was later told by a senior member of the church that it would be better for that man to talk about God when he was drunk than talk about other things, and at least he was talking about God. I totally disagreed with that, which is why I dont think they wanted me to participate in their Jail ministry. And also why I dont got there anymore. Ultimately I dont think going to church is always about recieving a blessing, It is more important to be a blessing to others, we dont know what weeks that will happen, but honestly Mark it will never happen If we are worshiping at Home. I know its hard to find a fellowship with other single men in our age group due to the lack there of, but even though I am married, I am a single church goer because my wife is unfortunately catholic...oops dont say I said that. Perhaps you can find more men like that to participate in group functions. Also every church needs to have a mens ministry so all men can have good christian group fellowship. The Church I go to now has a Men's Breakfast one saturday out of the month. Its just for the men of the church, we cook the breakfast, chow and have a brief fellowship and prayer meeting. Then we sponser a ladys meal where on evening out of the month we prepare a dinner for the women of the church. A friend of mine is a pastor of another church and they do 5-6 outings a year going to places like The Pittsburgh Home Show, an Auction or various things.

Sorrry for answering your Blog with a lengthy blog of my own, but I hope some of this info helped

oh one last thing, the church I go to that has the Bible has some in depths conversations about bible doctorine. And people dont always agree, I sometimes wonder if this is why some churches shy away from Bible studies, due to the fact that so many churches have accually split over disagreements in doctorine. I commend my fellow church goers at that church we are all adult enough to understand that we all have a few differences, but the ultimate goal is to build a strong fellowship and to work for God and not against each other

Christy said...

I understand what you are saying. I had similar thoughts. At a point in my life I was shriveling up and dying. No one (besides Mom & Dad) SEEMED to care when I missed, and the subtle hints I tried to give were of no avail. No one seemed to notice until I started to change my dress standards, go to a Baptist Church, and wear my hair in a style that does not conform the AWM style. Please do NOT get me wrong. I am NOT proud of many choices I made during that time, but the fact that all the inward stuff seemingly meant NOTHING, but the outword stuff said it all made me MAD! I am thankful that many many things have changed since then. First of all, I opened my eyes and realized that there were those that cared right on my doorstep (so to speak), second, a person that was unrelated to me, not my friend...took an interest in me. Thirdly I realized that if I want to see change I can do one of two things...lament it when NO ONE changes thing, OR be the change. I choose the latter. I think you did a wonderful job as a teacher when you were at NBWMS all those years (and an adolescent crush!!) ago. I challenge you...go to your leaders, tell them your ideas in a very thoughtful organized manner. Offer to head up a "floater" Bible study type thing. Plan activities for the young married (and unmarried) people in your church. The weather is getting just right for cookouts, picnics, hiking, and the like.
People that do not see the problem can not fix it. You have a gift. You do not seem to be the drive thru/speedy Gonzales type of person. It takes a person with a vision (such as yours) to make it happen. I will be looking forward to hearing about changes you are making!!

(I go to my pastors almost every Sun. night for snack, our church ladies that like to scrapbook did that during the winter months at the fellowship hall, and I feel that many, if not all of the pillars of my church have an open door to me, and anyone, whenever they need it. My problem is taking the initiative to walk through the door!)

Kimmy said...

Funny, I've been considering writing a post about church/why we go etc...a bit different than this , of course, but still. Anyway, Definitely do not give up going to church. It is important to fellowship and worship with other believers, and as you know, it's definitely biblical. I would suggest you try other churches, but since you are not up for that, then I suggest you initiate change in yours. Bring your ideas and concerns to the leadership, start organizing events, etc. Small groups are a great idea too, we have them and it helps bring people closer together. I think often times, when it seems that no one cares, that that's not really the case, I think people just aren't looking. We all get caught up in our own problems, and we all have them, and sometimes we don't notice what's going on with someone else. Sometimes, you just have to go to them. Tell someone you trust and respect how you feel. Let them know you need encouragement. I've learned that people don't read minds and sometimes you have to ask. But, I'll tell you what, I've put myself out there before and I was amazed by how many people stepped up to the plate to be there for me.

Also, maybe you should consider attending the Men's Rally that is happening May 8th. Most of the area churches are involved and it might be a good thing to go to to get some of that ministering that you are seeking. http://www.mensrally.org/

As for the youth focus thing, I think there is definitely a lack of focus on certain groups in churches and that's something that can be improved across the board.

Cruachan!70 said...

Mark:

Your original post was April 2010, now more than a year later in September 2011 - how did this situation resolve itself? Interested in the follow-up!

Cruachan!70 said...

Hi:

I enjoyed reading your blog and the responses that came back. I agree with some of the posts who thought that the post was needed - it was very honest and I know that many members of congegrations struggle with this very issue. It's more widespread throughout the Churches than we care to acknowledge.

Now that more than a year has passed, how have these circumstances changed for you? I'm very interested in the follow-up (i.e., how did you and God work this out? Or are you still working through this?)