Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Church As Just a Community Center?

I love the church. I love the church with passion. I love the church TOO much. This is a big part of why I don't really go to church anymore.

You see, if I didn't love the church, I wouldn't expect anything of the church. I would not expect the church to be the people of God. I would not expect the church to remain honest in the midst of a political campaign. I would not expect the church to love people instead of labeling them and judging them. I would not expect the people to gather around the wounded and pray for them instead of ridiculing and devouring them.

If I did not love the church, perhaps I could just go... participate in the things that are beneficial, and just be too concerned when the unthinkable and unbelievable is perpetrated on the unsuspecting. I would not be sensitive to truth being sacrificed for tradition or applause.

I haven't been to church much in the past 3-4 years. I miss praying together with other Christians. I miss worshiping with a group of believers. I miss the encouragement and bearing of burdens. But when I look back on it, there wasn't much of that really happening at church, and when I do go to church occasionally, I don't see much of that happening. I get more of that at Kroger or online or right out on the street than I was experiencing at church. I am able to give that to people right out in the neighborhood without violating any programs, agendas or tight schedules or egos.

So, lately, I've been missing church again. I realize it started when I saw all the Halloween party pictures posted online. I miss getting together and decorating and dressing up and eating each other's culinary creations. I really am going to need somewhere to go sing Christmas songs and hang tinsel and see a Christmas play. As these thought go through my mind, I think.... "I got all that in school, as a child. I know some people get that at community centers... where can I be a part of the seasonal fun?"

I've always valued community... needed community, wanted community. So, is it possible I could just approach church with a "community center" mind set? Could I just go for the party, but not be heartbroken over the times I see people rejected because they just don't fit in? Could I just go for the pumpkins and not notice the dirty politics? And could I handle the "tick tock" approach to fellowship... move it move it move it people...what's the hold up..." lady, why are you crying, get out of the way we've got important stuff to do here," attitude that seems so pervasive to me when I do enter a church?

The insane thing is... right now, I honestly want it so badly. Why do I feel like an addict confessing to an illicit craving? My family is sure it would not take much to cure me. Still, I keep thinking... "If I could just pretend it doesn't matter... maybe..."


  1. I don't think so. I've been trying to do that for awhile and it isn't working so well for me. I don't know what the answer is. Just at the time that I'm ready to start shedding "churchianity" my daughter is finding a place in youth group where she is excited about serving and loves to be and I don't know how to pull her away from that just because I see all that is wrong with the whole mega-church structure. So I'm trying very hard to see things through her eyes instead.

  2. This is SO hard. If you are part of an active, vital community that is involved in loving and serving,and you have Christian friends in your life that you see outside the church walls, pulling out would be ok to do.

    Sadly, much of the damage done in our lives during our son's teen years was done by families and teens involved in church youth groups and the "Christian" homeschooling community. He was lied about to the point of having his reputation destroyed. He was persecuted for not being just like everyone else. His political and theological views are more deeply through out and don't fit in a cookie cutter niche, so he has been attacked for that over and over. Also, in a community where they have banquets to celebrate purity, a young man can be ostracized in a heartbeat for warning a young lady or her parents that the guy she is hanging out with is not of good character and would likely have less than honorable intentions toward their daughter. So... a young person of who has both integrity and intelligence can end up being pushed FAR to the edges and never really find a place to belong in the conservative Christian community. I certainly hope your family has a different experience than we have had. We ended up pulling out of the "game" about 3 years ago. We had chosen a church and hoped it would be a place our son could grow attached to and consider his "home" whether he went to college locally or moved away... a place possibly to have his wedding... to go away from and come back to... a community of foundation. From the outside, it seemed to be deeply committed to ministry. From the inside, it became obvious that it was programs and agendas... a pretty performance, but no real building of relationships... just cliques and politics and show. We tried to "break in" for 3 solid years and left as outsiders, lonely and feeling more rejected than ever.

    Our son, now 19, desperately needs to be a part of SOMETHING... but we still have no clue where to turn. Even just a few friends we could bond with could make a difference. But, inside the church that wasn't happening, and outside... well, all the people we hope to spend time with are committed to church programs. Inside or out, the programs RULE and there is no time for God or people. Maybe we are just worthless mutants. That's how we've been left feeling, as far as the church community goes.