Church, Here’s Why People Are Leaving You. Part 2

WalkingAwaySepia
“It’s not you, it’s me.”

That’s what you seem to be saying, Church.

I tried to share my heart with you; the heart of me and thousands and thousands of people like me who are walking away, to let you know of the damage you’re doing and the painful legacy you’re leaving, and apparently; you’re not the problem.

(Which of course, is still a problem).

I’ve relayed my frustration with your insider, religious rhetoric, and you responded by cut-and-pasting random Scripture soundbytes about the “Bride of Christ” and the “blood of the Lamb”, insisting that the real issue is simply my Biblical ignorance  and suggesting that I just need to repent and get a good Concordance (whatever that is).

I let you know how judged and ridiculed I feel when I’m with you, how much like a hopeless, failing outsider I feel on the periphery of your often inward, judgmental communities, and you proceeded to tell me how “lost” I am, how hopelessly “in love with my sin” I must be to leave you, reminding me that I never really belonged with you anyway.

In the face of every complaint and every grievance, you’ve made it clear that the real issue, is that I’m either sinful, heretical, immoral, foolish, unenlightened, selfish, consumerist, or ignorant.

Heck, many days I’m not even sure I disagree with you.

Maybe you’re right, Church.

Maybe I am the problem.

Maybe it is me, but me is all I’m capable of being right now, and that’s where I was really hoping you would meet me.

It’s here, in my flawed, screwed-up, wounded, shell-shocked, doubting, disillusioned me-ness, that I’ve been waiting for you to step-in with this whole supposedly relentless, audacious “love of Jesus” thing I hear so much about, and make it real.

Church, I know how much you despise the word Tolerance, but right now, I really need you to tolerate me; to tolerate those of us, who for all sorts of reasons you may feel aren’t justified, are struggling to stay.

We’re so weary of feeling like nothing more than a religious agenda; an argument to win, a point to make, a cause to defend, a soul to save.

We want to be more than a notch on your Salvation belt; another number to pad your Twitter posts and end-of-year stat sheets.

We need to be more than altar call props, who are applauded and high-fived down the aisle, and then forgotten once the song ends.

We’ve been praying for you to stop evangelizing us, and preaching at us, and fighting us, and judging us, and sin-diagnosing us, long enough to simply hear us…

… even if we are the problem.

Even if we are the woman in adultery, or the doubting follower, or the rebellious prodigal, or the demon-riddled young man, we can’t be anything else right now in this moment; and in this moment we need a Church big enough and tough enough and loving enough, not just for us as we might one day be then—but for us as we are, now.

We still believe that God is big enough, and tough enough, and loving enough, even if you won’t be, and that’s why even if we do walk away, it doesn’t mean we’re walking away from faith; it’s just that faith right now seems more reachable elsewhere.

I know you’ll argue that you’re doing all these things and saying all these things because you love and care for us, but from the shoes we’re standing in, you need to know that it feels less like love and care, and more like space and silence:

If someone is frustrated, telling them that they’re wrong to be frustrated is, well, pretty freakin’ frustrating.

It only breeds distance.

If someone shares that their heart is hurting, they don’t want to hear that they’re not right to be hurt.

It’s a conversation-stopper.

If someone tells you they are starving for compassion, and relationship, and authenticity, the last thing they need is to be corrected for that hunger.

It’s a kick in the rear on the way out the door.

 

So yes, Church, even if you’re right, even if we’re totally wrong; even if we’re all petty, and self-centered, and hypocritical, and critical, and (I’ll say it), “sinful”, we’re still the ones searching for a place where we can be known and belong; a place where it feels like God lives, and you’re the ones who can show it to us.

Even if the problem is me, it’s me who you’re supposed to be reaching, Church.

So, for the love of God; reach already.

Note: Part 1 can be found HERE.
Part 3 can be found HERE 

 

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204 thoughts on “Church, Here’s Why People Are Leaving You. Part 2

  1. I feel ya, bro. I really do. In my denomination, we don’t high five for getting people to come to the altar call, but we do high five each other for getting people to join and help us pay for our building and staff. But those who advocate getting out of our insular “I come for my week’s spiritual nourishment so I can have a good week” mode to radically love those on the fringes as you describe above get treated as you seem to have been treated after your first post. I’m a full-time pastor in my denomination, and I must admit that I feel like I could write something very similar to what you wrote to describe how I feel. I don’t feel like that all of the time, but I feel like this A LOT of the time.

    • You high five each other for, “getting people to join and help us pay for our building and staff.”

      ?

      Holy Crap!

      Literally.

      Where’s that in the Bible? I don’t think you heard a word John said, or Jesus for that matter. Seriously “bro” you’re running a business, not a church. Go and make disciples not a salary.

      • It’s ok to have a business based on faith. Yeah that’s ok, I don’t care. But it’s not ok to call that business a church. A membership also implies business that I’m paying you something and getting something. When faith is just faith it doesn’t need a membership, it doesn’t need a 5 dollar cup of coffee.

  2. What do you think engaging you is if not reaching out? Surely ignoring you is not the reaching out. You keep thinking that love is affirmation and acceptance is agreement and that change of definitions is the problem.

    • I’m speaking of people out there; not necessarily me on this blog. Many of the comments represent the reactions people get out there in the world, on social media, at work, in the church.

      Love is conversation too. Glad you’re here!

    • As someone who grew up 16 years in a church with the flashy and showy and a pastor who had us spell millions before our tithe and offering… I couldn’t agree with this gentleman’s posts regarding the subject matter. My parents were both involved, praise team 3 to 4 times a week church goers. Thus, as was I.

      I did not need someone to agree with the path I chose in life, or the things I encountered. I understood that some of the things I chose were sin. But, here’s where the trouble comes. There was no acceptance because they didn’t agree. I was raped, and instead of loving and accepting and helping me through, I was shunned because I had premarital sex…as if it were my decision. I chose a public school instead of the private catholic one, and clearly I was choosing to live in sin as far as the church saw it. My parents divorced when I was younger and nobody thought to see how I was doing, how I was handling it. When my Dad and I stopped attending for a little bit, nobody was concerned. The man who devoted YEARS of his life to the church and the praise team, who put that ridiculous church above his family, was given zero support, wasn’t checked in on, wasn’t thought of, when he and his daughter stopped attending in order to handle a family matter. And, when I went back to that same church after life settled down, I wasn’t a believer because I “walked away from God in my time of need.” Nobody could fathom that just because we weren’t putting in our hours at church for our gold star for the week, that we were still having a relationship with God.

      Nobody is asking for a church to condone sin. Nobody is asking for them to agree with the life someone has chose or been dealt. The point to be made here is that it is not the body of Christ’s responsibility to change and recruit people. It is their responsibility to show love, compassion and a helping hand. It is their responsibility to show the forgiveness and grace that God has granted them, to their sinning counterparts. It is only after a person feels that as a person they are okay, that they can begin to open up to change. Regardless of my actions, or my situation, I am no less me. And, no amount of church is going to change what has happened to me and any sins I have committed. And, the church needs to accept that it has happened to me, and love me just the same for it. It is not until someone feels that love and acceptance that they would fathom making changes to their lifestyle. They need to know that we love them for the person they are and the person they could be, and not make our love conditional on them changing. THAT is what the church has portrayed. Their love and acceptance is conditional. As Christians we are called to love and accept a person all the same, regardless of lifestyle choices. It is only in that love and acceptance that the door may be opened to witness.

      • Kate – I agree totally with you and can relate to a similar disapproval under a different type of incident. Well said.

      • Kate,
        I’m so sorry for all that has happened in your life that’s had such a negative reaction from your church family, that’s truly sad to hear.
        I loved what you said though it’s OUR responsibility to show love and compassion, very much a “practice what you preach” scenario. I agree all of the above was well said!!

      • Kate,

        I am so, so sorry to hear how you and your family were treated. Yet, this is an all too common story. I have also experience great pain from The Church through my decades of ministry. Like your father, I sacrificed blood, sweat, tears, time, and finances for the sake of Christian ministry. Yet the same people with whom I ministered turned on me and treated me as an enemy. I was reviled, slandered, and abused emotionally. I was not rejected for my sin, lifestyle, or theology. I was lashed by sins of the tongue because of ‘politics’. I wanted desperately for ministry to succeed and grow, and they did too. It is that we had (relatively) slightly different perspectives on how to step into the future. Because I had a different programing perspective, I was reviled and rejected in ungodly ways. And I suffered loss of health, career, finances, and friends because of it. And this has happened to me multiple times. Even when I have steered clear of politics, my needs have been ignored by church leadership. I have been taken for granted — that I will always be there. And even when I have not been there, because I have been forced to leave a church, leaders have not even cared to reach out.

        Yet I have not rejected my faith. Why? Because Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones and old ones have come to the foot of The Cross of Jesus to recognize His sacrifice for humanity. He left the perfect realm of Heaven to walk this God-forsaken earth to demonstrate love to the Jewish leaders, Jewish followers, and the Gentiles. But Jewish leaders (for the most part) rejected him and used the Roman State to have him executed. Yet Jesus rose above it all. Through it all, Jesus did not sin, and he rose from the grave to demonstrate His power over death. And he asks all who will believe in His life, death, and resurrection to follow Him. In return, our Spirit will become alive to God and experience peace in this life, and it will experience Heaven in the next life.

        But in this life there is strife. There is strife inside and outside the church, and it has always been this way. It is this way because we are all fallen and sinful people, both inside and outside The Church. We know from the life of Jesus that there was strife inside and outside the Jewish faith. We know from the New Testament that the Jewish Leaders not only killed Jesus, but they persecuted the Early Church. And we know from other historical documents that the State also persecuted the Early Church. We also read of strife within the Early Church in the New Testament. Much of the New Testament is written by the Apostle Paul to instruct The Church on how to conduct itself within The Church and in the world. Because we in The Church have been given new life, we are expected to live new, improved lives. Yet we do not live as we should many times. Just like any natural family, we do not love as we should and so there is strife. And even when others in the church family don’t love us, we are asked to demonstrate long-suffering and return love instead.

        It is a very hard thing to love those who are unloving to us, whether they are inside or outside our natural or church family. And it is hard to maintain fellowship with these people. Yet, Jesus calls us as His disciples to love the unloving, just as He did. And He continues to call us to Himself, because He first loved us.

  3. i hope part 3 is be the change you wish to see in the world. we need more churches exhibiting the love and change you speak of.

  4. I am a former pastor’s wife, and since our divorce I have felt almost all of these things you wrote about….thank you so much for sharing, and I am still on my journey to be the church before I can fully be IN the church!!

  5. John, as a youth pastor, I get where you are coming from and I agree with many of your points. However, I feel that you are speaking to a common trend in certain denominations and it is sort of unfair of you to use the word “Church” when you are actually addressing a current trend and should not be addressing the institution as a whole. This is like asking a Catholic Priest to represent all evangelicals as a whole. You are basically punishing the entire baseball team for the few bad kids who are making the team look bad. I feel as if you should have directed this at “Mega Churches, Non-Denominational, etc.” I work in a small church that avoids all of the things you mentioned because we have seen the mega churches and the high turnover rate that those churches tend to have. Also, the fact of the matter is, the “Church” is indeed the bride of Christ (or if you prefer, Wife of Jesus?), and even though you don’t prefer that language, its Biblical and therefore Spirit inspired. If you don’t like time tested biblical language than maybe we should all be reading from the Message and throw our other translations away. Let me reiterate, I appreciate your post, and I agree with 95% of it, I just feel as if you aren’t giving solutions so much as you are looking at Jesus’ wife and saying, “She’s really overweight and ugly at times, and she should change.” Well, Jesus died for all of that bloated ugliness, and He loves the mess out of that “Church.” Lastly, your post doesn’t leave much room for God’s sovereignty or power. If we alone are responsible for people leaving the church, then that means God is sleeping and letting all of these people leave without batting an eye. I believe that God uses crooked sticks to draw straight lines, and even in those places where these Churches fail, God is working powerfully by His Spirit. There are some of us still on the team who are working our butts off. Please don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

    • Well, I read the cry from John P. I think he called out for someone to listen. But mostly it seems like we want to defend ourselves from the fact that there has been so much hurt and wrongdoings through the years. There’s a whole lot of garbage we have wiped under the carpet, if I say so. WE as a church do have a debt to pay. The debt of love. Therefore it makes me sad to read the lack of willingness to see in some of the answers. Theres no doubt He loves us and are working on his bride day and night.
      Many times the leaders are the problem. By having respect of man. Not dealing with injustice. Not being accountable. Building kingdoms in their own names. Amos 5 speaks for itself.
      He is NOT accusing us but He is knocking on our door for us to wake up. So many other things became our idols…our denominations, churches and building projects, image-reputation, money, our programs for success. We maybe sometimes even right in our opinions but we miss the heart. Right or wrong has become more important than love! Opinions are mostly powerless, even if they are right, if they are not loaded with love.
      This is a huge problem and I have seen it in every denomination or nondenomination I can think of. We hide this instead of dealing with it and think God will bring revival on this. We must first go to our brother and make good with him (If we know he has something against us) BEFORE we bring our gift to the Father.
      God is basically asking us to open up our hearts for this change! Lack of humility is the gateway for pride. Pride makes us blind. Theres a lot of pride in the church today. If we humble ourselves, He will honor us but if we live in pride He will resist us.
      Many people dispise the church and have negativs about it, and many are leaving it, specially in the Western world. It is for a reason. Its our own fault and we must change to be able to become the voice the world so badly need to hear. This is what He wanted from the very first beginning. He wants us to be a voice of truth and honesty. And of LOVE. We are NOT known for this and it SHOULD bring us to a place of repentance. We just do not hear the bell is ringing! I dont think we can expect the world to change. I think it’s us that are needed to change.
      We cannot just blame it on bad additudes or rebellion.
      Hurts needs to be healed, go find a way to heal the outsiders, I call them “the broken arrows laying on the ground”, God needs them for this endtime run. Theres no difference from this in Europe. And yes, I am a pastor and I’ve been doing this for over 40 years.
      Thanks for your honesty John, I’ve been listening. Ulf C
      (there maybe some grammatical error so you have to excuse me)

      • Thanks so much for the honest, passionate response, Ulf. I’m grateful that the piece has resonated with you, and am thankful that you see my heart in it.

        Blessings.

    • It is awfully egotistical of you to try and derail this discussion with your “Not ALL churches” rhetoric. Just because your church doesn’t run the show like a business doesn’t mean there isn’t a massive problem leaving many hungry folks starved for a real connection to the institution meant to feed them. It’s not really about god. It’s about gods community and the shortcomings that have plagued us everywhere.
      You don’t deserve a cookie for running your church the way it should be. Instead of defending yourself why don’t you just continue doing gods work and make sure you’re not part of the problem.
      “Not ALL churches. ”
      Give me a break. You’re like one of those guys who gets in on conversations about sexual assault solely for the purpose of spitting out “Not all men!” before retreating back to the gutter you crawled out from.
      For the record, the author never said EVERY church. No one believes he means every single last church is like this. But honestly, the vast majority are. So stop defending yourself and do something about it, oh wise spiritual leader.

    • There are elements of the article that are indeed true. “The Church” is made up of all of us mortal, sinful people who are quite far from the perfection that would be required to handle every situation and person perfectly. Yes, there are churches where the production has become more important than the message. Yes, there are churches that are not where they should be in getting out of their four walls enough to impact their communities as most know they should be and are hopefully working toward. However, I believe a large percentage of churches (Christians) have a heart to follow God and live that out whether in church or regular daily life. Is that done perfectly in every instance? Of course, it is not. The Church should be a place where we come together, regardless of background or challenge to seek the Truth, even if it isn’t something we particularly want to hear or do perfectly. Life can be messy, and if we could all handle things perfectly (like Christ), there would actually be no need for Him! Grace is a powerful thing; especially when it is undeservedly given.

      We are all imperfect and “in-process”. Yet, we will all stand before God some day and any stated imperfections of the Church will not justify the lack of a relationship with Christ, period. “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities — his external power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20) God wants all to come to Him regardless of challenge or background, and the church should be the most welcoming place on planet Earth. However, God is also not satisfied to leave us as we initially come to Him; therefore, in the “hospital for Christians” that the Church is, we allow God to work His will in such a place. “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — His good, pleasing and perfect will”. (Romans 12:2) As members of the body of Christ we are all charged with not only loving one another, but also providing each other with a level of accountability that does not allow us to “rest” in behavior that does not honor God. While we are not called to judge one another, we are called to be discerning of behavior that is right or wrong. In many churches, the Truth has become feared territory and branded a negative. We all need to hear the Truth spoken in love, or God’s Word becomes irrelevant!

      Changing the old patterns is not fun or easy. However, when we identify with Him, we also become responsible for His message and for speaking the Truth contained within it in a loving way. This presents both the Good News and calls out the sin that separates us from God and requires repentance. Being faithful to this Truth is not an optional suggestion for any follower of Christ, or the Church for that matter. Jesus DID hang out with hypocrites, adulterers, cheats, etc., however, the message to them in that day was the same that it is for us, “ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:11) That is a message for all of us each and every day since we all fail and are in need of grace and forgiveness. Though we are slowly being remade into the image of Christ, perfection in any form is completely unrealistic until Christ returns.

      Objective self-examination and desire for improvement are always good things both individually and corporately — not because it AFFECTS our salvation, but because it REFLECTS our salvation. That said some may never be satisfied with the Church because of its imperfect nature. This is sad, as there are many churches whose hearts’ desire is to be the hands and feet of Christ to a hurting world to the best of their abilities. I would hope that folks who allow their dissatisfaction to override a desire to be part of the solution would understand they choose to allow their assessment to rob them of being part of something very special where growth and grace can be profound (even when it’s messy). At the same time, they commit the very same act of judgment they themselves presume to rail against! We all make our own choices, and ultimately are the only ones responsible for whatever they may be. We as Christians (the Church) are responsible for faithfully speaking God’s truth to the best of our humanly imperfect ability. Whether or not we choose to participate is a personal decision ultimately attributable to no one but ourselves.

    • Very good point. I’m sure there are churches out there that fit all of this criteria but I agree you shouldn’t forget there are also those churches that are loving and accepting and community focused. I pray all of you missing out find a place you can find comfort because you’re right, that is what Jesus teaches.

  6. I have enjoyed your words in these first two articles, John, and I have to say that a lot of times they’re true.

    My comment, as a lifelong churchgoer and now a pastor is….I wish you wouldn’t leave.

    What you call “the church” is merely a collection of people, and you know that, as “people,” we seldom do the best we could.

    We “church people” see the culture crumbling around us, and we want to stop that somehow. We see people openly calling right wrong and wrong right, and we see the wreckage in people’s lives. So we lose ourselves and scold.

    We see women victimized since the “sexual revolution,” raising children alone while men act like they need a harem. So we speak against sexual immorality. And people get offended.

    We see drugs and alcohol take an entire generation, and we preach.

    We want to be like John the Baptist, to scream it out…and we blow it, and people walk away.

    We want to love people like Jesus did, and people ignore us.

    Jesus said it in the gospels: “You are like children in the marketplace. They complain to their friends, “You played wedding songs, and you didn’t dance. You played funeral songs, and you didn’t mourn.”

    Please forgive us when we are unloving. Please forgive us when we’re frustrated. We came to extend Jesus’ offer of eternal life…and no one seems interested.

    • There is more to loving people than just scolding to saying what not to do. It also involves giving people the skills to avoid this sort of thing. It involves accepting people who have both engaged in these activities and those who have been victims of it. When you leave that off, you are just screaming self-righteous hot air.

  7. Who is actually the head of the Church? Does he not run it like it should? Perhaps the traditional definition of church is getting in the way?

  8. There is an incredible amount of damage that happens when people who desire to follow Jesus disassociate themselves from ‘church’ and refer to it as an ambiguous institution out there. You are the church. Let’s be careful not to perpetuate the very ‘us / them’ mentality that needs to be broken. WE are the church.

    • Totally agree. I’m still a pastor and still engaged. This piece however, not only seeks to speak for those who feel like outsiders, the reaction to this and the previous piece by many church people, shows that this in/out stuff is huge.

      Thanks for sharing this.

  9. “If someone shares that their heart is hurting, they don’t want to hear that they’re not right to be hurt.”

    Absolutely! And they don’t want to be hurt further by being told they’re ‘bitter’ and ‘unforgiving’, or that they ‘gave as good as they got’, or that they should just ‘get over it’…

  10. This is amazing. Truly. I keep jumping from post to post, like a good book I can’t put it down! and this is the first time something regarding “mainstream” Christianity has spoken to my inner self. Either I read overly aggressive articles damning the sinners, or damning the faithful and every point between.

    I’m quiet and more traditional in how I choose to worship (and in my early 20s) which can make it difficult to find a similar spirit. Loud and proud is not my thing – My favorite scripture: Matthew 6:5-6.

    I feel your yearning, I’ve been trying to find that love and acceptance I KNOW is offered through faith, in brick and mortar, in people, but struggling. I have seen and experienced the themes in your posts an I believe that people are good, many parishioners and pastors I’ve found to be wonderful. But I haven’t found enough of both living under the same roof to satisfy my soul. Until I do, my relationship with God has little to do with “The Church”.

    • Thank you so much for this. It is a great encouragement to me, and I am so glad the blogs speak to you. Stay in touch her and on social media. Look forward to supporting you!

    • I’m a pastor who faces many similar issues, but from a different direction. My denomination has always been about social justice and acceptance, but not so much about worship that connects with a new generation. We never got to the Mega-Church stage. And yes, many but not all of my members still think that the outside world should come to us. I had people leaving the church (within the last 6 years) because I put in a screen. I wanted to once in a while show a moving video to support my sermon. I wanted to be able to share pictures of VBS with the congregation. I wanted a blend of music that allowed us to express the full out joy of Christianity as well as the still small voice of God that speaks to us in silence. I wanted people’s voices to lift to God rather than be smothered by a hymnal. I’m a musician and composer myself and longed to sing something other than 18th and 19th century hymns.

      I know it is a great deal to ask, but my longing is that people like you… people who need to be spiritually fed in a new way will stay with us and be bold enough to ask. There are many small churches like mine looking for direction and God speaks most often through the voices of our neighbors. It could be that God is calling you to be just that voice. I speak to my current members about the needs of a new generation, but because they do not see you in our pews or hear from you directly, they dismiss what I say. Our leadership is working hard at transformation. We are trying to move beyond our doors, to reach out in service and love. We are looking for partners. All of your longed-for attitudes exist in current congregations right beside the fear-based resistance. Please come and build with us.

      • I truly could not agree more with you Jill. Our small church is so buried in tradition that even our new “not your mother’s church” Sunday evening service is still bound by liturgy, though in a lesser form. We are alienating the young generation with all the “thees”, “thous”, “lests”, and “-iths” of an aging religion. And the ancient melodies of the hymnals does not do much better to “motivate” those new generations to return and participate in our services.

  11. As a Secular Humanist, former Catholic, I couldn’t agree more. I think non-believers would be much more tolerant of religious folk if they weren’t always calling us the devil incarnate. Then they wonder why we get scared by all of the displays of religiosity in government. If someone was calling you the embodyment of their worst demon, you’d want the government to declare its separation too, lol. I like you for who you are, flaws and all! I hope that doesn’t cause any backlash from others for you.

  12. Thanks John for these posts. I felt like I was the only one feeling this angst and didn’t really recognize all the reasons why I left the mega and semi-large churches I did recently. Still looking to recapture any vestiges of my faith and perhaps it will be a proper community that brings that about. (An aside: based on your response to criticism, you seem to understand the limits of your medium, which is refreshing also).

  13. It’s amazing what happens when we quit worrying about ourselves and our feelings and start caring about others! I can choose to be miserable because I’m not being treated right at church or I can help someone in need. I also have a chooser, I can be part of the problem or part of the solution! Where there are people there are problems, I choose love, peace and Jesus! I certainly don’t blame the church!

    • I’m glad you haven’t been wounded in such a way that you are still able to have that attitude, but there are thousands who are not so fortunate.

      Lots of good, faithful, Jesus-loving, generous people have experienced things that cause deep pain and demand attention. It’s about seeing the crowd, as Jesus did, and having compassion as the first instinct.

  14. Admin (John), this comment is for you, you don’t have to approve it.

    Yesterday, I made a comment replying to Heath, about what I thought on your intentions on the post. And it seems like the comment is “still awaiting moderation”. Obviously there have been a ton of posts after that one, so my comment was definitely not approved by you.

    And yeah. I don’t know what I said that was wrong or that you don’t agree with, but that really surprised me. And I would like to know why my comment didn’t make it, from your point of view.

    My email is abraham16@gmail.com. If you could write me an email explaining your reason and what not, I would love it. Thanks!

    ps. my comment said this:

    “However, Heath, people that are feeling this way are not necessarily thinking that it’s only a few people that are messing up. They will think it’s the Church as a whole, and not a few people, because those are the “ambassadors of God’s love” he/she got to know. And he doesn’t know any better.

    I think this is where John’s post is going to. What you’re saying is definitely true, and I know of a few churches in my town for example, that are so welcoming, and are willing to accept people as they are, give them love, and even help them in the process of restoration, if they make the decision of doing so. And if someone comes to that Church, that person is truly going to feel God’s love, the way we’re supposed to represent it.

    But what about the others that go to churches that are not so good to them? This is where John’s post comes, this is how they see it, and this is their reality.

    Also, I’m a firm believer that even if we mess up the Holy Spirit can act and make people change and see things the way they are. But I’m also a firm believer that sometimes (and I even dare to say most of the times) the way people are truly going to experience God’s love, is through the Church of Jesus showing it to them. What happens in intimacy, when you feel God’s love when the whole world is against you, that’s supernatural, awesome, and I believe it can happen. But I can promise you this: when the Church of Christ does its job, it takes that experience to another level, that I believe can’t be experienced any other way.

    God bless you! And John… Thanks for this post. Really. Thanks.”

  15. I’m learning that it’s not the church that I need, but it’s Jesus. I am part of the church. I am part of something bigger. It’s time I take responsibility. And I refuse to do it alone.

  16. John, I so appreciate your transparency. You are getting push back because you hit the “religious” nerve of disguise within the walls of the church.I call them the pretenders. Weeds among a crop of nurishment. My pastor is known for bringing out what you are speaking to. We are to be God’s heart, feet, hands, eyes, etc to a hurting and broken world. It is not about meeting in a building. I think it also speaks to another aspect which is “where my treasure is my heart will follow.” Our real heart is seen by how and where we spend that $ stuff. Press on and if you are ever in the middle Tennessee area, my husband and me would love to treat you to our church, a meal and some good encouraging time together. Blessings as you wade against the tide of religion not Christ.

    • Thanks so much, Sue. The pushback is so welcome, for the reasons you shared, but also because of the outpouring of people who are saying that the posts speak their hearts.

      Thank you for the encouragement!

      • I do not understand why it is okay for you to criticize and judge, but you are not “tolerant” (to use your wording) of those who are doing the same thing. You are hurting people by slashing them with all of these comments. I read the first post, and many of the comments, and I didn’t hear them (on the whole) telling you that you were a sinner, or lost, etc. I heard people (also valid) who were trying to say that some people’s mistakes are not all people’s mistakes. They are trying to tell you that people really are trying to love, but they, too, are imperfect. Why is it that your brand of imperfect is okay, but others that you don’t agree with have no room for flaws? I’ve been hurt in church, too. If you are there long enough, everyone will be. I’ve been hurt at work, in my marriage, by my children, as well. I didn’t throw them out, either. I kept working and loving them. The church is just a bunch of humans. I replied on your other post, and you didn’t answer me, but I want to know how you expect the church to reach out and bring people in without having to “clean them first” (which is what we are supposed to do), but then, when those still unperfected people become the church, how can they be expected to do it all right? They are now the church – with warts. That’s who we are supposed to be. We are messy, flawed people trying to all find our way with God. You, however, now seem “intolerant” of them. Those messy people who are the church are the same ones you wanted to reach out to, but now, when they hurt each other, we walk away from them. What I heard people saying in the comments was – please give the grace you are asking for. Yes, we are going to be hurt wherever we go. We expect not to be hurt in church where we are supposed to be loved. That’s true – but, we are going to have to find a church ( or any other organization) full of perfected people for that to happen. I believe that’s called Heaven. I’m sure there are people looking for a notch on their soul winning belts, but that is so cynical. I would think most of those people are just struggling to serve God the best they can, and Jesus told them to go out to the world. No one, no one, does this perfectly (possibly because they are still human). But, please at least try, to see that these people are people, too. They are hurting, struggling, sinful, etc. They are all the things you say you are, but you want them to come to you. It is not bashing you to have conversation with you. These conversations, at least from my perspective, are about trying to work it out, not to just criticize you. It is actually because I feel love for you that I respond. I believe your points are true in certain people or places. I just think that, for the above reasons, we are (me, anyway) still called to lay down self and love in His name. It may sound “churchy”, but it’s true, nonetheless. If you aren’t blaming Jesus, (and I don’t hear that in your posts) He told us to die to the self who wants it done the way we want it done. Be the change, but you can’t do that through cynicism and walking away. To say “you don’t go against the family” sounds mean-spirited. Please stop bashing Christ’s bride. Try to bind up her wounds by actually bandaging, not throwing rocks from far away. No wonder non-Christians don’t want our Lord. We fight with each other so much that we don’t look any different than they do. Why would they want this? I have a friend in Charlotte who tells me her church is super loving and outreaching. It’s called Newsong Church in Huntersville. Try it. 🙂 I am going to pray for you that you find the church you are looking for and accept and love her messy people. Please pray for me that I will continue to have His power to die to myself and keep serving and reaching. Can we, as the church, please join together, love no matter what, and hold each other up instead of knocking each other down?

        • What John is talking about is a CULTURE of pride and arrogance within the church. It is not just one or two people who have hurt each particular person in a church of 400, but a culture of self-absorption, meanness, arrogance, and pride within a church. There is such a difference between a few messed up people hurting you and your entire church failing to come by your side.

          When you walk into a church, the difference is evident. Do at least some people within the church seek you out? Do they notice your presence and take interest in you and how you’re doing? When you tell them of your various struggles, do they immediately clam up and act like you’ve got cooties (if you don’t recognize it, think of the typical elementary school insult)? If you tell them you’re a democrat, do they immediately say “baby killer!”? Do people act like they’re perfect and have no problems? Are people allowed to be real and say what’s going on in their lives? Answers to questions like these will tell you the genuineness of the people in the church, which is essential. When people are genuine, they’re not arrogant, self-absorbed, proud, etc. Granted a couple people might behave badly, but there should be many others who are open and inviting.

          It’s a question of culture within a church, which doesn’t require everyone to be perfect.

      • Thanks, Karen. I do understand what you mean. I know there are churches where this behavior is the norm. My point was, if that is the church you are in, find another one. this behavior is not what real church is. And it is not in EVERY church. I suggested, twice, a church in John’s area that I am aware of that is loving. He doesn’t acknowledge my suggestion. Maybe that’s not what he’s really looking for. I am simply saying that the answer is not mean-spirited comments that lead to more mean-spirited comments. I am asking that we love. I am asking that we give what we are asking for. You mention ways to be mistreated in church. I agree. But, some of these comments (not yours) on this blog are just as unloving. They act as if ALL churches have “cooties”. John won’t answer my question of why it’s okay for him to judge, but not for others. We are all flawed, but it’s okay to judge others’ flaws while yelling about the fact that they don’t accept yours. I’m begging that we love instead of criticize. I’m all for trying to change the culture, ask churches to become more real and loving. We won’t do it by abandoning and hating. I am just asking for the same love and acceptance for ALL sinners, not just the ones you agree with. Does forgiveness have any place in the Christian life? If not, we are all doomed.

        • He isn’t talking about one particular church in his area; he’s talking about the church as a whole. There is a crisis of people leaving the church, especially in my age group (18-35). The only way this is addressed is if we look at the church as a whole and ask ourselves what it is most visible for. Most people know the church by conservative (selfish and arrogant) political leaders who espouse “Christian” beliefs because there are very FEW comments from those who say their Christian beliefs shaped their generous and egalitarian political viewpoints that they try to get implemented. You hear more about outlawing abortion than you do with helping to prevent it from being an issue to begin with. You hear more about blaming poor people for being poor instead of helping the poor to have ONE job with a living wage, and ensuring that their employers treat them fairly. You hear more about how those who lost their homes “signed for it,” with their exploitative mortgage even though there was widespread fraud in the industry that is very well documented. You hear more about teaching kids to say no to sex (because it’s a sin), instead of providing comprehensive birth control that prevents thousands upon thousands of unplanned pregnancies, and therefore abortions, every year. You hear about how homosexuals shouldn’t have any rights to work, be free from harassment, etc. because they’re sinners.

          People behave as if all churches have cooties because they have been hurt often enough in enough churches, and in society for that matter (just think of Hobby Lobby) to be able to generalize in their minds that this is a behavior of ALL churches. So they leave and have extremely negative views of the church. It’s only understandable.

  17. Great articles! They have caused me to think and reconsider many things. Having been in those churches, I can tottaly relate. But my major concern lies in that we, as those who have become disenchanted with what’s going on, are using such things as an excuse not to be a part of a local church body. Being connected with people who do love us, are there for guidance, support, and relationship is VERY important. At what point do we just ignore those things, and stay connected for our own spiritual well being, and just leave and try to navigate life’s minefield on our own? I totally agree that the church at large isn’t doing as much as they could in terms of connecting with people who are hurting, feel unloved, and are drowning. But what can we do? Do we just continue on and hope and pray we can do it? Or do we try to work with pastors and church leaders to radically change church culture? Or start our own church, where we focus not on the big productions, but in meeting and reaching people where they are at? If the church can’t or won’t do these things its up to us to do them in the end.

  18. Dear Mr. Pavlovitz,
    To say that I agree with what you wrote is an understatement. It grieves me that we Christians are such poor examples of Christ to others. We fail to be Christ honoring examples to others far more than we succeed. As the Apostle Paul wrote-
    Rom_7:15 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.
    Rom_7:16 If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.
    Rom_7:17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
    Rom_7:19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
    Rom_7:20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
    Rom_7:21 I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.
    As long as we live in our sin nature we will never be the perfect and shining examples people want. If we as Christians do as we are supposed to- Read our Bibles, Pray and Go to church, and let God work in us as He wants to- then God will be glorified. But so often we don’t do those things, we go through the motions as the Pharissees did.
    But we are not to look to man, or to each other. The middle verse of the Bible is- Psa 118:8 It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man.
    Teach others to look to God, for He alone is faithful, He alone will never leave us nor forsake us, God ALONE is (Prov.18:24) a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.
    Heb_12:2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

  19. Real relationships endure flaws, and embrace adversity. Real relationships are built by stayers.

    Are there reasons that are good enough to walk away from a church community? Sure; corruption, immorality, bad theology, racism.

    The problem is, those are almost never what drive people from the vast majority of honest, loving, serving faith communities. Usually, they come down to style, personality conflicts and boredom.

    So if you’ve recently left or are about to leave a church, ask yourself the question, “If I really believe what I say I believe about Jesus, is this a good enough reason to leave the community He has placed me in.”

    Sometimes, mature faith is shown most fully, in how you learn to stay.

    John Pavlovitz, March 2012

    • Yes, I listed “corruption, immorality, bad theology, racism” and many people have been extremely damaged by those things. I consider the disregard for people’s needs, the “salvation factory mindset”, the self-centered focus, and the misguided battles to all be part of horribly bad theology, and the practicing of said theology.

      Thanks.

  20. Thank you. This needs to be part of the conversation, because it is the defensiveness that has to end. No, it is not a trend, and it is not isolated. What you describe is common, because humans prefer our status quo and do not like how messy grace is. The church has a history of controlling God rather than allowing him to lavish his grace and abundance on anyone he chooses. Were supposed to be his instruments to do that. Yes, we’re also supposed to disciple into holiness. But our version of holiness doesn’t match Jesus’ all that well, if we’re honest. I’ve been part of a church plant the past five years, and it has changed my life, ministry, everything. It’s the greatest experience of working with God I’ve ever had. It is all about what you’re saying. And guess what? I’ve been a pastor for almost twenty years. It’s taken that long to find.

  21. Get rid of the glitzy and shiny and instead focus on God and others… I think I’ve heard this message before… It’s a good one that I feel has been necessarily repeated in history. I go to church, not because of what the Church does for me. I go to church because God wants me and other Christians there. I go to church to be a blessing to others at church. Maybe we should teach that. What examples of going to church can we find in the Bible? I know Jesus often went to the Temple, David worshipped in the Temple, and Paul instructed us to go to church and love one another.

  22. John,

    I read both parts one and two of this blog with great interest. As a non-Christians (and an active and practicing member of the Baha’i Faith), I obviously have a very different viewpoint on many things, but what I want to comment on is your use of the word tolerance. I have thought a lot about tolerance in the past year or so, and have realized that it is a word that is overused. Do you really want the Church to tolerate people or to accept them? One tolerates a toothache or an unwelcome relative. Is that what you want from the church? Should those searching not expect acceptance instead of mere tolerance?

    • Both words imply “not rejecting”, so it’s essentially the same concept for me.

      People need to be able to be flawed, messed-up, doubtful, and even openly so, and not be excluded.

  23. Would you write a part 3 (or just it’s own piece) about how people who are constantly forcing their religion on you don’t really bring you closer to God but actually just push you further and FURTHER away and make you never EVER want to go anywhere near a church or a religious group? I get that people are passionate about their religions and want to share it with everyone else, but it is possible to do it in a way where it doesn’t feel like they’re forcing their religion on you. When [someone] does something nice for me but, in my interpretation of it, says “I’ve helped you, now you pretty much have to go to my church and I’m just going to guilt trip you until you do”, that’s the point when I decided to no longer talk to that person in fear of being guilt tripped and preached to in every conversation. Then I’M the bad person because I respectfully declined your invitation from simply fear of forceful beliefs and hypocritical judgment.

  24. Also as a Pastor, I must admit to myself you are right. We dont always do a good jog caring and listening to people in our midst. and by not a good job, i mean we are lousy. and that being the case, how do we expect to help people that we meet who already have a bad taste of a Church experience in their mouth. the only way to make a difference is to simply start caring about the things Jesus cared about and stopping getting distracted as a Church

  25. Where’s the love button! This is exactly how I feel. The last time I went to a church regularly the pastor said from the pulpit: “If you’re going to be a bigot, be a bigot for Christ.” I closed my Bible, walked out and sat in the parking lot and cried for the rest of the service until my husband came out. In the car I told him, if that’s what it is to be a Christian, to go to church; I was done. Nothing has hurt my faith more than the church and maybe it’s my fault for letting it. Or maybe church needs to change. Either way, this post states outright how I’ve felt about the whole thing and how people have reacted to my feeling.

    • Thank you so much! You’re the reason I write things like this, because I know how many people there are who have these stories.

      Thanks for being a reminder to those who would rather not see that the problems are real.

      Be encouraged. Keep going!

  26. And that’s exactly why I walked away from the church and will never go back. I have no problem with Jesus; it’s the church, and Jesus is nowhere near the church.

  27. Is it not possible to believe in sin and still be tolerant? Is not a relationship with Christ meant to be a journey through daily sacrifices of sinful actions? Perhaps the church should never again mention sin, but then, if we do not recognize sin, where is the need for Jesus? He did come to relieve our heartache, and as a church that should be our goal. However he did that by setting us free from sin, for it is the darkness of sin which pulls us into depression, anger, violence, and idolatry. The church is so wrong in so many ways, however if they stop preaching against sin, then they fail to establish our Lord as a holy just God. Without that, there just isn’t any point.

  28. I cannot argue with you because I have definitely been in the position you describe in your writings. I don’t know where you are at but if you want to check out a church that I think is doing it right, you can stop by Centenary United Methodist Church in Mankato Mn. When my wife and I and our son first started showing up we were welcome unconditionally. Not with flare and falseness but genuine interest and smiles and handshakes. Something kind of foreign being a lesbian couple raising a toddler. Our pastor has an outstanding way of speaking that not only carries me through the week but challenges my thought process, thinking errors, and motivates me to carry what I have learned outside of the walls. We pray for our neighborhood each week and we partner with local missions to do what we can in our town. We are located right in the heart of our city and we go out to meet people right where they are. It all seemed too good to be true when we first started going there but two years later I can attest it’s better than ever. If Sunday services seem to intimidating we have a low key inter-generational service on Wednesday nights starting in September. They are justice oriented and very friendly. We are out there I promise. We are growing and raising our children to really love the way Christ spoke of loving.

  29. It is very true that the fields are ripe for harvest and those to be reached are in our neighborhoods there on the streets there out there needing much more than the culture of this day can provide.the love of God through our Lord and savior Jesus the Christ is exactly what they should be told about, the hope of glory! You are right we have to draw them with love the love of Jesus . Jesus did go out into the world where the tax collectors, adulterers, liars and cheaters were.
    I wanted to find out who Jesus is an in studying the Bible he taught about the Kingdom. What I found was that in every encounter with the people he came in contact with, he gave them truth with love. Not at any time did He teach them they could remain in there sins but to turn from their sin! If we teach that , if we teach, come as you are , hear the truth but stay in a life style you are in and not turn from you ways we are not teaching what Jesus was teaching. That sounds like what Paul was warning the church about , another Gosple not the true Gosple.
    It is the lost Jesus sent us out for, lost people just like I was before the love of God drew me and I accepted his gift of salvation, left the life I lived in. I stopped doing that which he taught was wrong!
    If you think you can live in sin and God is going to accept you , give you blessings let you inter the kindom of heaven when you leave this world you are not being taught the message Jesus taught . I will not mislead my brothers, I know what is written about doing so!
    I would suggest read the Bible for yourself and see exactly how Christ said we should live. Remember we are all lost in sin before Jesus called us out of sin! That is why we must love with the love of Christ but
    not leave out the truth!!!
    I think some love their sin and don’t want to hear truth it rains on their parade.

  30. Wow. So very good. Right where I am. I love God with all my heart and have since I was 6. However the whole church scene is a strangle on my heart. Still love the people but so tired of the silence. Your words were like seeing my own struggle. Haven’t stop loving God or showing His love but getting it back in a Godly, a real Godly way is lacking in a huge way. The silence or ‘loving’ words only cause my hurt to be deeper. Thank you for being brave and bold to speak out.

  31. Thank you so much for these posts. I was raised in Church from the time I was two weeks old, and left at the age of 23 after being ostracized from my Church whilst going through a divorce from a man who repeatedly cheated on me. I never realized before that time that there could be so much hatred in the church.

    Since that time I’ve been reevaluating my faith, asking questions, and searching for a place where I could simply be the broken person I had become without fear of backlash and judgment. I just have to wonder that if Christians who I had grown up with and loved for so long could treat me like that when I was supposedly “walking away” or whatever they called it to themselves…how much damage has been done to other people?

    My eyes have been open to so much dysfunction, and it breaks my heart. It breaks my heart for the church, and for those who we are supposed to be loving.

    I feel like your blogs have perfectly expressed everything that I’ve been feeling, and this one could’ve been ripped straight from my own wounded, questioning heart, and brought me to tears.

    Thank you.

    • Beth: You are definitely not alone. One of the reasons I left is because I was in an abusive marriage and it was repeatedly reinforced to me that I was to be silent, submissive and obedient. There is no love, compassion or support for a divorced woman in a church. We are regularly reminded that god makes exceptions for adultery (however, your church will still condemn you for it) but none for abuse. ‘Get married, stay married’.

  32. Thank you for your heartfelt articles, and thank you to everyone who in great civility, in the midst of such a potentially raw topic, took the time to read them and respond. There are a lot of wonderful thoughts by articulate thinkers here. In some organizations i suppose i would be called a ‘lay-pastor’; i’m the guy who keeps saying ‘yes’ when the church/friends/neighbors/strangers need help with something.
    Your statement from part 1, about going OUT and joining in on what God is already doing ‘off campus’ is brilliant in my opinion and where ‘we’ (the church, not the building with the cross on the sign) are called to act. I attended a church where above the doors on the way out was a sign, “Welcome to your mission field.” I’ve since moved, and i miss that sign, but i recall it often as i leave my home and other buildings. I think that might be a really good sign to have on most buildings. As a spiritual misfit (raised in a wiccan household), with scriptural impairment (still haven’t read the whole of the bible), with a degree in theater i tend to see through the stage production and have been to a couple of buildings where they didn’t even buy what they were selling even though there were some potential Tony nominees on the pulpit.
    So to my point: I’ve observed that the path each of us is called and equipped to walk very rarely ends up in or going through a building with a cross on the sign, but when it is truly Good, it starts, goes through and ends with God. I’d love to hear what the church is doing outside where you are.

  33. I believe we are truly witnessing our churches “holding to a form of godliness, but denying its power”. When pastors tell teenage girls that they are being molested by their stepfather because there is a demon inside of them and the molester couldn’t help himself, something has gone wrong. I haven’t found one thing you’ve written about this subject that I disagree with. Well said, and I’m glad you did.

  34. So, so good! This two part piece really hits the nail on the head, and it better words than I could find! To quote C T Studd, “Some wish to live within, the sound of church or chapel bells. I want to run a rescue shop, within a yard of hell!” . One thing which has encouraged me is the slow and steady growth of para-church faith communities springing up around the world, like Zac’s Place in Swansea. People are slowly and steadily waking up but we need more prophetic voices like yours! Much respect and peace.

  35. It’s a nice read…I see the church moving in the same way I see healthcare moving ..from after I get sick-care to prevent me from getting sick care. The process of change is so difficult …and it hurts. This writer articulates a view that seems to ring true …my only response is, I hear him. In relationships, the success of it must be mutual shared…unhealthy ones are where one believes they carry the burden of everything. So here we are…waiting on the other to make the first move..when maybe the first decision is to decide whether we want the relationship in the first place. If you want it..then in spite of the faults or flaws ..it will get worked out. That’s what a mature relationships resembles …shared responsibilities toward a common goal. So let it be with the Church and the church goer …we both have to ask..ourselves and each other, do we really want to be here together?

  36. Thank you so much for your two articles here! Such a breath of fresh air.
    We recently moved to a new area and have found it almost impossible to find a church where we can truly worship during a Sunday service. It has gotten so crazy! I don’t go to church to be entertained. I go to church for instructions for my daily life; and peace. My husband and I had to get up and leave a Christmas program (which I love) because it got so loud and crazy. I have two children in their thirties who have been searching for some time for a home church that wasn’t so MEGA and where they don’t have to listen to all the loudness; just worship. My daughter and her family are members of a church but are not happy there. It was the most moderate one in the area and way on the other side of town. My son just married and is living in the same area and searching also. My daughter says there is a large amount of adults in her age group searching for the same thing. Why can the churches not see this?? Honestly, in the church we have been attending, it is so big that no one would ever know whether you were a member or not! I will say this about the “come as you are” theory. I am all for that if you don’t have any better but that doesn’t give someone the excuse to wear tacky blue jeans or shorts to worship if they can do better, especially if they are a doctor!! It has just given some people an excuse to be lazy. These cafe’s are ridiculous. That is not why we go to church. I went to one church recently that looked like a mall inside. They had a café in the center and shops on the side right before you enter their “arena.” Thank you for letting me vent. This has been an issue for me and others around me for a while!

  37. Even as an atheist, I totally get these two articles. An, as an atheist, it does not mean I do not see wisdom in the Bible (or the Koran or the Torah or Buddhism…). The Golden Rule was the smartest thing ever written. I wish more people followed it.

  38. Hi John
    As a full time clergyman in Ireland (Episcopalian) this is painful to read, but I get your point entirely. I know what you are talking about from personal experience having been through a breakdown about 12 years ago. I found warmth and acceptance and a great deal of love and help from many Christians but the ‘organization’ didn’t know how to cope or respond. I found much love and companionship among non-churchgoers and took time out to recover. It is a sad indictment of the church I love that I had to more or less step out to be healed, weird!
    I am back in the job and happier than ever and I believe myself to be truly open and accepting of everyone I meet. I try not to set agendas for other people’s lives or spirituality and tolerate the brokenness and and strangeness of others because, to be frank I’m a bit strange myself.
    With regard to the language we use, well every group has it’s jargon and we need definitions but I understand what you mean. Maybe tolerance needs to be two way and mutual respect would help. What I mean is, I can respect someone’s doubt, unorthodoxy and need to question and all I ask is that I too am respected. There are certain parameters of definition that are needed, a bike club has definitions, so do the Scouts or any other gathering so we do need to be able to say “This is what makes us us”. We just need to be better at translating it into language people who feel outside can grasp.
    So from an orthodox-unorthodox insider-outsider I truly mean it when I say to you and all your readers, thanks you, much to ponder and you are all welcome all the time no matter who weird you think you are, we’re weird too! I have no place in my heart to judge you just don’t write us all off together. Love and peace in Jesus name. Alan

  39. I can say as a lifelong churchgoer that both of these articles so clearly expressed what’s been on my heart. We were in full-time ministry and committed to our church and surrounded by a “loving, grace-filled community” (our pastors’ words). When my husband and I uncovered a struggle we were having in a counseling session with the pastoral counselor, we were told what our issues were (which was not just incorrect but highly damaging) and told exactly how we were to deal with them if we wanted to stay in good standing with the church. Their “path to repentance” didn’t sit right with us and when we sought 2nd, 3rd, and 4th opinions from believers who were professional counselors or therapists who all agreed with each other and not with the pastor, we were told we were monsters and unrepentant and had to be exposed to the congregation as the wolves in sheep’s clothing that we were. In none of that time did we stop seeking healing for ourselves or choose to bury our heads in the sand about our issues. But the pastor couldn’t stomach the fact that we chose to do it a different way than what he knew with certainty equaled “repentance”. We were never brought a meal or offered childcare or even spoken to except by a few brave ones who received mandatory counseling with the pastors to do, as they called it “damage control” after they had spoken with us. Namely, they wanted to know every detail of the horrible things we were saying about the pastors (we weren’t saying anything about them) and wanted each person to be convinced that we were liars and completely unrepentant before they left their counseling sessions. It sounds like a horror story, and you can say it’s extreme, but after getting out of that church (thank God!) I find more and more believers and unbelievers who have similar stories to share. Why do I struggle to go to church? Because I long for a transformation of my own heart, to experience Jesus’ peace and comfort and healing touch. If I can’t find that (a longtime devoted Christ-follower), how can I invite someone who doesn’t know Christ to find it there? If I am unable to receive healing or grace or understanding at a church, I surely am not going to invite anyone else there. Jesus didn’t hang out with the religious church-goers. He was out in people’s homes, eating with prostitutes, drinking with the IRS, and refusing to condemn those who struggled with actual sin issues (He didn’t leave them in their sin, but He didn’t condemn them either). I want to be where Jesus is. I long to be touched by Him. I just can’t seem to find Him in a church building.

  40. The two biggest reasons people are leaving church. Mind you this is church, not “the Church.”

    #1 It looks nothing like the church in the Bible. People who are leaving know the Bible far better, and read it far more often, than those who are staying.

    #2 They have no voice. Church, as it is, is geared for spectators, not participants. But this is part of #1.

    I don’t agree with everything John had said here. But he has a lot of valid points. Unless church leaders wake up and listen, they’re going to find their churches empty, even if they are filled with people.

  41. ” We see a Jesus in the Bible, who hung out with lowlifes and prostitutes and outcasts, and loved them right there, but that doesn’t seem to be your cup of tea. From what we know about Jesus, we think he looks like love. The unfortunate thing is, you don’t look much like him.” This is absolutely B.S. Foolish and unbiblical for two reason. Christ wasn’t just about love he came to earth to change peoples relationship with God, others and themselves. He was the sacrifice. By putting Christ into a “love only” category people can, with convenience, ignore His most important message 1. Getting right with God by, 2. turning from sin and actually knowing what it says in God’s word the Bible. NOTE the use of quotes in regard to sinful. We as Christians are to busy pointing our fingers at each other and feeling uncomfortable at the backword messages (as demonstrated by this post) that we forget we should be POINTING UP

    • Jesus did these things, because He was God. You are not. People need to meet Jesus, not be harassed by sin-police until they leave.

      The Pharisees wanted to be gatekeepers of the Kingdom, and Jesus blasted them for it.

      Apparently you’re sinless. If so, congratulations!

  42. Reblogged this on quietlyreminded and commented:
    “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” Jesus said (Matthew 11:28). He also said he would be gentle with us and teach us His ways. He did not say “come to me and I will criticize you and make you feel worthless.”

    He has extended His grace to ALL.

    Church, are we loving like Jesus? Are we extending grace? Are we extending that grace to ALL?

  43. I am part of The Church and I just want to say thank you for writing this, as well as part 1. I didn’t read all the responses but it seems like you are getting a lot of push back. Even if not everyone in The Church appreciates what you have written it needed to be said. Hopefully after reading this a few people will do some personal reflection on how well they are really loving others. I know I have. Again, thanks.

    • Thanks so much Kelli!

      I love the pushback, because it means I’ve struck a nerve. The tens of thousands who have shared this, also tell me that people who feel they have been voiceless, feel heard. Great news either way.
      🙂

  44. Thank you. A few months ago we stopped going to chuch. This was after years on leadership and staff in evangelical denominational ground zero. And years searching for a new church hat would be different. Leaving. Going. Next time it will be better. This last time something in me just broke. And I am done. And yet I find my “wilderness” is inhabited by a marvelous wandering tribe of faithful, Jesus-loving , hearts breaking for humanity iconoclasts. I’m finding a new church. Without walls, or even borders. How did I buy the lie that God could be smashed into a Sunday shaped box with four walls? The further I walk away, the more the air smells like freedom. And the more I realize walking away can mean walking into a place where God’s voice isn’t auto tuned by sound systems and pre-packaged theological flavors you choose like your morning coffee. Its wild, untamed and unthreatened by your questions – so walking away may well be the first real steps towards your calling. So keep going. You are in good company. God loves to meet us in the wilderness.

  45. I always believe our first call is the lost The Master Plan for Evangelism by Robert Cole.I feel like a lot of the General have retired and just teaching.I believe if the Church People be more transparent and get fill with the realy Holy Ghost power that was in the book of Acts which we are to finish were they were on one accord.I believe we got to many people that are Acting,America got Talent,Rich and Famous.in Church that they can’t feel the hurt are hear the cry some are right in the face their a lot of secret orders in the Church God been exposing them but the Church is so weak they just leave it to the Police,Psychiatric,Psychology,are Doctor Phil.I look at the Muslim religion fight for their sick brief and building a army converting Christian.I know Jesus heart is hurting but we say we got the power power to do what we march today if someone get shoot we shouldn’t have stop march we are soldiers in the army.I think maybe are churches are ready to home.The Apostle Paul Fought good Fight kept the Faith in God he was doing the work of the Lord.Church we still have a Job to do Win the Lost Kingdom building not a Church Buildings Really Soul.We need really Saint’s.We are call to Transform lives not cause pain without excuses.I manage a home with 8 people diagnose with Mental Illness my calling just like to found people who are willing to work and see deliverance take place without a fee.I encourage bible study a few like to come to church but the love don’t last long enough to see the fruit.I live here with them.I have no problem because God Got my Life.The people just need real touch from. The people of God shows some love let get in the busy about God’s business.

  46. John, thank you for standing the real truth. I too have been frustrated with the “church’s” (I use that term loosely) idolatry of politics and selfism. I also know, it is a lonely road, heck a “narrow road”, to travel when youve spent years surrounding yourself with “church friends”. But isnt the “narrow road” the one Jesus said to take?

    The “church” has always, and will always, kill it’s prophets because they can’t understand the problems in this world are here, not because of satan’s strength but our weakness when it comes to being Christ’s hands and feet! What is the argument they love to use so much to “shut up” an atheist’s argument of “if God is real, whay does evil exist”?—– Darkness doesnt exist except where light isnt present.—–Well, evil only exists where God isn’t present. He has chosen to use us to spread His light. Therefore, if evil is getting worse in this world (which there is no debating that fact) it is not Washington’s faultl but ours! 2 Chronicles 7:14…that was directed to the “church”, not the world.

  47. Just found your blog because of a friend sharing this and its predecessor. As an adult convert to Christianity, I moved the other way, but I’m always interested in the stories of some (including family members) who started in the church and left. I think Christians can stop being so fearful and defensive, because Christ has given us all that we need and more, so we can reach out with love and impunity to people who aren’t like us (and sometimes don’t like us!). It is a bit tricky, because love and affirmation are so easily confused, by all of us, whether Christian or not.

    You mentioned in the previous post that Christians speak Christianese which doesn’t mean anything to non-Christians. This is partly the result of too many Christians (though by no means all) not actually knowing non-Christians or listening to how they talk about what’s important to them, and so don’t know how to “translate” into understandable words. When I became a Christian, I felt that I had to learn a new language! (Fortunately I’m a nerd; I enjoy learning languages…) And I wonder how many self-proclaimed Christians just repeat the Christianese language because *they* don’t know what it means and are afraid to admit it. Jesus Christ doesn’t require us to learn a new language, but he gives us the ability to admit when we’re lost, and to come out of hiding to be found by his love.

  48. These are great posts! My own experience has been very similar. I hated being treated as if I didn’t get it because I didn’t agree with all the “correct” doctrine and theology and that somehow I was not bright enough or too far gone to ever understand it. I hated being the “religious agenda” because I am not a soul to be saved. I’ve never loved Jesus more than I do today and now I’m free to love others without making them into a “religious agenda” and seeing them as a soul that needs to be saved.

  49. I started reading your posts with my defenses raised HIGH. I don’t disagree with your points. They were very hard to read. I do wonder if in all of our discouragement inside the Church some of the responsibility also rests on all of us – individually? What if it’s not only the Church’s fault, but it’s mine and yours? What if the programs and inner focus are OUR fault – because they wouldn’t be happening if we were happening – taking our faith with us on the highways and by ways of life. The Church can’t undo that – only each of us can. But we can blame the Church because that’s easier. What if instead of putting the Church down, what if we lifted it up by loving it even when it’s not what we hope it will be? Jesus got ticked at the Pharisees, but He still died for them. I think the Church is already full up to the brim of hurting people – people losing their homes, with bare cupboards, and with huge secret sorrows. What if we really loved the Church the way we wished the Church loved us? Just asking questions that my heart is pondering – I’m not expecting an answer. But what if loving the Church as it is – with all it’s flaws, is the answer? I think in a way your posts do that, John. But I wanted more from them – I wanted you to encourage us to stay and love and be the Church to the Church. So then the Church is healed from the inside out, it can be the Church to the world.

  50. Holy cow. I can’t even begin to describe how much I love this post as well as part one. My husband & I feel exactly the same way. We left our church where we were counseling pastors, worship leader & even founding members to move to TN. Once we left the “safeness” & busyness of that lifestyle we saw everything you’ve described. We’ve vowed to ourselves & our children to be the Jesus we see in the bible. Not the Jesus seen in church. To have the faith seen in the bible. Not the faith of our current church culture. I’ll definitely be coming back & reading your other posts. Thank you for seeing & sharing what so many are afraid to acknowledge let alone publicly talk about. I’d love for you to read our blog & let us know what you think. Have a wonderful weekend!
    sandersfamilyadventures.wordpress.com

  51. I am confused. Doesn’t a community by definition have boundaries? And isn’t the church a hospital and not a hospice? Kevin DeYoung’s book “Why I Love the Church ” actually speaks to many of these issues and is quite spot-on in my personal opinion.

  52. We are all God’s children where ever we worship Him. Knowing Christ as our personal Lord is what we strive towards. For some their own church building with its tradition helps them to become better people to serve and change themselves and the world by showing His love. Life is complicated with unique challenges for everyone. I am sorry that those who attend church faithfully can sometimes be blind and insensitive in their relationship with each other and misrepresent Christ. I am one those who attend church, have found fellowship and appreciate the support system in dealing with life’s challenges. It is not always easy to be aware and sensitive and know what to do. Our hearts can ache but often feel so helpless. I am sorry. We need His Spirit even more.

  53. I thank you so much for saying these things!!!!
    I have been in the “church” most of my life. I had some dark years of struggle As soon as the struggling came everyone left me. They wanted me to “come up to their level ” when every day I was just struggling to get out of bed. Then when I started to find my purpose I wanted to apply it to the church and yet still they did not let me expand. It was then when I realized that I was not allowed to just be me. Not really. Sure they swore up and down that they just wanted me to be me, for me to be the greatest that I can be. Yet when I struggled to even know of a purpose for living they were oddly silent. Now that I’am succeeding they have started to come out of the wood works. The reason for the change from my super depressed self to this confident person was something so simple. It’s amazing how simple it was. All it took was someone to listen to me and say “I will not let you be alone in this, you promise that you will call me”. And they made me keep my promise. It wasn’t fancy preaching of what I was doing or not doing it was just simply listening and supporting me where ever I was at. I needed someone to care about me more then I cared about myself. That was the week that I left the church. I knew that they were unwilling to give anything that I truly needed. I find it ridiculous that something so simple cannot be given out by the church. Today I know I’m blessed in finding a community of people that support each other. I also have many friends with whom I share faith with. Yet so many don’t. This leads me back to this blog/post. It is a blessing to me and obviously plenty others that we are not alone in our thinking. Thankful that someone was able to finally say it clearly that it is wrong.

  54. Slam dunk. Churches have become repositories for judgement, hurt and harm. It gets to the point at which some of us have to leave either our church or christianity in general in order to get some peace. Once the questions becomes ‘Do I stay here and be miserable or leave the church/christianity and save my sanity and spirit?’, the only answer is to scrape it off and be done with it.

    You have once again made some excellent points here. The end result is going to be a lot of angry people leaving you a lot of angry, vitriolic comments, but it had to be said. Bless you for having the guts to say it.

    • Thank you so much.

      The angry comments don’t bother me, as they almost always mean I have reached someone in a deep place.

      There have been tens of thousands of people sharing these posts, and telling me that their stories have been heard.

      Both the criticism and encouragement is important and welcome.

      So glad you’ve found the posts meaningful!

  55. Thank you for these two blogs — it absolutely hit home, but sadly, I am one of the ones on the outside these days, no longer in the church. Former pastor, former missionary, former lotta things. Still love Jesus, just don’t know quite how to persuade my churchgoing friends of that. It’s helpful to know how many others are experiencing what we’re experiencing. Thank you.

  56. I serve a church that is not perfect, but which is for the most part tolerant, grace-filled, and non-judgmental, focusing on where and how God would have us love in the world. What is frustrating is how to share that we are ‘different’ from the kind of church experience you describe — without sounding like we are full or ourselves or superior to other churches. ”Try us. We’re not like that church you hate. Pretty much, anyway.’ How do we let people know we are here — beyond, of course, making Christ known in how we love and serve?

  57. I got a question. Just what are we calling “the Church” (with the big, capital C)? Did Jesus bleed and die for human beings or for a 501(c)3 organization that meets in a nice building every Sunday? The word “ecclesia” is used in the Bible in many different contexts, which need to be studied. In some cases, it refers to Christians in the aggregate everywhere. In other cases, it refers to Christians in the aggregate with reference to geographic locations. Nowhere in the Bible do I find the word referring to some sectarian civic organization. I may have left 501(c)3 organizations, but I have never left “the Church” because I never left Jesus.

    Why do religious folk think that if a Christian is not going to a 501(c)3 organization, they are going “it alone” spiritually? Are Christians and positive spiritual influences ONLY to be found inside a pretty building and ONLY at certain times of the week? Is the power of Christ and the Holy Spirit in me ONLY present when I step inside one of those buildings?

    P.S. Which church was the Ethopian eunuch a member of? 🙂

  58. Unlike what I’m sure you’ve experienced over the last few days my initial response is to agree with you whole heartedly. I’ve railed against the church many times. I’m an over churched 30 something that grew up a pastor’s kid. Church damage is part of my DNA. So, I get where you’re at… I do. I’ve said many of the things you said in these last two posts but at some point I had to decide to be part of the solution and not just point out the problems, although they are very real. You’re right, you should be able to be loved and welcomed exactly where you are, you should be able to question ancient doctrinal beliefs and not feel disenfranchised, sadly at many churches you can’t do that. But there are a great number churches where you can be you. Since you obviously feel that church is a necessary part of your life, otherwise you wouldn’t be ranting against something you saw had no value. You simply want it to meet your needs, to love you, to except you right were you are, and it should. But make no mistake, that’s the same “consumer” argument you made against the church itself. The human race is messy. The great mystery is why God chose us to move his message forward. We have the tendency to screw that sort of thing up but He picked us anyway… weird right? There are good churches out there, find one. But rest assured at some point, because even good churches are filled with people, it will let you down. You also need to know that if you do find a good church, they will except you where you are but they won’t let you stay there. The best churches will take you in, love you, accept you, take you out for a beer, listen to your hurts, walk with you through them, and not judge you for any of it, but they will challenge you to be a better… you. At that point it’s a lot easier to be the change you want to see in the church. It’s really hard to affect change from the outside screaming “you’re doing it wrong”. It’s lot easier when you’re knee deep in the mess working along similarly flawed people. I’m sorry you felt judged and left out, I really really am, but that’s not a church problem, that’s a people problem. And if we’re all honest with ourselves we’ve been judged and left out of a lot of things, both Christian and secular. We just have higher expectations for the church, and we should. Minna Canth said, “Christianity has been buried inside the walls of churches and secured with the shackles of dogmatism. Let it be liberated to come into the midst of us and teach us freedom, equality and love.” If the church being what God intended it to be is as important as it seems to be to you, then be part of the change. I can say these two articles were probably a great jumping off point. All your cards are on the table. Find a place that accepts you, heal, and change things from the inside out. I look forward to serving along side of you.

  59. Where the church has failed has been allowing a worldview completely counter to the simplicity of the Gospel to fester in their churches for the last 100+ years. You expect better from the Church. Why? What makes you think that the Church owes you a thing?! I’ll tell you why; it’s because of those problems that you mentioned. Church has become an hour of entertainment mixed with the occasional self-help session. Does anyone even remember what Jesus talked about MORE than anything else in the Gospels? Hint: it wasn’t helping the downtrodden, either. It was the Kingdom of Heaven! In order for a kingdom to function, it must have participating citizens. If you want to be a Christian, bless others! Do good to those who hate you! Pray blessings for those who take advantage of you out of pure hatred! Christianity has NOTHING to do with emotions, contrary to what the church time and money budget allocations toward “Praise and Worship” time would suggest. It’s about finding ways to further the Kingdom of Heaven. And if that involves a series of blog posts like the one above, well… God’s ways are higher than my ways 😛

  60. John, the Good Shepard leaves the 99 to go find the one because He is good. The other 99 end up following because they see that in that act He is good. You are going after the one and thus showing us the heart of the Good Shepard.

    Modern day churches get some people in a room and some cameras and go after the 99. The sad reality is they end up with reaching one and the 99 leave because they do not trust the heart of the Shepard.

    Thanks for being you John, where you are.

  61. Is God even real?
    That is where my mind is at while my hands are clapping along.
    I’m done with “church” and as soon as my husband quits his worship pastor position and the next guy takes over, I won’t be back.
    These articles are a symptom of an illness we all have, I’m afraid. Us church people. We’ve created a monster one more staff member at a time and God has taken off. I really do think this! He’s left the building. If I were Him looking at us with our hands beseechingly raised because the song told us to (my husband trys not to pick those horrors) and the manufactured anguish on our faces that are extinguished when we’ve all sat down again I would leave and go somewhere else too! We’ve become theatre and entertainment all the way through to the end of the recycled sermon!
    God’s left and I’ve gotta go find Him. He’s in the real world somewhere I hope, with all the real people, and all the real bad stuff that’s going down everywhere and all the time.
    At least I hope He is! If He’s even real.

    • Be encouraged, Christine. You’re not alone. Yes, I think many people are tired of the show; tired of a religion that is designed around one hour a week, and a God who only exists there.

      Keep going. You’re on to something.

      • My real question is and always is, why cannot God, in our enlightened times, reveal himself to each of us in a way that is not refutable! I am so tired of trying to explain in nebulous terms His very existence! I am failing with my children who are University aged this seeming fairy tale. My daughter who’s 23 says she is an atheist now because he does not talk to her. Frankly, he doesn’t talk to me either and I’ve never pretended he does. My wonderful husband struggles himself in leading people Sunday after Sunday in a system that seems farcical. I know my husband, more than anyone, except the other (too many) staff members has the biggest voice in bringing about change but he’s run out of steam, really. He struggles with what it is exactly that God is doing in our scary world. We both, still do believe God exists. But I’m worried that we are just addicted and may one day break this habit! It is a familiar lifestyle to us Christians and we feel responsibility in getting it right.
        I want to help our world, but no longer want to do it in Jesus’ name. I want anonymity. I want just to be normally human. I don’t want to go to church! I don’t like those people nor do I like who I am when I’m around them.
        But, I’m afraid…God is still my habit. My life, my soul. He just sucks! Haha

  62. John — thank you so much for having the courage to say what needed to be said!!! I was raised in Church, and have wonderful, loving memories of those days…my husband is the son of missionaries (Africa and Ecquador) with equally wonderful memories, and [under great conviction] we walked away from a very active church life 14 years ago and have never looked back. Our faith is as strong, if not stronger, than ever. We both can so relate to everything ‘Rachel’ wrote above about 1) ‘something inside me just broke’, and 2) experiencing a sense of freedom after walking away! We have perfect peace, yet sadness, when we remember our ‘very busy and important’ roles in our past Church lives. After leaving organized religion, we began pouring ourselves into the ministry of the dying and grieving through Hosparus and have been rewarded beyond measure. Last year, I received a message through our Chaplain’s Daily Devotional where I work that included the following passage, ‘We Christians need to continually view ourselves as needy recipients of God’s grace, not dispensers of self-made virtue.’ It will ALWAYS be with me wherever I go, for it spoke to me of how terribly judgemental we Christians can be (especially in the ‘Church setting’) when, in fact, those of the Church were charged by Christ himself to care for, nuture, reach out to, and heal the hurting who have stumbled into our presence in desperation, longing for forgiveness, unconditional love and acceptance. We have witnessed seasoned Christians nearly ‘feed on the flesh’ and insecurities of fledging or faltering Christians causing them to retreat back to where they came from, choosing to keep their old life rather than risk what the Church had to offer (and I use the term ‘offer’ loosely). Keep speaking and spreading the truth, John! I look forward to the day that I can take down the sign in my office that says, ‘Jesus called…He wants His religion back.’

  63. Pingback: Church, Here’s Why People Are Leaving You. Part 2 | john pavlovitz | Wired Jesus Podcast

  64. I agree. We Christians are the problem. There’s a lot of reasons for that: historical, cultural, and theological, but it all comes down to the fact that the Church in many places doesn’t seem to be interested in actually meeting the needs of people. I would say that this is not only a problem for people who are leaving/have left/ never showed up in the fist place, but that it is also a huge problem for people who are still there and hoping for some sort of change. I could rant for pages about this, which I did in this article: http://www.hutzsoft.com/beingknown/PHP/home.php?article=85

    I don’t actually expect anyone to take the time to read the article, but when I hear words like “authenticity” being thrown around, I can’t hep but put in my two cents.

  65. i left christianity for wicca years ago, i was however raised in church all through my childhood and teen years. that being said at this stage in my like, my early 40’s, i think maybe we are all missing the point completely. isnt the journey the real reason. like buddism. they path to kindness and enightenment where meaness, jealously, racism arent needed anymore. where love can be extended to all without fear of reprocutions. isnt that the real teachings of the man know as jesus. ponder this, what if when we die we get to the next place. and god or allah or the great spirit is there and he looks at you and says…you missed the point, i was everyone. like rome all paths lead to me. you fought,persecuted, and killed for nothing because it doesnt matter how you get to kindness and love, as long as you get here. now go back and do it again!

  66. I grew up in the church My father was a minister and so was my uncle. I was active , pastor parish relations committee chair and in the choir and doing child care and going to church camp President of the women’s group. Head of the sunday schoool cirriculum and bible camp. But when I go my divorce, you didn’t think I belonged. Even my minister, who counseled me to do so, unfriended me. So I left for a while and came back to be active again. Fortunately I found a new pastor who told me I’d been right in my choice but welcomed me back . I spent quite a bit of time with him before I did. But then I moved. My new husband was abusive and cheated . When I left him, you didn’t do anything to ease my pain or make me want to stay. My belief is strong . I still pray regularly . I am reminded of my ex- father in law who did NOT attend church but when he went on camping trips with his family always held an outside service on Sunday mornings and explained it by saying he saw God in nature and had to rejoice in it! So, no I do not attend services. I am not participating in the politics of church. But I am still a faithful believer in the creator and in my savior. Don’ you “church” people recognize that! NO Yes I drink a bit Yes I’ve been married more than once. Yes I’ve made mistakes that I regret. Don’t we all? But you don’t make room for us so we find our own ways to seek God

    • Hooray!!!
      Keep walking with Jesus, His followers are everywhere, there will be connections along the way, they are the important ones. The ‘institutionalized’ form of following Jesus, really doesn’t resemble the pattern set out by the 12, or by The LORD Himself.

  67. I am so thankful I found a church that never made me feel any of this. They accepted me and loved me as I was and have watched and helped me grow. I do know there are churches out there that make people feel all these things, I have gone into those churches and IF I went back it didn’t happen for very long. I will say I was definitely at a point in my life to find something more and better, longing for a relationship with Jesus when I found my church home. The Church, however, is not perfect and there may be places that do these things unintentionally. Some churches can accept hearing that and doing better, but there are places that just wont change. It is sad and it is hard to defend knowing this goes on. My advice, not that it means anything, keep searching. A relationship with the Lord and a church family is important, we are meant to fellowship with other believers.

  68. Check out the episcopal church, John. And fyi, I’m not episcopalian. But it sounds like you are looking for what they offer. While they may not meet every need you listed, they definitely hit most of them. Especially the meeting-people-as-they-are part (they are one of the few Christian churches that accept and even ordain gay people i.e. Bishop Gene Robinson) as well as being able to encourage diverse beliefs (there are some higher ranking members of the church who are more or less atheists-in-christian-clothes, i.e. John Shelby Sponge…which is interesting, and also full out-and-out evangelical believers). Actually, Robin Williams was an episcopalian and wrote that no matter what your beliefs are, you’ll probably find a fellow episcopalian who believes the same as you. It’s because the focus of what it means to be a Christian is different than in evangelical circles. I think you’ll like it there. They are very loving, caring, and liberal (for the most part). They really do have a place for just about anyone.But if they are TOO liberal for your tastes, check out the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Similar but distinct differences in core beliefs. And congrats on such well written posts. I very much enjoyed them.

  69. so STOP LEAVING THE CHURCH!!! I don”t go to church to “get fed”, I go to church to feed others. Not that I don’t get anything out of it, sometimes I do, other times the only thing I get out of it is knowing that I loved that 1 person who needed it. Sometimes I know that I listened to that person who needed someone to listen. I surround myself with “outsiders” and feel like I am mostly unshockable. I also feel like I am in the minority at church. Why? Well maybe because YOU are leaving. A church isn’t a building or a Pastor or the deacons the church is the people in it. If the people who know what the real world is like, if the people who love the “unlovable”, the whores, the adulterers, the demon possessed, the drunkards, if you all leave then the hands of Christ are chopped off. If you don’t like how religious your church is then change it but don’t just run off.

    In families there is always “the black sheep”. He is the one who is different from everyone else. He is the one who steps out of the boundaries that the others accept. He drives his parents crazy!! But he is as important as every other person in the family and he is often the one who teaches everyone really important lessons. So be the black sheep (I feel like I am and I am more than ok with that) teach the pharisees why they need Jesus, the real Jesus, not the high five because somebody gave money jesus, but the I love because He first loved me Jesus!!

    If you aren’t in that church building loving and reaching then stop complaining about how bad the church is because you are one of the reasons it sucks! I mean that in the most loving way. haha conversation is love right?

    • One doesn’t ‘leave the church’ when one ‘is part of’ the Church, which is His Body. Leaving the institutional thing that calls itself ‘church’, may well ‘restore & multiply’ the ‘hands’ of Christ to the world (that have been cooped up in the ‘house of god’). Let ‘the church’ BE the church in the world (& not of it). Meet where you will, but stop calling ‘where’ you meet ‘the church’; YOU ARE THE CHURCH if Jesus is in you!!!

  70. I wanted to jump up and applaud when I read parts 1 and 2 of this post! After being burned by 3 churches in a row for a variety of different reasons, I am done with church. (I’m starting to share my journey on my blog.) I’m falling in love with Jewish worship music and teachings. My husband and I will be checking out a Messianic congregation after we move. I literally cannot be in a church without popping Excedrin, and sometimes I even need it just when I think about what all I went through! Please, please keep blogging! You are saying so many things that need to be said! Keep up the great work! 🙂

  71. Good stuff. Have you considered doing a “Part 3” where you talk about all of those “doubters” and “prodigals” and “heretics” who DO leave the church because they can’t buy the story anymore? Many people want to stay in the church…they had a positive experience for the most part and enjoy the community (plus, try telling your deal old grannie that you no longer believe that Jesus died for your sins so you’re now bound for the Hell-train when the rapture comes).

    I think it’s important to recognize that people leave the church for a variety of reasons. There is no definitive answer ( US or THEM ) to fully explain the recent decline in church membership and participation overall. If someone leaves because they were emotionally burned by peers or leadership then that’s valid. If they left because they felt constrained by antiquated teachings on sex and gender which caused them to feel less whole & complete, that’s valid. If they left because the whole idea of the Christian God just didn’t make sense to them anymore…well, I think that’s valid too.

  72. Fighting a losing battle, here, John. And I think you know it.

    My suggestion: Get out of the paradigm entirely. Forget about “the church,” whatever that is – it’s a sham label anyway, you’ve said as much yourself. The fact that it’s still called “the church” is a cosmic joke to everyone but them. The church of what? There’s no moral authority there; there’s no serious reason for it to be. What are they carrying on for future generations? What light are they? “Church,” as we know it, in 2014 America, is way past its useful life and now it’s just getting in the way – except for potlucks and first world problems prayer competitions, of course…I mean, valuable community, good on everyone who showed up. There’s no going back and repairing that thing; that’s just sentimentality and fear speaking, and time spent trying is time wasted that desperately needs to be spent elsewhere. It’s over. It’s done. Quit begging those people to get relevant. They won’t. Forget about asking them to lead. They can’t. It’s impossible.

    Making a lot of assumptions here, but do what you need to do and find your people, who can be a part. And forget those idiot-righteous who still comically, but so narcissistically, deign to believe they’re part of something with any kind of authority, much less a “church” (and that you should be a part of it – HA!). They don’t share your convictions anyway and they don’t want to (self evident). The sooner you realize that, the closer you are to finding fulfillment in your life, free of the false pressures of the imposters, and freer to imagine a world the way it should be, and your brief part in it.

    Good luck to you. I know it’s going to be difficult whatever you choose.

    • Thanks so much, brother. Appreciate the words of wisdom. It may be an uphill battle, but never a losing one. Tens of thousands of people have shared these posts, so I know that people are being encouraged either way, and many people are realizing that they’re not in it alone. Hopefully many of them will do a new thing.

      Stay in touch here or on social media. Love your perspective.

      • Saw your post on The Jesus Mafia. Of course, you’re right. But, again, for practical purposes, it’s impossible to change, or substantially change, the deeply entrenched institutional thinking of “the church,” to the extent you can brush it broadly as such (probably not fair nor accurate enough for a conversation like this one). The institutionalized, entrenched assumptions girding the very fiber of who these people are just run too deep. What’s needed is for this iteration of so-called “church” to be over with. Forget about changing its messaging for Millennials or whoever else. It needs to be radically transformed to the point of being no longer recognizable. It needs to be ended.

        Plenty of people in ministry, themselves, are silently wrestling with this (although, not enough). I have friends still “in ministry” who, I know, experience, to varying degrees, being stuck in a career they can’t get out of, due, in part, to having no other real options, because, practically, they have no other professional qualification. With an advanced degree from a theological seminary and all work experience for a church or congregation, what are they supposed to transition into, once they realize “the church” is irrelevant and can’t be made to be, despite their best life efforts? For some, academia may be an option. Others? In this economy? They may dream about another life, but in the end, it’s impractical to give up the upper middle class salary for uncertainty or, even with other options, an almost-certain major pay cut. And how to ask your family to go along with it? How to not feel like you’ve just given up on everything you ever held dear, and to justify your life to yourself in retrospect? People can’t walk away, and don’t want to abandon it all, so they just get stuck fighting a battle they can’t win; trying to make a difference they can’t make, and hoping that it’s somehow eternally worth it.

        When folks ask me about church now, and what they should do, among the other things I like to ask them to think about, I tell them to please go to their church leaders and ask, pointedly, “Why isn’t our church environmentalist?” That single question, I believe, has the power to unearth enough institutional demons to more than thoroughly expose it, not as a place for serious thinking people committed to experiencing and becoming sacrificial love for humankind, and thereby leading at least some remnant of humanity on a spiritual journey to some kind of peacemaking salvation, but, instead, a place, not just tragically impotent and broken, on the sidelines of the world’s most pressing issues, in a passive sense, mostly just bickering at the changemakers and doers (Martin Luther King, Jr. was a troublemaker, “uppity,” and a communist, besides the roles of races were clearly defined in the Bible, after all) but actually actively harmful and destructive to the planet and all of its people, in significant ways. If you are ideologically married, as a privileged group of people, – or so institutionally entrenched as to be immovable – to the destruction of the earth, the unending exploitation of its resources, and the reckless imperiling of all life, then any discussion of salvation, eternal or otherwise, is abject idiocy. Just try and deconstruct the institutionalized exploitation and corruption simply when someone breaks out Genesis and tells you the world was made for mankind to dominate and enjoy, then turns around and tells you science ain’t real, God made the world the way it is and we can’t change it, there’s no such thing as climate change or global warming, fossil fuels aren’t bad, and/or tries to justify exploitative global capitalism (of which we are all a part), that externalizes all of its negative costs on the poor and the masses, with trickle-down explanations of its benefits, however temporal and terribly inequitable.

        With as much urgency as there is in the world, does anyone really need to be wasting any more time hoping those fools stop being fools? To borrow your language, THEY’RE the problem. And what the world actually needs is not for people to join them, or even concern themselves at all with membership defined by them, but instead for people to concern themselves, actually, with stopping “the church” and restoring the damage that they’ve done. Why isn’t the church environmentalist? Because it’s not a church, it’s an institution deeply committed and/or hopelessly, selfishly, knowingly recklessly committed to over-consumption, consumerism, and the mass exploitation of the planet and its poorest citizens.

  73. The great thing about this article is I can relate. I have been in the desert wandering, thinking the Church is broken and the truth is it is, that is why we are there. We are all human, prone to mistakes, to judge, to not always show the kind of love we should. This is the church, walking away is an easy way out. Staying teaches us wisdom, how to grow to be a better Christian. I am a firm believer You can have Church at home and your church home can be your very family within the home. But there is something in all of us that need one another. You could be lifting up your home but who is encouraging you? We were not meant to be alone. Although I do confess that being alone makes it easier for me not to care, think, or feel about others as much cause I am simply not around them. We all go through times where dealing with others seems too much, but in the end my thoughts are it is not about me(even when I want it to be). It’s about Christ. So sometimes we need to frankly suck it up walk into church and love as Christ loves us, a flawed people.

    • To Jess: Thank you!!! You are exactly right!! It is about reaching others, loving others, doing what Jesus did. Is the church flawed? Absolutely! It is up to us to love, grow, and lift up others. Sinners inside the church, sinners outside the church – Jesus died for them all. I would love to just walk away sometimes when it gets hard. I just know Jesus called me to love, and that can’t be done without being there for others. I have yet to hear the answer of why certain sinners should deserve grace, and others (the imperfect church) should not. These posts bring me to tears. John is thanking people for the hate, instead of encouraging them to love, to forgive, and to be that change that he wants. I want it, too! But “vitriolic” (as used in one post to describe people who defend the church) is what I see in these posts bashing Christ’s bride. He died for ALL of us, not just those you agree with. The sad thing is that John and others don’t see that they are doing exactly what they are accusing the church of doing. Being unloving goes both ways. Please, please – let’ stop throwing knives – let’s BE THE CHANGE. Get in there, love the unlovely (saved and unsaved), lay down your “rights”. It’s messy. I’m sure John knows that many of these people he is accusing are really lost themselves. Who is going to be on mission to them? Who?
      Please listen – you want others to have open hearts. Do it yourself. Please. I have listened to you – I am trying to evaluate where I can improve based on these posts in the way I love people within and outside the church. I WANT to be more like Jesus! There’s a dying world. We don’t have time to sit around killing our own. That’s why people hate us. That’s why YOU (John and others) hate us. But, as has been pointed out over and over, the church is people, not buildings. Therefore, you ARE us. You (as a believer) are the church. So, if you are unloving… Stop doing the same thing. I don’t see the love from you that you want given to you.
      Please.

      • “Be the change” is a wonderful sentiment, Teri, but often, it just that.

        We’re not just talking about things people don’t like about the church, but about damage the Church has done to people. Maybe those people feel too hurt, or too excluded, or to silenced to “be the change”.

        If more Christians were truly as determined to be that change as you suggest, and if it were really that easy, the Church would be a much more loving, forgiving, redeeming place.

      • But that is my point, John. I NEVER said it is easy. In fact, I said it is hard and messy. I know people hurt people. But, if you feel you are more enlightened than those in whatever church you have been in, you are the one who can be the change. It is not sentiment – it is the call of Christ for a dying world. I know people may be too hurt to remain in the same church. I totally understand that. I don’t disagree with you that they may need to move. But so many of these posts tell you – there are loving churches out there. They won’t be perfect. They have humans in them.
        It isn’t easy. But you, as the Christian who understands how important love is, must know that hate and isolation don’t work. That’s how the people got hurt in the first place – through perceived hate. I am not sure why you don’t understand that people “expressing hurt” is not what’s happening here. You are giving people a platform to hate the church. I can’t see how that is helpful. It is so, so sad.
        Please answer the two questions I keep asking you:
        1.) Why do you feel that you deserve love and grace as a flawed, sinful human, but those who are the “judgmental” or those who don’t get it – don’t deserve that love and grace? They are deceived – who is going to show them the way? Why is your version of being judgmental (toward the judgmental) better than theirs?
        2.) Where do you find that Jesus calls us to be about me and my feelings? I understand some of the new Christians not getting this. It is a process. You, however, stated that you are a pastor. I know that you are aware that Jesus called us to “die to self”. Loving others is a choice, a commitment. It isn’t based on how they love me. (See Matthew 5). I know you don’t want Scripture quoted, but I think if Jesus said it, it is relevant.
        There are some evil people out there, in church and out, but there are some precious people, too. There are lots of wonderful, giving, loving churches with open arms. Please urge people to find one, instead of blaming ALL for the actions of SOME. Or at least urge them not to hate the church (its people), but to love.
        And just because the “sentiment”, as you called my passion for the Lord, is “often, just that”, it isn’t ALWAYS just that. It is real. It is urgent. It is desperately needed. If you “get it”, if you know better, then please make it a reality in your town. Encourage these other people to make it a reality in their towns. We can change people by living it ourselves alongside them. It will be messy and slow and hurtful. But, it will be worth it. He is worth it!! Again, I don’t know if you saw it in my other post, but I have a friend in Charlotte who attends a church that she tells me about all the time. They are loving, accepting, and reaching outward. It is Newsong Church in Huntersville. Give them a try. I am praying you find it! I think with your passion you CAN affect change. I look forward to that post – where you encourage these precious, hurting people toward love for all.

      • Well, I am in tears again. I have listened to you and your angry followers. I am trying to learn from them, even if I don’t share all their experience (I share some), and I sure don’t treat people that way.
        I’m not sure how you think that post about the “sin police” answers my questions. You basically just blast the church again. “arrogant, skewed mindset that governs the Sin Police”.
        Aren’t you also being the sin police? You are accusing people all over the place. You say we all do it, including you, but you just speed on in your accusations. Who is going to stop first? The lost who hurt you should be discarded. The WHOLE church should be discarded.
        On the night before Jesus died, He prayed for UNITY among believers. He said that love and unity would be how the world would know He was real. They sure won’t know by us killing each other. You say, “Everyone needs love. Everyone is a mess. Everyone deserves Grace. We all get it wrong.” That’s exactly what I’m saying, but the difference is – you accept your judgmentalism as okay because you’ve been hurt. You don’t accept the judgmentalism from the “church”. You accept mean-spirited statements about “sin police” and others, because you have a reason. You don’t accept mean-spirited words from the “church”. You accept being the “sin police”, but you don’t accept it from the church.
        If you believe it’s wrong, it’s wrong for you, too. (and me, but I think you would agree that it’s wrong for me.) I know I am guilty of much, but I don’t accept it as “that’s just the way I am. I’m flawed, so I’ll just stay in it.” I SURE don’t say that my sin is just human and yours is unacceptable, condemnable. When I see sin in others, I should pray and ask God to show me where I am guilty of the same thing, and walk away from it.
        When I say be the change, it has to start with me. Wanting others to do it without being willing to do it myself is impossible. Who should do it? The man who posted above and says “THEY’RE the problem”. You are promoting this angry viewpoint. Please choose love as an alternative. Love for ALL who Christ died for. Heal the church. You will be hurt again and so will I. Jesus is worth it. People are worth it.

        I appreciate you, too. I am sorry you have been hurt. I know hurts from those who are supposed to hold you up are the worst. I have felt them, too. I just know our time here is short. We don’t have time to shoot each other – it is urgent that we learn to love – like He does.

        • Yes, that was exactly the point; that I AM, we all are The Sin Police. That was exactly it. We agree.

          With the amount of traffic here, I can’t respond at length to everything, especially to posts that are longer than the original blogs themselves, so I’ve tried to give you short answers, and refer you to recent writings that hopefully connect some of the dots. Wish I could do more. The blogs ultimately speak for themselves.

          No writings in 700 words will ever express every aspect of complex issues, or include every perspective, or answer every question, so you do the best you can to give voice to something that you’re feeling.

          Hope you understand. Thanks again!

  74. So what is the Church to be to you when a person is the”issue”. Were tired in our lives as well and have been who we think we are to be to you but you still, rant ( not you) about us and how we don’t do whatever it is right? We try to be tolerant, even to our own deterrent but then you just leave if you don’t feel that what we did is right? Now try that with 15 people who are just as “issue” as you and me are. To me Church is the most beautiful reflection of Jesus, even with our many “issues”

  75. Pingback: From the Church, to You, With Love | The Conciliar Anglican

  76. Thank you, John.

    As someone who once ran with the in-group at church, with the “role models” but has now been relegated to the outside due to sinful college years… This post hits too close to home Sadly, this is truth to me. Especially after reading Pt. 1 and now Pt. 2… The judgement and standards seem to never end. Especially in the glitzy mega-churches.

    Praying you can be genuine love and leadership in your church. Thank you for your bravery.

  77. You won’t find what you are looking for in a ‘place’, but in a Person & His Folliwers. Maybe only one ‘Jesus Carrier’ will ‘do the trick’. But the institutional christian system doesn’t have it.
    LORD Jesus, send him a friend to walk with him.

  78. I wonder how productive or helpful it is to address “the Church.” It would be like trying to address “the Asians.” There are so, so many different expressions of “the Church.” Some are healthy. Most are not. Even still, no matter how much a particular Asian friend or many Asian friends hurt me, addressing my issues to “the Asians” seems counterproductive. I would only be stirring up anger and defensiveness. I would be generalizing and stereotyping in a way that I would never want done to me.

    So while I appreciate the honesty of this post and resonate with the hurt that can be done by church communities, it seems like a bit of a broad-brush approach. A number of absentee fathers have deeply hurt their children. Yet, I’m not sure an approach that says, “To All Fathers: This is why your children won’t talk to you anymore” would be helpful.

    Isn’t that same thing happening when we try to address “the Church?”

  79. Correct. Why is the body of the church so resistant to criticism but so willing to give it? Its strange because the so-called judgement day that I’ve heard spoken on where we all stand up and give an accounting for our actions seems to be laid out as entire regions being judged not individuals. That kind of kills the idea that “Its your fault because you are sinful” and pulls back into focus that you actually do affect others and are actually responsible for your action or lack there of in their lives. Also where in the 1 Corinthians 13 chapter does it say, “Love is rebuking the poor in spirit until their ears bleed” ? I thought those who lacked were to be blessed, not those who hear the word and ignore its mandate to love and blatantly ignore it. How about faith without action is empty? How about those of the pharisees who prayed, “Thank you God I was not born a slave, a gentile, or a woman?” All this to say I feel you. I’m faithful and know who Jesus is. I’m a believer and I care about you and everyone else who feels like a number or a notch. You deserve more. If we were valued enough by God for him to die for us then we are valuable enough to listen to and consider the harder decision of ACTUALLY changing the church instead of blaming everyone else.

  80. I’ve been in a process for about a year and it’s led us to not go to an institutional church and I’m not sure if we will be going back. I’d love to connect sometime brother to brother and we can do some authentic and organic, supportive community (even over the Internet.) shoot me a message sometime, I’d love to talk more. I know it feels like an uphill and impossible battle but keep it up.

  81. I’ve been in a process for about a year and it’s led us to not go to an institutional church and I’m not sure if we will be going back. I’d love to connect sometime brother to brother and we can do some authentic and organic, supportive community (even over the Internet.) shoot me a message sometime, I’d love to talk more. I know it feels like an uphill and impossible battle but keep it up. -Chris

  82. You certainly have started a worth while discussion… my spouse and I served in our local church for a dozen years, several as church staff. Then oneday we were released (not for cause) and it was as if we never existed. We rarely heard from any of our so-called “family.”. All the brothers and sisters, the friends we thought we had, were no more. Once we were no longer in a position to “do” for them, they abandoned us. Very few were ever heard from again. Don’t anyone try to convince usthat the church knows anything about love… our whole concept of what it even means to be a follower of Jesus is radically changing, and we are asking ourselves the question, “Were we doing it all wrong?”

    Now we are just looking for some people who love God and will share some of that with us.

  83. My Dearest John, my Beloved,

    I beg your forgiveness that I have been so far from you and the needs of you heart but we all lose our way sometime, even me. I am sorry that amidst all the shouting of those who claim to speak for our Master your voice has become drowned out, that with so many claiming to know the way you have become lost. The truth is that your voice is clear and prophetic, and your words show you are not far from the kingdom, my child.

    I want you to know that there is a place for you in my heart even if it doesn’t seem that there is a place for you in my pews, you are loved more deeply than you could ever know or dare to imagine – you are precious, gifted and unique and my soul yearns for you.

    In truth I long to be the place of divine encounter for you and for all God’s children. To be the haven of praise and tranquility where hearts are broken and remade, vision refocused, lives moulded for the service of Love.

    I think you feel that deep in your wisdom my beloved one, but like all creation, I too am in a process of becoming. I too am being shaped and formed as the Creator would have me be. Be courageous my child for your words are meant for my shaping, your dreams for my becoming.

    Never forget that deepest of truth, whenever you gather together, perhaps just two or three, God is revealed in the midst of you, and I am there, for together you create and recreate me. John, my beloved child, let us search for each other, knowing that we will meet in the heart of Christ.

    Church.

  84. Hi John,
    Thanks for sharing these articles. I left my version of the church 10 years ago. My wife and I worked and donated so much time and money and really put our hearts in to this so called ministry! Trying to run my own business and the fact that we had 5 kids just added to the stress of being a member. The behind the scenes was all about money and making you feel guilty if you weren’t at the church serving at every service as well as many days/nights through the week. We simply got tired of listening to all the judgement and lies. I remember my last time there for service and a special speaker or “prophet” of God was preaching and he was talking about his new suit and expensive shoes he had on and how we were to bless the man of God. So an offering was taken for him and after he was done speaking our pastor then said we needed to take a second offering to pay the bills as the first was for this speakers profitt. As a business owner and father I just decided that was enough. I then looked around the room to many that really didn’t have the money to give in any offering, yet they gave. These are the souls who I believe listen to this garbage and when the lights finally come on, they find themselves bitter and lost. They can relate to gay folks and sin natured folk and realize that’s who we are… Except for Christ. There was also a huge Ponzi scam going through this and other churches in the area that I witnessed first hand that the pastors knew about and had their members taking equity out of their homes or credit cards and invest with promises of high returns. These folks lost everything! They were the ones giving their all and believing in these so called men of God! Sorry for the rant but I’m bitter I suppose? I do love Jesus and want to do good, but I can’t change me and so I guess I’m just a rebel like he was! Peace

  85. It always amazes me how many of us are out there that are the same when it comes to the institutionalized church. I have been in marketplace ministry for years now and have found that Jesus is alive and active outside the walls….it is so important that believers realize WE are the church, not the building and the programs. Mans ideas and proclamations and control, have NOTHING to do with Jesus and who He wants to be in our lives!!! Great article!!

  86. Excellent commentary. I’m still in Church because it does meet my needs, but I am in the minority. I know many of those who feel very much the same as you do. I am struggling to bridge the gap.

  87. That’s why I prefer shamanism.
    It does meet me where I am.
    It does show me universal love, even when I don’t feel it in my life or myself.
    It does acknowledge my humanness, and yet also my divinity.
    In shamanism, I don’t have to ‘believe’ or ‘behave’ to be accepted. I don’t have to anything to have community. And that community is close-knit, checking in on me and supporting me through the darkest hours. It offered me a place to land when in the toughest of times, and encourages me to reach for the best life I can possibly create.
    And THAT is something really wonderful.

  88. For a long time I felt horrible about the emptiness I felt sitting in the pew and the hunger I had which wasn’t even recognized, let alone fed. I discovered that there were so many other hurting people out there. It really stinks when you are hurting so badly, you stop going and no one even bothers to call and ask why. But then you discover the Body of Christ is NOT just found within certain buildings with pretty stained glass windows. I look forward to the day we’ll have that perfect fellowship at the feet of His throne.

  89. Thank you. I’ve struggled with church, even though I’m active within my own church. It’s not that I don’t believe, but that I feel I get more out of not going to church than going. I have become active to help change this. The church needs to be less of a show, and more about connection. Less about pointing fingers, and more about holding hands. less about looking down, and more about picking up. Thank you for your honesty.

  90. First off, I would like to clarify, a building is only a place to meet. The Church is us, where two or more are gathered in His name, we are having church. Meanwhile, people are flocking to Christianity, the Church in places like North Korea, China, Middle East…but here in the U.S. and in Europe, the numbers are declining. The difference, for one, over there, if you proclaim your faith in Christ, you must meet underground, you are disowned from your family, beaten, imprisoned, etc. Here, we get offended about every little thing, and cry, we are being persecuted. One key difference I see, there is no power in people here, we are complacent, ungrateful and complainers, filled with excuses why we no longer serve HIM. We have no idea what it is, to have such passion for our faith, that we would die for it. We are a powerless people, because we have not connected to the power and authority we have in Christ Jesus. We have let people dictate what our personal relationship with Jesus, should look like. Are we putting faith in a building? a denomination? a pastor? or are we putting our faith in THE ONE, who is our redeemer?

  91. John,

    I suppose I should say on the front end that I am a minister, albeit rather a strange one. You see, I’m strange in a lot of ways, ways that to many people and churches, seem rather at odds with one another. My education and training are in science, chemistry specifically, and I am also still a minister from a typically conservative denomination. I have treasured friends that I’d give my life for that regularly do *insert vice of choice here* that I’ve never called out for it. You see, my crazy theory is this, that as a church, as a Christian, I am to be Christ like. That’s a wonderfully churchy phrase, but at its simplest level, it means I’m to do things like Jesus did. See, He loved people. Period. The End. Wherever they were at, whatever they were doing, He loved them. And He SHOWED them that He loved them. Rarely if ever did he judge the “sinners” in the New Testament accounts. Instead, He met them where they were, and He reached out to them as people. He got to know them, helped them meet their needs, built a relationship, built trust, and then asked more of them. It was then He asked them to change their lives in this madly counter-instinctive way to follow Him. Christianity is utterly opposed to what human instinct wants us to do. Its a bit mad to be honest. Why would you ever pursue it? In fact, Jesus wasn’t angry at people that didn’t follow His teaching. Why would they follow? Until an encounter with Him changed their lives, He didn’t expect them to follow this radical way of living. As a church, I can’t figure out why we expect people today, that don’t share our faith, to live that lifestyle. They have to encounter Jesus first, before they change. That’s where Christians and the church come in. We’re supposed to be that encounter. We’re left here to be the hands and feet of Jesus, He abides in us, we are the vessels by which people today are able to encounter Jesus. Trouble is, the church tends to attach judgment with their encounters now, and that isn’t what Christ did. We only want to encounter people who already believe like us, not those, “vile sinners.” See where I’m going with this? We aren’t being like Christ, and so people aren’t getting that same encounter, they’re getting humans being in the way. We have to love the people we meet where they are because they’re in our path. I don’t have lost friends, and Christian friends, and backslid friends, and project friends, I just have my friends. I love my friends. I want them to know Jesus because He has made my life, and I want them to have that too. Thing is, they have to encounter Him first, and it just so happens it may be through me. So I live my life just like I would, I love them because they’re my friends, and when the inevitable opportunity comes, I get to share Jesus with them when they want to encounter Him. We, as a church, must cease this insular dynamic by which we exclude all others that don’t fit the ideal image for a, “church person.” We need all types to reach all people. There is no magic formula. Some people would never listen to me, while there are a few people I know that would only listen to me initially. I am a rather rough-around-the-edges type of person, and as it turns out, so are most of the people that respect my opinions, view, and presentation of Christianity. A lot of churches don’t see me as a good fit for those very same reasons. This attitude is another reason young adults are leaving the church. In college and the early part of adulthood where you’re establishing your life and career, so many people leave the church. This has been a dilemma to the church for at least two generations now, though I put it to you that the reason is twofold and simple. First, these life stages do not fit into the church’s ideal image of a church person. Secondly, people in this age bracket have no place to be functioning in the modern church. We are, by definition, very unstable in these life stages. People are likely to move multiple times, spend significant time in various cities, keep crazy hours, have employment schedules that change drastically, have to cancel on short notice, don’t have much money, and feel so overwhelmed with the state of life they don’t want to forge a spot in church. This group is by their nature miserably difficult to minister to, not because of them, but the schedule life forces upon them. They struggle to have any time consistently available every week. This means they don’t fit the image, and because they are so difficult to maintain a ministry for, many churches stop having one for them. This might be over simplifying the answer, but we have to love them where they’re at. We have to make a place for them. We have to put in the effort to minister to them even though it is hard. I don’t want to run this novel any further than it already has, but I think we should give college students a Bible, a recipe book, and a skillet. The food is a wonderful way to open doors, to share, to meet people’s needs, and meet them where they are. I appreciate what you’ve written, and I hope you know there are those of us that see this problem, and deeply want to correct it. God Bless You, John.

  92. I read this post and its predecessor; they are both poignant, clear, and really just amazing. Thank you so much for reminding me, a Christian, that there’s so much to improve on as I live out my faith. There’s so much the Church needs to do to be effective and authentic and worthwhile. I hope that people can read this, see the truth in it, and make a big change. Again, thank you.

  93. I noticed that you declared these posts to be on behalf of others. Whether to you or “the others”, there is only one response that is appropriate. As a pastor, I am sorry that you have been hurt in this way. I am sorry there are communities of christians that have forgotten the language of real life people. I’m sorry that pastors have let you down and I am one of them. Will you tell me more? Will you show me how to love you with the love of God that I have experienced? Will you forgive me and the many who have and will continue to struggle to reach you?

    I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.

  94. Let me just be the devil’s advocate here. Or possibly the “angel’s advocate” because Satan is the one who is the Accuser of the Brethren. Here is my beef: I am sick of Christians who accuse and blame the church. These Christians say, “I am not like THOSE Christians” (fundie hating bigot or whatever), or they might say “I was hurt and so I left” for whatever reason, possibly some examples you mention above. I am not sure how this type of accusation is ANY different from those “mean” Christians who judge other Christians for (fill in the blank here.) Except you are not merely judging actions (like promiscuity) you are judging hearts and motives. Which is worse?
    What you are describing is CHRISTIANS leaving the church. Because their feelings feel hurt, or because they feel as though they are bored or disaffected. CHRISTIANS do not leave the church…they ARE the church.
    If you are an angry, unhappy, disaffected, hurting Christian, it is still not okay for you to leave the church and start accusing your fellow Christians. It is Satan’s job to accuse your fellow Christians, not yours. I am a wife. There are plenty of hurts and angers to go around in my life, but I do not walk out that door. If I walk out that door, it is ME who is the problem. I am not just a wife of an ordinary man, I am also part of the “Bride” or body of Christ. Yes, I have been hurt, angered, and disaffected. But I am still in church. It is like a marriage, you don’t walk out. You work to make it better. You look at yourself in the mirror and wonder what you could do to make yourself part of the solution. (yes, I understand that this introspective piece is trying to do that in some way, but I just don’t think it is productive)
    In a world of “no fault divorce” there is also “church shopping” for that perfect group of fellow believers. That perfect group of Christians does not exist any more than that perfect husband does. But today’s Christian feels empowered to walk out the door and heap the blame at the feet of someone else.
    So forgive me, please, for my rant. I’m not trying to be harsh. But I am tired of the straw man that is constantly being whipped by people looking for an excuse for turning away from God. Christians are people. You will not get along with all of them. That is the bottom line. What I would LOVE to see is some Christian bloggers trying to build up the church for once. If you are a man, you know how well it works to tell your wife how fat, ugly, and hateful she is. That will surely improve your marriage. Maybe next time, tell her that she is beautiful and see what happens next.

  95. Pingback: Church, Here’s Why People Are Leaving You. Part 3 | john pavlovitz

  96. Pingback: We’re trained to ask why and you’re damn welcome

  97. thank you for being vulnerable and brave! you are showing the love of Christ by sharing this because of speaking for those unheard in the face of opposition. and i haven’t seen one judgmental statement either! but a cry for the church to see. this is wonderful. i’m sharing it like crazy.

  98. Simple Solution on both sides, and Jesus said it himself when asked what is the greatest commandment. LOVE……LOVE God with all your being and LOVE your neighbor as yourself. On these 2 all other commandments hang. Unfortunately a lot of people (in the church and not in the church) don’t know what LOVE is or how to really LOVE. But it’s right there in the new testament where the apostle Paul said without LOVE in all his works , he is nothing, like sounding brass. Love is patient, Love is kind, Love is LONGSUFFERING, LOVE ISN’T ENVIOUS, LOVE IS NOT EASILY PROVOKED, etc….you know the rest of it. All the anger and hostility towards both sides only helps to widen the division and disrupts the human connection. From what I’m hearing, people are leaving the edifice of the church because the people in it AREN’T perfect (but I do understand some “Christians” can be out right nasty). Or the church isn’t making changes to accommodate or remain relevant today with people and circumstances now. And that’s just it CHURCHES ARE MADE UP OF IMPERFECT PEOPLE JUST LIKE HOSPITALS ARE FULL OF SICK PEOPLE. We don’t stop going to the hospital because there’s sick people there. If the church isn’t being relevant in certain areas (community, homeless, education, etc…..) and YOU notice this, maybe YOU /WE should opt to BE THE CHANGE! Instead of pointing fingers at whose to blame for the mass exodus. PEOPLE are to blame. Some have their heads stuck in the sand while others run away from a possible calling. People are imperfect, unfortunately we’re all we’ve got! LOVE, LOVE, LOVE!!!

  99. The comment about giving “high fives” getting someone to join the church in order to help pay for the building really helps frame the contemporary church. A person’s value lies only in their ability to attend Sunday service, sit down in the pew, shut up, and tithe regularly. Congregants are numbers- the measure of success for today’s churches. Faceless, nameless, anonymous souls provide the means for Sunday performance art to continue unabated. That they lose a few congregants from time to time is irrelevant- such things have been addressed in many a church growth seminar and leadership team meeting. It’s all been calculated, figured mathematically into the equation. Who cares if people leave disaffected or broken-hearted? They are replaced easily enough via the next “cutting edge” sermon series with a provocative title containing the word, “Sex.”
    It is sad that so many contemporary churches have put such a low premium on the dignity of the human person. It’s even more sad that they probably don’t even realize that they’re minimizing the human person, blinded by the world class light shows and deafened by state-of -art audio systems. “Showtime at the edge of the stage” must continue.

  100. The past few years when I attended church, it was incredibly disappointing. The last two: Chuck Ingram told a story that only showed how judgmental and self righteous he is, the other church presented us with a “skit” that had kids robotically repeating something, after interrupting a pretty good sharing time that was going on and telling someone to please share later at a lunch (which I was not attending). I really wanted to hear her share. So I got up and left. Haven’t gone to church anymore. Same church that, years ago, on Father’s Day, asked all the young kids to go to the front. I made my girls and their friend, our neighbor, go. Then the guy asked the kids to “point at your daddy” and tell him you love him and thank him for being a good daddy. My girls daddy didn’t go to church, our neighbor’s daddy was an alcoholic. She spent most of the time at our house. That was so insensitive. The girls just looked at me and made faces at me. Lol. There’s so many times I’ve tried different churches and all I got was told how to vote and that I had to support the “war on terror” and that I’m doing so many things wrong. I can’t imagine how a nonbeliever would feel.

  101. The past few years when I attended church, it was incredibly disappointing. The last two: Chip Ingram told a story that only showed how judgmental and self righteous he is, the other church presented us with a “skit” that had kids robotically repeating something, after interrupting a pretty good sharing time that was going on and telling someone to please share later at a lunch (which I was not attending). I really wanted to hear her share. So I got up and left. Haven’t gone to church anymore. Same church that, years ago, on Father’s Day, asked all the young kids to go to the front. I made my girls and their friend, our neighbor, go. Then the guy asked the kids to “point at your daddy” and tell him you love him and thank him for being a good daddy. My girls daddy didn’t go to church, our neighbor’s daddy was an alcoholic. She spent most of the time at our house. That was so insensitive. The girls just looked at me and made faces at me. Lol. There’s so many times I’ve tried different churches and all I got was told how to vote and that I had to support the “war on terror” and that I’m doing so many things wrong. I can’t imagine how a nonbeliever would feel.

  102. “If someone is frustrated, telling them that they’re wrong to be frustrated is, well, pretty freakin’ frustrating.”

    It’s also gaslighting, which is an abuse tactic. Christians excel at conversation stoppers, gaslighting, distortion, minimizing and negating others’ feelings, and doing everything under the sun except facing their own faults and flaws. Eventually people get so abused they start wondering what else this religion’s gotten wrong if it can’t even figure out what love is despite being created and predicated upon the idea of loving one’s neighbor. FWIW, I share your frustration. I don’t really understand why loving Christians fight this hard to remain in a religion that’s shown them many times over that their presence is neither requested nor desired unless they’re willing to fall into line with the mob and pick up pitchforks. I hope that whatever you end up in, that you’re happy, and that spending this time will ultimately make you feel rewarded. When it all comes down to it, this life might be all we get, so I hope you spend it in the way that seems most meaningful for you–and I can’t help but hope that you and Christians like you manage to rescue your religion from your more toxic brethren.

  103. Speaking for myself, from my own observations, the church, particularly the evangelical, has lost it’s way. Beginning, more or less, in the George W. Bush administration, they became actively involved in politics. Bad choice. And it should have been clear why. When pondering what Jesus would do, they should consider what Jesus actually did and didn’t do. Jesus showed us he stood for separation of church in both word and deed. The man had considerable clout but he did not give his support to any politician or political cause. He did not draft legislation and least in the name of God, so that His will should be enforced. It sounds cynical, but frankly, I have found religious people to be the most judgmental and least objective of anyone.

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