For Those Who Struggle on Sundays



For many people that means going to church; a place where they can find community and grow in faith and be cared for and feel at home. It’s a sacred pause, a welcomed day of rest for their world-weary souls. It is a place to breathe slowly and deeply and take refuge from the noise outside and the noise within.

But I know too, that for many people Sunday is just a painful weekly reminder of what they don’t have and where they aren’t welcome and all they walked away from. It’s a recurring holiday of grieving what they’ve lost or had stolen from them.

And when you’ve had Sunday taken away from you the pain is profound, the hole it leaves in you massive, the isolation it yields breathtaking.

For those of you who have been hurt by churches and by the pastors and people within them; those who have been excluded or mistreated or damaged enough to push you away, I’m sorry.

I’m sorry that Sunday now causes you to struggle.

I so wish that you felt fully welcomed, fully received, and fully loved on the other side of whichever set of doors you might choose to walk through today, though I know that for a million reasons you may not.

I pray that if you desire it, you will one day find a faith community where you feel helplessly compelled to be present; one that recovers and redeems Sundays for you again.

I wish for you a spiritual home where you feel you can come exactly as you are, without alteration or condition, because that will be the one most in the image of God and the one most worthy of your presence.

I pray you endure these difficult weekly trials, and that you do so clinging relentlessly to hope for better days because they are so worth holding on for.

Right now the calendar may indeed be cause for sadness, but there will be time when it will instead be an occasion to dance.

Until then, know that you are not nearly as alone as you may feel. There are literally millions of people who are struggling on Sundays too. Know that you are loved and seen and that you matter to God and to me, one of his flawed, ever-falling kids trying to do better.

Regardless of what you have experienced or been told or even believe yourself, I promise that there is a place for you and that many are preparing that place on this very day. A glorious, joyful meeting is coming, even if it is many Sundays away. Hold on.

Wherever you are and however you are today, Happy Sunday my friends.

Be greatly encouraged.


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29 thoughts on “For Those Who Struggle on Sundays

  1. I have just recently come across your site John. I find it tefteshing, kind, non judgemental and Very Godly.

  2. I think it’s wonderful that you recognize and think about those who don’t benefit from that sense of community that you enjoy. For me, Sunday often reminds me of that sense of community and support I had in my home church for so many years. It makes me yearn for it again. Since I’ve moved, I’ve searched for that same welcome and serenity I found there but have yet to find a place I can call home; where I can feel comfortable in a shared space with those I consider brothers and sisters. I take responsibility – it’s not the church’s fault. You have reminded me that I need to put forth more effort, and that the feeling of home even in my old church was not instantaneous. I need to take the time to find a place where I feel comfortable enough to give it a chance. .

  3. My story is too long to recount here, but my pain isn’t felt just on Sundays. Basically it boils down to being told “no” about re-entering ministry because my failure was with a guy…and at the same time guys who do what I did with women get back in. Totally unfair, so at this point my call to ministry goes unanswered. That’s a pain that is present every day.

  4. John consistently hits ’em out of the park. This is my favorite blog site, though my own may be gaining some ground far back in the pack. My best response to this Happy Sunday greeting of yesterday may be my Monday a.m. post from on the question of Is Jesus still married to the Church? and my similar sentiments as John’s have to do with redeeming those still hurting over the dysfunctional family we were raised in as the church of Jesus.

  5. Thank you so much for this. Church, for me, is the saddest place on earth right now. Sundays are excruciating for me. Whenever I speak about my pain I’m chastised (“Don’t forsake the gathering together.” “Look to God, not to people.” “Let it go!”, and on and on.) So, thank you for being my voice and for your prayers for a place of safety.

    Thank you for your blog. You do, in fact, say the stuff that needs to be said.

  6. The Christian fundamentalist and conservative evangelical position is that liberal, apostate, and lost Americans (every American but them) are not in church on Sunday mornings because their personal sin coffers are filled to overflowing with assorted vile sins. They avoid coming to church on Sunday mornings because they are afraid that the Holy Spirit (speaking directly to them through the vocal cords of the preacher) will open their hearts, lay the multitude of their vile sins bare, fill them with bone crushing guilt, and demand repentance the vile sinner is unwilling to make. Rather than walk into this unsettling scene, sinners avoid showing up at church on Sunday morning.

    Fundies are well known for avoiding bare-bones facts (like the Earth is billions of years old) and substituting their own incorrect doctrinal fantasies for those bare-bones facts. In short, they value ignorance more than truth and live in a fantasy religious world of their own creation and construction—not God’s. God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit know the Earth is billions of years old because they are three extremely bright and creative guys. Fundies—not so much.

    The fundie fantasy expressed in Paragraph 1 above, and applied as a master blanket to cover all people, misses the mark of truth and resides comfortably on the couch of ignorance. People avoid going to church on Sunday mornings for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with this fundie fantasy. If fundies would ever listen to those other reasons people give and take them seriously, they might learn some important truths about why their churches and many others are rupturing at the seams. However, one of the chief characteristics of fundies is their inability to listen. Instead, they want to avoid listening and do all of the talking until they hear the words “I repent.” This is why you sometimes have to talk to them like the spiritual small children that they really are. As an old television commercial from the 1960s said, “Why am I talking to you like you are a child? Because when I talk to you like an adult, YOU DON’T LISTEN.”

    When you get finished here at the excellent blog of John Pavlovitz, you are cordially invited to join us over at the “Flee from Christian Fundamentalism” blog:

    We closely examine everything what is wrong with Christian fundamentalism, conservative evangelicalism, and the Religious Right in the United States.

  7. I stopped calling myself an evangelical years ago, because that there are no longer any evangelicals leading the church. Fundamentalism and right wing hate have swallowed up and destroyed what used to be a beautiful thing. When I was first saved, back in 1974, as part of the Jesus Movement, we loved each other, accepted everyone, sang, laughed, read our Bibles eagerly and prayed. When we were finished, we put on our sandals and went out into the streets and told people that God loved them unconditionally and that God’s good news was that He poured out His wrath for the sins of man on His son, and had destroyed sin and death. We lovingly invited them to allow Jesus to love them. They didn’t always understand or accept, but they were not vitriolic or disgusted by the Church.

    In the last 40 years, the evangelical church has adopted a philosophy which views the world, and those who are lost, as the enemy. It has abandoned the Great Commission and chosen instead to defy God’s wise choice to give man free will. They decided that the world wasn’t capable of responding to the love of God so they had to be coerced into pretending to obey his commands. And so, Christian sharia law was born. Since then, the church has fought against God’s call for us to win the lost and show them the goodness of God. Instead, they have made the world believe that God was a God of wrath, and Christ’s atonement on the cross only applied to the church. We have been told that God has some sort of covenant with America and that Old Testament laws apply in the U.S. in the same way that they did in Israel, before the Messiah came to destroy the power of death.

    I love the people in this confused church, and recognize that many are well intentioned and genuinely love God. If their behavior was simply ignorant and affected no one but themselves, I could just accept them as they are and look the other way. Unfortunately, their behavior ( creating a culture war, marching in lockstep with and aligning themselves with a political party, saying they believe in God’s love and grace but putting all their efforts into alienating the world from God ) has made it nearly impossible to convince people that God desperately loves them. They hear that God loves them, from people who clearly dislike and judge them, so when you try to honor God’s command to go into the world and tell them of the great news, all they hear is right wing Pharisees, who have insulated themselves from a world they are disgusted by and feel that they are superior to.

    Sure, if you’re already really conservative, have no concern for injustice, a low regard for scholarship, truth or humility, you will be made to feel right at home on Sunday morning and Wednesday evening. If, however, you don’t fit that particular cookie cutter pattern, or have a low tolerance for hurtful, damaging nonsense, you will be labeled as negative or having a divisive spirit. Some will question the authenticity of your faith or even say that you’re going to hell. That’s not a problem, because it’s easy to dismiss those people. What is really hard, the thing that is mind numbingly painful is when the handful of people you used to admire for the love that they demonstrated and the wisdom that was such a trademark of their reflection of Jesus, become just like the pod people who have swallowed up and infected the body of Christ with their disdain for lost.

    For the last 35 years, I have tried ( as best I could ) to logically and passionately, be a voice in the wilderness, reminding my friends that it’s the goodness of God that leads to repentance. In that time, I’ve been treated like an outsider and have lost nearly every fundamentalist Christian friend, that I used to think of as family. I am heart broken and have tried to walk away from my faith more times than I can count, but every time I try, I read the gospels and I’m reminded of the truth that can’t be covered up by any Moral Majority or right wing lie. I’ve given up trying to convince my fundamentalist friends that they are harming the cause of Christ. No logical argument has any impact. I would say that it’s a lost cause, but like the camel and the eye of the needle, what is impossible for man is not impossible for God. I’m not a liberal or a conservative. I am a flawed lover of Jesus and I have not spent enough of my energy on focusing on Jesus. I have my lost my way, trying to correct my brothers and sisters, and for that, I am truly sorry. I hope to get back on the path of remembering my first love for Jesus and letting God instruct a wayward Church. It’s time for me to find peace again.

    • James, your cry was heart-rending. Thank you for sharing where you are and what has happened. I really pray you find peace in your relationship with Jesus. You are a beautiful person.

  8. Thank you for this post! But, what if the one who isn’t wanted is the pastor? Where does he go? I’ve watched for 15 years as my husband dedicates countless hours to a group of people who expect him to fix the furnace, repair the roof, lay cement, paint the parsonage and teach them about their spiritual gifts so they can church shop for something “better”!

    Very often the focus is about people who have been hurt by churches and pastors, and rightfully so!! However, they can leave. Very often pastors are stuck in churches like this and the denomination cares more about how much revenue is generated by the sale of properties than the soul of the pastor!

  9. Or perhaps there are those who no longer hurt or feel sorrow, who are no longer wondering and searching for that tight little church box they can squeeze into like Sunday spanx. Perhaps there are many of us who have found the sacredness found on the path, under green cathedral forest canopies, along sandy ocean shores, hiking through mountain rock, dancing along creekbeds, or quietly meditating on the front porch. Perhaps there are a few who no longer require the performance but have found overflowing joy around people they love and who love them in return, families that break bread and drink from wine cups together… not because they can’t find a place to fit, but because they have had where, and how, and who all along.

  10. Thank you so much for this. I stumbled upon your post on Facebook while happy to be a home this morning with an excuse to not be a church. I was on staff for 2 years and my church hurt me, mostly just a few key people, but I get reminders of it almost every Sunday. I leave there more unhappy and frustrated than anything else. I also really do not think my pastor even likes me anymore….won’t go into details but I definitely get that vibe. I was a member way before I went on staff and some things do make me want to stay, so I’m kind of in limbo right now.

  11. Been there, done that “going to church” thing. Serving on the worship team, tithing, attending religiously. God or Jesus never intended “going to church” to be a vehicle for fellowship or for it to be a model for Kingdom living. Going to church is a man made religious activity, and we all know how Jesus felt and reacted toward the religious. This is why people have such problems with “going to church”, it is not a model for fellowship found in scripture. If you were hurt by church, good for you. take that experience and walk away better for it, never to repeat it. The void you might feel from walking away is a good place to be. Use it to build your spiritual relationship with God and yourself. You are God’s temple, God and Jesus reside in YOU! We are all in the brotherhood of priests with Jesus being the only priest above all us, and Jesus left us the Holy Spirit to dwell in you, to guide and teach you. Jesus is our rest, our Sabbath to rest in every day, not once a week in an institutional man made religious temple. Free yourself from that ugly tradition of man called “going to church”. It is a false fellowship.

  12. Not everybody who doesn’t go to church every Sunday is sad or forlorn. Organized religion is not for everyone. “The best sermons are lived not preached” states the motto from the Cowboy Church. Some of the best Christians I know do not go to a physical place in groups to worship. This is not a reason to lump them together as having their Sunday’s ruined or any other day of their lives. Many rejoice and praise God daily. Some are on the golf course, some gave jobs in hospitals, good service, etc. and cannot or do not want go to church on Sunday. Let’s not judge.

  13. Then there are folks like me. I haven’t had a church home since my special needs daughter was four. She’s good and bright but much of what she does comes off as awkward or “bad” behavior. I work because I have to and I don’t have the kind of clothes or demeanor that would pull me into a congregation right away. I know that I could go to a church and not be barred at the door with her, but all the same I would spend my time making sure my daughter didn’t disturb others or get anxious or restless and the most contact I would have with the community would be strained smiles across the pews or in the parish hall. After awhile it becomes a case of diminishing returns.

  14. Serving as a children’s minister has very much left my whole family like this. What is said and done behind the scenes is very different than what congregants would expect. I would happily to return to worship in any number of churches where I know there are sincere believers. The problem is that I would constantly doubt the sincerity of the pastor and staff and feel compelled to ask questions like: how much is the senior pastor’s house worth? And how much more does he make than his lowest paid employee? And what does it mean to truly love your neighbor? And do you back up what you say you believe with action regardless of the background of those to whom you are ministering? Somehow, I suspect these questions would quickly make me unwelcome, so…here we are…no church even though my heart yearns for a home.

  15. Wonderful article…an abusive church has damaged my husband to the point he has no interest in church, though my son and I have found a church. It’s sad that we can’t attend together, but I hope that one day we will

    • The institutional church system has programmed you into thinking that you should participate in the religion of churchianity. You are not free in Christ if you subject yourself to that system. Scripture does not model going to church, and Jesus was rebellious toward it. Don’t be sad, Your husband is free! You should join him in his freedom. Peace!

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