Giving Up On Church

I was surfing around on another website last night. It was the page for a podcast that features lots of ex-pastors who are no longer in the ministry.

Evidently, they’re pretty proud of having walked away from the church. And their programs have attracted lots of former church members who no longer feel they need the church either.

I even found an interview with them by a well-known secular news outlet, one that is typically very critical of the Christian worldview. In it, they brandish their hip rejection of something so 20th century as the “institutional church”. They came off sounding so very enlightened and forward-thinking.

I love my Apple laptop, but right then I wanted to send it across the room into a wall.

I’ve heard a lot of those complaints about the church before, and have even echoed some of them myself. I’ve been honest about the times I’ve been hurt in church. I know it can be a tough place, with sometimes a bigger stockpile of self-righteousness than compassion.

Sure, I’ve done my share of calling “church folks” on the carpet for some of the ways they’ve chosen to ostracize certain sinners (especially sexual sins) while giving a pass to others (racism comes to mind).

Also, I would never discount the pain of those who’ve been abused in the church, psychologically or sexually. I’ve been on the receiving end of pastoral abuse, but I can only imagine the scars some others have endured.

But when it comes to suggesting this makes the local church unnecessary and “damaged goods” to be avoided, let me be clear…

No matter what pain you may have experienced, you need the church. Period.

So if you think I’m ok with bashing the church, know about to get an earful from me. In fact, I’m really getting sick of people bashing the church and writing books and recording podcasts about it to further their careers.

I agree the church has focused too much on the “unholy trinity” of cussing, smoking and drinking while ignoring bigger “heart issues”. That’s why the world calls us hypocrites. They know we’re not as sanctified as we pretend to be, and that a lot of ugly stuff still lurks hidden in our hearts.

I’ll confess, I have said a few bad words in my time. My car in particular will never get saved because of my bad testimony of occasionally cursing while driving.

And while I admit I’m nobody special, there is a big difference in me and those who would sanction a wholesale exodus from the local church.

The biggest difference is I’m still in the church.

And let me be transparent for a moment. It really kind of ticks me off when Christians talk about “leaving the church but not their faith”, as if there’s any Biblical precedent for living that way.

Because there’s not. There’s no such thing as a permanently churchless Christian.

Yeah, I’m sure you’ve been through some terrible experiences. But some day, you ought to compare scars with me. I was on a church staff for years before becoming a senior pastor. Short of sexual abuse, I’ve been put through the ringer.

But most of the examples I hear are nowhere near sexual or physical abuse. So everyone else please, spar me the whining. The early church had all the problems we have today plus being eaten by lions in the coliseums. So I think you can handle a few judgmental old biddies in the back pews.

And to those who’ve truly been abused, I feel for you deeply. However, I believe the worst thing you could possibly do is leave “The Church” just because of “a church”. In fact, I believe the only lasting healing you’ll find will be in a caring fellowship of other believers.

Also, I’m not an ex-pastor. I’m still doing the job, living the calling, and sucking up the pain of hurting people around me like a true “vicar”.

And I really resent guys that don’t have the guts to stick with it, but still want to pretend they have something to say…

If that’s you, how about you sit down and shut up while the rest of us keep doing your job. Sorry, but I’ve got no patience for called ministers who decide to be quitters.

I’m tired of ex-pastors wanting it both ways – they’re out of the pastorate but still want the platform of a pastor. And they end up attracting all the people who just want to bash the church and tear it down. Often, those former pastor’s negative influence makes the church haters feel justified in doing so.

Sorry, but you walked away, buddy. So suck it up, Buttercup. Either come back to your calling or move on.

Wow, that was a little harsh, wasn’t it? Can you tell I feel passionately about this? Well, I do. And if you really know Jesus, you should too.

I haven’t given up on the church. In fact, I’ve dedicated my life to nourishing it. Why? Because Jesus died for it. And I love Jesus, so I’ll stick with it and take my lumps if He’ll be pleased in me.

Sure, the church needs to move past our pettiness and judgment of the outside world. I never was good at playing spiritual games of one-upmanship I’ve witnessed in some churches. I was never willing to try and win in spiritual contests because I knew comparing my holiness with other believers is like comparing used toilet paper…

…the subtle differences in cleanliness never override the stench.

By the way, I’m not on my high-horse about all this. I know I don’t deserve to be a pastor, anymore than those who’ve walked away. I know that compared to my holy calling, I’m a complete poser. This makes it tough for me when the spiritually competitive folks take shots at me. Deep down inside, though I know they’re no better sinners than me, I know their basic premise is right.

I really am a bad pastor.

  • I’m spiritually lazy at times. I’m too led by my emotions instead of my faith.
  • And yes, I want the big successful ministry with lots of people hanging on my every word, and other pastors looking on with envy.

All that and worse takes up residence on a daily basis in my dirty old heart. I’m really quite a mess.

In reality, I’m a patchwork quilt of a broken man, scotch-taped together with more coping mechanisms than you can count!

But it’s because I know I’m a bad pastor that I actually feel qualified to be a pastor. It’s the ones who think they deserve this gig you really need to worry about.

And maybe, if I can be honest about my weaknesses, and even my outright wickedness at times, someone reading this can believe God might just put up with their mess as well and forgive them.

That’s the kind of honesty we need in our churches today. Honesty about our own sin, and love for fellow sinners still wandering in the world’s darkness. But the answer is not to walk away from the church.

The church is Christ’s bride, and that marriage is forever. So maybe it’s time to get over what your drunk uncle said at the wedding reception and get back to being part of God’s forever family!


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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