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Why My Faith Has Led Me Out of Church

Note: this post was written by my friend, Kristy. It is a heartfelt, courageous, and humble view of her journey of faith over the past several years.

2013-09-11 13.07.45I’ve hesitated to write this post for awhile, though I think my ministry posts elude to a lot of what I have to say already. In my former life, the church was a big part of my identity and my faith process. I knew that my love affair with ministry fueled my own issues (my need for approval, my comfort zone of only being with fellow Christians, my need to be above reproach [this is Bible-speak for looking like a good person all the time], my need to be on the top of the heap [church is a hierarchy], and more) but I also knew that those ugly truths were in bed with the good stuff too (I honest to goodness cannot fake anything, so all appearances of commitment, love of God, goodness, belief in others, boundless energy for service were real). I didn’t know how to separate my love for God with my love for ministry. Many people cannot see the absolute need to do such. I think we want to justify good behavior that comes from our own sinking holes of need because we think good behavior leads to good things regardless of motive. There’s even something in the Bible to that effect (something about Paul saying that preaching Christ has value even if it’s coming from a bad source). Plus, when we put all our hopes (and more importantly, the church’s future) into our ability to do good things, how else can we move forward, knowing that all of us have coexisting good and bad motives?

It’s hard for me to admit publicly that I’m not going to church. I fear, as all of us with ministry baggage do, that my story may serve as a discouragement or may be used as endorsement for all choices remotely similar to mine. I have secret fears of how this will affect my children. (I also simultaneously fear what the church would teach my child if she were there). I expect that some (many) will write me off as someone who has fallen away (lost their faith) or who does not keep my commitments (something I really disrespect). I want to clarify that within myself, I am really proud of my choices and am open to telling my story to certain people who I trust and respect, knowing that it’s largely possible that they will understand where I’m coming from. But to admit this publicly, ONLINE, is a totally different thing.

I’ve worked hard to protect my “sacred space” (which oddly, sounds sexual, but not what I’m referring to). I define this as my soul, my theology, my self-concept, my heart. I am impressionable. I cannot be a part of a group and not identify with its larger story. Some of the lessons I am working to undo from my lifetime in church are essential to my personal faith process (saying no, embracing my humanity, putting myself in the shoes of the downtrodden versus the saviors, listening to my voice, taking risks, focusing on what I have in common with “the world”, relinquishing anything that reeks of entitlement or consumerism, refusing to believe that everything has a solution or one “right” answer and that I know those things). This makes the church environment a great source of temptation for me. I immediately fill my calendar, gain approval, show my niceness, and find incriminating things in my heart to fill guilty and shameful about and set to work on self-improvement.

I live in hope that one day, when I’m MUCH less bitter and able to set firm boundaries in said environment, I will be able to be a part of a church. I have no idea what my future church looks like. For the last 3 years, my church has looked like my living room and my fellow parishoners are my female friends. I am very selective about who I allow into that sacred space now. I look for women who are open, honest and actively struggling in some shape or form. I am a big fan of people who are “in process.”

I imagine some people would read this and roll their eyes. Like, what is the big deal? So you don’t go to church. Most people don’t. Why is this shameful or embarrassing? But with my background, this is a big deal. Is it possible that the church sound system is so loud that we can’t hear God? Could it be true that the group mentality is speaking in direct contradiction to what I personally need to be doing in my life? I’m learning to set better boundaries to where the church may one day be a safe place for me to share my soul again. But for now, this sojourner is keeping company with just a few.

Thoughts?

You can visit Kristy’s blog at Mutterings From a Perfectionist.

 

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Serve Others

It is one thing to know what people struggle with; it is quite another to do something about it. We are not helpless bystanders in life. We have the power and ability to change the lives of others if we want to.

“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28).

 

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How Churches Can Address Mental Health Issues

The majority of pastors (66%) rarely speak to their churches about mental illness, revealed a recent study conducted by LifeWay Research. According to families with mentally ill members, this is not enough. 65 percent of those families want their churches to talk about mental illnesses more openly.

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People with mental illness need spiritual guidance. Ed Stetzer, President of LifeWay Research, stated, “Our research found people who suffer from mental illness often turn to pastors for help, but pastors need more guidance and preparation for dealing with mental health crises. They often don’t have a plan to help individuals or families affected by mental illness, and miss opportunities to be the church.”

Pastors are not reluctant to talk about mental illness because they do not understand it. Sixty percent of pastors offer counseling services to people with mental illnesses, but 22 percent of them do not talk about mental health because it takes too much time and resources. Most churches (68%) maintain lists of local mental health resources. However, few church families (28%) are aware that those resources exist.

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Here’s the kicker: one quarter (23%) of pastors struggle with mental illness, which is on par with the national average of people that struggle with mental illness. According to Stetzer, “If you reveal your struggle with mental illness as a pastor, it’s going to limit your opportunities.”

Some suggestions for churches:
1. Talk about mental illness. From the pulpit; in small groups everywhere. Don’t be afraid to discuss it as a spiritual illness. Many of our fathers in the faith struggled with mental illnesses at some point.

2. Make resources available. This means not only developing a resource list of mental health professionals and mental health organizations, but openly publicizing the list. Since mental health includes spiritual health, churches need to support their members and point them in a helpful direction.

3. Get help for leaders. Pastors need help addressing mental health issues too. Churches, or at least the executive leaders, need to understand mental health and encourage transparency and acceptance of its leaders. Pastors can lead by example in helping churches respond to mental illness in healthy ways.

The full research report can be be dowloaded here.

 

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The Power of God’s Love


This powerful story emphasizes the grace, love and forgiveness of God. No matter what we may have done, none of us has sinned more than God can forgive. This is the Good News!

Consider the following scriptures among many:

Psalm 103:12
“He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.”

Acts 13:38
“Brothers, listen! We are here to proclaim that through this man Jesus there is forgiveness for your sins.”

Ephesians 1:7
“He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins.”

Colossians 1:13
“For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins.”

1 John 1:7
“But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.”

What does Kathryn’s story say to you?

 

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Introducing Generation Z

There is a new generation rising. It is the generation after Generation Y, aptly called Generation Z. . Gen Zers were born around the mid 1990’s to the present. They have some defining characteristics. For example:

  • They have higher IQ scores than previous generations.
  • They are very accepting of others, despite differences.
  • They are entrepreneurial and are not afraid to launch initiatives or businesses that will change the world.
  • They are responsible with money.
  • They are socially aware and responsible.
  • They have short attention spans.
  • They are visual learners.
  • They shop more online than offline.

Sparks and Honey have created the following Infographic based on the characteristics of Generation Z.

Generation-Z-Marketings

What other observations can you make about Generation Z?

 

You can read more about Generation Z from Sparks and Honey.

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