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