Saturday, December 16, 2006

God for People Who Hate Church


Destroyed Church Kosovo
Originally uploaded by Berlinär.
I am discovering more and more people who have an aversion to church. Some outright hate church, or any form of organized religion.

I can not find fault with them. At least not in their evaluation of what is wrong with church. Nor in their struggles which are based on sad experiences of the past. Living in the Boston area a number of them have come to hate the hypocrisy which became evident on the Priest Abuse Scandals. Yet Protestant and Evangelical Churches have not been a display of integrity recently either.

So I look across the landscape of Christianity as I know it, and I have to ask, "Is there a place for people who hate church to find God?"

4 comments:

Cindy Harvey said...

I don't hate the church anymore, but I did. During that time I found God in people. Mostly other people who at one time hated church too, but had moved beyond their offense to being the change they wanted to see inside it.

I also profoundly experienced God in befriending people outside the 'christian' realm. Folks with hard lives, not enough money, not enough sympathy....that kind of thing. It helped to see firsthand that my little christian anwers weren't enough for the poor and suffering.

Sometimes I think the christians who have been 'burned' by the church are the hardest to reach with a message of grace, peace and love....they're so cynical (at least I was/am) and have felt betrayed on a deep level. Rebuilding that trust is a long difficult journey, not unlike dealing with an unfaithful spouse. Being wounded by church leadership necessarily demands that hard questions be asked about God himself...and you won't find those answers inside the church. The questions are eerily similar to those that a jilted spouse asks. Hating the offender is a necessary part of the grieving I suppose.

After 3 years wandering, I've hesitantly been visiting a traditional church again. It is very different than my previous church experience, but 'safe'. I also am so grateful for the many, many authors writing these days about how to move forward....they have been my 'teachers'. Thankfully, we've found a congregation who holds a missional POV...though they aren't 'emergent' in the hip sense of the word or even 'contemporary'. At 40, we're one of the younger families and 'Shine Jesus Shine' is what they call recent praise songs. :o)

Anyway....I firmly believe those that hate the church are prime candidates for finding God more deeply. For me, it's been interesting (and at times terrifying) to newly discover Jesus without all the 'trimmings'. Because I was forced to discover him outside the confines of charismatic evangicalism, I'm now able to find him in what most charismatics would describe as a 'dead church'. Life is ironic. God is big and longs to be discovered. Getting out of the church (and going thru a horrid season of hating it...and still hating many parts of it) was my path to truly meeting God and grabbing hold of his true mission in the world...something I doubt very much I would've discovered at my previous church.

Sorry so long! Your post hit a nerve in a good way :o)

Pastor Phil said...

Cindy,

That's a great post, and a perfect example of the kind of thing I see and hear every week - often many times. At some point those who hate church are reconciled to it in their interactions with God Himself, but the path seldom comes through church itself, unless the church has found ways to do things quite unchurchy.

George Barna has some phenomenal info on this in his journey from Church Marketer to Revolutionary, and having seen a recent DVD of him speaking at a conference in Seattle, I was impressed at his story, and his identification of what is happening, or not happening in the local church today. Sobering things which those of us who lead local churches need to consider.

Thanks for your story
Phil

Cindy Harvey said...

G. Barna's book was a huge catalyst for my husband and I to just be 'in flux' for awhile once we were actually out of the church. It was a great comfort to know we weren't the only weirdos in christendom who had lost their way inside the church.

I'm thankful there are leaders like you who are listening and learning....It helps shatter my previous paradigm that most church leaders are more interested in the love the power then the power of Love.

Pastor Phil said...

I'm one of those leaders who has thought like an outsider while being a pastor for many years. It has gotten us in trouble here and there, and in some significant heat recently, because we became defenders of people outside the church who had been abused by it.

So I'm not just a listener any more. I have my own story to tell.