I have come across lots of people leaving the church these days. I don’t take it lightly. I know how hard it is to be in the church and part of the church. It gets complicated. Especially during election season, I feel like the crazy side of a person comes out, and they get all heated in discussion, losing sight of the main thing, they piss other people off, and then a chain reaction happens.
When I think about it, why wouldn’t you leave church? There’s a lot of grumpy and annoying people there. The pastor throws out some theology you aren’t sure you agree with. It is starting to get past the, “God is love” easy listening sermons and into the, “God hates divorce,” and more opinionated sermons that make me sweat more (I’m already sweating because I live in Phoenix). There’s a lot of annoying people in church. People that are way too vocal about Donald Trump (pro and con), people that like to only talk about their problems all the time, and a lot of annoying moms who look tired and complaining about parenting (You thought it too!). There’s also these weird rituals in church like the handshaking/greeting time of the sermon. “Who knows where your hands have been?!” “You just coughed. Now that I felt pressured to shake your hand, I can’t stop thinking about how I’m gonna get sick.” I don’t want someone to tell me when to be friendly, how to introduce myself, or to say forced phrases like, “God is good,” unless I want to!
I think what it really comes down to is the underlying issue. Why do you go to church? Most people would answer for the teaching. Awesome. We all have to learn about the Bible. Some may answer more creatively for community. Yes, I think that’s a really good reason to. After all, we’ve all heard the Acts 2:42 scripture, “and they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayers.” All wonderful reasons and a core part of church. But is that WHY we must go to church?
Let me tell you why I didn’t want to go to church. I didn’t want to talk to people. I didn’t want to interact with people who were “different” than me. I wasn’t amused. I didn’t like what the pastor was saying. The music was lacking quality. The women’s group wasn’t making me feel welcomed. The greeters were annoying and too friendly. Everyone was all about the façade there. Again, these are not totally off the mark, but what it boils down to it is all these answers were all about it “me”. We all need to pray, search, think, and seek the right church family, but I think what needs to be the defining factor of WHY we go to church is to serve. You can pray in your home, you can worship God in your home, you can read a devotional, listen to a podcast, or participate in an online bible study to get your Word, and you can most definitely buy your own bread and wine/juice for communion. All those things are easy and relatively easy to check off of the list. The hard one? Serving others. Getting involved. Being vulnerable. Doing something uncomfortable. Participating in something that isn’t normally your jam. Figuring out your spiritual gift by trying different service activities. These are all the hard things.
Chapter 2:44 and chapter 4:32 in Acts revisit the same, “they had everything in common.”
That word ‘common’ in the Greek seems pretty obvious, but I think we can skip over it because we’ve become so familiar with that word. It does not mean that they had everything in common so they decided to have church together. Before that phrase, “everything in common” is the connecting factor: “those who believed.” The commonality between them was their faith which bonded them together. There was diversity among them, but it did not matter because the commonality of their belief in Jesus, same word used in Jude 1:3 and Titus 1:4, for a faith that brings all peoples together and unites us all, align their purpose and mission. In Acts, the mentioning of giving everything up for the sake of one another, sacrificing finances by selling possessions and property, and giving freely to those in need became the outpour of that common faith.
So, instead of looking at church as a source of getting, we must look inwardly and ask ourselves, “What can I give to the church?” “Is there a need at this church for my gift?”
Why do you attend the church you go to?
Have you left the church for a reason that I listed above or other?