I promise, it’s not you, it’s me.
That, I’m convinced.
I’ve tried, I really have. Twenty-two years of ministry—even more time, simply being a “Christian.”
I can’t do it, and it’s high time to call the wizard out from behind the curtain.
This whole American-Christianity thing, I’m just not good enough. I can’t pull it off.
Church, ministry, “Christian” stuff—I simply don’t have what it takes.
I mean, you Church folks are amazing, I don’t know how you do it. The way you keep your righteousness and closeness with God afloat through a vigilant life of sin-management, do-gooding, and Christian faithfulness, I can’t even begin to lift that kind of weight, let alone hold it up. For me, every time I’m admonished with things I need to do in order to be a better person or become a more “fully devoted” follower of Jesus Christ, I don’t even get close to mastering just one of them, not to mention the five others listed in the sermon notes. And before you know it, the next Sunday, we’re on to a whole new set of things I need to go after. Honestly, I just can’t keep up like you. I’m so far behind from being a “real deal Christian.” And quite frankly, I’m ashamed of my incapacity to spiritually perform at your level. I truly don’t know how you field that kind of pressure and keep good going with all the spiritual consequences ahead of you if you don’t. Your fear management skills must be impeccable.
Something is wrong with me, I’m sure. All the accountability partners, prayer warriors and small-group interventions have somehow fallen flat. Years of Sunday school teachers, youth leaders, pastors, and mentors hoping I’ll get serious enough to get my life on track. I feel like such a hypocrite and fake to just take a step towards your fellowship, as if I’m even close to making the grade or would ever be capable of drawing within your lines. It all leaves me so empty. I feel everything in my soul shutting down at just the thought.
I look around, and everyone else is so much more spiritual. All the inspirational posts they have on Facebook, all the good things they are doing for the Lord—so deep into worship and prayer with their eyes closed and hands raised, loving every minute of it with complete abandon. There’s this ardent love and commitment to Jesus that’s just dripping from everybody’s lips with such eloquent and Jesus-flavored verbiage. And here I am—riddled with serious doubts and questions, embarrassed that I’m not feeling nearly as into Jesus as apparently I should. Heck, truth be told, I’m still struggling with a good amount of the bad stuff you folks seem to be so far beyond. My beliefs change, my behaviors fall short, my passions fade—no wonder why, from time to time, I’ve gotten the disappointed looks, cold shoulders, and leadership “time outs.” What was I thinking, I’m way out of my league. Repentance here, pointing out sin there, keeping people from an eternal torture in hell prescribed from a God who is Love—I don’t know how you stomach it all. It’s true, I really should be so much further along by now, but for some reason, all the formulas, disciplines, rituals, steps, and “soaking” in worship aren’t working for me. And trust me, I’ve tried—really, really hard.
Church, I want to fit in so badly, I want to feel like a genuine follower in American Christianity, but I just can’t. Whatever it is you have, I simply don’t have it in me.
I mean, you people in ministry—you got it going on. All of you, rockstars for sure. How you keep up in the whirlwind of competitive Christianity is beyond me. It’s everywhere—in all my searching, I’ve been hard pressed to find a layer of Christian ministry that hasn’t been turned into pretty much a kind of all-out ministry cage match. Quite frankly, I don’t know how so many of you do it—making sure your ministry is out-growing the next, your blog posts are the first written on the latest controversial subject, your platform is increasing, your branding is on point, your engaging your following, updating your Twitter account, promoting your latest “thing”—on and on and on, keeping up with ministry trends, making sure you’re “in” with all the right people, all while having the picture perfect marriage and family pimped with the latest fashions, fohawks, tattoos, and skinny jeans required in order to be relevant. Wow, I bend a knee in your honor and awe.
And then, the criticism. All the people determined to misunderstand you—the people who treat you unfairly, kick you to the curb, and hang you out to dry. The fellow people in ministry who sabotage you, seek to undermine your influence, use you, and are always trying to “out minister” you. How you shrug it all off and plow through—my hat goes off to you.
I’m sure I just don’t have enough faith and I am way too insecure. I should be so much stronger in my identity in Christ, but a lot of times, I’m just not. Thank God there are celebrity ministers out there within every camp and kind who do, say, and write so much better than the rest of us—makes up for all my floundering for sure. You folks are heroes, how you stomach and swim in the business and enterprise that is empire Christianity is way beyond my capacity—the compromises you have to make, the duplicities you must have to embody—yours is a high wire act I’m just not good enough to swing. As much as your table in the lunch room captures my attention, I can’t hang with you all, though my ego might keep on dreaming. I must concede, I just don’t have it in me.
I mean, “Christian” stuff—your imagination is mind-boggling. Christian yoga, Christian yoga pants, Christian basketball, Christian football, Christian dance, Christian art, Christian music, Christian movies, Christian television, Christian bathrooms, Christian food, Christian fast food, Christian books, Christian book marks, Christian clubs, Christian groups, Christian values, Christian principles, Christian nations, not to mention, Christian ___________. Oh, and I almost forgot, Christian_____________.
I am amazed, you are the masters of drawing lines—defining who’s in and who’s out, what’s in and what’s out, what’s good for me, and what’s not. My radar for sin and uncleanliness just isn’t that good. Thank God, you label it for me.
But even still, if I’m honest, I find myself deeply wanting to “be with” and “in with” so many of things that aren’t necessarily “Christian.” And for that, I know I am suppose to feel, “dirty”—but, I don’t.
Surely, something is wrong with me—terribly wrong with me. I’m damaged goods, falling away, chasing wayward spirits of doctrine, or something “biblical” like that. Yet, I can’t help it. Something inside of me that I have been told for years is so weak, meek, and poor feels, yet all so strong and divine, drawing me away— far, far away.
I’m pretty sure I am going to hell, at leasts that’s what “they” say. So, I guess that’s just how it’s going to have to be, because I simply can’t fake-it-to-make-it anymore. You folks have it, I don’t.
I know breaking up is hard to do, but I’m done. I’m walking away.
Church, ministry, so much of this “Christian” stuff.
I’m done playing the game, running the rat race, never measuring up or doing enough. I’m done competing, sacrificing my sanity, and being spiritually cross-checked every time I have an open shot on goal.
I’ve simply resigned myself to a life of trying to fully be myself—relying on Grace and loving some people along the way as best I can, believing that in so doing and in so being, Jesus is somehow pleased.
I’m a firm believer that you don’t lose friends, you lose people who you thought were friends.
And better than that—you don’t stop loving, you just learn to love more honestly.
I sense I’ll be doing the former, and I know, I’ll be doing the latter.
For honesty is the first thing that grows from a life planted in Grace.
I don’t know you Chris … I subscribed to your blog after reading some post … not sure what it was. I’d just say that I understand and I have done it also … at least the ministry thing.
I have all kinds of questions.
I have loads of doubts about the church organization.
But I have been blessed to accumulate some wonderful Christian friends over the years and while I don’t see many of them on a weekly basis, they are Church to me.
As far as God goes, I think I have a better handle on Him than I ever have had. I realize my faults and failures, my rebellious nature but I don’t think that puts Him off somehow. He is still working on me in undeniable ways. I think He is easier to please than religious people, people in general.
So I can’t no believe and I can’t believe there is anyplace that I can go, where my questions will be better held than with Him.
Blessings on you …
Amen Karl, thank you so much for your friendship and taking the time to write such a thoughtful and profound comment!
I don’t know you but I see this as just another rant of a new mind game for the same christian “stuff” you claim to dislike… you are still going to the same christian church… singing the same christian songs… raising your hands in the same christian worship…. nice try but you can try and fool other people who are on the fence and try and make them think you understand their frustration but it is still bullshit .. I too felt like you wrote but I finally had the courage to accept the fact that all forms of this christian “stuff” even your new form is all man made…..to have true peace and love put this childish behavior and religion away… I am finally at peace and I love unconditionally… something you will never have until you finally get free completely from all religion and yes Jesus Christ too …all my unconditionally love to all of you…
Paul, unless I am mistaken, I can see that you are “finally at peace and love unconditionally” until perhaps it comes to commenting on a blog posts and a comment section with which you disagree. I sure I am wrong, but I don’t sense much peace behind your words.
“I love everyone unconditionally…unless you believe in something other than I do!”
Somebody needs to look up “unconditionally” in the dictionary!
Thanks for the wonderful words, Chris! Keep on keeping the faith, brother!
I understand your comment and it is the same for me. No more Christian blinkers and my love is Love, not “Christian love” which Christians profess is superior. It is tough and takes a lot of patience to find your way out of Christianity after a lifetime of involvement and interconnectivity with family and friends. It is brave! To face life and death without the ideology and rhetoric. To face our temporariness. Keep loving, people and this beautiful blue ball called earth.
more Christians like you and the author please…
I do love your reality Chris. Most of Jesus disciples were people who had done with the system. When you look at themy you find, rejects, criminals, outcasts, robbers, those disillusioned and a few good, hard working and honest men. I see western Christianity and it is different from the early church. Be that one who shows what Jesus is truly like and a representative of a Kingdom far more superior and brilliant to the ideas and hierarchy of flawed religious systems. I know what heart you speak this from. Many do not see or are afraid to see it like you do. All my best Chris.
Louis, thank you so much for the thoughtful and gracious comments. I appreciate your wisdom and willingness to share it!
I do realise your post is meant to be sincerely serious, Chris, but I couldn’t help smiling and even chuckle at some of the vivid images you painted. Was almost as if I wrote some of your observations myself.
I’ve discovered that since Ive jumped the Christian ship and was salvaged by the Jesus of Nazareth ship, I’m at peace at last and answers only to God… The rest is just too –pffff I dont know — soul destroying?
Thanks so much for this post. Just confirmed once again I’ve made the right choice years ago, and appreciate learning from folks such as you
Arno, love ya bro, glad you picked up on the sarcasm peppered here and there. I’ll leave it up to the reader to discern where. So glad to be on this journey of faith with folks like you!
Thanks for this post, Chris! This pretty much sums up my feelings over 20 years ago! While I haven’t entirely given up on ‘church’, I have become broader in my outlook and see that we all need grace. You can burn out doing stuff and keeping score, and you still end up in the same place: needing grace. I’ve determined to focus on Jesus and filter out other people’s opinions. Love God and love people. Thanks again for your thoughts! They are good ones.
Thank you John!
Thank you so much for this. I didn’t have the words, but you found them for me. My radar is broken too, according to the crowd at the Christian table. I pray it never gets “fixed”
I’m right with you, Kristin! Thanks for your comment!
Yep, ‘Christian’ has become a loaded term that you very aptly described.
I think you and I are believers.
Bless you bro…
I’m so with you brother. My church literally kicked me out. Can you believe my Pastor blocked me on facebook and kicked me out of the church’s whatsapp group just cos i talk about grace and universalism.
Sadly, I can believe it, and I am truly sorry you have had to walk through this experience. You know you have Jesus when the broken gather and the religious scatter.
I decided not to associate with Christians anymore. A bunch of hypocritical fuck tards.
Thanks for your honesty. I would say 22 years in the Ministry is a pretty good run (I only managed about 3).
Thank you Amy for taking the time to comment! 3 years can feel like an eternity. 🙂
I did 22 years too. I’m a pastor’s kid and then I married a pastor. My story is long but you have captured what is in my heart too.
Honestly I am so tired right now. Tired from being beaten by the system, the denomination, the church, the sick system that I could barely read your words. Wounded from years of game playing, patriarchy and sick system. I have been in ministry for years too and the rules of the game have changed as well as the game. It leaves me uninspired, tired and weary. I have a few yrs until retirement and have thought about just pulling the plug now and do it. Saving my retirement holds me back. I appreciate your column and this article. We in the church do not know how to be real or honest – it is not allowed frankly.
Sara, I am tired right along with you and so are countless others. Any life outside of relying on Grace alone is tiring. Love your comments!
Chris, you have a way of writing that seems to say exactly what I’m feeling. I hope that some of what you said is sarcasm? I think it is. I am so over the “Christian” stuff too. It isn’t CHRISTIAN!!! and that’s why I am over it. I am following Jesus now. I just figure I’ll do whatever I think Jesus would do and that’s just fine for me. Everything else just seems so fake to me these days. And I’ve been on this planet for quite a few days. Thanks for your writings Chris Kratzer. You are simply amazing.
Judi, so glad you notice threads of sarcasm woven throughout the article! Thanks so much for the encouraging comments!
Amen, sister. Right in that boat with you.
None of us have it…whatever that is. If we had it all right…never lost our passion…never veered from the path…never threw a fit…never had questions…then why would we need God, much less the church? I’ve been doing this for 28 years, and I want to walk away most days…but something greater than myself keeps me teathered to keep seeking and seeing God do God’s work.
I never cared if someone is in or not. I simply think that everyone needs to be met where they are and told that they matter.
Well this is simply dead on. I wrote a similar thing in the 2000s called “No Assembly Required” which is also i my book “Jesus Outed” (Amazon Kindle). It is a lament.
This is really very good and I will be passin it along to many. Because I hate the Church? No, I suspect, like you – that I love the Church and it simply breaks my heart what it has become – how it lies about what it really is and what is really going on with its people who – under the veneer are truly lost but afraid to be honest.
One has to be willing to die – within the Church in odr to speak loving Truth within it. I also think be willing and ready to serve up the alternative – true Good News instead of this odd consumer-form of legalistic religion that requires neither faith nor love.
Thanks Mac for your comments, appreciate you sharing your experience and for your support.
This article just reached out and hugged me. I am struggling with the idea of the NEW CHURCH. So much has changed. God has been removed from so many places and it makes me cry that God is slowly being removed from the church.
Connie, thanks for reading and commenting. I would say that God is everywhere I cannot be removed, however, we can certainly lose our awareness of Him, who He is, His ways, and what He is doing and with whom He is doing it with. It isn’t that He has been pushed out, but rather rejected in the midst. My opinion. 🙂
Well honey……..we Deists, Agnostics and Atheists are here with our arms wide open to welcome you home. We will take you with your baggage and just as you are. The only rule is…..the point of the journey is not to arrive.
“Not all of those who wonder are lost”.
I have no intention to abandon my faith in Jesus, just much of what has been put along side of Him. I am sure you can understand! Thanks for the invite though! I find myself having so much greater in common and community with Atheists etc. than many in the Christian community.
God is love, and if you missed that, you’ve missed everything.
I left Christianity for years. Similar reasons but the “theology” of evangelical American Christianity would be unrecognizable to Christ. I studied Buddhism and mindfulness and work with students of the philosopher G. I. Gurdjieff. That actually brought me back to Christianity and the church. I discovered the ancient church, the church that has kept going on through history despite splits from the west and wars in the east. Eastern Orthodoxy saved my faith. Instead of trying to be sure of everything they leave things to mystery. There’s no praise band, the priest is a servant of the Holy Trinity and the only time his personality can show up is through a sermon but we require that they are not political, only relevant to the scriptures or the saint or story commemorated on the day. We don’t expect folks to be perfect. The early Christian fathers and mothers of the church view the role of church as a hospital, not a social gathering. I invite you to sometime visit an orthodox monastery here in the US or Canada (or if you’re really lucky the holy Mount Athos or St Catherine in Egypt) you may meet a Christianity you never dreamed existed. Life and spirituality is a journey, embrace the journey part of it, not the end goal. I’m glad you got out while you still could.
Erin, thank you so much for your caring comments and heartfelt invitation. I am honored and thankful!
I have been in the places you describe more than once. I learned a long time ago that “the game” doesn’t work for me. So I don’t even try to complete. I’ve been broken so many times I don’t even try to put up a front any more. I try to be as honest with the tough questions everyone who tries to live out their faith confronts. And I hold on to the hope (most days) that, as Thomas Merton put it, “The desire to please you does in fact please you.” That and the hope that one day God’s kingdom and justice will right all that is wrong–even in the church. Bottom line for me is that we’re all unworthy of the calling, but I’ve actually tried to do something else, and it seems that for some reason there is a purpose for my being in ministry. I don’t pretend to understand it, nor am I entirely happy about it some days, but I just do my best to be as faithful as I can as a flawed and fallible human being. I’m fortunate in that I serve a church that appreciate and values my effort at being real. And they forgive me when my humanity obscures my calling. I would hope that a trend toward the kind of authenticity in ministry you seem to believe in would become more the norm than the “game”, because I think people need something real to help them persevere in faith in the midst of real life.
Beautiful thoughts Alan!
You just need to read your Bible more… ;o)
Thanks for so aptly articulating what many of us are feeling … and (not) believing. A retired college professor and church pastor, the back cover copy on my latest book — My Name Is Heretic: Reforming the Church, from Guts to Glory — states:
You can’t box God up in religion.
You can’t box Jesus up in Christianity.
You can’t box church up in a building.
You can’t box faith up in a set of beliefs.
You can’t box grace up in conditions.
The Kingdom of God isn’t boxed up in our churches.
Imagine church without pulpits or pews, creeds or confessionals … no membership, plate-passing, pledges, regalia, heavenly choirs or altar calls.
Without buildings to maintain or staff to sustain, the church no longer is seen as a private club or guilt-trip haven to heaven.
Instead, its focus is on caring and sharing, living here-and-now, not the hereafter.
Rather than part of our worldly empires, the church has become their antithesis.
From guts to glory, the church begs reform.
This is either the best satire ever, or you need to find a new church, preferably one that is not mainstream evangelical and part of the Xn rat race in this country. I’m theologically conservative and part of a small Lutheran denomination (liturgically-focused), and we don’t deal with any of that nonsense. Grace abounds and there is no pressure to measure up to whatever popular-thing-of-the-week, because being popular and mainstream is not our focus (thank God!!!!). Neither is measuring up. Christ is.
I’m still not sure this isn’t truly brilliant satire. I didn’t read the comments, but as I was scrolling down, “Orthodox” caught my eye, and I second that recommendation to visit one of their churches. I’m not Orthodox myself, and I don’t agree with everything they teach, but I have a high respect for it, and if this isn’t satire, it might be the perfect balm for your soul.
Since I grew up in a parsonage (Lutheran papa), I rested in God’s grace in total assurance, until I heard outside messages that sounded as threatening as this blog so well expresses. I struggled for the better part of a decade, as a young person, thinking repentance must be at the heart of the gospel, but I could never achieve the goal! But, the struggle wasn’t for naught. I am now able to recognize what I had missed, the difference between man-made “corporate churchianity” with all the burdens of Pharisee legalism, “laying down the law,” and the heart-lifting freedom of following Jesus with the real Good News. WE can never measure up. “We know that in everything GOD works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew [that’s all of us!] HE also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren.” (Romans 8) Our Heavenly Father does for us what we are hopeless to do for ourselves.
On a lighter note, you might appreciate this friend’s story:
Thank you so much Edy, before jumping into conservative Evangelical ministry years ago, I started as an ELCA pastor and served in ministry within that denomination for the first 5 years of my pastoral ministry. Interesting how things come full circle. You are right on, it’s all Grace or it’s not all Gospel. I’ll definitely check out the article you shared. Thanks again, hope we can stay connected.
I like that “connected” hope. Thank you, C.K.
Christ is NOT found in the Bible, nor is he found in the Church, nor is he found in any particular physical place. Christ can ONLY be found within yourself. You can’t find him by searching for him, You find him by LOVING others. Loving them as though you are taking care of yourself and your loved ones. Christ didn’t give us a laundry list of rules to follow, a thick tome of rituals and ceremonies. He only gave us ONE law, LOVE. LOVE God and LOVE everything else, as you would yourself. Do that and you CAN’T go wrong. All the rest is mere commentary, a pile of meaningless drivel, spouted by folks who actually have THEIR personal interpretation as their primary agenda. Ignore those fools, they are following their OWN paths and to them, the destination is what it is all about. Follow your OWN path, and make sure it is twisted, curvy and with tons of side-paths to get lost upon. Follow them ALL! For it is NOT the destination that counts, it is the journey itself that is the thing to exist for.
I cannot agree with you Raji, though I respect your thoughts. The Bible IS God’s word to us, and the only basis for one’s belief in Jesus. Without the Bible, you would know nothing of Who Jesus is, and Who He is, is the living, breathing, Word of God. God is the very substance/root of true love, and without Him, true love does not exist. Jesus Himself says “seek, and you will find me”, and serious seekers He wants…this means He actually wants us to search Him out…and search Him out in the very Scriptures that teach us of Him. He says this: Love God first, then love one another….for if we don’t learn to love God first and foremost above all people and things, then we cannot and will not truly love another the way God loves us. I can agree that it is a journey indeed, and we should all make the most of it. God lays out the direction for us, though in our own humanity, we ALL get lost at times along the way. The good news is, He will find us every time, and once we acknowledge He’s there and ask him to redirect us again? He will. God is amazing. He is God. He is the living, breathing Word..just as He told us.
Finally someone thats real thanks so much your refreshing blog, the church in the West ie America is totally different in developing churches, I to am done with christian stuff, but I am not done with Christ and he is not done with me, I was talking today, about how I am tired of the religious kool-aid that everyone is drinking. Keep looking up and stay encouraged your not on your own.
Patricia, thanks so much for your encouragement. Walking out His Grace right along side of you!
People who are really called by God to be ministers ,study the Bible daily, pray a lot, sing His praises, read Christian literature, see God in his creation, believe in Jesus Christ, his only son, our Lord, have Christian friends, enjoy helping others, plan time wisely, do not become burned out as ministers because they depend on God and his Son, Jesus for guidance daily instead of themselves. It is what we all as Christians are to do.
Anna, thanks for your comments. I used to believe as you, so I can only respect and understand where you are coming from. Please don’t take this as condescending, but I truly pray you will experience the heart revelation of His Grace that has filled every cavern in my soul, healed every religious hurt, and completely revolutionized my life. Nothing will ring more true, complete, and finishing than the revelation of His pure Grace through Jesus.
I had to read this a couple of times before I caught on to the sarcasm (Hey, it’s getting late and this woman is tired) but what you wrote is so true for so many.
I am a PK. I was Born on a Saturday (almost 37 years ago) and in the pew with my parents a week later. I have never left the church, my faith in God has never faltered. I love Jesus.
As of late, I have struggled to see the point in going all the time. What is it all for? People don’t want to go outside the four walls. They are fine and dandy in “their” row on “their”side of the church and don’t you dare mess things up. I love my pastor, he’s like another father to me, but I am fed up with the routine. If it wasn’t for having a 14, 13, and 10 year old that needed to hear about God from someone besides me, the woman who teaches them at home, I would skip more Sundays than not.
I know what you mean about not being able to keep up with it all. I am one woman who is a part-time single parent (my husband works nights and weekends), homeschool basketball dance mom, published author (I’ll ignore the “Christian Books” comment 😉 ) and I have this constant cloud over me telling me I must be there forever bible study, service and event the church holds. I’d be a bad Christian if I listen to a little nonChristian music and less holy if I have a glass of wine with my husband after the kids are in bed. I know much of it is self-condemnation, but it comes from years of being in a church that crammed doctrine down my throat instead of the Word.
In the years I have been at the church I am now, I have learned so much about God and how He really sees His children, how He loves us. It is so freeing to know that there is no condemnation coming from the throne. Sadly, I think I have hit a level of maturity that even the basic meat and potatoes of a strong service doesn’t even cut it and I am forced to seek Him more on my own. I am beginning to believe that we are only meant for the four walls for a time. A time to grow in Him, when we hit this point where it isn’t enough I think is when it is time to use what we have learned to minister to others – the biker, the drug addict, the homeless, the orphan – but we’re not.
Thank you, Chris, for thunking some heads and stepping on some toes.
Melissa, every word you shared in your comment has my heart leaping in affirmation, only wishing I could reach through my laptop screen and hug you in mutual respect, understanding and appreciation. If we aren’t connected on fb, please lets do so soon. https://www.facebook.com/chris.kratzer
You echo what this past five years has been like for me. I entered a progressive seminary (dictated by my then-denomination) although I considered myself quite the evangelical. During the two years I was there before life forced me to drop out, I seemed to encounter an equal “progressive fundamentalism” in that I was expected to fight every oppression known to man and if I wasn’t a whole-hog Social Justice Warrior, I was equally a disappointment to God. I tried to overcompensate by really going full-on evangelical.
I discovered, though, that some of the thinking I had encountered in seminary had irrevocably changed me. I was forced out of a ministry position, for instance, because I couldn’t categorically condemn LGBT people as “sssssssssinners”. Even my hardcore evangelical friends advised me “quit fighting it, you’re really more liberal than you think you are.”
So I joined a mainline church that I had served as an intern while at seminary, mainly because of the liturgy. The pastor begins every sermon with the blessing “Grace, mercy, and peace belong to you; they are free gifts from the One that was, is, and is to come.” Upon reflection, I discovered, “YES! This actually reflects what I’ve experienced of God!” With that in mind, I will be pursuing licensing studies within this denomination, since returning to seminary financially is not an option. But I feel I’m where God wants me.
So beautiful, Melissa! I understand completely!…and so true. Funny, I was watching a Joyce Meyers Bible study today, where she said something very similar….to the effect that “if you’re sitting in church and no longer getting anything from it…..it’s because you aren’t “giving out”. We are meant to learn and grow at church…but there comes a time when we need to take what we have and start giving to others. Over the past several years, the Lord has been “unchurching” me so to speak…and it’s been very hard at times, because like yourself, I was raised similarly, and ended up in a similar position as you are now. I no longer feel guilty about not getting to church every week…in fact, I’ve been just as blessed doing studies online or watching a message online in lieu of. I also am recognizing the importance of community in growing into a more mature believer, so I am looking for creative ways to do just that without putting myself in the same position I was in before. At this point, I won’t “join” a church as in apply for membership. I won’t feel guilty about finding a church I like and missing a service that I can always watch online anyhow. I will however find ways to remain in community with other believers, such as through small groups and or the women’s studies my current church offers, which have been fabulous! And guess what? I don’t feel guilty about having a glass of wine with my husband..or even two! lol. I like “Christian” music and secular music, and my musical tastes are sooo variable it’s kind of funny….and o.m.g….I’ve actually gone to a tavern to watch my beautiful daughter sing! and thanked the Lord for the chance to do so, while I was in town visiting (I don’t get to see my kids much, I live a distance away)….and I got a chance to meet the very people we are called to love…..the gay bartender, the gay band member, the former drug-addict turned musician, and many others. Was it out of my “comfort zone” to be there? Of course it was…which means I was in exactly the right place at the right time, lol. And I’m thankful for the pleasant conversation, the sharing of stories and lives, and for much, much more. Sometimes we tend to shut out of our lives some beautiful people because we have been so “churched”. May the example of Jesus Himself be our own. I don’t want to hate church, or discourage anyone from it. It does have a purpose, and if you find one that lives up to that purpose, then that’s even better. Sometimes though, we need to take a break and focus ourselves more on Who Jesus is, than who the church is, especially if they are so very different. 🙂
I read a book recently that helped me find freedom and grace. It’s called “Tired of trying to Measure up” by Jeff VanVonderen. I’ve struggled with this for years. I stepped away from ministry for a few years because like you, I felt like my efforts in ministry were never up to snuff. When that happens, it’s a form of shaming, not grace.
Desiree, thanks for your comment. So many of us as Christians are “tired,” because we have not or have been kept from hearing and resting in the truth, “Grace is the power of God that enables us to live rightly.” To believe is to rest, period.
Welcome to the real world, Chris. You’ve finally woke up that being a Christian isn’t really about being in church. Oh the Church has its purpose but when you make your life the church, you sink. How do I know? I did it. I relied on me to do the work, have the faith, walk the walk, talk the talk, be the perfect Christian so I’d please not only God but all those fellow do-gooders walking along side me. And when I stumbled, whoa, it was evident to all, especially me.
But then I realized that I was still doing it all for me. To look good. To be good. To cover the bad inside. And God reminded me that the labor was in vain. He’d already died for that. The burden I was carrying was a load already paid for. I just needed to give it to Him…again.(I have a tendency to take back things I’ve given to God to handle.)
I also learned this lesson. (I’m a slow learner too.) God is a lot stronger than I am. He carries my worries, my fears, my burdens, and my desires so that when I embark on any expedition in His name, He is in control, not I.
Am I the perfect Christian? NO! Do I sin? YES! Do you want to see me angry? No. Do I praise the Lord in church? Yes. Do I help others. Yes. Do I pray? Yes.
I am a Christian. I don’t know you but I know that God loves you and so do I. Why? Because He told me so. (I hear you laughing. People think we don’t, but we do have ears.)
I only have one question for you…all of you…before I go.
If the Church were a place for “perfect” people, would you go?
That’s what I thought.
So thankful Renee to have you read my article and share these thoughtful comments!
I’ve seen this post for a few days now and today committed to reading it. My hesitation stems from my uncertain relationship with established church bodies. Your candor and sometimes amusing choice of words made my day and helped me solidify my decision to seek a new type and place of worship. As a openly gay man, with no strong ties to the gay community, I feel accepted at my church. I’m not looking for acceptance though, I feel tolerated and almost like a token for people to feel like they support all rights. At any rate thank you for sharing this and you have a part in my journey as a follower of Jesus Christ.
Tim, so honored to be on this journey with you. I hope in some way we can stay connected! https://www.facebook.com/chris.kratzer
Welcome Chris… you have come to realize what allot of us have realized. Just because it’s labeled Christian doesn’t make it so. Allot of us have bugged out because we don’t measure up either. Really that’s a good thing because we were never qualified anyway. Paul said he was the least of all Saints. So I believe we are in good company now. Take heart sir we are all nothing anyway and on our best day our righteousness as filthy rags. It’s when you realize this that Christ begins to consume you and you really become His hands and His feet. I know it’s hard right now but it’s the best decision you will ever make. There is an old song that says “I have decided to follow Jesus, though none go with me I still will follow, no turning back, no turning back” The way of Jesus is narrow and hard and requires us to surrender everything we think we are or not. It’s only then that Christ can begin to mold us into His image. It’s His righteousness alone that we carry and not our own. Be thankful you don’t measure up you are in a really, really good place. Jesus can work in you a great work because it’s He who will be glorified and not yourself. I pray your journey will be full of peace even when peace seems unlikely, rest even when you can’t find anywhere to lay your head and joy when the winds of persecution and trials blow your way. I will leave you with my favorite verse in the bible.
Colossians 3:3 for ye are dead and your life now hidden with Christ in God.
Your life sir is dead and hid in Christ this is the truth of Christianity. It has never nor will it ever be about any single individual or their accomplishments. It’s always about Christ in us the hope of Glory.
God bless you fervently always abounding in faith and love. Endure hardness as a good soldier. Fight the good fight of faith and run your race well…
I’m hid with Christ,
Thank you so much for this wonderful comment and for your encouragement!
Thank you! My heart and life your have captured completely and truely.
I can’t tell you how much it means to me to find someone who is “real” in the world of Christians. I’ve been there, done that, and have found peace in my life with my relationship with the Lord through His grace. I have had enough of the “oh, we missed you in church the last 17 Sundays!” Just one of many, many hits that I’ve had to tolerate in my life. Thank you for sharing your story. It’s important to put it out there!
Thanks so much Nancee for sharing a bit of your story. I sure hope we can stay connected somehow. facebook.com/chris.kratzer
Feeling it and over be disillusioned. Being a follower of Jesus is simple but not if we are made to feel like we must live and believe like “them”. I’m counting on grace and not mans opinion. I believe there are many more who are experiencing this realization. I am trying to find peace in “being me” and not who I have been made to believe I should be. True freedom is available but it’s not found in the chains of dogma or church programs. It’s found in relationship with Jesus and once realized is extended through relationship with others. I truly believe God is saying “it’s about time someone gets it because I’m done “.
Prayers as we walk this road together.
Great thoughts Mark!
Chris, I so picture you and Jesus having lunch. This canned Christianity that is such a part of the American fabric makes me feel the same way that I as a teacher feel when administrators preach at me with a word I loathe: “Data.” Eeeewww. For so many years, I was Catholic to the core….but probably not really. Truth be told, it’s that my soul is enthralled with ancient ritual….uh oh…. But I could not stomach my church’s insane rules and marginalization of so many people. So last year, I joined a progressive church. But then I moved a good deal farther away, and had some health issues, so haven’t been able to go to church. But as I have been experiencing this rather imposed spiritual isolation, I have been reflecting. A lot. A la Jesus in the desert. And I realize that even the progressive church is a little too “churchy” for me. All that Christian earnestness, and I feel so socially not marginalized, but I am missing a connection with God somehow. Anyhoo, just wanted to tell you how beautiful I think your writing is, your soul is, and really how your reaching out to all of us with what you have to say imbues us, indeed, with grace.
Gosh, Evangeline, you are always such an encouraging light in my life. So appreciate you and your thoughts.
And hope you know, Chris, that you are a light in the darkness, for many of us out here. Thank you for that light!
Evangeline, you are the same for me!
I am reminded of the scene in the movie The Matrix where Morpheus is showing Neo the real world and says “Welcome to the desert of the real.” That is what it was like when I walked away from churchianity over 10 years ago. During this time almost everything has been stripped away that isn’t viewed though the lens of Jesus. Now I’ve settled into a place where I’m comfortable with being an agnostic Theist. That I don’t need all the answers or even any. Just let God reveal Jesus through me. This I’ve only found now in groups of friends not in the institutional church. Although Eastern Orthodoxy holds appeal.
Ron, thanks so much for your comment and sharing your experience! So grateful you took the time to read and comment on this article.
Wow, someone has said soemthing that I didn’t know how to say! I have felt this way when I was young! I still do. These words you wrote are so real to me.
Wow, you said what I couldn’t. Didn’t understand how to say it with out making ppl mad or angry at me!
Stay strong, brother! 🙂
Just want to echo the throng of supporters here. You have perfectly captured my thoughts. Evangelical Christian ministry slowly crushed and deadened my soul to the point where I could only cope by embracing a secret and shameful private drinking problem. Eventually, it had to be addressed and when I “confessed” this deep dark sin to my boss I was met with a pink slip and a “no contact” agreement with the church that hired me to move 1000 miles away 4 years earlier. I’m confident that my single male status had to have been my greatest sin and the shame of the church who “took a chance” hiring a young single male first time youth pastor.
Thankfully, that painful process was by far the best thing that has ever happened to me. I truly believe that an unconditionally loving, grace soaked God came to me in my pain and released the shackles of my shackles of servitude to American Christianity. It was totally a Dorothy-like step from black and white Kansas (almost literally), to the color-soaked beautiful world of Oz. Thanks again for sharing your heart and, I empathetically assume, your prior pain. God is good.
Jeremy, so beautifully said! Your story is my story and countless others awakening to Grace. So thankful to read your comments and honored to have you read this article!
Well that’s the game, isn’t it? To hold you to an impossible standard so you’ll always feel guilty for not doing or being good enough. Only then can you be sold a cure for just being simply human.
The solution is to realize that you are just simply human, and to walk away from the game. There is nothing wrong with you. You’ve been sold a cure for an illness you did not have.
True story, Ben. Well said! Thanks for reading and taking time to comment!
It does feel like you are giving up on a certain *kind* of church, for sure. And one that sounds deeply unpleasant, to put it mildly 🙂
As you likely know, there are multitudes of churches comprised of people with very similar theology and commitments to the ones you write about.
If you are still looking for support of a community on some level, and perhaps you are not (looks like you are working through just a little anger and frustration ;), I hope you find your way to a community that feels more supportive.
Thanks Monica, for sure I haven’t given up on Jesus nor people in community around Jesus. Additionally, I write not only to communicate aspects of my feelings/perspectives, but to be a voice of those bullied and abused at the hands of conservative Christianity. There is also a good bit of sarcasm sprinkled in this article to be had by those readers who will pick up on it. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment!
Tough times, tough struggle, but the most challenging thing… at times, a tough community. I’ve gotten to know you a bit through your writing over the last couple of years. It would be great to get together and share some (insert beverage of choice) with you to hear rather than just read what’s in your heart.
I’ve been there and maybe, I still am. God calls us into community, but that community can at times, be pretty bewildering. I think I’ve been lucky in that I’m part of a what for the most part is a “come as you are” Church. Not perfect, but pretty steady if that makes sense. I don’t know that I could find myself anywhere else, but even in the midst of this community, I still struggle. Who I am must first be rooted in my relationship with God. I lived that way for nearly 20 years before finally joining my Church. For the past 12 years (1.5 in my new city), I’ve lived as a part of a community of friends. The tricky part is, there’s always a divide or so it would seem. There’s my “Church” community, and the rest of the world. The rest of the world, for the most part, wants nothing to do with the Church, and vice versa. I remain single, not because I want to (in part I do, but that’s about finding someone who shares my values, goals and isn’t batshit crazy), but because I want to find someone who can walk with me in a life where we both want God… more.
The part that has me perplexed is at the heart of what I’m writing about (you too)… community. Why do I have “Christian” friends and “friends”? Why is it that when I talk with my friends in Church, “Christian” is how we identify people? “They’re Christian” is often the phrase I hear. These are wonderful people I’m talking about. I don’t think they even notice to be honest.
A really good friend of mine recently told me “Timmy… you know you’re following the boogie man right”. I felt pretty dismissed that he would esteem my ability to discern for myself the difference between a real relationship with God and that of a stuffed animal. I have complete faith in my relationship with God… He’s as real (and has revealed himself in very tangible ways) as my friend was as we sat opposite each other. I said nothing because of the previous statement he’d made.
“My neighbours lived up from me for 8 years. Early on, during a street conversation, I was asked “Where do you go to Church?” When the reply was “we don’t”, that was it. No further engagement, no waves… nada. We were second class citizens that didn’t belong in their life”.
To be honest, I felt as invalidated by the statement my friend made about my faith as he did by the snubbing of his neighbours.
I too have been at a crossroads for some time. How do we balance a life with Jesus and the world? We’re called into community, but when that community is exclusionary, what then? I feel that my relationship with Christ is just as real and meaningful to me as my earthly relationships… it’s the relationships with some of the community to which I choose to belong to that can has me puzzled. I sometimes wonder if I should just go back to the way I was 12 years ago… walking my own path with God and having no relationship with the Church. I don’t know, but I do appreciate your situation.
I wish I could offer some solace, guidance, answer, but man… I’m right there with ya. Jesus was/is very awesome. His identity was rooted in God exclusively. He didn’t bother with seeking the approval of man or earthly ministry. He was true to God. Maybe that should be the lesson we strive to learn or life we seek to live. If you get past this, please do reach out to me, because I’d also like to know. If I get some clarity, I’ll likewise write you.
Hang in there man! You’re not alone feeling alone.
Tim, I just read your comment–found it insightful. I feel like you’ve shared your soul. I have struggled with the same thing much/most/all of my life.
I would like to make an observation relative to your struggle, but I’m fear that you might think I’m trying to be mean or truculent–and I’m really not. So, I ask you give me some grace and I’ll make an opening observation to which you may choose to respond–or not.
The crux of the problem, the us-them dichotomy which plagues your experience with both “friends” and “Christian friends” is found in your last paragraph.
Tom 🙂 Grace both given, requested and graciously accepted… I hate to write rhetorically, but yep… agreed and amen!
Thanks Tim for this thoughtful response! Privileged to share in this journey with you.
Tim, thank you to your comment, that’s my heart as well.
You underscored “The TRUTH”; that Christianity embedded in “the Chase” of outward signs and “social broadcasting” of “being Christian” is not how we are called. My personal thoughts are that being “true to Christ”, is more about demonstrating humility, loving one another, endeavoring to follow his commandments, … and to understanding that “standing for Christ” does not mean showboating for Christ. After all, it (Christianity) is not social, it’s personal.
Jim, thanks for taking the time to read my article and share your thoughts!
I didn’t think that anyone felt like me until today, until I read this post. The line, “How you keep up in the whirlwind of competitive Christianity is beyond me,” is great. I have also worked in ministry and am struggling with a lot of Christianity’s teachings. It’s like my eyes opened and I saw how wrong I was for so long. I don’t even know if I can call myself a “Christian” anymore. I believe in God. I believe that God could have come to Earth as Jesus. But, I also believe, that God loves those who practice different faiths.
I feel like a hypocrite for celebrating Christmas this year because if God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, I am not 100% sure about the necessity of Jesus being on Earth and dying on the cross for humanity’s salvation. I think that he was maybe a vehicle to help people grow closer God. Considering science, however, if Mary was pregnant as a result of human parthenogenesis because she was a virgin, Jesus should have been a woman. (But, God is full of miracles, right? )
Today’s church is a business. While it serves many of the needs of others (like those who need Christian yoga pants), it doesn’t seem to fill the void that I have felt. When I try to talk to others about it, they say the devil is putting ideas in my head. People give the devil too much credit because I can think for myself. It’s simpler to shun than question the norm. I tried different churches, but encounter more of the same.
After reading your post and the comments, I don’t feel as alone.
I guess I had a lot to say. This seemed like a good place to say it. Thanks for your post.
Fergie, thanks so much for reading and sharing a bit of your story! You are not alone! Let’s stay connected and be brave together!
I’m so sorry for the pain that so called Christians have done to you. My heart breaks for the beloved of Jesus, when I hear testimony from people like you. I too was unwanted because I cried in church during a crisis that changed my life for the negative, and none of it was my fault. But, because Iwas this i was unwanted. To many churches it’s how much you have. I tried many churches, some left in in snowy, cold parking lots in the boonies because I had no husband to take care of me. They just left me in a field parking 3 miles from the nearest building alone, with a almost dead cell. Finally I was able to flag a couple of high school kid too help me. Since that time I found churches that loved me and cared about me in ways that I needed so bad. I was raised in a loving main line church so I knew that loving churches were out there. Finally I found several churches who love the stranger, so I was able to pick the best fit. My life finally came together in ways that I could never imagined. It’s the people who are loving, kind and want to follow Jesus and truly cared about loving the outcasts. I can’t even start to tell of all the kindness that I was shown Christ’s love and if a church didn’t have it it was time to go. All I can say is churches that treat you like God’s beloved are out there. May your journey be blessed. I pray for all that are in need of a church based on the teachings of Jesus and wish you Godspeed.
Thank you Susan!
I’m done too, the man made regime and institution of church is not the church without walls Jesus showed, he didn’t have a building and he met people were they were, grace is more freeing, too many vicars obsessed with money and the church building that they lack the bigger picture. I am praying for the end of demnomination too, it is just a stupuid barrier that makes Christians compete against others instead of working together and sharing resources. I got treated so badly by leadership when I broke away from rotas and a housegroup that met weekly just used to moan about all their problems. I find people at the gym more friendly, real and inspiring than the cake eating, pretense of ‘do-gooding’ fakeness! Christians are human but act superior on a Sunday, it’s nonsence, being real is more refreshing. Anyway I love God &Jesus and will never stop my faith for anyone but why is ‘the church’ so frustrating. Great article by thevway I admire your honesty and keep the faith my friend there are a lot of us that feel your pain too.
Thank you Emma, appreciate your thoughtful comments
I’m not American, don’t live in the US so am looking in from the outside. From what I see I don’t think “American Christianity” is really Christianity. It has drifted so far beyond what’s in my Bible that it is nearly unrecognizable. Somehow it got tangled up in politics and had decided to abandon its beliefs in favour of power, and many of its top speakers are espousing views of intolerance, hatred, bigotry, xenophobia, and victim-blaming, not to mention rampant misogyny and a hypocrisy that is stunning to behold in its depth and breadth.
If I was a Christian in the states not only would I walk away from it I would want to (figuratively) nuke the whole religion from orbit and start over. Incidentally, I did walk away a while back because of the lies and deceptions and misinformation they promoted when it came to science that contradicted their beliefs.
You simply need the spirituality of being, without which the spirituality of doing rings empty. Feed your mystic roots. Read Thomas Merton. Read St. Augustine, read John of the Cross. Read Mother Theresa. Be still to know I AM…Ps. 46:10. The indwelt Spirit is waiting for you…. the God of Mystery is calling your name, and Christ is accompanying you… abundant blessings on your journey through desert spirituality.
I did 23 years. It’s hard to explain to people who have not experienced full-time religiosity. I feel you.
Time to leave the conservative evangelical world and give mainline churches a try – ELCA, Episcopal, etc. I’ve never experienced the things you have described in over 50 years as a Lutheran. Don’t judge the whole Church by your experience in a conservative faith.
I was an ELCA pastor for 5 years.
I’ve seen good things in my limited exposure to the ELCA. I find a lot depends on the particular pastor and congregation.
The big difference, imo, between the Mainlines and the Evangelical Circus is that the later have no structures for accountability.
I had the article passed along to me, and what struck me in reading it is how much of it rebounded back on yourself. Of course, part of that is the satire upon the American Church, but in a deeper sense, I think that your eyes got drawn into all the wrong places (which of course is endemic in the American Church).
“Come, let us fix our eyes upon Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame.”
Long before Jesus is “example” or “teacher” or anything of that nature, He is Sacrifice and Savior. He is those things because we are such utter, daily ongoing disasters. Cross and empty tomb first, last and always.
Amein to this article and yet breaks my heart because I went through it too and seen much of this “keep up with” fakeness or else? Sad so sad….many left and said screw it all, people, the building, and God That’s what truly breaks my heart… they invested so much of themselves to man made up Institutionalized belief that they snap when truth comes or they awaken to stuff that’s not of God…. I pray people find relationship with their Heavenly Father and secure it within themselves and not a religion that berates or defines themselves as they’re the only ones that know, are right, etc….
God awaken us to the truth of HIS LOVE ❤️
I was puzzled through the hole article. I thought – she thinks it’s a club? like the PTA? No it’s not competition. All through the reading I kept thinking she’s pointing out the flaws of people, not Christ. I kept perceiving that the author has ‘played along’ but truly has not accepted Christ into her heart. Without TRULY accepting God, you will just be playing along. It sounds like… many of your so called Christian “counterparts”? are also playing along? Just people being ‘part of the club’ doesn’t mean they’re real Christians. I don’t feel you’re complaining about Christianity… but rather about people. If you feel unworthy, then you truly do not have faith. It’s not about people, it’s about your relationship with God. It sounds to me as if you need to leave your current ‘club’ and seek a real family of Christians. They are out there. I would have never believed it until I found one. – blessings
We all fall short… You are not alone. Working on just one thing to improve upon can be challenging. However, over time can be mastered.
A life with Christ is far better than one without. Keep the faith.
I left too. I left because the love in my heart was greater than what I was surrounded by.
I could write volumes of books about what I have been through.
What I do know for sure is that I am happier than I have ever been in my life without church. I am a better person for leaving, but I wish the hell that I went through with christians on no one.
Thank you for your post
Lisa, thanks for reading the article, and thanks for taking the time to comment. Amen to everything you said, you are not alone!
Thanks for the amazing blog! It’s so refreshing to find someone who is willing to say what needs to be said to people. You’re the first person I found willing to take the risk!
The blogger her has obviously been through a bit of an emotional wringer here. She/he forgets a few things.
1, She/he should not be comparing her spiritual walk with other Christians. We cannot possibly know what other Christians are going through and it is emphasized through the words, “I’ve tried”. It is not your efforts that are important here. This points to the “works” we have done which God looks on as filthy stinking rags. We do all things through Christ who strengthens us. “I don’t have what it takes.” NO you don’t, none of us do and it is again Christ who works through us. It is not our efforts, we leave the result to our Gracious Lord and Saviour. This person should be concentrating on God’s Grace and mercy who has set them free to be what God wants them to be, NOT what they can do for Christ. If she looks at others, she/he will fail and disappoint, but if she looks at Christ, she will not compare herself to others. Get off the judging pulpit, no one set them up as Divine Judge here, That is God’s job. As one other responder said, they should be loving other people.
Wonderful post. Indeed, there is a difference between God and religion and religious people. No wonder you got burned out, religious people’s sole mission is to snuff the life out of anyone who genuinely loves God. I pray that you never turn from God though because He is nothing like Christians.
I walked away from Christianity too. When love, kindness and compassion were needed the most, it was NEVER given. I had to seek love and affection at every turn only to be stomped on. Also, not one female wanted a thing to do with me because I vowed my virginity to God. So I get punished for doing good? Hmmmm. Yeah for that I don’t forgive. I don’t need this garbage anymore. Oh and thirdly. Zero self esteem. How bad of a person I am, how terrible I am! A constant guilt trip! The Bible is one long extended death threat. The Bible can be summed up in 4 words. OBEY GOD OR DIE. I don’t need this anymore. I’m finished.
Aside from the chip on the shoulder I sense in this post, I can pretty much relate to everything in this article.
Even then I do feel a bit of animosity towards those that I suspect might not love Jesus as much as they claim to. I feel a bit of anger towards people who I think give everyone else the wrong impression of themselves. Those that never can quite be fully honest about how much they struggle.
But part of the problem is that I don’t believe in freewill anymore. Those people are who they are and will only change if and when they learn to. Or I’m the one who’s wrong. Maybe there is freewill and I’m damned to eternal torture and those that appear to be perfect Christians really are mostly perfect. I guess one day I’ll find out.
Anyway, mainly what i wanted to say is this article mostly took the words right out of my mouth. I’m done with church for now, unless something changes.