No, it’s not the music style, the lighting, or the programs.
No, it’s not that I’m lazy, disinterested, or bent towards worldliness.
In fact, I care deeply about spiritual things, long for community, and have a generous heart for serving people.
With your professional branding, elaborate worship staging, cultural savviness, and groups for nearly every interest known to humanity, I can tell you are feverishly trying to crack the code and leverage me into your church gatherings. Even your ministry conferences, flowcharts, and mission statements are centered around somehow influencing me into your kingdom. Like Captain Ahab tempestuously traversing the oceans for the prized moment his harpoon punctures the elusive whale, it’s obvious you long for your efforts to be those that heroically pierce my heart with salvation, lure me into your faith community, and set me on a course to belief and act as you do, all to the praise and admiration of those that align with you spiritually. I see your noble intentions, I really do—all are efforts I truly appreciate.
Yet sadly, the real reason I don’t go to your church still eludes you—perhaps because the answer can’t be bought, programed, built, diagramed, staged, earned, envisioned, emotionalized, focus-grouped, or even prayed into existence. For all the chumming of my life with every strategy, program, and event that could possibly ever be imagined, you’re still yet drastically missing the one ingredient for which my heart and soul hungers the deepest, and could even render it captured. In fact, the one and only thing that truly matters is the very thing rarely ever heard amidst all your ministry chatter—love.
See, the real reason I don’t go to your church, subscribe to your faith understanding, or connect with your spiritual community is actually because of you—you don’t truly love me.
The one thing you so desperately want me to see and believe about your god and your faith establishment is the very thing I don’t see established in you—it’s love—and it’s oh so very clear, you don’t truly love me. With all that your faith, church, and Christian life has become to you, the one thing that hasn’t become of you is the one thing that is so glaringly missing—a simple, true, and genuine love of me.
The real reason—no matter what you might be tempted to conclude. It’s not about your god, your buildings, your beliefs, or your community. It’s actually all about you— that you don’t truly love me.
For if you did…
You wouldn’t even think of putting your rights, comforts, and privileges above mine. Rather, you’d be laying them down for me.
You wouldn’t care so much about bathrooms, wedding cakes, and movie scenes. Rather, you’d be pushing aside every obstacle and looking for every opportunity to simply serve me.
You wouldn’t shame, discard, and condemn the people I love no matter who they be. Rather, you’d love them thoroughly and completely no less, simply because you love me—you know, like Jesus.
You wouldn’t see me as a spiritual project to stuff upon your mantel for all your friends to see, but rather as a wholly divine person already redeemed, simply longing for an awakening—you know, like to the Jesus already in me.
You wouldn’t say selfish things like, “I’m praying for you” as you pretentiously look down your pointed nose and flaring nostrils and determine that if I’m not all that I should be. Rather, you’d vehemently commit your heart to truly understanding, knowing, and loving me—and that, unconditionally.
You wouldn’t want to “reach” me, “win” me, or “grow” me into becoming some robotic, spiritual zombie who believes, looks, and acts mostly like you. Rather, you’d want to love me into the God-adorned person who believes, looks, and acts exactly like the true me, living life as “I” should—in freedom, with only the Spirit guiding me, not you. For don’t you have enough navigating to do in your own life to necessitate in you the trusting of God with mine?
Your theology and Bible understanding wouldn’t be the idolatrous, unmovable, and inerrant foundation upon which you lean, pompously standing as one who holds all the “clear teachings.” Rather, your humility would give way to a love of me that would prevail above all things and become the one and only thing. It would be your vision, denominational mantra, and your ultimate dream—convinced that in all you do for me, you are in fact doing so as your highest and most important way of loving and honoring Thee—you know, Jesus.
You’d be listening, learning, and looking for any reason, excuse, or loophole to affirm me—no, not that there needs to be. That God loves, accepts, and delights in me simply because I breathe, would be more than enough—because that’s the heart of Jesus.
Your default bent, beliefs, and creed would all center on Grace, love, and human equality, not jamming down my throat something you have in your privilege that you believe I need as a remedy to what you see as my depravity. For who do you think you are, anyways? You don’t even know me.
You’d trust the goodness of God so much that potentially erring on the side of unconditionally loving me would not only be deemed as non-threatening, in your heart and mind, it would be concluded to be an impossibility. For with a God of more than enough, who could ever love too much?
Perhaps, most of all, you wouldn’t say ridiculous, stupid things like, “The reason I point out your sin is because I love you” and then expect me to actually believe it—if only I could keep the vomit from dripping out of my mouth. Rather, you’d be begging me to hear one thing, and one thing above all things, “I love you, is the reason I love you.” “Pointing out sin is the job of the Spirit, it’s not for me.” “For who I am, but one who is just like you—no better, only different.”
Yet sadly, you don’t trust Grace to guide, teach, correct, empower, and be all-sufficient, which is perhaps the sole reason why yours is a love that is so alarmingly love-deficient.
You want to change me, I just need you to love me. You want to convert me, I just need you to love me. You want to confront, castigate, correct and conform me, I just need you to love me. There is nothing in all my heart and soul that couldn’t be overcome, if you’d just truly and simply love me. But sadly, you don’t—and even more tragically, because of your faith understanding—you won’t.
Truth is, I don’t need to know anything more about your god or your faith community, because I see everything I need to see—in you, already.
With all due respect and appreciation, you can have all your services, traditions, events, conferences, retreats, revivals, groups, clubs, books, movies, schools, buildings, programs, prayers, and music, because I know true love when I see it—and tragically, I just don’t see it—in you. Don’t ever think you could possibly convince me that the god atop your steeple truly and deeply loves me, when it’s all so crystal clear, from the tippy top to the shallow depths of your own being, a love cannot be found that truly loves me.
Which is all the reason I need to know or ever show as to why I’ll never want to be a part of your church, your faith understanding, or your community.
The real reason?
You don’t truly love me.
“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” -1 John 4:8
“If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.” -1 Corinthians 13
Grace is brave. Be brave.
When you were building up to reveal “what truly matters” in the preaching of the church, I was really hoping you were about to say “sound biblical doctrine” but you didn’t. That’s sad. If a church is following what the Bible teaches then love should come naturally, I agree with you, that doesn’t often happen. But it sounds like you are arguing from a place of complete selfishness. “That you don’t truly love me”. It sounds like you’re saying “YOU don’t love ME as much as Jesus does.” If that’s what you are waiting for, then you will never find community. The Body is a place where we go to serve, not be loved. In fact, YOU are called to love these people that don’t love you. So, how have you been serving them? Are you willing to love and serve people that disagree with you? Do you realize that you and I are just as sinful and unloving as everybody else? I hope that you thirst for a Body that you can serve, instead of looking for one that serves you. God bless.
Jordan, thanks for your comment. I would encourage you to reread the article and listen, maybe several times. I think that will clear up the statements and questions you raise in your comments and you will be able to hear the truth of the article, instead of deflecting it as it seems you may perhaps be doing. As for sound doctrine… who’s doctrine is sound? Which of the 30,000 different Christian denominations? I am sure you would say yours is, but that’s what everybody says there doctrine is… sound. With all due respect, “doctrine” is an idol I simply refuse to worship.
“who’s doctrine is sound? Which of the 30,000 different Christian denominations?”
The one Jesus Christ himself founded — the only one that is not a denomination — the Catholic Church.
As long as we understand that catholic is an adjective and not a proper noun
The Catholic church? Really? You’re referring to the one that imprisoned Galileo for daring to say that the earth revolves around the sun? Seriously?
Give me a break. Oh–and go read your Bible.
Really Michael, you mean the Bible that was compiled by the Catholic Church and then cut down by Martin Luther because his “Sola Scriptura” didn’t actually have basis in Scripture?
I think he meant catholic as in “universal”, not the Catholic Church.
Jesus did not found the Catholic church. Humans interpreting his ministry did.
I agree with Jordan. The people you say don’t love you are the very ones with whom you may very well be with in eternity, in heaven.
By the way, there are many churches I choose not to attend precisely because of the music. 🙂
Jeanne, what is the connection between what may or may not happen after we die (i.e. being “in heaven”), and the topic of this article (i.e. the lack of love in churches)?
I agree with you, that as Christians, we shouldn’t be judging each other. And that as Christians we are called to love each other and part of loving one another is edifying one another. That means we should be there for one another to keep each other from sin and also be there for one another when we fall.
I agree with Jordan, sound doctrine is important. If we don’t believe that the Bible is the infallible word of God. And that God’s teachings are to lead us to love unselfishly. As we see in the person of our Lord Jesus.
You seemed to have deflected Jordan’s questions as well. How are you showing, as Jesus is already in your heart, love, if you allow people to continue in a life that they desire, but that the Bible clearly says will prohibit them from entering the Kingdom of Heaven? Will you not swat the hand of a person happily putting poison into his mouth? Doctrine should not be an idol, of course, but how will you know what gospel to share, and what repentance is without sound doctrine? Love is not always giving people what they want, as every parent knows, it giving offering them what is best for them. Offering what is best does not mean forcing, but it will also mean not agreeing, and not does not mean not loving. It seems you feel if people disagree with you, that they do not love you.
I think you missed the entire point, Jordan
Well SOMEBODY clearly didn’t get it.
What about Christians who are chronically ill and can’t get to church? I find it’s almost impossible to get any Christians to come visit me and pray for me, but my non-Christian friends are more than happy to visit and help me out.
Churches actual do visit the shutins regularly
That’s the whole point, Mommyunfiltered. Churches have meetings to talk about putting together a team of people who will visit Mr. Shutin “from 4-5 every other Wednesday” or whatever. Then they e-mail each other the schedule and think, “Yeah, Mr. Shutin will never be lonely. Aren’t we great?” That’s not love. That’s obligation – like trying to buy favor with God. When Sam’s friends visit it’s because they love him (her?).
I don’t think this is fair. I am a member of a care and Eucharistic ministry at a church that really does try to love. We get that loving God and being active in loving one another is what we are called to do. Do we schedule visits to our shutins? Sure. We want to make sure that we take the Eucharist from the same altar that serves the regular attendees each Sunday and not make assumptions about who will visit. I don’t do it to tick if a list. I have grown to know and love deeply my assigned shutin couple. Are we perfect? No, and we never will be. But we have Christ’s grace. We host a hot meal for people every week. We carry meal kits and hats and gloves to give people on the street. I have stopped many times to pray for a person right there in the street, LGBT, dirty and smelly, able or disabled, Christian or not, learning about that person’s heart’s desire and asking God to meet that need. We financially support organizations that serve through foreign and domestic aid. We are not perfect, which is why we need Christ. Have we overlooked someone? Certainly. But we try very hard to be active in our love to be Christ for the world. You are absolutely right to not want to go to a church where you don’t see and feel love. But please keep looking…we are out there and we need you to show us how to do it better.
Churches don’t visit anyone – people do. I could be wrong but I believe that is the point of the article…
Ditto. I’m a Christian too. When I do go to church, this article rings true and when I’m too ill to go, I may as well not exist to other Christians. It is my non-Christian friends who text to check on me. It is them that offer to drive me to hospital and it’s even them who offer to pray for me!
I almost believe the writer has taken the perspective of an unbeliever by the continual use of ‘your god’. However, things like giving, correction, direction etc. is exclusive to the person who is already in the household of faith. While a bit confusing, I do believe the approach to each should be motivated by agape (which can be soft or hard as needed). Jesus loved but rebuked what Peter was allowing to motivate him. Before Jesus saw a woman’s faith, He gave her the harsh reality of her status ‘….children’s bread to dogs’. Throwing a child out of the path of an oncoming vehicle is not abuse despite the cut lip and bruises that may result. The church has structure where we are instructed to judge those within, not to determine their destiny, but to assess and begin the process of restoration in the house. Judgment and restoration is for the mature in the body, whose senses have been exercised to discern good from evil…with meekness. Remember, the spiritual man judges all things…not in a Pharasaical manner but as Christ had a fitting answer for every hard question or dilemma presented. Let’s not get carried away with this ‘loving me’ thing because in truth, until the love of God is she’d abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost and matured, our concept of love is grossly skewed.
I think the important fact here is that “Jesus loved but rebuked…” and “Jesus saw a woman’s faith…” – it is not our place to judge our fellow humans. Rather, we should show them love, and try and guide them, but ultimately each individual person needs to determine in their heart what they need help with. If they truly believe and truly desire to change, God will lead them in the right direction. It is not the job of a congregation to point out others’ sins, but to show them love so they can find their own sins, seek forgiveness and heal.
Again, I think you missed the entire point. Read that new testament several times. Read the words of Jesus. His words are all that matter. See what he feels is the most important issues. After you pull his words out and understand them (forget Paul, as he is human and prone to human emotion and mistakes), then read this article again. You will see what he is saying and that you have fallen into the exact problem that he is discussing. Seriously, Jesus and His words are all that matter. He has paid for everything else. He is the reason we have salvation. HE is the truth.
BAA BAA BLACK SHEEP, HAVE YOU ANY WOOL?
Jordan, I think you’ve missed the point. The writer is using himself as an example of “the many” outside the church doors. He is the vast majority of people who don’t come in. These people are not thinking about service or “doing things” for the community so reply makes little sense to them.
Jesus said they will know you are my disciples by your love for one another. Can’t be any clearer
The real reason for worship is to worship God, not to judge who is full of the spirit or who is saved. The brother or sister in Christ is everyone even if they are yet unchurched or a believer, we are all ministers to bring the New Covenant. Jesus said we are to love God with all our heart, mind, body and spirit. And to love each other as ourselves. On this all law and prophecys are based. the tenet of the 10 commandments is LOVE. If you can’t love everyone , then you aren’t able to love yourself, foibles and all. People judge simply to make themselves feel better or superior instead of trusting God’s purest love for all humankind.
Your statement is what this article was pointing out as what is wrong with Church. lol You did get what was said did you?
Jordan I 100% agree with you and I am so glad you said this. The minute we turn going to church as only an opportunity to be catered to and loved, we miss the whole point. Jesus didn’t come to be served, but he came to die for us. He washed His disciple’s feet. People who go to church expecting everyone to fall at their feet and serve them are a product of consumeristic society and completely miss the whole point of the gospel, of being a Christian (Christ-like), and of the church itself. Yes, we as the body of Christ need to love and put each other first. But that street doesn’t just run one way. As the body of Christ, you need to drop the spirit of complaint and stop wondering why no one else is catering to your every need. Follow in Jesus’ footsteps and let serving be your first concern.
Laura, you are doing well at excelling at missing the point. This article is not asking to be catered to nor is it an appeal for perfection. If that’s the spin you want place on it, that’s your choice. Perhaps, that enables you the capacity to deflect the powerful truths of this article.
Sorry, Laura, but you and Jordan both missed the point of this article. In a pretty big way. I’m sorry that no one has been able to articulate it in a way you can understand. Love is supposed to be the main focus of our worship, our ministries, and our daily lives. And that love does not include condemning our fellow human beings because of our own personal prejudices about who they are and how we measure the ranking of their (perceived by us) sinfulness. The author didn’t say he wanted to be “catered to.” He said he wanted the church to show love – love without conditions and condemnations, because if it comes with conditions and condemnations it isn’t love. I hope one day that will make sense to you.
No, Jordan, just stop
This is exactly the problem
My daughter is an atheist, but she volunteers at a local church that houses homeless families. She is more charitable than most of the church members there….
Love one another . . . it’s a central tenant of so many religious faiths. It’s sad that this has been forgotten by too many in today’s world. You provide a great reminder.
Thank you MBS, appreciate you reading and taking the time to comment.
Absolutely nailed it!
Thank you Living Liminal!
Such a judgmental article! Sad.
Wow I didn’t get that out of it at all. I heard the heart of a person.
I am a pastor and thought this article was truthful.
modeling trump i see….
the sword of conviction wounds but clean…go salve yourself with the balm of Gilead…and let it hurt good and holy.
The cleansing of a haughty spirit ALWAYS hurts so good
It’s observational and reflective. The writer is reflecting back ONLY what the church / Christians say they believe. If you like, he is holding up THEIR measuring stick against themselves and saying”nope, you are not there yet”. This is not being judgemental. Imagine going to a personal trainer and telling him you have worked hard and gone on an ace diet but the trainer says “but you put on 20 kilo”. Would you reply “oh that’s judgemental”?
To say this is a judge mental article….have you ever been treated like trash by a church? Have you ever been wrongly judged? The theory is people who claim to be Christians should love each, because god loves us. To be treated like crap just because you don’t fit into the bubble of comfort of some people you can be treated like your not good enough to walk into a church. I am a single mom with a few (non offensive) tattoos, and I know god loves me,yet the members of the church lack grace, which everyone deserves. It happens and it’s the reason I will probably never return to another church.
You say “the members of the church grace, which everyone deserves” – yet biblical grace is undeserved – it’s unmerited favour. The truth is that none of us deserve grace – we’re all imperfect sinners, loved by a perfect God. Perhaps if you applied the same standards to yourself as you expect from members of the church, you would realise that love is a two-way street, and that you are called to love imperfect graceless believers, just as they are called to love you.
“Sad”?? Is that you Donnie? I knew you gathered your information from “many people” on the Internet, but I never thought I’d see you doing it. Pathetic!
God’s love is perfect love, without yardsticks, conditions, or reasons. He loves all of his creation especially the hurting and the vulnerable. He seeks a place in his kingdom for all of us. Oh what a blessing it is to be a vessel of God’s love even in all my brokenness. The love of God which flows through his children is no longer perfect but the seeker will perceive it as God’s love because it is from God.
The spirit of God is a wondrous mystery. He perfects our brokenness in serving Him. Only thing, the spirit of God lives only in people that live in Him and for Him…in other words, when we allow God to live in us. So many atheists were once Christians but couldn’t find the acceptance and the love that they read about in the Bible. Oh God, forgive our self worship! We are at fault here. We are not living in the spirit when people can’t see God’s love in us.
Bingo bango! Nancy P. hits one out of the park!
I used to hate going to church. It’s still not my favorite thing to do by a long shot. But, here’s the thing. I changed my mindset. Instead of going to church looking for love, acceptance, truth, or whatever else I can get out of it, I go to merely love others. It doesn’t matter if people love me or not. I’m already accepted into the beloved. God loves me all the time. I don’t need anyone to love me.
Jesus reconciled the very ones who nailed Him to that tree. He said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” He knew if they understood who they were created to be, they wouldn’t have acted in that manner.
I sincerely believe there are people in church who truly love God. They are doing the best they can with what truth they have learned. If we have a problem with people, it’s not them. It’s us. Our war isn’t against people.
God bless you.
Chris, I think it’s great that you go to a particular place each Sunday morning with the intent to love others 🙂 But we don’t have to attend an institution to express love. Personally, I find I have plenty of opportunity to love and serve those around me every single day. I believe that’s part of *being* the church (which is completely different from “going to church”).
I was merely commenting in direct reply to Chris’s post.
We should live Jesus six days a week then meet up together on Sundays to stir one another up in love and good works. Distancing ourselves from people because they “don’t love us” is not living Jesus at all.
I strongly disagree Chris, sometimes distancing ourselves from people who do not love us is critical and faithful to the stewardship of our spiritual, emotional, and even physical lives. Let’s stop deflecting the truth of this article and simply listen to the voices of the people you say you want to reach, it’s amazing what you might learn. If you noticed, the picture attached with this article is a person gesturing to be quiet. That was intentional, in order to hear the true message of this article, one will have to silence your spiritual bias, pride, religiosity, and personal offense.
Since I don’t know you and you don’t know me, let’s just choose to love each other and not assume anything.
Have an amazing day!
As a former Jehovah’s Witness, whose mother still is, this comment REALLY resonates with me.
Chris, I appreciate the theory you put forward, but there’s a whole lot of nasty stuff happening in churches today that many christians won’t even acknowledge, let alone address. When you are being brutalised by people calling themselves christians, the only safe and wise thing to do *is* to distance yourself from them.
Don’t forget that Jesus denounced the religious leaders of his day for their lack of love, and their willingness to judge and shame and condemn the outsiders and misfits. And the irony was that those who the leaders were trying to exclude from the Kingdom were the very ones Jesus said were entering it – ahead of the self-righteous leaders.
Thank you for this comment.
You are assuming the article is written by a struggling believer. But what if you read it again from the perspective of the lost. The totally uncaring indifferent lost. Why do they come to love or serve? You (the church) are required to search for the lost, to go out into the hedges and tracks to invite them home with you. It’s not for them to knock on the door and hope you will love them.
Well said, Chris.
I THINK YOU ARE RIGHT, THERE ARE PEOPLE INCHURCH THAT TRULY LOVE GOD…..AND NO ONE ELSE ON EARTH. SAD
I read your piece several times, and I’m absolutely certain you’re writing from your heart. I would, however, throw out a bit of a challenge. Long ago, I was having a conversation with a senior pastor about how I didn’t feel the church was meeting my spiritual needs. He listened thoughtfully and asked me some questions that helped reveal specific things I felt I was missing. Toward the end of the conversation, he asked me what I was doing to help meet the spiritual needs of others in my church. He truly got me thinking about my own motivations for attending church and how much of my “spiritual needs” were in fact expressions of my own ego. He challenged me to look for ways to help/grow others. In other words, he pushed me to take more responsibility for our church. That led me to a growing level of accountability for my own growth. Over time, my whole approach to church has changed. I don’t attend for what I get out of it (OK, not totally, but moreso than in the past). Instead, I try to focus on what I’m putting into the experience. I’ve found ways to get involved (singing in the choir, teaching classes, serving on committees, etc.), but more significantly, I’ve started taking responsibility for my own worship experience rather than occupying a pew waiting to be spiritually fed. Hope this helps, and I also hope you’ll continue to focus on this topic and your own journey.
I totally agree with you, Mark Noblitt. I’ve been a Unitarian Universalist since 1978. Although I can’t serve the church as I used to for many years due to current caregiving responsibilities, my UU church has helped me feed and grow my spiritual life and helped me better serve others. Now my faith helps me stay strong while caregiving.
It just keeps you busy though amongst believers. When I was always at church I felt like I was running out of time. Its like forest gumps mission when he was saving his friends in war the others were safe where he left them, but he still had to find bubba. Did jesus save you to just volunteer in church? There’s a world out there. We get so busy with church we forget. Jesus lived on the fringes. He rebuked the pharisees who were devoted to “sound doctrine.” Even said you search the scripture thinking that in them you jave eternal life, but these testify of me and you refuse to come toe so that youa have life.
From the perspective of someone without a faith community, how do you go about this? Just pick a random church and go to work? The article discusses those that want to convert others to their flavor of faith but who fail to show simple Christ-like love. Should I just become a member of every church I’m invited to? What if the particular church teaches of Christ, but also teaches hate towards those of other faiths, races, sexual orientations, etc…? Do I join anyways and try to improve that church from within? What’s the point if I can love and serve others and improve my community and the world without any church?
“Sound biblical doctrine” is such a catch all phrase that had little real meaning. I could ask, “Whose sound biblical doctrine?”, but I doubt it would make things any clearer. I will point out that Saul had “sound biblical doctrine” when he applauded the stoning of Stephen and set out on a vicious persecution of the Church. He also had a strong zeal for righteousness. But he didn’t have Grace or Love.
No. Grace and Love will lead to to holiness and strong biblical doctrine, not the other way around. This is the “Great Commandment”. Love expresses who God is. When we love we look like our Abba. And that draws others to Him. Jesus said, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” People should see us and say, “I have seen them, and I have seen the God they preach.”
“I will point out that Saul had “sound biblical doctrine” when he applauded the stoning of Stephen and set out on a vicious persecution of the Church.”
No, he did NOT have “sound Biblical doctrine”. Saul had the zeal of a Pharisee, a Pharisee of Pharisees. He did not have the love of God. Then he was confronted on a road to Damascus. That changed everything.
“He did not have the love of God. Then he was confronted on a road to Damascus. That changed everything.”
Isn’t that exactly what this post is trying to point out? That the church does not seem to have the love of God. And have you considered that this might be God confronting his church – Jesus speaking through one of his people?
I certainly take your point. I have often felt that way in years past, especially when I was young. I agree what is wanted and what is appropriate is to love one another, not to change and judge each other. Finding a community where you can grow and thrive is no small task, and is sometimes not so easy.
I also know that no body of believers is perfect. I know we are called to perfection but it’s a process, a really long process. I tend to have problems with folks who think they have completed it.
I love my little church family. With all it’s problems, idiosyncrasies, questions about doctrine, tenuous and sometimes furtive glances ahead, it still embodies the love of God. I would say I have been challenged, fed, rankled, aggravated, and delighted by the interactions, studies, prayerful approaches to problem solving, relationships and all that goes into human community here. I have occasionally been disappointed and other times proud of what we have done and of what we are doing.
Do I think that our doctrine is sound? As sound as any others, sure…in the end we know so very little. That’s why Love God and your neighbor comprises the whole of the law…because we get too excited about the details. Do the details matter? Maybe, but not so much as this. Maybe that is what Jesus is trying to tell us.
Perhaps you are simply embodying the reason so many no longer want to go to church. Maybe you are just pointing that out. If so it is well said, otherwise I’m sorry you have such a negative view of Church community, because that is what this is, community. I went 30 years outside the church for precisely the reasons you name. I felt too many wanted to make me step in line, walk the walk and talk the talk with their steps and their vocabularies. Some really did want that, but I discovered I could find a place that didn’t try to do that, that let me be myself and yet offered ideas, thoughts, studies, information that might well challenge my walk and add to my vocabulary.
We go to school to become more proficient in the things that we need to know in order to live this life, we also go to learn the tools of our trades or the wisdom of our professions. Why should church be any different? I have not liked every teacher that was forced upon me (some of them didn’t like me or my attitude too much either, I’m sure). Regardless, I have learned something from all of them, if nothing more than how not to act. How is any community, any human interaction different fundamentally? It is not. We are constantly learning how to do things or how not to do things from others. Church is the same, same folks, but with hopefully a different mindset, a different boss, a different process, and hopefully a loving heart. Belonging to a church is belonging to a family…sometimes they are really, really dysfunctional and you have to go to another family…most of the time they are only mildly affected and you learn, together, how to address those issues and move forward in love and in patience and in forbearance.
You describe a community of folks who want conformity at any price, that only love you if they can remake you in their own image and that sit in judgement on your faith experience, on your life and words and deeds. That is sad, truly sad. I would feel precisely the same if I felt that this is what my community was doing to me.
Not all churches are full of people like this. There will always be some that try to buffalo their way into ordering your life, I know people in my life that do this all the time….I avoid them as much as possible, any sane person would.
First faith comes from God working within us, it’s not something I can bestow or back-order for you, it comes from within you. Love is the result of knowing God and spending time with Him in prayer and meditation. Church is an outlet for this, a place to exchange ideas and experiences we have in our faith walk. It is a place to bounce ides around, a place to feel devotion and to express it joyfully. It is a place to join with others who feel God’s love in their lives, or who feel the need for love in their lives. It is an imperfect place with imperfect people, who are occasionally shallow seeming, but usually surprise you with amazing depths of spirit and love in various situations and at various times. Mainly I would say that one gets out of church, providing it is a loving church, something of an order greater than that which one puts into the experience.
….and this is why I love my Unitarian Universalist church where we prefer to “stand on the side of love” rather than on doctrine that divides people and baffles the intellect. We journey TOGETHER with others on our spiritual journeys, regardless of our differences. It is love that binds us and that seeks justice in the world.
I LOVE this post!! I reposted it on my blog!
Thank you Stephanie!
Looks like Jordan is the exact kind of bible snob the article was talking about.
Part of Love is realizing and accepting that people are imperfect. Even churchy Christians.
Perfectly expressed Chris. I find the hypocrisy of pseudo -Christians blinding and barely tolerable. Christianity is love in action, each and everyday, and not motivated by politics. Ultimately, only God, will be the judge of our actions, and it won’t be based on whether one went to church or house of worship, whatever their religion. …Let he amongst you who is without sin, cast the first stone and lest we forget, It will be harder for a wealthy man to enter the kingdom of God than putting a camel through the eye of a needle.
Thank you Julia, I feel the same way!
Well, this pretty much sums it up for me. Having spent some time in West Africa and seeing what West African Christians are doing there to actually love and serve others, coming back to the very expensive, polished, formulaic and carefully choreographed manipulation that passes for worship in the U.S. was simply too much for me. Since the vast majority of Americans who identify as “Christian” and “pro-life” support a man who proposes the slaughter of the innocent children of terrorists, and support legislators whose policies will put the lives of poor people in jeopardy, my disillusionment with American Christendom is complete. Chris Martin, clearly you have been able to find a way to attend church despite the lack of the love Jesus said was supposed to define His people. I’m not sure why you would want to though. Gathering together with His followers should serve to fill us with His love and fuel our love and service to others. If the church doesn’t do that, sleep in, have breakfast with your family and study C.S. Lewis or the words of Jesus instead. I’m not interested in throwing my lot in with these pseudo-christian types any longer. They have little to teach me and refuse to learn anything from me. They attack any person who proposes diverging from their dogma in order to fully love those who most need it.
Jordan, please define the sound biblical doctrine you require. I’ve heard just about anything and everything preached as sound biblical doctrine, backed up by scriptures, so which one is “it”? Personally, I’m back to my first love…Jesus. if He talked about it, I’m going to pay attention to what He said. If he never mentioned it, I’m going to use the brain, conscience, heart and spirit I have been given to figure out what God wants ME to do and I’m going to let everone else do the same. For example, Jesus didn’t say anything at all about spaghetti straps. So I’m going to figure out whether I feel okay about wearing spaghetti straps and you can do the same for yourself. It’s all good.
Debbie, thank you so much for reading this article and taking the time to craft such a thoughtful comment. Well said, my friend! As one who has adopted two children from China, coming back from their also gave me a fresh look at what has become of American Christianity–not good.
“Very often, we are confronted by people who want us to pray their way or colleagues who want us to think their way. We must remember to maintain our individual relationship with God. We have the shining light of Soul, and because we have it, we also have the wisdom of God.”
The Language of Soul
Wow, takes self centerdness, self righteousness and condemnation of the bride of Christ to spectacular new heights. Jesus calls us into community and not forsake meetig together, as the author smugly writes, “you know like the Bible said”. Church is never about the author, its about others, serving others, this author wants a church to serve them lol. Imagine a church of 200 people of this authors all suspiciously staring at eachother waiting till be waited on and condeming eachother for not doing it. Its kind of funny, like a Seinfield episode I reckon. Thats what the author has nailed, church is better off for this person to stay away from, unfortunately selfishness like this will burn out church goers that seek to care for others, the author seems to be a sponge that will only take with no comprehension of when Jesus said it is better to give ghan to recieve. The truth is the author is denying themself the blessing of church, no one else, they are no hero.
Michael, Jesus actually gave us a *command* to love, and said that it would be the sign to others that we are his disciples. Does it not disturb you that many people cannot find love in the church? What do you think that says about those who attend an institution on a Sunday morning?
I did not read this as the author sitting around wanting to be waited on, but as someone who is looking to find something in us that shows the love of Christ and not finding it. From my personal experiences, I can relate to this. For instance, I had a person who had joined our worship team as a drummer (first one we had had in a while). His first Sunday with the team, he wore a hat while playing the drums. One of the members of the church approached me and complained about him wearing a hat during service. Truth is, the drummer had a bad case of psoriasis and was self conscious about his affliction. The church member could not get past his rules to look upon this guy with love and let him be. The hat was more important than the drummer’s heart.
I think what the author here is looking for is someone who thinks the drummer’s heart is more important than his hat.
Roxanne takes a swing, she hits it… bang, this one is out of the park! Thanks Roxanne for taking the time read, listen, and comment! Well said!
“The trouble with organizing a thing is that pretty soon folks get to paying more attention to the organization than to what they’re organized for. ” – Laura Ingalls Wilder
Sometimes to find love you have to be able to give it. Jesus didn’t wait for us to love him before sacrificing himself.
This is an excellent blog post. If you ever are in the Twin Cities please contact me. I belong to a Reconciling in Christ congregation. We do our best to love everyone as Jesus loves us.
you got it David, I’ll look ya up! Thanks for your readership and comment!
I want to thank you for your article and thoughts. All of us Christians are quite fallible. I suspect we hold tightly to our doctrines not because we believe God love us more for them, but because we’re afraid he’ll stop loving us if we let go of them. To love others is perhaps the highest calling, but it requires a degree of vulnerability that even we Christians sometimes can’t muster up. My inherent shyness, I’ve been told, comes across as standoffish. I don’t mean it to be. More often than not, I’m afraid that I won’t be loved. I suspect that’s what many Christians run from, the fear that we don’t deserve your love. It’s like any unhealthy relationship—it’s easier to push away first than to be pushed away.
Either way, I am sorry for it and thank you for your vulnerability in expressing how you feel.
Thanks Matthew, a very thoughtful and insightful comment, thanks for adding to the conversation and risking the vulnerability in doing so!
It saddens me that the Love perceived as lacking in the church (or anywhere for that matter) is the Spirits way of identifying God’s true heart (Sacred Heart). We all possess (or have access to) this gift of grace (by the Holy Spirit) and with holiness of heart, and yet we hold back giving the very thing we “see” and know is missing (even when the Spirit of wisdom and truth shows us the need – and provides the compassion necessary for healing and wholeness). Withholding the compassion and Love is a form of punishment (and judgement). We are called to Love those most in need – even our enemies (and indeed this may be – for a variety of reasons – within the very Body of Christ, tragically). Christ’s Bride (the church) needs all our compassion, love and mercy. May brave souls lead the way.
Beautiful said, and I love your perspective Michelle! Thank you for reading and commenting.
And sometimes the “enemy” is even an “evangelical” Christian. 🙂
Truth Brother Chris. I love you. Find a little Primitive Baptist Church. You will find only sinners who love one another, sing and pray to God, listen to the Elder as he tries to rightly divide the Word. You will find no programs, Sunday school classes, projectors, choirs, conferences or retreats…Only Brothers and Sisters in Christ, loving one another and worshipping God. Their house of worship is not elaborate, only comfortable. There is no piano or organ, only the music made from their own voices, united in love. You might have to search to find them, but when you do, you will know them by the fruit of their spirit. Love and Peace Brother.
Thanks Stanley, appreciate your comment and reading of this article!
Help me out here. I am an ELCA Lutheran pastor. We are the progressive Lutherans, have women and men as pastors, embrace science, generally welcome LGBT folks (admittedly there are a few holdouts, but most of us really do — I attended a same-sex marriage in October attended by 360 enthusiastic Lutherans), and advocate for social justice. We believe in God’s lavish grace in creation, forgiveness, and in new life that brings justice. Like our fellow believers in the UCC, Disciples of Christ, and Episcopalian traditions, we really try to love people and celebrate Christ who is already within them.
Yet (so far at least), such old mainline church bodies as mine are on the periphery of our national life. We march for marriage equality, protest at Standing Rock, and serve the homeless and immigrants — yet we don’t get much press.
Are we too small or too boring for you? Have you had bad experiences with us? If so, I apologize. I aim to love you and your friends as you are.
Michael, I was an ELCA pastor. I agree with some of your denominational assessment, but know from first hand experience, your description of the ELCA is not as it has been nor even currently is as a whole. I also think you are missing a significant part of the point of this article, the perception of people away from church is what is being described. And to be sure, the overall consensus, fair or not fair to each individual church, is that it is an very unloving experience. We can either choose to take offense at the true feelings of the people we say we want to reach, or listen and learn. I applaud your ministry and heart for people and pray it is duplicated among those you minister to and with. Thanks for the honest comment and for taking the time to share it. I am blessed in receiving it.
You haven’t found the right church. Don’t give up. It took my moving 2400 miles to find love. The church I go to is amazing. People genuinely care. It’s amazing. Don’t give up. Hugs
Thanks Melissa, I’m hugging you right back! 🙂
If I applied the same “test” to my family rather than my church I would never go home again either.
I think what some folks don’t understand in this thread…is why would you want to keep going to a place (especially a church) where the people don’t love you? I moved from the big city to be with Grandpa in his later years, and started attending his small town Baptist church. After he died, I didn’t find much reason to go. They never accepted me, they did not accept my foster teens…it was all because I am just DIFFERENT. Even though I am related to everyone here, I didn’t grow up here. I’m 50+ and never married and didn’t have biological children. I have a college degree. All those terrible things make me different. Worse, I suffer from major depression…do you think they ever reached out to me? In literally years of self-implosion? Nope.
If we sound “judgmental” … I look at it as being factual. How do you expect us to tell why we are so frustrated with the church without telling out stories?
Unfortunately unless I move I don’t see any churches that are different out here. I can’t afford to be driving 2 hours round trip to church as well as my jobs.
So well said Susan, thank you for adding such value and perspective to the conversation!
The article and the comments are very thought provoking and have given me a lot to think about. If one feels their “church, faith, religion” doesn’t love them and we leave are we not displaying what they displayed to us. Could we not show love and teach love to those who are hurting or are lost in the church? Or possibly this is written from a place of exhaustion after years of trying this and equally at a loss of how to change it? I struggle with many of the things you write and maybe my comment above is from Priests and Pastors always putting it back on me “what are you doing to change it”, “what are you doing…” and we get tired of feeling like we are always in fix it mode and not beeing fed (not that we always need to be fed at church), but I do go to church in hopes to be fueled for the week and not feeling left empty and unloved. I know I am not making sense, this article was so thought provoking now I am thinking out loud and looking for insight. Thank you so much for this article. High-Five for saying what many of us sitting in a pew feel so often.
Christina, it’s a tough, complicated issue for sure. Hopefully, in the end, we can hear this article as the cry of thousands of voices of those who are away from or hurt by “church.” Whether their sentiment offends us, challenges us, or humbles us, it is their experience and reality, and deserves to be heard and respected. I so appreciate your heart and willingness to wrestle with these important things. Thanks for reading and commenting!
misdirection? ad hominem? strawman? caricature?
definitely a misunderstanding of love…
“If you love me, keep my commands. ” – Jesus in John 14:15
Don’t accept cheap grace… don’t accept cheap love either… grace and love aren’t cheap. Be brave. Embrace real love. Let him change you.
“And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as children— ‘My child, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, or lose heart when you are punished by him; for the Lord disciplines those whom he loves, and chastises every child whom he accepts.’ Endure trials for the sake of discipline. God is treating you as children; for what child is there whom a parent does not discipline? If you do not have that discipline in which all children share, then you are illegitimate and not his children. Moreover, we had human parents to discipline us, and we respected them. Should we not be even more willing to be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share his holiness. Now, discipline always seems painful rather than pleasant at the time, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed. Pursue peace with everyone, and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble, and through it many become defiled.” – Hebrews 12:5-15
Your argument isn’t really with mega-churches. It isn’t really with orthodox Christians. Your argument is with Jesus. Take it up with him. He won’t abandon or condemn you. He’ll listen and love and change you. He will turn your bitterness into joy.
A friend of mine shared this on his FB and, for the first time ever, I’ve decided to venture into the world of commenting on a blog… eeek, here goes.
I totally agree with what you’re asking for. Churches should be places where you and all the “the people you love no matter who they be” feel loved, welcomed and valued. I just have a couple of reflections:
1. If you’re going to criticise churches for being unloving, making a tenuous connection to modern worship, church programming that has actually been thought through, etc is simply unfair. Smaller churches have equal potential to be unloving. Just because you don’t like some things about the “attractional model” style church doesn’t mean you can brand it “unloving”. The style might be related to a lack of love but it very equally could not be. I’m a full time writer too so I’m all for a little bit of artistic license but lumping all churches that have strategised about small groups into one big pot is stretching.
2. I struggled with this part to be honest:
“You wouldn’t even think of putting your rights, comforts, and privileges above mine. Rather, you’d be laying them down for me.
You wouldn’t care so much about bathrooms, wedding cakes, and movie scenes. Rather, you’d be pushing aside every obstacle and looking for every opportunity to simply serve me. ”
In your bio, you’ve put that you’re a pastor. I’m guessing that you don’t mean in the sense of “I currently pastor a church” since this article is about choosing a church to be a part of. Maybe you once were, I don’t know.
I’ve been in church for about 26 years, in leadership style roles for about the last 10. My observation would be this: church is about laying down preferences for one another. As much as you call the church to lay down itself for you, you should lay down yours for the church. Demanding to be loved and not challenged tends to not go down so well with church leaders and rightly so. I would recommend diving in, helping, serving, accepting that there is no perfect church but knowing that the best way to influence change is by grabbing a brick and helping to build rather than commenting on how you don’t like how someone else is building.
As for the pointing out of sin; you’re right, the Spirit does that. But he seems to do it through people an awful lot of the time too.
It felt like there were a lot of soundbites and generalisations here but not much grace. Pastors and churches and leaders need that too, just like you want it from them.
I’d welcome your comments back, Chris. I’ve tried not to be rude or twist your words and you have my complete apologies if I’ve misread what you’re saying.
Fin, thanks for risking your comments to this article, welcome to blog-comment-section world! I’ll address your reflections using the numbers for each that you did. 1. Nowhere in the article do I refer to small groups. Instead, I refer to “groups” which could be just about anything from a Sunday school class to a sports team. Additionally, small to large and traditional to contemporary churches utilize virtually everything I mentioned–branding, worship staging, etc. Any interpretation that this post singles out a certain style or size of a church is in my view, a projection onto my writing. 2. No where do I demand “not to be challenged” in the article. In fact, Grace is very challenging, and it is through truly and purely grace-giving people that I see the Spirit actually working to address sin. This article represents the real voices of thousand upon thousands of people hurt or disillusioned by church. Whether their sentiment offends you, challenges you, or humbles you, they are no less voices that should be valued, respected, listened to, and taken seriously. My sense is that this article has challenged you, and rightly so. It should challenge us all. I pray our temptation to deflect its truths with defenses and excuses does not keep us from receiving it’s important message and truth.
Poor little snowflake. It is all about them. That is the real reason they don’t go to church. Try making it all about Jesus and what He wants for you.
An orphan heart always points at others and says “it’s your fault, you don’t love me, you don’t care, you don’t understand”, thus isolating itself from those who do care, who want to love, who want to understand. We are all fallen(sinful) we are all struggling with stuff, None of us are perfect, but that doesn’t mean we don’t love or care or try our best to be like Jesus. Maybe there are other reasons why you don’t want to be part of a faith community that your refusing to explore and hiding behind the self pity of not feeling loved, how can people love you if you don’t give them the chance to.
Sharon, thank you for reading the article and commenting, I think you are missing the entire point of the article. Perhaps read it through again, if you are willing, and listen for the perspective of people hurt and disillusioned by “church.”
MARCH 15, 2017 AT 6:06 PM
Poor little snowflake. It is all about them. That is the real reason they don’t go to church. Try making it all about Jesus and what He wants for you.” – you are the kind she is talking about.
I suppose I will be cussed for making things political, but “Christians” evangelicals or whatever you want to call the religious right in this country showed their true colors when they elected Trump to office in such overwhelming numbers. My area, always strongly Republican, was out in the same numbers for him as usual – 75%. I thought there might be a significant drop in support. I will not be returning to any church in the area any time soon. IMHO, it shows how bigoted & hypocritical many churches truly are.
Well said Susan, BUT, I’m a “he” not a “she.” *giggle 🙂
sorry…proof reading is obviously not my strong point…
Trying to justify that anything goes but it is not so. Jesus who is God manifested in the flesh loves the sinner but hates sin. There has to be a standard. Whoever wrote this long piece writes very well. But the wages of sin is still death, but the gift of God is eternal life. God said be ye holy for I am holy. Did you hear about what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah? Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus For THE Remission of your sins and ye shall be filled with the Holy Ghost. Your intelligence will not save you. You must be born again. You rarely hear this truth in churches today because preachers are too concerned with popularity and money. It’seems a shame and God is not pleased. God still had a standard and your good writing ability does not change that fact. Repent and get saved before it’s too late.
Where I completely agree that Jesus hates sin, I do not necessarily agree that we are in a place to see through His eyes into people’s hearts and determine that they are sinners. In Matt 22:37-40, Jesus spoke about the law and how we are to enact it in every day living. He said that the entire law was contained in 2 things, Love God and Love Your Neighbor. THAT is what we are commanded to do, not to judge our neighbor. and if you continue to read into chapter 23, you see exactly how Jesus sees those who chose to be the judgment arm of God. He refers to them as a brood of vipers. The way these passages speak to me about how to show love to others is not to be concerned with their works, but I need to focus on my relationship with God and living in the manner I was called to. Which does include discipleship of those seeking it, and showing love and respect to people not seeking it. In short, we have all sinned, so we are no better than the people we choose to judge. By choosing not to judge, we are living by the example Jesus set and creating an environment where people will come to us and ask why we do what we do, and that is when we tell them why.
You are replying as a church goer, instead of listening and hearing those of us who will not go to your places of worship.
You do not get to determine what is “sin”. That is for God. You are supposed to love.
Wow. What a fault finding mission. All this talk of serving and loving but not once did I read any sense of serving or loving from the author. A single candle can light up a room and dispel darkness. How much more light is created and darkness cast out when hundreds of candles stand together. Church attendance is not a badge of honour to show everyone how religious you are. It is a willingness to be humble and worship our God with other believers. Lone Ranger Christians are always looking for their next battle and their next Tonto to ride with them. I don’t know about others but my Lord and Saviour is called the servant King for more than one reason. If I’m not serving my local church then who am I truly serving…myself..Mammon or maybe I’m only supposed to receive God’s grace not give it.
Dave, thanks for the comment. I used to believe and see the Christian life as you do, so in that sense, I understand and respect your perspective. Yet, I find it very interesting how your response echoes so much of the kind that Jesus received from the Pharisees. Coincidence? I’ll like you decide. Perhaps read the article again with a listening heart and you may receive its blessings and truth. Best wishes.
We are trying to let you know how “unchurched” people see you. I suppose i will continue to be unchurched as long as the churched speak to me as you do.
My problem is not with the Lord, but those who Claim to be his people.
So, I’ve decided to wade in here. Chris, your article spoke to me so much, I had to write my own little thing on Facebook, and it’s as follows:
“Fun fact about me…
When I was a wacky teenager, I went to church on Sundays. Something went awry in my brain a little later on, and I church hopped looking for answers to questions. Most places tried, but either I have high expectations or got told that god is the answer.
Either way, I left the church, but still with a strong sense of faith within me. Ultimately, my brother passed away, and that left a hole. A hole that began to be filled by a certain pastor (winks to the heavens at Pastor Cliff).
It wasn’t until I got to university that I identified my faith structure. I’m at peace with this, and am forever grateful for the friends, past and present, that I’ve made on this little journey.”
I still won’t go to church, but the bonds I’ve made with my friends at church will last me a lifetime.
I really enjoyed the last sentence, particularly in relation to grace. To be gracious is to be brave, and in my short 40 years on this earth, this has been one of my pillars. It was just articulated very well here.
Thank you Jeff for reading the article and for taking the time to respond with such a personal and powerful comment!
OK, let’s put it this way so those who don’t understand this mans experience, it might help you step into it with empathy. Some people experience church like a child experiences a busy, preoccupied and detached parent. The parent is present, takes care of all the physical needs, says all the right things but connection, being seen, understood is not there. The child gets toys, entertainment and feels only noticed when she he or she doesn’t do something right. But hey, what’s wrong? At least the child has a home, even if it feels unloved, has to focus on what the parent wants but f the child doesnt keep quiet and ‘rebells’ is told he or she is beimg selfish and self centered. If you are a person that isn’t connected to your heart being connected to others building real relationships that are impact full and transforming isn’t missed but often felt as threatening. . If you don’t want the toys, the entertainment and being constantly addressed only to pull up your socks, and seek something meaningful, where the whole of you is seen, you will be often told to stop being so selfish and ungrateful. Jesus knew the child needed to be addressed in front of the adults and He said to the adults be like this child. The attitude of the disciples didn’t want Jesus to be interrupted by a child and treated like an irritation and is why the lesson is in the bible. Jesus was relational they were all about ‘service’ and following the law. Start listening and stop replying to this article with the same standard religious responses. Please.
Unconditional love is a very high standard to hold a church or its priest.
It began with a life shattering event from the “godly” man I gave my heart, body, and soul to, and I should have spent the rest of my life with. But the worst part about it was the reaction from the “church family”. I was ostracized, ignored and condemned. The people who were supposed to love me, lift me up and guide me turned their backs on me, including my own mother and father. I was to them, for all intents and purposes, turning my back on my spiritual upbringing, when in fact I was so broken i didn’t have the strength to find “god’s plan”, or face it alone, and I just needed someone to reach out in that darkest hour. I needed someone to throw me a lifeline, wrap it around me like a boa constrictor and not let go. I sank like a stone. I found the comfort and strength I needed to get through each minute of the day, a year later, in a man who had also had his “spiritual family” turn their backs on him as well. I again was condemned by “friends” and family . Instead of reaching out to us both, the “church family” proved to him time and time again why he also had no use for those “do as I say and not as i do” hypocrites. “don’t look to us as your example of God” was all I heard. But when I couldn’t see God through the pain and anger, because I felt abandoned, I tried to turn to the people who should have seen the shattered china doll as someone who needed superglue and not a hammer. LOVE ME??? No, they condemned me time and time again. I am a different person now. I don’t see color, race, age, sexual orientation, ability, or disability. I see people. I love them for who they are, not what they can do for me.
Ann, thanks you so much for sharing your story, it is voices like yours that God hears the most but sadly His church is well versed in ignoring and deflecting. I hope we can stay connected, I am on fb. Let’s be friends!
Couldn’t have put it better myself✊It is indeed something ” we Christians” should think about.
Chris, I am sure you get a lot of “but my church is different” replies back to some articles. I guess I’m another one of those. I attend a Baptist church in Birmingham, AL of all places. In 1970, racial tensions were still high in Birmingham, and a white Baptist church in the inner city ministered to residents of a low-income housing project a few blocks over. One Sunday morning, an African-American woman and her daughter from the project decided she wanted to be a part of this congregation as a member. The church refused her membership because of her race. Around two hundred individuals walked out that day refusing to be a part of a racist congregation. These individuals formed Baptist Church of the Covenant, and made the mother and daughter their first members. In the 90s, the church began conversations about welcoming lesbian and gay members, with fully welcoming LGBTQ members in the following years. BCOC as we affectionately call ourselves, is prominent in participation of social justice issues in the area, promoting equal rights and protections for all including other religious creeds. We form partnerships with other faith communities in the area.
Your article hits home though. I get trapped in a bubble of what my church is. I fail to often realize just how different my BCOC is verses the other churches in my area and even in the country. I often take my congregation for granted in just how different we are from “the church”. Thank you for your comments. BTW, if you are ever in Birmingham, come visit us. bcoc.net
What a whiner. What person truly searching for a church approaches it from the “what are you doing to do for ME” point of view?
Jane, thanks for displaying the very attitude that so greatly validates the need for this article and its truth and merit. You have indeed excelled in your determination to miss the point. Perhaps read it again with a listening, humble heart and you will discover its blessing instead of striving so hard to deflect its truth.
I’m going to be honest when I say I have mixed feelings about this article. On the one hand, I wholeheartedly agree that the church needs to be a place of love and acceptance. I agree that we need to open our arms to everyone, regardless of where they are in their spiritual journey.
I think where I have a problem is that, like anything, there needs to be a balance. While, yes, we should love people, it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t teach sound doctrine. In the comments above, it would seem that you’ve implied that there isn’t such a thing as sound doctrine. I would have to disagree. There are definitely a lot of things we shouldn’t get hung up on because the Bible isn’t clear about them, or they are man-made doctrines that have no Biblical basis. However, there are non-negotiables as well. Salvation through Jesus would be one. The Lordship of Jesus would be another. The 10 commandments would be another.
IMO, the church runs into problems because it values holiness over authenticity, and people can smell a fake from a mile away. We have to understand that, apart from God’s grace, we are lost. All of us. We are all works-in-progress. It’s this culture of piety and “holy facades” that causes people to feel judged and unloved. What if the church became a place where we could, like James talks about, “confess our sins one to another, and pray for one another.” It’s only when we allow Jesus to work in our lives that we can be healed from our sin. We are not being loving if we don’t teach about sin, and we are also not being loving unless we become a safe place for people to confess their sins, and acknowledge that we are all in the process of being transformed to be in the likeness of Jesus!
I would agree that we don’t go around pointing out everyone’s sins individually, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t teach about it corporately. We have to come to Jesus on HIS terms, not ours, and IMO, part of those terms are that we have to submit to the leadership of Jesus in our lives. Doesn’t mean that we’re going to be perfect. It does mean that we’re allowing Him to, like Psalm 139 says, search us and know our thoughts, and see if there’s wickedness in us, and to lead us. We have to be careful that we’re not confusing making people feel “unloved” with them feeling “convicted.”
All that being said, I’m going to keep being as real about my personal struggles, demons, and internal battles, and let people see me for who I truly am…someone who is in the process of being transformed by Jesus!
This resounds in my heart to be complete truth as a christian who can no longer stomach church. But it also struck me as a highly nonloving tone. I realize Jesus spoke this way to the pharisees but I’m curious why this kind of judgement and nonlove is permitted?
I love what you are saying. I hear it. It resonates but it too long and too laboured. I wanted to repost it but I know after four or five sections the people who need to read it will give up. They give up because one, they don’t really want to be challenged by this and 2, they don’t want to be challenged by this.
Love it, it resonates but too long and too laboured. People need to read this but they won’t because they want to be informed but their behavior to remain unchanged. Great article though.
Thanks William, sure appreciate you reading and adding such value to the conversation!
Ckratzer you have obviously touched a nerve with this post. And I agree in part with you that the body of Christ and many Christian churches do not love well.
Two questions for you.
First, love is a fruit of the spirit therefore it is a gift of God. If you do not know God then you cannot love properly. Also as a fruit of the spirit it is a gift of God. I would caution that we do not want to worship the gift above the giver of all good gifts Our Heavenly Father. CS Lewis wrote on this. I struggle with this in my own life as well.
This is my second question. Regarding the paragraph below.
Your default bent, beliefs, and creed would all center on Grace, love, and human equality, not jamming down my throat something you have in your privilege that you believe I need as a remedy to what you see as my depravity. For who do you think you are, anyways? You don’t even know me.
Do you believe in the depravity of man? Just curious. So much hinges on this.
Thanks for making me think even if we disagree on some points.
“2 cents” regarding “sound doctrine.” Sound doctrine should first and foremost, if believed, promote personal humility towards God and His Word. If I’m not being encouraged towards humility, I question what I’m focusing on. Secondly, if what I’m hearing and taking to heart results in good fruit (love, joy, peace, longsuffering, patience, etc.), then it’s “sound” (i.e., good seed). If what I am taking to heart inclines me to “act” like I think a Christian should act or, God forbid, inclines me towards arrogance, I’ve missed the point of the new birth and the spiritual enablement I’ve been given to manifest love as a fruit, not as a particular behavior. So too with all godly fruit. Acting patient is not having patience. Acting humble is not having humility, etc. Being a Christian is an inside out job…Jesus made this very clear in the parable of the sower. The Church Epistles declare it throughout…be transformed by the renewing of your mind (not change the way you’re acting)…Christ is to be formed IN you. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Taken to heart…humbling…taken to heart…produces good fruit.
Folks, all this bickering among believers regarding who has the right doctrine or the right denomination is actually exactly what the author is talking about. you’re more concerned with who is a Catholic, who is a Baptist, or Lutheran or what have you and you miss the point.
Christ himself said that if you do not see me doing the father’s will then do not believe what I say…(i’m paraphrasing because I forget the exact verse, so don’t get all upset ok).
Right on Tim! Great observation.
Very true and well spoken, thank you for this article.
After two years of having a new pastor at our church I feel like it’s not my church any more, even though we are involved. No visits not that I need one and there just is not a closeness with the pastors at our church, just a few friends that we spend the most time with.
Conrad, thanks so much for reading and commenting. For sure, no church is perfect and transitions are difficult, but I pray a centrality of love will emerge and you will experience it within that faith community!
If this article is referencing “Homosexuality” God does condemn it in Lev18:22 (Abomination),,,,Romans 1:24-27,,,,1 Cor 5:9, 6:9-10,,,,Jude 1:7. He condemns it for our own good and fellowship with him. Read for yourselves.
As a kid, around 8 years old, I felt something, enticing, an explanation, listening to the Biblical stories at the local Methodist Sunday-school, and mostly, the stories were all about love and goodness and The Good Shepherd.
For a while, I read the Bible every night, as was suggested, but after a while, I found that this wasn’t for me, I didn’t understand half of it and also, nobody felt the need to try to decipher the Bible for me. I couldn’t find much love there. Genesis, Exodus etc was somewhat scary stuff to my young and impressionable mind, yet I wasn’t pressured into believing that it was true by anybody. Thankfully!
Snakes that spoke, “Eat me” almost! …..about “Forbidden fruits”, an obvious obfuscation that was never properly articulated to my young ears, all of God’s gazillion creatures from around the world’s different climatic regions crammed into one boat, a flood that flooded the world…the poor lady turned into a pillar of salt, all somewhat questionable stories to my wise old ears today…..
I should have started at the less dismal Second Testament!
The biggest problem I have is that almost every religion has a version of a Jesus so I therefore find it difficult to believe that Jesus Christ was a real person as depicted in an obviously manipulated Bible…..written by men…and therefore subject to each author’s particular fervour; many chapters discarded, left lying in the Vatican vaults, no doubt, and so many of them contradictory too.
Religion provides hope and comfort to so many and most religious folk and their teachers are well-meaning and very caring so I don’t knock it but I don’t like people trying to “save” me when I am, through age and experience, enlightened enough to see through the ancient writings, written for ancient people when people didn’t understand that earthquakes, plagues and tsunami’s weren’t caused by God but were actually natural occurrences caused by Mother-Earth’s growing-and climate-change pains and so I don’t need to thank Him every day for giving me the existence that he allegedly created for me, born a sinner.
Jeez! I had no say in that yet I’m guilty at birth?????? So I need to thank Him endlessly for letting me live in a world where injustice prevails second-by-second? What kind of God is this who tells me I’m a sinner at birth and yet he allows atrocities to endure amongst his “flock”, the one Jesus told us he loves so much?
When the Bible was written, people thought that the Flat-Earth was the centre of the universe and that any Flood, Plague or Plunder by foreign entities was a sure sign of God’s displeasure, so that ever more God-subjugation was in order.
Today we know better so, although there are lovely words written, I reckon that I could trot out a similar “Sermon on the Mount” speech myself within a day or two…it’s all sensible, loving stuff, but I dare say that it didn’t take reading the mumbo-jumbo, oft contradictory Bible to teach me that common-sense and love for humankind gave me this gift of writing with tolerant opinion. That came from my parents, siblings and basic human values…..do unto others……do we need to be taught that? Reminded, yes, but we do have basic values, learnt at a young age…ouch! That hurt! etc….and we also learn from the writings in books and through debate.
Did I need to be told about the “Good Samaritan”? Surely that is a basic human trait to help others in need? This trait is shown across the world, no matter what the religious background of the “Good Samaritan” might be.
Ah! But you see! That was from almost 2000 years ago, at time when God allowed his chosen ones to smite the men and male children of their unfriendly neighbours and to take the women and children as concubines and slaves.
All cool with God in those days.
And you still read and believe and devour that stuff?????? Written for desert Bedouins and Shepherds and the largely uneducated and illiterate people in existence then?
Yes, there is a something out there but it’s not to be found in a crocked-up book with borrowed stories from pre-Christian era civilizations and presented to us as the “way” or the “truth” and that if you don’t embrace this man-made concoction gleaned from pre-civilization, you are doomed, and won’t enter the equally man-made conception of Heaven. Anybody been there to prove it’s existence?
And, why did (note the 1000 year old plus past-tense) God only reveal himself to certain individuals (like uneducated shepherds or rampant, bloodthirsty warlords) who were then tasked with spreading His word? For goodness sake, He has the power, why not enlighten us all as to His ways instead of leaving it up to some born sinful human, (according to the writings) a person flawed at birth and therefore, not somebody any sensible God should likely trust, and leave it up to this uneducated, cannot-write-a-word person to tell us the “truth”? Why didn’t he choose a good Mesopotamian or Egyptian who could write all his good stuff down? Why didn’t he write it down Himself? In rock, on the side of a mountain, engraved in mile-high characters?
This reeks of unlikeliness? Why? Why? Why?
Because it’s Man-made! Gathered from the wisps of tales told through the ages and ever used as explanations of the then-un-explainable!
I do believe that there are fragments of truth in the old tales since many religions tell similar tales but we all know that a good story can easily become en-glamoured when it suits a cause, and in ancient days, they KNEW-NO-BETTER. Anything unexplainable was God’s will. Inshalla! So be it! Etc.
Such is the hold that religion has…..if one doesn’t believe in xyz religion, and thank their particular God every day, or more in some cases, you won’t go to this conceived heaven of theirs, so you’d better believe or else!
So the poor Amazonian Indian or Papua-New Guinean, who has never had the pleasure of being taught the ways of “a” religion is therefore doomed to Hell? But! They surely do believe in something mystical and spiritual anyway, despite the tyrannical writings in the many books held up as the “truth”.
If God or Jesus wanted us to love Him/Them, why don’t they show themselves instead of letting Ministers and Popes etc, some of whom are pretty nefarious and manipulative people by the way, show us the way? Why be so shy? Why let Evangelists and Religious Crocks become rich through apparent “I am the way” scamming? Why doesn’t He “Smite” them when He can obviously see through their bullshit, using His name to enrich themselves?
Why doesn’t he smite ISIS who is destroying the very grounds upon which modern civilization started?
Ah! But the religious will say that it is all in God’s plan…
Humph……some God letting his “I love everybody” children be maimed, raped and killed in the name of religion…….
If the Roman Catholic Church were to gain any respect in my view, it would sell all of it’s huge riches, much of it stolen from “non-believers” during the Inquisition era as well as from centuries of tithes from the poor “flock” and give it to the needy……..as Jesus Himself would have done, as suggested in the Bible.
If there ever was a God, as claimed by religion, he’s nowhere to be seen these days. No miracles, no smitings, no protection of the “Chosen ones”…and therein lies yet another story. He apparently created us all, and loves us all equally, yet chooses only a few for His unique blessings….depending upon which book you were inveigled into believing…..
So, that’s why I don’t go to church anymore.
And may your appropriate Gods bless you John, my dear brother, one who believes and is a very good and caring person, and Paul, who doesn’t give a damn anyway, yet has a very caring heart, and Martin who is an Atheist so also doesn’t care about religion or the afterlife, yet is a very good and caring person, so, actually, this blessing is wasted upon him……..
Me? I won’t know until I die by which time I’ll be dead anyway so I’ll never be able to tell you the truth about heaven, afterlife, religion, God, Jesus, Allah, Budha, the many Gods of Hindu, whatever, and all the religious stuff that has caused so much conflict in our history.
Keith, thanks so much for reading and taking the time to share this insightful comment!
W O W! T H A N K. Y O U.
Golly. I’m pecking this out on my phone, tears welling up in my eyes + spilling over.
Y E S and O O F!
Either one of my 18 y.o. daughters could have written this.
Ditto their friends (those who grew up in our overly earnest, yet now growing deeper + more broken open and real UCC community) and the vast majority of those who’ve never been to church, some who experience prayer for the first time at our dining table.
Ditto the nearly 100 youth-now-adults I was honoured to accompany during their high school years while they sought to make sense of their freaking REAL, not PG-13 rated, lives using our ancient stories, songs and rituals.
Thank you for laying out a core challenge ahead of us: how to live out God’s love in practical + extravagant ways. Thank you for your bravery + eloquence.
Love + gratitude from a sister on the path alongside you,
Cary, what a blessing to have you read and comment on this article! I am so grateful for your heart and fearlessness.
I hope we can stay connected, would love to learn more of your story.
Church Clarity rates churches as to their published LGBT policy, so it’s easier to assess in advance their acceptance policies, and whether there’s a metaphorical asterisk after the word. There are plenty of churches that are actually welcoming to LGBT. It’s just that they don’t garner the same media attention the others often do. https://www.churchclarity.org/ https://www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/outfront-new-site-rates-churches-based-transparency-lgbtq-policies-n814576
Yes, full stop.
If you are ever in the San Antonio area, or live nearby, come to Covenant Baptist Church — not that kind of Baptist. We’d love to love you. We are pretty tiny, and we don’t really have programs unless you count Sunday School. We do eat, quite a bit, but we exercise when we walk our labyrinth, albeit slowly. We hold retreats. Actually, we are very slow people. We love kids. Kids are celebrated and do ministry to others by taking offering, reading, playing music, and being noisy to keep us awake. We hold all kinds of opinions, but no opinion precludes you from full participation in the church and ministry. Our pastor Natalie is bright, educated, and warm, with a heart for people who have been kicked. We are sometimes called a hospital church because many of us have been kicked or otherwise ill-handled. We don’t like people to hurt. We invite the hurting to crawl inside and let us do for them until they feel like doing for someone else. Come see us.
Now, I’ll tell you something about me. I studied a little bit of the Bible when I was a little kid with Jehovah’s witnesses. It was a short time, but enough so that when I was a teenager and got invited to a church I went. I stayed at that church for about three years. There were a few people I talked too. But I never really felt like I belonged. I felt distant because I felt that I wasnt worshipping correctly. But even then, I would have stayed. What made me leave was the feeling of betrayal. One of the women there got me confused with another girl who had family problems and because of that and a dream I told her about- she thought I was in danger and called social services. I couldn’t stay there with them constantly asking me if I was being abused. Sometime after that I went to a Baptist Church, then stopped. I didn’t feel I belong. A couple years, I met someone I loved who was a Mormon. At the time, he loved God and I wanted to spend my life with someone like that. but after we got together, we both fell away. It wasn’t until after I broke up with him, that I decided to go back to church. This time it was a Methodist Church. Again I stopped because I didn’t feel it was right. I had a friend at this who raked me over the coals for this. She told me that if it’s something I truly believed then it shouldn’t matter where I went because all that mattered is who I was going there for- God. I brushed her off. I thought I could do without. Ten years passed. Doing things on my own didn’t work. Struggling with porn addiction and desiring of a one night stand. So far from where I wanted to be. I prayed and God answered. He led me to a man who struggles as much as I do and to a new church. Do I feel I belong? Not so much. Still feel like I’m a misfit. But I learned my friend was right- it isn’t where I go but what I do there that is important.
Too bad you have put all churches in this one lump
At our parish we preach love.
Offer many opportuniites to engage cross culturally.
Many in our congregation are specifically trained in listening skills.
We are a haven in Sacramento CA
TRINITY CATHEDRAL CHURCH
Many of the replies on here prove this article’s point. You have to step outside yourself and read it with honesty and much reflection. As an ex-pastor, I have to say I truly agree with much of this.
Being on the “inside” and mingling with other church leaders over the years, it took stepping away from it all to see that the efforts, energy and focus for so many was to fill those pews, bring in the tithes, build the big building, travel to other countries to reach the “lost”, as if we did not have enough work to do here at home to reach those that need “love”.
The criticisms, jealousies, and the egos I saw displayed to get the front seats, the speaking engagements, the request to “lay hands on others” , as I look back did nothing to “love” but rather to grow personal reputations as “ordained ministers”.
When I was in my personal most time of need of a “friend” everyone I tried to meet with was busy with a luncheon, a conference, a prayer meeting, a trip abroad. Busy, busy, busy….building, organizing, networking. Little time left for much else. 🙁 Enough said.
CV, bingo, you hit the nail on the head! Well said!
CV, I couldn’t agree more! (And my experience was right in line with yours 🙁 )
There is a lot of truth in this article, but the other side of it is, I, as a believer and non church goer, don’t love you, the church goer. If I did, I would be there, sitting in your pew, being Jesus to you. Reading an interesting book at the moment: Bitten by a camel, how I left the church and found God.
Loving others is not displayed by “church attendance”. Loving others is done daily within your every day surroundings. Then, if you are a part of a church community, your every day display of love spills into that environment. I do not think the author is saying he is not seeing love at church because most people who truly profess to have a true spiritual relationship with God will show love towards others just because they come to a place where they understand that they themselves, though not deserving of grace, were given grace. I think it goes beyond those sitting on the pews. It is more about purpose and intent. Am I shown love just because I am another tither that brings in money to help grow the ministry? Am I loved because I help with all the events that need volunteers? Am I loved because I listen and never question what comes out of the pulpit even though at times it might not be sound doctrine? Am I loved when I decide that God has a calling outside those walls and the powers to be release me without bitterness?
We all, as believers, are called to love no matter what. That is understood. The word even go as far as to say that it is easy to love those that are easy to love but can you love the unloveable?
Love is displayed in so many ways: words, actions and thoughts.
Not everyone finds it within the four walls of a building. I chose to find it and give it outside those walls and live each day with the knowledge of who is in me and who guides me to the people and circumstances that will allow HIM to get the credit and the glory.
Removing titles, positions and human influences can sometimes help to take us back to what really matters: HIM and US. The fact that we did not and can not do anything to make Him love us more. It was finished at the cross and we just have to walk in that knowledge, displaying that in word, action and thought.
Church is a good place for many that need that fellowship in an organized way. I am all for it. But many get lost in the so called “callings” to serve and get caught up in “serving” rather than in Him.
As a Quaker, I am advised to “walk cheerfully in the world, answering that of God in everyone.” That’s why we’re asked not to kill people, and to treat all people with respect — no exceptions. The people in our small congregation know each other and take care of each other, as we are able. There are Quakers for whom the Bible is very important, and there are Quakers who are reluctant to say they even believe in God…but we worship quietly together. Quakers don’t have a creed — we are simply welcomed to start where we are, and pay attention to where the Spirit might be leading us. As a historic Quaker said, “Live up to the Light that thou hast, and more will be given thee.”
Love is not a blind support for any and all attitudes and behaviour. Love requires wisdom and discernment in order to do good. The tone of the article makes me think the author is himself very judgemental and expects love simply to mean being served. Well serving others comes in many forms, including holding people responsible and accountable. I don’t understand why he would not go to church if he indeed sees the good intentions – isnt that love?
Having said that, we indeed should not seek to dominate or control others, but allowing them freely to accept their own beliefs, which doesn’t mean all beliefs are equally good.
Here’s a thought: How about attending a church and displaying the kind of love you seek? Surely your example would influence others to follow suit. What you are seeking is what you need to give.
No-the reason you don’t attend my church or whatever church you are referring to in this article is because you are walking into it with a critical eye, doing everything you can to find something wrong with it. As long as the church isn’t perfect, you are able to say you won’t attend and can give reason for this lack of attendance. No church is perfect. No denomination is perfect. Each and every church isn’t made up of us, human-types, fallable human-types, doing our best to serve God and others. We will never hit the mark perfectly. You will find our mistakes every single time. I’m sorry that experiences you’ve had have given you this mindset. I’m sorry that there are Christians, whole denominations for that matter, who have done a horrible job representing the love of Christ. The mindset, the hardened heart, the critical point of view are your choice, though. You are loved, regardless, imperfectly, but still loved. What you do with that love is entirely up to you.
Kirsty, you have obviously missed the point of the article. I only hope you are not intentionally deflecting the truths of this article. This article in no way asserts an expectation of perfection, that’s a no-brainer.
I’ve attended church my whole life and been a member of several and I’ve never found a single pastor or person whose faithfulness and ability to love didn’t disappoint me in some way. There may have been times early on where I went to church and expected to be loved by fellow sinners unselfishly and unhypocritically, but if I did it didn’t take long for me to become disillusioned, that kind of love does not exist among sinful mankind and as a fellow sinner it would be wrong for me to expect or demand of others what I myself cannot provide.
What kept me in the church was the matchless love of God in Christ and my need to have my sins forgiven and be right with Him, occasionally I have seen glimpses of it in others in the church and in the beauty and diversity of Christian fellowship, but it would be a patently faulty foundation to build my faith on the goodness of fallen man rather than the goodness of God toward fallen man.
Christopher, I understand your point, but this article is not asserting an expectation of perfection in love, but just the basics, which if Jesus commanded for us to extend (which He did) He knew we were fully capable of.
This probably will not go over very well or be welcomed here, but I have to try anyway. Your biggest mistake was in thinking that you could find a pre-existing social group which would care about you and love you the way you wanted. And that just does not happen. Churches Bill themselves as pre-built communities ready to welcome anyone and everyone. In practice, this never happens. No church will ever satisfy you. The structures and restrictions they place on life are simply to onuris for anybody to ever feel truly comfortable.
What you need to do is go out and make friends. Individually in ones and twos. Introduce them to each other. Build your own social group from the ground up of people who care about you and each other. People that you share legitimate interests in, and who are not simply forcing themselves to spend time with you because you all claim to follow the same religious ideology. Find people you are truly compatible with and build a social group and Community out of them.
That’s what I did when I became an atheist, and I have to say it works pretty darn well.
What a beautiful piece. I know this will sound trite….but….I LOVE YOU!
Love thy neighbor as thy love thy self. Therefor as God has commanded me, therefor I shall do. I love you. I do not know who you are or what you have done or your past, present, or future, but I love you. Jesus has taught us if anything it is to love. To be Christ like is to love. Hate the sin, love the sinner. To build each other for it stayed in Proverbs “iron sharpens iron.” I shall do that with my brother/sister. I agree with this article that the church has gotten away from being a hospital and has become a hotel. We have become stagnant. Instead of reaching out and telling each other (believer or not) that we love each other, we as “Christians” have became dull. We no longer see the homeless man or the orphan. We no longer aid the widow. We nolonger sharpen iron. Folks, this article is a challenge. It is stating from what I can understand that the church is not doing what we are meant to do. So take it upon yourselves to challenge yourself to be more Christ like. To love. I was once told a serman. There was a widower who left the church. One day the pastor showed up to his house on a cold winter day. The old man let the pastor into his home. They sat at the fire place for hours, not saying a word. Suddenly the pastor took the fire poker and pulled an ember out of the flame. The ember instantly died down to a coal. The pastor and old man sat there for a few more hours, still not saying a word. Eventually the pastor placed the coal (now cold) back into the roaring flames in the fire place. Instantly the coal became apart of the fire. The next Sunday the old man returned to church. See folks, the pastor showed that we cannot be separate from the church and survive. That shows the importance of love and what we are called to do. Just know this, I may have never met you or know you at all, by I love you just as much as our God loves you and that is more than anyone can comprehend.
I have a small problem with this. Whule this definitely holds true in some areas, I find a small line of error, or what could be more labeled as a misinterpretation: a misinterpretation of love without correction. See, Christ Jesus walked this earth with love AND correction. His desire was for everyone to live whole, holy, and healed. We, as a people, desire for God’s love, but shun His correction; or any correction when it comes to something “so dear” to us. Now, I am not saying that this is what YOU are saying in your article. I am saying that it can fuel those whom are living in error, who want love, but who shun correction; and in that, we must pray for the fools. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction” Proverbs 1:7.
I only have two questions for the author: Are you born again as Jesus said you should be and living keeping His commandments daily? Do you confess with your mouth and believe in your heart that Jesus Is Lord of All, Name above all Names and your Redeemer? If not, you cannot ever presume to know His Love. As a Christian who does believe this, I know I am not perfect … Just a sinner saved by Grace … I love you because Jesus loves you, but can only show you if you physically cross paths with me … Until then I pray that Holy Spirit will meet with you and reveal to you the Only True and Living God above all gods, the Everlasting Creator of all things
To be fair: I don’t think most christians are capable of experiencing love, since they don’t know what it is. They use the word a lot without any understanding of its meaning.
Love. Noun. The condition in which another’s happiness is essential to one’s own.
That’s it. That’s all there is to it. And I’ve never met a christian that gets it.
Damn, I find myself in unfamiliar territory here. I’m used to quickly rolling my eyes when I read something from a christian, any christian. I just found this website and at first didn’t realize the author is a christian, let alone a pastor. The more I read the more I agreed. Actually there wasn’t anything I disagreed with and believe me I looked. I’m curious to see if that stays the same in the next days and weeks when I’ll be reading more here.
Welcome Dick, thanks for venturing into my work and giving it a chance!
Very well written and sadly far too accurate in far too many cases. I hope the author is directing those sentiments to the churches that behave as he has pointed out and not to all churches everywhere, because there are churches who do exactly what he is talking about. That show that kind of love and acceptance in a real and genuine way. For those who start in with the “I have to be true to scriptural truths” in order to justify their prejudices and poor treatment of their fellow human beings, please just stop right there. You didn’t get the point, you’re not willing to acknowledge the truth within, and you haven’t learned how to show true, welcoming, unconditional love. You also clearly missed that whole bit about not judging one another and somehow seem to think that God is not capable of judging each of us for himself but rather that he needs you to do the job for him because you’re somehow better qualified. That’s a pretty presumptuous attitude. Good luck with that.
When Jesus came to earth he was full of grace and truth. Both grace and truth in its fullness. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in truth.
As a believer I can only comment on churches which I have personally been involved with, and to be honest, I felt they were all genuinely loving. They were not perfect, but I believe majority of the people in those churches acted out of love. Its just that a lot of people do not want to hear the truth anymore. A Christian is branded unloving, just because he tells the truth–when he calls sin–a sin. Unbelievers outside the church are outraged that Christians talk about their lifestyles as sinful, and that all their attempts to “win them for Christ” are just attempts to make them conform to a religion. Is this true for your church? Dont look at other churches, you aren’t there to know them that well, just consider your own local church. I know my local church is not like that. When we organize activities (especially for the youth and young adults not yet in church), our goal is to make it easier for them to listen to Jesus’ gospel, his message of salvation, both by showing practical love and the proclamation of truth, so that they can choose to respond to Christ. Now, love does not mean that it is okay for everyone to just keep on in their sinful lifestyles–remember, even after Jesus spared the adulterous woman from stoning, he told her the truth, that she should leave her life of sin. Was Jesus being judgemental or unloving towards that woman when he said that? Should Jesus have said, “thats fine, if you love all those men, then be with all of them, I accept you for who you are”? Just like Jesus, telling people the truth is the most loving thing we can do. What will “unconditional acceptance” do for a person if it reinforces their belief that they are not sinful? Or that they can go on with their life without surrendering it completely to Jesus? Remember what Jesus said about loving one’s life (lifestyle)?
So, then how should believers behave, act and talk? — Like Jesus! Jesus is Love–he is full of grace and truth.
I appreciate this article, it is a good reminder to guard our hearts, but I believe it can be dangerously interpreted by some to espouse an unbiblical view of what love is.
Pij, I’d like to ask you a question. Actually two questions.
(1) Do you believe that homosexuality is a sin and/or that God condemns homosexuals?
(2) Do you acknowledge that there are many interpretations of God’s “truth” and as such there is no confirmation as to whose version of that truth might be the ‘correct’ one?
I ask those questions because in your comment it sounded a little bit like you were suggesting that the ‘point out other people’s sins to them to be loving’ narrative is a legitimate one, in which case I think you missed the entire point of the article. If I misunderstood that I apologize.
The problem with that narrative is that it presupposes that YOU know best what constitutes sin, and we’re not supposed to come to church to fix people, bring them to God by our own means or agendas, or point out their sins to them in order to help them achieve a higher righteousness. We’re supposed to come to church to worship together and to share God’s love, and we’re supposed to welcome anyone who wishes to share that experience. If we can’t do that without condemning our fellow worshipers based on our own personal beliefs about what constitutes sin or sinful “lifestyles”, we’re failing at that task. And it’s small wonder that those people would not feel welcomed, loved, respected, or inclined to return. It is not our job to judge one another; that job belongs to God alone. Our job is to love one another. His son came a long way to bring us that message.
Finally, I’m not sure what you consider to be “an unbiblical view of what love is”, but I’m pretty sure that judgment and self righteousness fit that category. If we love our neighbors free of judgment for what we perceive to be their sins, we model God’s love and open a pathway for all to find their way to him, each in their own way, not by a path we dictate for them.
Thank you for any clarification you can offer on this.
Hi Barb, the Bible is clear about many things, and sexual impurity is among them. Homosexual acts, and all heterosexual acts done outside of marriage, that should only be done within the marriage union is sexual impurity, which God calls sin. So, every person, myself included is guilty of this sin at one time or another–we must all seek to give it up. Do I condemn homosexuals? Of course not, I am friends with a few. Are they (heterosexuals too) sinning when they commit (or even affirm, or lust after) things reserved only for married people?–Yes, of course. So, when the Spirits leads, I try to tell them that truth (gently and respectfully), especially if they claim to be Christians.
Truth does not need to be interpreted, truth is true no mater what people think about it. The Bible reveals many truths simply and plainly, but not eveything is set forth clearly in the Bible. Sexual impurity, however, is one of the clear and plain truths.
What is an “unbiblical” definition of love? It is one that excludes the declaration of truth.
Pij, thank you for clarifying and for being respectful in your reply. While I appreciate your expression of your beliefs, I must respectfully disagree. I do not think that the “truth” in this case is clear and plain, either through interpretation of the bible or a consensus of personal beliefs.
The problem with your notion of the truth is that it is unyielding. And as such is closed to any other experience or interpretation. The notion that you, out of over 7 billion people on the planet, have figured out the one true meaning and command from God on this issue, is enormously conceited at the least. I have deeply held beliefs and yet do not declare them as verified, universal truths, nor do I feel a need to as my faith is strong enough to allow for the possibility that it is not perfectly accurate.
Yours is exactly the kind of church the author was talking about. It would be impossible for an LGBT person (who also believes in and loves God and does not interpret his word to condemn their orientation as sinful) to feel welcome in your church if you felt the need to declare your interpretation of that “truth.” That isn’t loving and it isn’t respectful. God doesn’t require everyone who walks through his doors to be perfect, or even perfectly aligned in belief with every other person walking through those doors. He does, however, command us to love one another and care for each other and that can’t happen while we’re judging our fellow human beings. When you value declaring your own version of the “truth” over simply modeling God’s love and welcoming all people to worship, you are shutting the door to those who don’t fit your personal standards instead of allowing them to come to God in their own beliefs and letting God decide how best to judge them.
Also Barb, you said “we’re not supposed to come to church to fix people, bring them to God by our own means or agendas, or point out their sins to them in order to help them achieve a higher righteousness” what are your thoughts on this passage below?
(1 Cor. 5:1-5)
It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.
Pij, my thoughts are the same on that passage as they are on many that, if we took them literally, would require us to do horrific things to one another. I do not for one minute believe that my faith requires me to deliver anyone to Satan for the destruction of their flesh. Just as I don’t believe we should stone people who break the rules we think we’re supposed to follow, I don’t believe that women are less valuable than men, and I don’t believe that Jesus thought that slavery was ever in any way acceptable just because he told parables involving slavery. I believe he used those examples because that was the frame of reference the people of that day could relate to and understand. The people of today have learned a little over the centuries and as such can understand other examples and also recognize parables for what they are and not literal examples of real events. We should be careful about applying 1st century norms to 21st century understanding. If we’re not, then we’re advocating a world in which women are still property, slavery is standard practice, stoning is an acceptable punishment for perceived sins (never mind actual crimes), and nations go to war with other nations to impose their form of faith onto everyone else. Of course, I also don’t think that I should stay away from church during my period because I’m somehow “unclean”, because I recognize that while there is no spiritual state of uncleanliness inherent to a woman’s menstrual cycle, there was potentially a hygiene issue at the time those passages were written that doesn’t exist as a concern today. So I am able to view those passages through the lens of a 21st century individual and interpret them accordingly.
My advice to people who struggle with questions about which characteristics of our neighbors we should judge, or point out to them if we do judge them, is simple. Embrace the main message. Love God and love one another. Don’t worry so much about getting every detail of that mission right. I don’t believe that God will ever judge me for being ‘too compassionate’, if such a thing is even possible. And I don’t think he’ll judge me for not declaring the ‘truth’ of someone else’s sins to them often enough in my quest to share my faith and bring those people to it. The main message Jesus brought was love – our new and binding commandment. He said to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, care for the sick, etc. If you ever struggle with how best to show God’s love, just remember that he told us how to do that – by the gestures cited above. I believe that if we do that sincerely and without expectation of reward, he will be happy with us. And if someone else comes to his house because they felt welcomed there and found their way into his kingdom because of that experience, I can only believe that would make him happy too.
Jesus himself said this in Matt 18:15-17 (this is clearly not a parable but direct instruction for churches) “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ 17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”– Jesus commands, that if a brother or sisters sins, we should point it out as Christians — do you agree with Jesus? Is this an unloving act? — having considered that. How about sexual impurity, how do you define that? Is sexual impurity a sin according to the Bible? BTW, Paul in Corinthians was also not speaking in parables, it was a letter he wrote to the church in Corinth to reprimand this unrepentant sexually immoral brother, to make him realize his sin, and hopefully repent and turn back to God.
I am not saying Chrisitians should be harsh or offensive, what I am saying is that true love, according to the Bible, involves correction in truth, which sometimes can be hard on people’s feelings.
I also seem to notice you define “love” only by temporary service, without considering the eternal effects for people. Remember what Jesus said, what profit it a man to gain the world (happiness, acceptance, worldly abundance) if he loses his soul–Jesus is more concened with our eternal welfare, than our temporal comfort or feelings. But, these are not mutually exclusive, and in fact, must go hand in hand. We love completely by showing practical care and acceptance, but point out sin and rebuke others if necessary. If the person refuses to repent, treat them as people who still need to surrender their lives to Jesus (as tax collectors and pagans), and not as people who live by the Spirit.
Lastly, truth can never be “relative”, if it were, it would not be truth but merely opinion. 1+1=2 is true, no matter what people think. What the Bible calls sin is sin, no matter what people think or feel about the matter.–What I don’t get is why Christians refuse to be called sinners, when everyone is a sinner. It seems to me people are hurt when they are called “sexually imoral” only becuase they refuse to let go and admit that sexual imorality is a sin, becuase they want to continuebin such a lifestyle, rather than saying–it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.
Pij, you have misquoted the Bible, Jesus actually said, “If your brother sins AGAINST YOU…” Not, just if a person sins in general. Perhaps you might wish He had said such things to give license to spiritually policing the world, but He did not. The issue Jesus was speaking of was conflict between two people. Let’s make sure if we are going to quote the Bible, we actually quote the Bible.
Awesome article. You sum up the primary reason I left the christian religion almost a decade ago. I posted this to my FB – and similarly to this entire comments page, I got a mix of religious people offended that someone would dare think Grace and Love are more important than guilt and shame…. And others who just had to say “THIS!!! I feel just like THIS!!”
Excellent job my friend – keep doing good work.
Thanks Travis, sure appreciate you taking the time to read, comment, and share my article!
Isn’t it strange that the Bible says God IS love. It’s his essence, every thing else extends from that but love is WHO he is… But evangelicals think “God is judgment” yet the Bible never once says that. It describes him as just by it never says anything even CLOSE to “God is love”
You need Unitarian Universalism, friend.
I’m an atheist, but I’ve longed for a community and for a place where I can examine my own spirituality – which I consider the connection I have with others, not a deity. But where would I go?
I became a UU after the election. Our principles, which we choose to live by instead of being indoctrinated into or forced by God, begin with “respect for the inherent worth and dignity of every person” and they really mean it. When word came to the president’s of the UUA from black UU members that they felt that despite our mission of acceptance, they didn’t feel they were really part of the church, we got new leadership and the entire structure of our faith and churches is being combed over to remove areas where white supremacy has rooted itself (not in the form of Nazis but privilege gone unacknowledged.) My first experience with my church was when they held a public vigil for pulse Orlando.
Church by deed, not by creed, is important. I’m with my tribe, social justice warrior snowflakes that we are. And no one has told me “I love you but…” even one time.
How tragically unempowered you sound. It’s so much easier to be a passive critic than an agent of change.
Let your brave grace give action to your own words. Leverage your influence to start a gathering where you can show the kind of love you are so desperate for.
I promise you. There are people who need it as much as you. You want to see church change? Good. Nothing is stopping you.
I cried when I read this. I have been involved with churches all my life. You expressed exactly what I hear from those I know who have left church or don’t see any need to be in that kind of community. I know the reasons why we need to have a faith community, and I think what you wrote is exactly what we want in a faith community. I was particularly touched by the expression that as a church we do not trust God/Holy Spirit to do the work of conviction or to draw a person into a more perfect relationship with God and others. My father was a minister and teacher. But what kept me from rejecting Christianity was the example I saw every day in him. Of course he was not perfect, but I never heard him criticize anyone in public life or his personal life. That didn’t mean he didn’t have strongly held convictions. It meant he didn’t condemn others–he tried to understand what they might be dealing with or why they might be following the path chosen. If he needed to encounter someone about behavior, he approached with sensitivity and compassion and often tears. Even with me in my youngest years, he never “preached” at me. He tried to understand why and help me figure out how to get what I really wanted by choosing a more productive behavior.
My greatest learning was when he suffered dementia during the last years of his life. This brilliant man who was a Greek and New Testament scholar did not know where he was or even who his longtime friends and former students were. But his character remained and he treated each person who came into his presence as if each were his most precious friend. Each person who took care of him in the nursing home was convinced he knew that one and loved that one in particular. The truth was that he did not know any one of them by name or even remember what each had done for him. He simply was grateful for every thing that was done for him and was in the habit of greeting each person he encountered as a precious child of God. He couldn’t have judged them if he’d wanted to. He simply didn’t have the capability. But God shone through him and each was drawn to him because of his respect and expression of thanks. I watched them be changed, one by one, as they encountered him. I told him when we put him in the nursing home that God must have a purpose for him there. He said, “I don’t know what it would be.” I said, “You smile. You touch people. You are thankful. If any place needs a person like you, it’s a nursing home.” He said, “that’s nothing; that’s just treating people like people.” I gave him a bit of a lecture: “These people may never read your translation of scripture from the Greek or ask you their questions on interpretation. But haven’t you taught me that without love it ais all nothing? Then I got a demonstration of just that point for the over 2 years he lived in the nursing home. God can use any one of us if we do not put up the barriers that stops the light of love that can flow through us. There were times Daddy put up the barriers–when he would worry about money or whatever was a habit from the past–being ready for a lecture or getting papers together, etc. I could see how ridiculous it was for him to be worried–just as it must be ridiculous and useless for any of us to worry when we have a relationship with the Source of all we really need.
Yes, it’s hard to love like Jesus did. We can learn to recognize the barriers the we put up. I am convinced we focus on all the questions of doctrine and interpretation because we find it too daunting to surrender to love. Or we have never been loved in a way that releases us to love others. I have been loved that way. I have no excuse other than my own pride or fear or focus on my own point of view. I just want a community that acknowledges our own frailties and believes it is not our love but Christ’s that matters and as my dad would say, “keeps on nabbing and grabbing at it.”
I am divorced. I am a Christian. I am a woman. I have two daughters. I receive no child support.
I am a divorced Christian woman of two daughters who receives no child support. Yeah. I just gave myself a label.
Because that’s how too many *people* in the church choose to label me. Please note I did NOT say *the church*. It was how those I was closest to inside the church labeled and treated me.
We had been part of a large small group of families. It was great! Good friends, good conversations, good food! It was GOOD!
But then my label changed from Mrs. to Ms.
Suddenly, I was ostracized. Suddenly, when I tried to reach out for the love and support from the other women in the group. The ONLY response I got? From one of the men, telling me how wrong I was.
The divorce was finalized two years ago last September 22. Ironically, September 21 would have been our 26th anniversary.
I had a marriage counselor and a minister both tell me my marriage was over. They both offered to me that my ex likely has a narcissistic personality disorder. The emotional abuse was validated by these two men of God who looked beyond the labels. Another piece of irony…. the minister that told me this? He’s the minister who had married us.
So the reason I don’t go to that church any longer? Judgment. Lack of love. Disappointment. Condemnation. Closing of ears. Simply not caring.
But mostly? Labels.