Struggles With Church
Ello lovelies, I’m back! (We’ll see how long I can keep this up). Today’s post is just some of my ramblings about how difficult church can be and what I would like to see changed.
Church is hard. The hymnal always seems more optimistic about church services than I am, proudly displaying “Christian worship” in shiny silver letters on the spine. Worship, real worship, is hard to find.
Worship is such a powerful word. It’s awe and praise, wonder and glorifying God. And it’s so hard to grasp. It rarely seems to happen in a church building for me anymore. There are times that I sit at the feet of God, marveling at His goodness, but it’s so, so rare. I wonder if I’m expecting more from a church service than I can realistically get. Not every service can be a spiritual/emotional high, I suppose.
But I wish I could feel a little closer, I wish I could silence the running monologue in my head, the cacophony of questions, doubts, and comparison of ideas. I wish you could raise your hand, and they would pause the sermon for two minutes so you could think it out, or you could ask a question, and people would discuss the answer, not lecture it. Although reality is, even when offered that – say in a Bible study – I usually pull up a Google doc and jot my questions there, and say nothing. Why derail the whole thing? Go along to get along, right?
There’s so little dialog in church – there’s just a lot of listening and repeating pre-written lines (the downside to liturgy, which is beautiful but also distant). Why don’t we talk about what it means to be a Christian more? Or the biggest lessons we’ve learned? Or the last time we saw how epic and loving our God is? Or how we can be more loving to our neighbors (such as the LGBTQIA+ community or unmarried mothers or the suicidal)? Where is the iron sharpening iron?
The problem with denominations
As Christians, I know we all serve the same God, but I wonder if we don’t all see Him differently. It would make sense since we’re all individuals in separate relationships with God, but why don’t we talk about it more? Especially amongst denominations, which sometimes create false boundaries to the point that we forget that we’re all Christians who trust in Jesus to save us…
Speaking of which, the last few times I was sitting in a church pew, staring at the stained glass of a church that I’m not technically a member of, I contemplated exploring different denominations. I’ve been told that I will never find the perfect church, but I wonder if I can find a better one. I wish I knew if the problem is with me or my tradition.
I have so many questions. Big questions, like what is the nature of man, and what is Christianity. I want to know which denomimation is the best manifestation of Scripture. Right now, it feels like each one emphasizes certain verses and ignores others, either highlights grace or works, either our relationship with God or with each other, either our sinfulness or our potential. I don’t want either. I want both. I want the paradox of the faith.
Sometimes, I feel alone in faith. Sometimes, it’s difficult to get past the words to what the words mean, too often, words turn into forests that I stumble and get lost in. Sometimes, I’d rather grab my Bible and Blue Like Jazz or Prodigal God and disappear for a few hours. I know that we’re supposed to meet together, but at times, it feels like my soul isn’t really fed in church. I wish I didn’t feel as if I were sinning every time I took communion.
Church – the real, actual Church – sometimes feels so far out of reach. We have the message, and we have the sacraments, but it feels like something is missing. Church should be synonymous with community. It hurts me that it isn’t. The Church should be a place of support, love, and encouragement. It should be a safe, sacred space where you can be honest about your struggles and wounds and sins without being ostracized and condemned. It shouldn’t be where you have to dress up, add another layer of lip gloss, and pretend to be better (or doing better) than you actually are. The Church should be real and raw and authentic, a place of healing. The Church is more than a building or Sunday morning worship services. It is a 24/7 community. It’s family.
I wish we could show that better. A lot of the stereotypes of church are of us being harsh and judgemental rather than gentle and loving. Something is wrong if we aren’t displaying the Fruits of the Spirit.
Even our outreach seems at its core to be self-serving. We are more concerned with membership numbers than with showing the love of Christ to the lost and hurting. We have become door to door salesmen of theology, very concerned with pamphlets and bullet points and numbers, all the while forgetting to serve others and love deeply.
…The problem, however, with critiquing the Church is that I’m part of it. I am part of the problem. I’m not as loving, as patient, as honest, and as outgoing as I wish to be. Sometimes, I’m the very problem that I want to fix. To quote Taylor Swift, “Hi, it’s me, I’m the problem, it’s me.” I’m trying to work on it and “be the change you want to see.” I want to speak grace and love boldly. I want to inspire conversation, maybe write a book.
I’m reactionary, not revolutionary. I’m not going to walk away from the Church. I’m just struggling. I hope you understand that. My writing is just to get these thoughts out of my head and maybe inspire something or remind someone that they’re not alone.
And, although I have been struggling at times recently with church, I have seen Church. I’ve felt that family. I’ve seen a friend, with tears streaking her face, immediately turn to God in prayer, and others place their hands on her and pray too. Sitting on the floor, reading the Bible with friends, I experienced fellowship. I have found that Church is bigger than just a congregation. I’ve found Church outside of church. And it is beautiful.
Be the Church you want to see. Until next time,