I couldn’t go to church this morning. I woke up early. I had my clothes laid out. We made plans to meet and sit with specific friends. I was really excited about visiting this new church. But I ultimately couldn’t bring myself to go.
I am writing this for the non-believer or the person that has been hurt by church. Because I grew up attending church and always felt at home, I never fully understood or related to someone who didn’t. I have always believed God existed. Yes, it was a nightly routine to pray before I went to sleep, but as a child, I can distinctively remember knowing something bigger than me was guiding and looking after me. I constantly would have conversations with God.
I loved church. My parents were not regular church goers, so I grew up going to church off and on with my Nanny Miller. And there was always something comforting about being at church. As I got older, I joined the church choir, and soon my one day a week church visits, turned to two, three…almost everyday visits because I found a home in church.
When I became an adult and got a job as a Paralegal, I would take my lunch breaks to run away to the Worship Director’s office because I wanted to be at the church. I began serving and leading on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. The church was my safe haven. The rest of my world could be sheer, utter chaos but all was well for me inside the four walls of the church.
When I left my Paralegal job in 2016 to pursue full-time ministry I was thrilled. I had this idea of how each day was going to be filled with spiritual growth, prayer, helping people and seeing God move in everything I did, because hey I’m working at a church. But what I discovered was quite different.
Ministry is hard. You see the best in people. You see the worst in people. The best part of the job is hands down the people, but the worst part is also hands down the people. And many times you naively go into ministry believing all you will see is the best, but it just isn’t true. The same brokenness that you see in corporate America or out in the community is still the same brokenness that dresses up and puts a smile on their face for Sunday morning.
I’ve debated writing about this. Mostly because I don’t want to sound cynical or start some great debate toward the concept of church. That’s not my intent. This is simply my experience and what I have learned. The Bible clearly instructs us we are to be in fellowship and not doing life alone. We are meant to do life with others and help each other grow and stay accountable and while yes, there are ways of doing that outside the four walls of a church, there is something about coming together each week for corporate worship that challenges and changes you.
I left 2019 terrified to ever step foot in a church again. The same girl that was once too excited to sleep on Saturday night because I got to go to church on Sunday, turned into the one crying on Saturday night and dreading waking up. And if I didn’t understand the difference between church and God, it would be very easy to blame God for all the events that led to this feeling.
The church is not God. As Christians we do a poor job of communicating who God is. We get confused. We get it wrong. We are broken humans incapable of clearly demonstrating the love that is God. I fail daily. As good as I think my intentions are, there is still evil in my heart. I judge others actions. I cuss. I fall short constantly.
I say all of this, because I have known so many people that leave churches because of the treatment they have received. Whether the treatment was self-induced or unfair really isn’t the point. The point is as the church we are called to love. Love the prostitute. Love the tax collector. Love the leper. Love the person that has a differing opinion or worship style.
Too many churches become consumed by image, numbers and comfort. Pastors, in an attempt to be the next big name in evangelism circles, shy away from anything that may step on toes and flocks of people remain spiritual infants or slowly starve. Instead of trying to meet people where they are, we make them conform to a standard that we ourselves cannot even meet. We become puppets that emulate our grandparents’ religion instead of making the effort to have a real relationship with our Creator.
All the while, forgetting, our actions speak louder than our words to others watching us. Unbelievers and the unchurched, see the hypocrisy that many of us as church-going Christians demonstrate and decide a life without church (and even God) seems like a better option.
My heart is for the unchurched in the community. My heart is to help broken people feel like someone cares and hopefully in doing so, demonstrate the love of Christ. That is why I decided to share this. To simply say, I get it. If you have been made to feel inadequate, unworthy, or unloved by a church or other Christians, I apologize. But I want you to understand, Christians are human. It doesn’t excuse their behavior, but those feelings of condemnation and disapproval are not from God. All people are broken in some way. And hurting people, hurt people.
Just like toxic people, there are churches that have also become toxic over time. But in the same breath, there are many wonderful, loving churches out there that do a lot of things right.
Querencia. A place were one feels safe, a place from which one’s strength of character is drawn; where one feels at home. I called this post “Querencia.”, because for years I looked at the church as my safe place. I put all my security in its four walls and I chose to remain in unhealthy situations because I confused the church with God. The church is nothing without God. And if the Holy Spirit is not at the center of it and the guiding force, it is literally just four walls. God is my querencia. He is from who I draw my strength and courage. And He can be your querencia too.
Psalm 32:7 says: "You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance."
I don’t know that I will ever feel safe inside a church building again, but I believe and trust that God can make all things new and restore what has been lost. And I do believe God is preparing a place for me to serve and be adequately fed, so in turn I am more equipped to live out His purpose for my life.
I believe that for you as well. Don’t let one person or a group of people keep you from knowing the most wonderful love you will ever experience. No church is perfect. Just like no person is perfect. And I think if we could learn to meet people where they are, just like Jesus did, there would be a great revival taking place in churches and in Christianity.
Please don’t give up on God and church because of one or several bad instances you have experienced. The kingdom needs your talents and gifts. Just a like body, you have abilities and gifts that are unique to only you. There is no mistake, no sin, no shame that is greater than the love God has for you. The things that you may be thinking make you completely inadequate, unworthy, and unqualified are the very things God will use for His glory.
2 Corinthians 12:9 tell us, "But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me."
Church is not a museum for saints, but rather a hospital for sinners. - Ann Landers ♥️
God, I pray for those far from You right now. I pray for those doing life alone because they are terrified of being hurt again. God break down the walls that surround our hearts. Use the scars that have served as constant reminders of painful experiences to instead become reminders of Your love that helped carry us through our darkest hours. God I pray for Your church. Help us to remember it is not “our” church, but "Your" church and as your children we are to demonstrate the love you have shown us to others. Help us to have eyes that see, ears that hear, and hearts that love like You do. Amen.