Why Church Breaks My Heart

October 5, 2014 by Kristin Meador
 
Day 5: For the month of October, I’ve joined over 1600 other writers in a 31 Day writing challenge. You can read more about it and see the participating blogs at write31days.com  Here is the starting page for 31 Days of My Search for Balance: Body, Mind, and Soul. From there you can find all of my October posts. 
 

Craig and I visited a church this morning, and we just couldn’t stay.

It breaks my heart, because I really want to find a church. Not a ‘church’ but a community of believers.

I am pondering what the ‘church’ is and how it has come to be the way it is. I am so uncomfortable with the programming aspect and business model of today’s American church, with the pedestal of one man leading the masses (we have seen recently how dangerous that can be and how many people can be damaged), and the ‘put on a show’ mentality. I can’t hear another 3 Steps to Improve Your Relationship With God (week after week after week). I am not saying that if this is what your church home is like that it’s wrong, I don’t know what is wrong in this picture, I just know that it’s not right for me.

It’s not that I don’t need words from wise teachers about how to grow as a follower of Christ. It just feels so formulated. It does not reach my heart. I know that church isn’t all about me and what I can gain from it. But I also believe that it should be a place that furthers your relationship with God? I love worship music and singing and even hymns, but why does every week have to be a concert? It so often feels like a showcase for musical talent rather than a group of people lifting their voices to worship God together. I would much rather go to Beer and Hymns at the pub. (I know many people who are feeling this way right now, and I hope we can find an answer. But I’d like to speak to those of you who are Christians and are reading this and cannot understand how I could feel this way. If you feel led to tell me about your wonderful church and how it’s different, or how I need to change my attitude because it’s not all about me, I ask you to have grace. Maybe before you give me advice or quote a scripture at me, please try to just listen to what I have to say, and maybe sit with it for a while.)

In my search for balance, one of the areas that troubles me the most is my longing for a spiritual community. The longing doesn’t trouble me, but the inability to find one is heartbreaking.

This has always been a challenge for my husband and me. But whenever we have moved to a new area, we have always seemed to find a place to land where we can grow and serve and learn and raise our kids. In last few years, that has all changed. I don’t know if it’s our station in life or just where our spiritual journey has taken us, but nothing seems to be a good fit. It took my husband a little longer to get to that realization than I did, because he is a very disciplined and routine type of man. But that is his story.

So I sat in this sweet little church, with lovely people, with talented musicians leading worship, and

I WANTED to want to be there. I wanted to find a safe place, a safe community. I tried to sit with my unsettled heart. Give it time. Don’t judge.

But I couldn’t stay. My eyes filled with tears, and my heart ached. I want a home, a safe place, a church family. And this was not it.  So we left and I sat in the car and cried all the way home.  The tears are streaming down my face as I write this. (The service started at 10, we left at 10:30, and I am just finishing this post at 11:30).

SO – what now? We’ve been asking ourselves this question for months, years. Here is the picture that makes my heart sing:

Maybe church looks like having a meal together around a large table, and breaking bread together. Maybe church looks like welcoming everyone to the table.

When I say everyone, I mean everyone (young, old, rich, poor, black, white, purple, straight, gay, transgender, religious or not religious). In my heart I see these people gathering together, sharing life, and talking about what God is doing in our lives. That might mean looking at the Bible, listening to a wise teacher, hearing from the couple whose marraige was broken but has been restored, or having the ten-year old who just learned how to not be a bully share her story.

It would look like a small community who meets regularly (whatever that means) looking at our community, our neighborhoods, our circles of influence, and helping where help is needed. Skin in the game, real helping. Not just talking, but doing. Feet on the ground, and hand dirty.

It would might looking beyond ourselves and being Jesus in our community.

Maybe it looks like buying groceries for the single mom, or taking her kids for the night so she can have a break. Or supporting families with foster kids. Or working at the soup kitchen, or homeless shelter, or volunteering with hospice to sit with dying patients. Or mowing your neighbors lawn. Or having a neighborhood breakfast in a low income neighborhood who may not get a hot breakfast unless it’s supplied by their school.

It might look like having Beer and Bible study with college kids. It might look like turning my home into a boarding house with a large community room and creating a safe place for people to land.

I really don’t know what it would look like. I’m just dreaming. I wish I knew what it should look like, and more than that, I wish I knew where to find it in my little community of Vancouver, Washington.

Until then, maybe I will head to Portland and try Beer and Hymns.

Disclaimer:  I have gone to church all my life, every Sunday (morning and evening) and midweek and weekend activities. I have been a Sunday school teacher, a youth group leader, a small group leader, and was a leader in women’s ministries for years. My husband was raised in the church. My kids were raised in the church. There is a lot I loved about those years, and they helped shape who I am today (good and bad). But my heart longs for something more, something different. I don’t even know what that means, and I don’t want to say that those still participating in church as it is are wrong. It’s just not the right fit for me. I have hesitated to write about this are because it makes me feel especially vulnerable, but I think today is the day.

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103 comments

  1. Yes, yes, yes. Where I grew up, the church was very much like a cult. You were in, or you were damned. And if you didn’t agree with the paster… well, you can imagine. Basically anyone who wasn’t white, affluent, straight, and preferably male, wasn’t going to heaven. It was a devastating experience as a child, and it really put me off attending.

  2. This is SUCH a hard topic to think about in the privacy of your own mind, let alone write about it publicly. You wrote this really REALLY well. Kudos to you for going for it, and I’ll be praying that you do receive grace for your thoughts. ❤

    I'm not going to go on and on about my wonderful church, but I will say that sometimes a great church is in an unexpected place. We went to a giant, formulaic church for years, and bugged out for the exact same reason. It was boring, we didn't feel fed, and we longed for community. We ended up finding that in a small church plant that meets in a local elementary school cafeteria – the last place we expected – and it was exactly what we've needed.

    I'll be honest here – I struggle with connecting with other women, and my insecurities eat me alive whenever I'm around women who seem to have it all "together." A huge part of me wanted to leave after the first week because I was confident that it wasn't for me. But we were tired of looking, and since my husband connected with some Christian guys immediately (something we'd been praying for for years), I held out. We joined a small group and I began volunteering for childcare every few weeks during the service. And slowly, I became a part of the community.
    I still feel insecure from time to time there, and there are days when I want to go in, get spiritually fed, and leave – without connecting with a single person. But on the whole, I know that that is a struggle I face, not necessarily something my church is doing. (In other words, it's very likely no church will satisfy that area for me).

    I think the church you describe is exactly what God wants to see – loving arms opened out for everyone. We are fortunate to see that where we are – sometimes it's our worship pastor and some other guys having beer and cigars for poker night. Sometimes it's the mommies meeting at a local playground. Sometimes it's bringing a meal to someone who just became a foster parent.
    You are looking for the right thing. Just don't lose faith, don't give up, and (in case you are anything like me), be willing to accept that some of those struggles might not be something any church can address.

    I hope that came out lovingly and supportive – that was my goal! 🙂 ❤

  3. I have found genuine honest community a few times in my life. One was in an amazing small group and another was doing life with another couple. I hope you find what you are looking for.

    Fondly,
    Glenda

  4. Thank so much for sharing, i have thought about this for months but could never find the words, until today.

    I know what you’re talking about! We struggle between do we hang in there with a church that doesn’t quite get it yet (we’ve tried many – some are closer than others) and looking for a home church – haven’t found any yet. I am thankful that I have great women friends who have been there for years. I know the importance if your husband connecting – that alone is priceless. Thanks for sharing your heart!

  5. I love this. Church hunting is SO hard. we don’t like our current church much (hence being anonymous…sorry.) but we hope to be the change we wish to see and wish that change was happening faster. Sometimes I wish there were just good churches, period. Not, “Good but….” churches.

    But sinners, I guess. Bleh!

  6. It’s sad, but also freeing and wonderful, because I feel like my faith is growing as I ponder these things. I just don’t think Jesus intended for church to be a production.(I realize not all churches are like that, that is just one example of what does not sit right with me),

  7. Kristen, I know it must have been tough to put this out there. Bravo and do not worry about the ones who do not get it. After 25 years in fulltime vocational ministry my husband and I are in the exact spot you are in right now. We have not attended a church in 2 years and I am in shock that it’s been that long! Crazy and heartbreaking.
    For me, the good side to this situation is that I have truly learned that my one-on-one friendship with God still stands…without all the props of being a pastors wife etc etc. But I desperately miss the community of church. Don’t have an answer for you, but you are not alone and that tells me that a new version of “church” must be in our futures.?
    Susie

  8. I know nothing is ever perfect, because HUMANS 🙂 but I think it’s time to look for a better way. It happens with every generation. I’m excited to see what will come out of this generation and longing for change.

  9. Kristin, I appreciate your sharing your heart with everyone today. I can see it was NOT an easy thing for you to do, but you wrote the truth from your heart and did so beautifully. There ARE many types of churches; there are many places to worship. I have been in different ones myself and had to find my place which I have. I pray God will lead you and your husband to the right place – and if not now, maybe the place is yet to be! Hang in there; bless you for sharing!

  10. Well, there’s a lot in this post. I suppose the thing with getting to know people as family is that you get to know more about them when you’ve built relationships with them than you do from first impressions. I recently read a book called “Glory in the Church” by Jarrod Cooper (he’s a pastor here in the UK), and I loved the last chapter where he talked about having times as church to be experimental and go deeper with God. What he said was that these times couldn’t really be during Sunday-morning services because there are things in church-life that have to be done – announcements, dedications, baptisms, but to have a separate time where there was no agenda except waiting on God, he felt was really important. I guess what I’m trying to say is that what you’ve seen on a Sunday morning might be only part of the church’s story. Maybe there are times during the week when they go to each other’s houses, children in tow, and have a meal together round a large table and talk about what God’s doing in their lives.

  11. Hi Kristin,
    I love this post so much because your heart is so clearly shared. Thanks for that. I won’t go on and on about my church although we had some pretty similar emotions about our previous church that you are having. You might look at this link. http://thetransformchurch.org. its not my church but I think you might find it interesting. Hopefully you aren’t offended by my sharing that. I just know the pastor well and know his heart is very similar to what you shared.

  12. I agree – those small group, get down and messy times are what builds community. And I appreciate what you say about Sunday mornings, but I think we can fall into the trap that it has to look a certain way (bulletins, announcements, 3 worship songs, offering, 2 more songs, etc). I would love to know what church would look like outside of that box. And really, I have no answers.

  13. I felt this today as well as we went once more to the church that just isn’t what we are looking for but, better than the others in the area. I love how you put this frustration into words… I want so much to find a home in a church that isn’t scheduling 3 sold out shows a day.

  14. Thanks Jon! I know your heart and know you hear where I’m coming from. I’m not offended at all. I will check it out. I think the answer lies somewhere in the middle between what church is now and what we hope it to be.

  15. I can very much relate to you! I “attended” church this morning via Livestream and had to turn it off before the sermon ended. I love my church and have been there for 6 years, but I find that many times I walk away feeling empty… like something is missing. I look at the myriads of younger people (I’m 51) who are leaving the church or want nothing to do with “organized religion” because they have seen the way shame in the church keeps “sinners” out. I firmly believe the church needs a new reformation. It’s time. The decades (centuries?) of legalism are choking out what the church is really supposed to be – the hands and feet of Jesus, loving as he did, fighting injustice, feeding the poor, embracing everyone. Kudos to you for putting your heart out there!!! Here is a post I wrote that you might enjoy:
    http://wp.me/p4kAnh-5y

  16. Oh my sweet sister! I hear ya! I’m 50 with three college age kids. And besides their struggles with the church, I’m wondering what part does OUR generation play? As I look at many of those leading church reform, they’re young (20’s and 30’s) and I think our generation is slipping through the cracks. We are NO churches target group, we don’t have kids at home but I’m not calling myself a senior yet! And I think the younger leaders think we’re part of the problem so they leave us out and there is no one to add our voice to reform. We’ve experience life, and business, many of us don’t have kids at home, we have homes with rooms to be filled and we have resources. I think we will be a valuable part of change, but we need someone speaking for our generation and being our voice. *steps off soapbox

  17. I so connect with this post. My husband and I are on a unique church journey as well down here in central Texas. It’s like no one else in our friend group is quite on the same page as us. We continue to struggle through it. I’m not sure if we’ll ever find at place/group that we connect with. Like you, we don’t even know what that exactly looks like.
    Thank a for sharing your heart. Reading words to what we feel is so freeing. May God use your words today! THANK YOU for your honest vulnerability. Xoxoxo

  18. I know there’s a place for all of us, we’re made that way. My husband and I have often felt that way. We used to joke we were just going to start “Craig and Kristin’s Church of Fun” and meet at Disneyland once a month.

  19. I thought this was interesting… Because I think as our faith grows and evolves we want more…. Just as our prayer lives, Bible Study methods can’t stay the same or they grow stale… So does our Worship style/worship needs. I think it’s a big challenge in the church now. For years it was the traditional minister does everything… Then it became the worship leader/praise band style… So where do we go from here? How do we become creative and fulfilling? How do we keep The church alive?

  20. Look at you opening up all of this great conversation over something you were hesitant to post! You are not alone. I think people all over the world are looking for this. Please don’t stop searching.

  21. That is so true! We looked and looked for a church home when my daughter was young and we finally ‘settled’ for a church that seemed like the least offensive? I know that is bad to say, but when I started trying a bit more, I got to know some of the people that I didn’t know if I would get to like or not, they were deeper into the hands on thing than I thought… and I got to respect some of them so much more. One group went to the nursing home and did hair, washed, rolled, visited, hugged. I was happy to find out that some of the more snobbish women were very into helping out with meals and when I had surgery, people brought food by, offered to help with kids, housekeeping, it was super nice. I just had to give them a chance.
    I know it isn’t always like that.
    I think sometimes it is hard to be in a larger church because it is a routine, but sometimes it is just a matter of getting in there and changing. Start a group that takes seniors to doctors visits, start a group that ministers to the poor with food and clothing, start a group that goes to the nursing homes. Gosh, they need people so much and it is so often we forget them,
    One quick thing before I write a full blog post!
    My ex and I went to his mother’s church one weekend while visiting. They happened to have a guest speaker… I doubt anyone will remember him, he played Eb on Green Acres, Who knew he was a very wonderful speaker? Tom Lester gave this wonderful speech and then paused… I think this was his way of amusing himself, it was at the ‘time’ to pass around the plate… everyone started rustling.. and he smiled and started into a real serious speech.People stopped and listened to him. He broke what was the “mold” of what we think of as “NORMAL” That was nice. … We need to break that normal mold and shake it up a bit, grab the attention of new Christians, embrace them and love them., and do the same for the ones that are comfortable with the norm, maybe they need to be shaken up, to remember that we are to follow the example of Christ, not just make it a routine, dull, hear and run event.

  22. I am in the same place as you are. I want so badly to find a group of Jesus followers who just want to live and support themselves and there communities without judgement. I live near Tacoma. I have been reading these thoughts from a lot of people lately. My heart tells me that we all need to come together and create these communities that we long for so desperately.

  23. Been there…still there. My background is similar to yours. Sometimes I feel like church has become the adult equivalent of high school and popularity contests, clique-ish, etc. And yes, my husband and I have given two substantial churches time…and neither panned out. Then you get gun shy to continue to try. But we do… I will tell you I am partial to expositional preaching (chapter by chapter, verse by verse) because the Bible provides the outline. Musically, I love contemporary that still has a traditional flair. I am middle age so I’ve been enjoyed both contemporary and traditional music. But I heard something from Ravi Zacharias that I thought needed to heard by so many. It was so gentle and compassionate. Someone asked about music preferences in the church. He stated that we need to make sure that the music does not become god. Then he said that music is a carrier of memories. To have all contemporary music for the young and to forget the older folks is to amputate them from the past where God has brought them through so much…and that is cruel to leave them out.

  24. We simply must become friends! My husband is a pastor of a little church a few hours away from you. We feel the exact way and are getting ready to “rebrand” our church. We are hoping to become more hands-on in our community. There is a huge stigma attached to our church because it’s been here in this town forever. We’ve been here almost 4 years and still get asked when we are moving back to the city. Sooo frustrated. I’m going to go waaayy out on a limb and message you my number on your private facebook page.
    Angie

  25. Exactly. We changed in the seventies when we added drums and guitars (oh my!) and it was scandalous. I love worship bands, but it just seems . . . I don’t know. Often like a performance.

  26. Thanks! Such great points. I’m trying so hard not to label people as safe/unsafe, real/fake. We never know until we sit face to face and hear each other’s stories, or work side by side getting our hands dirty.

  27. Yes, Laura! Hey, Tacoma is only a few hours from here haha. I think there are so many aching for something, but we have been doing the same thing for so long, that’s all we know.

  28. “Make sure that the music doesn’t become God” – that’s good. I feel sorry for our seniors sometimes. I love worship bands, but I don’t want to feel like I’m at a concert. That’s not worship leading. And I don’t know what we would do different, but I think when the musicians become the ‘stars’, it’s time to rethink things.

  29. My heart is breaking for you right now. I know what it’s like to be wandering in the wilderness searching for a church home. It’s a really really hard place to be. I do think it takes time for a place to feel like home, but I also know that sometimes God leads us through a season of not having a home for awhile. I am glad you’re asking these questions and asking God to show you what He wants for you. Praying you find a church soon and in the meantime, find peace in the middle of waiting.

  30. You’re not alone, Kristin. I fled a church today because it reminded of high school: The bell rings signaling us it’s time to go inside, sit down, be quiet…until we are told “You’re dismissed.” It’s superficial and unsatisfying. People hurt. We struggle. I struggle. I want what’s REAL. I want Jesus. I want relationship and connection and family–not legalism, structure, programs. Let’s be His hands and feet. Let’s love each other, heal each other.

    Here’s a “preacher” who brings this message back to me when it’s not available in the building we call “church”. We are the church. Google Todd White. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bhjbg2otxk8

  31. Kristin, thank you for being so vulnerable and sharing your heart. I am sad that you haven’t found the church your heart is seeking. I pray that you and your family find exactly that. I work at a church and I hope that when people searching for a church home walk through our doors, they feel at home and welcome. I think you are spot on with your description of church. God wants us to serve our neighbors whether that be helping out a single mom or the homeless man or whoever that may be. God calls us to pick up our basin and towels to wash the feet of all God’s people. I work at a church and am a consecrated Diaconal Minister in the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) DMs are the equavilent of Catholic deacons/deaconesses. I felt called to this ministry because I saw how people treated my mom who suffers with a mental illness. I believe God calls us all to wash the feet of all God’s people.

    I love that you reference Beer and Hymns in your post. Again thank you for sharing your heart. I will continue to pray that God leads you to the right community of faith for YOU and your family!

  32. One of the hardest and most spiritually dry times of my life was when we were without a church home. Finding a real Bible-believing church that understands the needs of the believers of all ages to be fed from the Word of God, challenged in their daily walk with the Lord and enjoying times of fellowship together took time, patience and a lot of prayer. For our little family it means a 30 minute drive to and from our church home 3 or 4 times a week. It may seem crazy when there are 20+ churches in our home town, but we are getting what we need and are plugged in to ministry and it’s a blessing and a joy! I pray you will find a place for your family where the Word of God is taught and lived out – and that all of the so-called ‘gospels’ of this Laodicean age which confuse and divide are brought to light by the clear teaching of Scripture.

  33. THIS!
    I have become so disheartened by the state of the local congregations – the politics, the fakeness, the hate masquerading as love, concern, or righteousness. It can’t be what Christanity was meant to be.
    If you find this, think of me. If not, let’s find a neighborhood, small city, or island and create this community. Clearly, we’re not alone!

  34. I know that what many people think of when they hear the word ‘Christian’ can be far from what Jesus intended. I think it’s going to be a matter of getting back to basics.

  35. The frustration you feel about churches is something those of us outside the faith also feel. It’s honestly refreshing to hear someone who sees that American churches have become more political and less about God and more about claiming that political goals are being done “in God’s name” (when really, they’re just selfish personal desires to control).

    There are good Christ-filled communities out there, particularly in smaller congregations that allow everyone to meet everyone and work together. I’ve found the best community experiences at Unitarian Universalist churches, which emphasize that we all have our own relationship with God, but that regardless of our differences, we’re also part of the human family and need to love one another. As a practicing Pagan, I’ve never felt unwelcome among them – and it’s the one Christian church where I can feel at home, singing hymns and celebrating faith in a family without being pressured to follow a dogma that strikes me as wrong or shallow.

    You will find the right home for you… it just takes time sometimes to find the path that leads there.

    Blessings,
    Melissa
    http://www.measi.net/measiblog/

  36. Why, Kristin – you are just as scandalous as you were thirty years ago when I was your mentor and we used to sit on the floor in my living room in Portland and talk and cry! Can you remember that far back?

    You are somewhat familiar with my journey. But what you may not know is that I do not struggle with finding a church. I enjoy my church: Bedsprings Assembly with Pastor Sheets (get it?)

    Anyway, I know that MOST of your readers do not share my disinterest in church, but I truly have found a very peaceful place in my life.

    I cut my teeth on church benches up and down the west coast and finally stopped going to church when I started getting shunned by many of my friends because my marriage of 36 years ended because of infidelity. The way I look at it is that if 54 years of church didn’t save me …. then that must not be the answer!

    Don’t get me wrong I LOVE JESUS more than ever and I happen to be HIS FAVORITE! And guess what!?!? I don’t go to church. Not because I am bitter, just because it feels so fake and scripted and I know the underbelly of it (having been raised in a pastor’s home and was a pastor’s wife – 55 years.)

    And I say similar things as you….I don’t think that people who go to church are necessarily fake or hypocrites….etc. And I do hope that when my kids have kids, they will raise them in church…not sure why…. I just do. BUT I am truly okay with loving God from where I am at.

    There. I know you still love me. YOU have always been so full of questions and that is what I have loved about you….You have NEVER just followed the crowd and let others believe for you…. You are my hero and I want to be like you when I grow up.

    Plus….you have ALWAYS been a writer.

  37. My dear sweet Cindie – you loved me in the midst of my feisty rebellion. That meant the world to me then, as it does now. Thank you for your kind and thoughtful words.

  38. Oh, I loved your rebellion! It meant you were and are human. I truly enjoyed it. I will never forget the song you sang to us when we were leaving (old school now) Friends are Friends forever….
    Don’t EVER stop asking questions, your Father loves it and is especially fond of you.

  39. Do it! Seriously, do everything you just wrote. It sounds like all those things are very important to you & maybe God is leading you to do something about it?

    -bill

  40. Thank you for being so transparent…you made me feel the ache in your heart. I truly hope God leads you to the place where you can worship and serve with joy!

  41. YES YES YES, so can relate to you. I got kicked out of a church where I was an elder because of the “us” and “them” mentality. All’s forgiven now, but I’ve still found it very difficult to find a “church” I can call home. I love God and am a follower of Jesus – but the church as in institution, nah!

  42. Agree that we need to get back to the ‘church’ of our forefathers. Been involved and highly critical of the large follow the pastor platform worship concert 6 times on weekends church. Been hurt and got angry enough to leave when I realized that Satan was so happy to have me smack in that place of disgust. You know what I did? I prayed. I knew that my feelings were being fueled by the evil one and prayed for God’s answer. Stay or go. He showed me quite quickly to stay. How? When every fiber of my being was straining away from the “process” of church? By showing me where my place was in the body. Right in the middle tending to His sheep in a one-on-one or small group round the table atmosphere. To help others find Him in that church. We need to be the hands and feet of Jesus and in larger churches it’s harder to get that from the platform. The mature believers, the ones who want to get their hands dirty loving on every body and sharing the gospel are necessary in the church of today – because the church buildings of today are full of lost people – even though they show up every Sunday. Do I wish my pastor would actually teach the bible from the platform, absolutely. But when I stand down front holding the hands of a person shaking with fear or worry or need and pray over them, my Kingdom work is being done and the Holy Spirit is ministering to that person through me and that is why I stay.

    Until He asks me to leave.

    (Sorry – I probably should have edited too.)

  43. I have been reading more and more posts like this. It’s really sad. I don’t know the answer – I am just thankful for my church each time I read these. We are not perfect but at least I feel that it is home there. I pray that you will find a place that you can connect and serve and be blessed.

  44. I hear what you’re saying, thanks for sharing. I’ve considered staying (or finding a church to stay in) but my heart isn’t at peace in any direction yet. I guess there is value in being in the wilderness for a while.

  45. This post touched my heart! It must have taken a lot of courage for you to write this! I have been going through a similar journey this past year. Just keep seeking God’s will and priorities for you and your family! He will bring you home soon!

  46. What amazes me most and helps to stir me up to anticipation is really how many of ‘us’ there are… we are in the same place (unfortunately, not the same zip code… but close!) and it is hard. But we have come to find peace in knowing that we are where He has us in this season and it helps to remember that church is all of the things that you mentioned above! We have found community after years of not having it, but it is not a church and we don’t meet on Sundays and still – it is church for us. Even that, however, is shifting and changing and God is doing something beneath the surface and we can feel the shifting! Praying for you all… and us all… and everyone! (And oh – so, when & where is that Beer and Hymns in Portland, because… )

  47. Thanks for your kind and thoughtful words, Karrilee. The one thing I’ve always known is that God is with me and is leading me to . . . Something! When I hear of another Beer and Hymns, I’ll let you know!

  48. I feel your heart. I’m sorry it’s such a struggle right now and I hurt for you, really. I think what I’m learning is that God has ordained his church as his methods to reach the world so we should not abandon it. And that, I don’t think, is what you are saying. But many times there are people in the church doing all those things you say. You just can’t see it on the surface. And sometimes takes a long time to really see and learn who is doing those things and to become a part of that. Because a lot of times the people who were out there serving and giving and loving and radical ways don’t broadcast it. They do it humbly and quietly. And you won’t find them easily until you’re there doing it too. Just a thought.
    Alesha

  49. Thanks, Alesha. I know those things are going on, and I’m so glad they are. I’m just excited to see the structure of today’s church shift from what I see in many churches – a business, a production, a show. I would love to see the church get back to the basics without so much energy placed on program. I seriously have no idea what that will look like, but I’m hopeful as the conversation about transformation continues.

  50. I feel this way. I am a divorced woman (of five years). I don’t fit in a couples class Sunday School. I feel like I can’t be myself (friendly) around married men because I send the wrong message (they always mention their wives … like I’m coming on to them). I can’t act “normal” (friendly) around single men because I come across as flirty (I DON’T want to date). I don’t like to gossip and gab or say anything unkind about my ex so it’s often hard to mention I’m divorced to another divorced woman without something coming up negative about their ex. And then I just want to run away. I don’t want to be a part of that kind of conversation. Lastly, married women and I have so little in common. I feel very, very alone when it comes to church. Though I’ve been in church for at least 25 years, about a year and a half ago, I took a break … an intentional, sabbatical. I now stay home and watch Oprah on Sunday mornings while I do creative things like paint or sew. It feeds my soul to ask God to show me His truths in things that are said (some times she has Christians on – sometimes not. But, I can see/hear/find God in so many conversations). But, I really miss church and friendship and feeling included, needed and a part of a community.
    So, thank you for telling your story
    and for allowing others to tell theirs.

  51. Thank you for sharing your story, Karen. It’s hard to find real, genuine relationships with others with whom you can share your heart. In the next day or two, I’m going to write about some things I’ve learned in that area. Praying that you’ll find a safe circle of friends, too.

  52. I get it. So very much. As a single woman over the age of 30…I mean 40…going to church alone is painful. I don’t know where or how to fit in. Thank you for sharing your heart. You are not alone. Keep writing. Good work!

  53. I hear you, my husband have been there. Are still there. We’ve just become a part of a home church network that is learning how to live out what you’ve described. You know by now that you’re not alone, so many others are feeling the same way. I think God is wanting to stir things up and inspire us to do church differently-and though that’s hard, it’s a good thing as this way of doing church will reach a group of people that haven’t been reached before.

  54. I love the idea of a home-based church! I’m not saying yours is like this, but when I first started envisioning this, I thought it would be perfect if we could just hand pick who would be in a smaller group church, but soon I saw how foolish that is. How will we learn from each other, grow in grace, and minister to the hurting if we only surround ourselves with like-minded people who are in the same stage of the journey? There is great value in being face to fave with those who are different from you, especially those one might find difficult or out of our comfort zone.

  55. Kristin, I really appreciate your post. At first, I wanted to say, get over yourself… then you addressed that. I then wanted to say, it’s not about you… then you addressed that, as well. Finally, I was thinking, “Well, if she wants a certain type of church community, then she should do something to change it.” Of course, you addressed that too.

    I also read the comments to see what others were saying and noticed that many feel the same way you do.

    I just started to preach at my church a year ago (started up a new Saturday service). I am not on staff nor do I get paid to do so. My wife and I felt the call to get a Saturday service started. I’ve been attending my church since I was saved in 2006. The Saturday service averages 20-30 people each week and about 40-60 people on potluck days (food seems to draw more people, haha).

    We conduct services just as most Christian churches do here in Phoenix, AZ. Our denomination is SBC. We have announcements at the beginning, sing worship (hymns and contemporary) led by a worship leader, communion (every first Saturday of the month), the sermon, collection of tithe and offering, then end with a final song. Afterwards, we fellowship over some snacks and refreshments. On the last Saturday of the month we do a potluck dinner after service. Over all, we have a very intimate feel because we are not a huge congregation and we are in a smaller building.

    Now we also do have Sunday services, which are much bigger, held in a much bigger building and with the Sr. Pastor preaching. This is more on the line of the type of church service that you described in your post. My wife and I don’t attend Sunday services on a regular basis because we do our worship on Saturdays.

    Anyway, I am going through seminary and this semester I am taking church history. And I have learned that the early Christian gatherings were done secretly in someone’s home, because if they were caught worshipping Jesus, they would be imprisoned, tortured and even killed. The main purpose of the gathering was the breaking of bread (communion) to remember what Christ has done for us. The Christians would gather together to fellowship and talk about Jesus. I’m sure the fellowship also included how they could help each other to grow in Christ and talk about ways to help each other in times of crisis.

    After reading your post, I thought… wouldn’t it be a great idea to do church like the early Christians did? Break bread with each other and fellowship to talk about Jesus. Then discuss how we can help each other out in our time of need and how to serve the community by sharing the Gospel and serving others.

    In this new (early church style) type of service, we could do this over food (potluck style) and at the same time have an informal sermon by teacher/preacher to learn about God’s Word. I believe that this is the way church was meant to be. Church should be about the people worshiping and learning about Jesus, not about the building, throwing concerts, “clicks” and all the things that most churches focus on today. This is definitely something I need to ponder on longer.

    Okay, I’ve rambled on long enough. Thanks again for this post. It has really blessed me. God speaks to us in so many ways, and I feel that He has spoken to me through this post. Thank you.

    Take Care & God Bless!

  56. Thanks so much for your thoughts, Joey. I love your vision of church transformation!

    I’m also not opposed to someone telling me to get over myself. I say it to myself all the time!

  57. Hey Kristin! I really felt this post and identified with it and so many of the comments. I have similar feelings and I applaud you for speaking out. As I read through the comments, I kept seeing references to being 50 ish (I’m 51) which made me wonder, could it be our age or not feeling a part of things since children are grown? I know that I’ve had a hard time connecting with others since my kids are no longer little and I’m not meeting people or seeing them as much. I feel like I’m struggling to make friends — and the kind of friends and community that you’re talking about. I really want more out of my friendships and my spiritual life. If we lived close we could get to know each other and I’d love to be friends and form a small community group with you. but you know — we could still do it online : )

  58. Thanks for your comment. I think that many of us stayed in the church for our kids. And now what? And many of our kids have fallen away, too. I am planning on writing a post about our generation and the church soon, but I want to do a little more research.

    I think about this every day, and wish there was an easy answer. But I don’t think it’s always supposed to be easy to search for and live in truth. Ugh. I want it to be a three step sermon. Hahaha.

  59. Kristin, great post. When I wrote about my pilgrimage out of evangelicalism, I included a chapter on leaving church. The reason I believe people like you and me feel this way is because we know in our heart that the modern American “church” is just an optional model… not THE church. Biblically, church is just a gathering of people who love each other in Jesus’ name. So, pub, bistro, cafe, coffee bar, living room, auditorium, building all work, but the modern, traditional focus has been on a model that insists it’s the only way and is coupled with a theology of “church authority” that models corporate America more than first-century gatherings of Path Followers of Jesus.

  60. In Seattle, there are lots of “Pub Theology” meetings. We meet in microbreweries and have open talks on spirituality and Christianity.

  61. Kristin,
    I am so sorry to hear you are struggling to find a church that fits you and your family. My family and I also struggled with finding a place where we belonged. We finally did and I am so thankful. I did not grow up in our current denomination , but we chose an Assemblies of God church. When I go to church I feel loved and the people of the church strive to show the kindness of God. And when we worship God it is about a body of believers , who are broken and imperfect coming together to worship and praise our saviour. Not, that other churches don’t do this, but this church fits our family and we feel at home. I will pray that you will find that church for yourself. When you do, I believe there will be no doubt that is where you belong. 🙂 just keep praying, and pressing into his word.

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