What To Do When You Just Can't Do Church Anymore

What To Do When You Just Can't Do Church Anymore

What To Do When You Just Can't Do Church Anymore

If you read the title of this post and immediately identified with its sentiment, you may not be surprised to know that there is a growing number of church people out there who just cannot bear the thought of involving themselves one more time in a church community. We identify with that red-blooded hero of American independence, Tom Sawyer, who quipped, “I've been to the circus three or four times—lots of times. Church ain't a circumstance to a circus.”

You’re also well aware, I’m sure, that we are in an era of Western Civilization that has largely rejected the truth of Christianity and exchanged it for all manner of post-modernism. I won’t be addressing those who have rebuked a faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ entirely in this post. This one is for those of us who still love and want to follow Christ, but who are just so very weary of the gathering of his followers.

I’m going to give you some things to think about and hopefully a way forward, but I want to preface it all with a statement I know to be 100% true:

I am not the Holy Spirit.

Take everything I write with that big sentence ringing in your ears.

So while I am not your Holy Spirit, I can stand here as a compassionate reminder that you can listen for him and seek God’s truth, and being one of the people who points you back to Jesus is my heart’s deep desire and the reason I write in the first place. I’m no substitute for God.

That having been established, these are the truths I know about being in an emotional space where you just can’t do church anymore:

1.

You don’t have to do church anymore.

For some of us, church attendance was a non-negotiable weekly imperative with many assumptions attached to it. Our attendance and involvement has been linked to our faithfulness, our commitment, and our spiritual depth. Church attendance should be none of those things.

It’s entirely okay to step out. Just do me a favor and read the rest of this post before you tell someone, “Well, Kendra said I don’t have to.” That’s not the whole story (and I shouldn’t have that kind of power in your life anyway).

2.

You may have been doing it wrong in the first place.

And here’s why: What is the reason you were going to church all that time? Family obligation? Habit? Because you’d heard that we aren’t supposed to neglect meeting with one another?* Because it was an essential part of your religious behavior? Because you were performing for the eyes of others?

Really think this one through, because although potentially shocking, it may reveal the deepest reason you may have for not wanting to be there anymore. Legalism and/or bad religion are like that. The thing we thought was going to bring us {joy, freedom, acknowledgement, fulfillment, friendships, satisfaction, __________} never, never, never does, unless it’s Jesus himself. Church isn’t Jesus. Church can become just as big a prop and idol as drugs, alcohol, power, and sex.

And here’s why you don’t need to do church for the time being: If you were doing it for all the wrong reasons, you need time to examine all of that, parse it, root it out, and discover the real reason the church is supposed to be gathering. That statement in Hebrews 10 about not neglecting to gather together is not about adherence to a behavior. It was said because the author was a human, too, and as a human, he knew our profound privation in regards to encouragement, relationships, and community. Each are essential elements to emotional and mental health, and as Christians living in a time and place that showed only animosity toward their beliefs and practices, the writer was letting the Hebrew believers know that being together was crucial to their survival.

Us, too.

*Hebrews 10:25, 26

3.

God will meet you right where you are.

Literally. In your apartment, in your car, lost in the crowd of a megachurch, in the doctor’s office, face down on your bed. He’s not bound by space and time.

Existentially. In your pain, in your fear, in your abject weariness, in your loneliness.

He’s not judging you for pulling out of church for a time. He’s not mad at you for taking a break and breathing some pure oxygen. He might just show you himself in a fresh, powerful way.

4.

The timing to exit a church or return to a church may not be your timing.

Go (or return) when you know you need to. When you begin to understand that you need to go or stay, then go or stay. There isn’t a right or wrong. God is just that kind.

Friends or family might voice their concern if you haven’t plugged into a church community yet, but you only need to listen to the Holy Spirit. Going back because guilt or obligation have been the impetus may do you more damage in the long term than good.

5.

Church can be all about one thing for the time being.

Church is all about one thing: worship. Yes, of course we gain and give many peripheral benefits by our attendance and involvement, but the bottom line is, we gather to worship God together. We do not go to focus first on people, being social, or doing stuff. Going to the service to focus on worshipping and connecting with God and then heading quietly out through the back door is absolutely acceptable, and maybe even necessary. Answering a concerned or critical question about why you aren’t involved/serving/plugged in/part of a community group can be answered with a simple, gracious, “I’m working through some stuff and just need some time, thanks.” Then walk out the back door.

6.

There is a community somewhere for you.

You might not even find it for a long, long time. You might need to create it. You might need to spend a year or two or more praying that God will show you exactly where he wants you to be and when. In the meantime, use the same response as above: “I’m working through some stuff but I know God will direct me when the time comes. Thanks for asking. How are the kids?” I threw that last line in there because some people are tenacious and it’s a great idea to change the subject and move on.

You’ll find your community. And if you never do, God’s working in that, too. In my loneliest seasons, I find myself wanting more of Christ. It’s such a great place to be.

It seems there’s plenty to do when you can’t do church anymore, but our faith is at its essence about being, not doing. Out of our being, out of what Christ has done, we are compelled to do. He makes that happen. He enables us. It’s his work, not ours. In the meantime, know how loved you are by God. Understanding his love for us changes everything.


Bible Study for Losers

Bible Study for Losers

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Ever feel like a Bible study loser? Me, too.

I’ve been in the big ones that are worldwide, neatly organized, really well written, and push me to get ‘er done. I’ve loved them in the seasons where I could be a part of them.

In other seasons, I have met with smaller groups, in more casual settings, and I’ve also tried to go it alone. I’m highly self-motivated, but going it alone is not a good match for me. I’m a Bible study loser, for the most part.

Last summer as I contemplated what to do about my lousy lack of Bible study, I felt like the Holy Spirit was nudging me to connect with my across-the-street neighbor. I actually just started the text to her with, “I’m not really sure what God is asking of me, but I thought I’d reach out. . .”

Turns out, she thinks she’s a Bible study loser, too. We picked a book we were both interested in, met early on a Friday morning, fumbled our way through it, and forgot to pray.

But it was good. Know why?

God is more interested in the us than the what, why, where, how, and when. He has something to show you, a way to love you more, a window into the goodness that is him. No pressure. No perfection required. Just you, showing up.

We’re still not very good at this Bible study thing, but we are showing up. We can trust God to do whatever it is he has for us and we can rest knowing that he loves us enough to change what needs to be changed. Even if we don’t fill in all the blanks. We can be Bible study losers who get to the end of our lives and still hear God say to us, “Well done, my good and faithful servant”, because all the work is his, and he promises that he will exquisitely finish what he has begun.

Take the pressure off yourself. It isn’t yours to bear.


Great Bible Study Resources (For Losers and Non-Losers Alike)