To clarify, I mean the typical evangelical church, with pastors and singing and sermons and sunday school.
MEI think it began slowly as I helped with various tasks...nursery, children's church, sitting through morning and evening services, stacking chairs, doing dishes...and that all seemed to be so important. I really did enjoy it at the time, in a way. Then I began to play the piano, help with the singing. One time I recall being very ill-prepared to do an offeratory, and still had to do it -- I failed miserably and was good and humbled. Another time the music leader was unavailable and I had to lead the singing, last minute, with a bad cold and no accompaniment. The word "chagrin" comes to mind. I desperately wished I could crawl under a pew and disappear. And so, gradually, I started to be nervous when we went to church. I dreaded Sunday as the worst day of the week, and would bite my nails to the quick on the way there.
(I seriously feel so guilty saying all this, but I'm going somewhere with it, wait and see)
But what about the experiences of others? Why don't people like church these days, particularly those of the younger sort? I'm not entirely sure, and I'd like to hear from people about it. However, opinionated soul that I am, I do have a few theories:
1. "It's just not my style"
We are extremely focused on the individual, and our individual needs in society today. A phrase I've heard often is "what's best for me and my family". And so if the church doesn't have a very good children's or youth program, we'll leave it. Or what-have-you. Basically, if something doesn't appeal, that's a good enough reason. I don't like sushi; I don't eat it. I don't like church; I don't go.
2. "There are a lot of other ways to do church"
We are also surrounded by post-modernism and relativism. Deconstruction. Everything is new, and better. We are enamored with equality, and don't feel anyone should have the right to "preach" at us from the pulpit. So we create services where it's more of a conversation between the...umm...leader up front and those...welll... not up front. So everyone is right, and no one is right. Absolutes, authority, willingness to be taught...those are SO last year. Last decade, I mean. And I can watch some guy on TV, or sit in church and look up a better sermon on my iPhone, for crying out loud. Who has time for an inferior product?!?
3. "I've been hurt in or by the church"
People have genuinely been let down or really injured by other Christians. I don't really know many who haven't been. Callousness, condemnation, hypocritical attitudes abound, like a game of minesweeper. It's sad, but you're bound to get blown away by someone, sometime.
4. "I'm tired and I could care less"
Yeah....mostly, this is me. Everything is meaningless, says the teacher. Now I surely don't have the wisdom of Solomon, but I am starting to know when I'm worn out and can't take anymore. All the programs, the potlucks, the meetings, the stacking of chairs and scheduling of ladies to run around after small children, meaningless. Half the time that the phone rings, it's someone wanting me to do something at church. WHY? So we can just keep the thing going? Keep everybody happy? Keep everyone IN by keeping them BUSY? Aha. It took awhile, but I've caught on.
Now you can tell by the prolific use of capitals that this one upsets me. I don't buy it. Getting people in the church and then getting them busy to KEEP them in is a nasty, nasty business. It may seem right, but it backfires magnificently.
Now to Explain. No, take too long--let me Sum Up.(huh, huh? Where is that quote from? First prize to s/he who knows!)
It may sound preachy here. Let me say that these are just my own musings on church, filtered through my own little brain, and I'm only talking to myself. Perhaps I AM only talking to myself! That's A-OK. At least I got it in writing.
NUMERO UNO -- We need each other. Drive each other nuts, often, but we need the friendship and accountability of others. Just because we don't like it, doesn't negate the facts.
"And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another -- and all the more as you see the Day approaching." Hebrews 10:24, 25This was originally to the early Christians who had good reason to avoid getting together, as they were undergoing immense persecution.
Number TWO -- New is not better. Well, sometimes it is. But rarely in the case of meeting together to worship God and hear about Him. There is a reason for preaching. It may not be great, the preacher may even be a pompous donkey, but there is a reason for preaching. Hopefully the preacher is humble and can communicate. Paul says to the young pastor Timothy:
"Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of scripture, to preaching, and to teaching." I Timothy 4:13and...
Incisively, God's word cuts through the fog of postmodern drivel. It almost burns my ears, because I've been taken in now and then. My rebel heart thinks there must be a better way, a TRUER way."It was He who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, that that the body of Christ may be built up..." Ephesians 4:11, 12
"If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction..." 1 Timothy 6:3-5
Ouch! If those words make you kinda mad, that's where the bullet is. Dig it out; get the medics.
Number 3 -- We are going to get hurt regardless. Not to belittle this point, at all, but we get burned in the world, out of the world, in the church, in the street, in our homes, in our favorite coffee shops. People hurt each other, and leaders mess up. The church is called to be a place where sick people get well, and sometimes it's a place where you pick up the Norwalk virus, or something equally disemboweling.
So to NUMBER FOUR, my favorite. My pet peeve.
I don't want to feed and water this thing until it grows into the monster in my backyard. I know I can't avoid church or be forever a church zombie because of this thing, being sick and tired of being sick and tired.
First, where did I get the idea that to say YES to everything is the most holy way? It's not. It's just the people-pleasing prideful way. I believe that Holy Spirit filled believers will NATURALLY overflow with love and service, and will know WHEN and WHERE and HOW MUCH. The exhausting thing is the guilt, that always pushed me and pushes me now to do what I shouldn't even be doing. So I gotta just let it go, say no sometimes, and even take a season of resting and not DOing much at all. The church may actually survive!! EEEP!!
Second, I'm part of the Church whether I want to be or not. The Church is more than a bunch of eccentric people sitting in a building singing songs they may not know or like, listening to a sermon that may put them straight to sleep, or helping in a room full of tired, runny-nosed toddlers. It's GOT to be. Jesus calls the Church his BRIDE, the one he loves, the beautiful one He is coming back for.
We are part of this messy and often annoying preparation for the final walk down the aisle, where it all makes sense. He loves us, and all those people who drive us around the bend, who don't get it, who don't understand us and who are even fake and ridiculous and hypocritical. He knows what we would rather be doing. David says in the Psalms that "he knows our frame, he remembers that we are dust."
I still don't look forward to going to church. Not much.... I have to stay honest here. I know that what we BELIEVE will drive what we DO. And I do believe this stuff. I hope that it keeps trickling down from my head and into my cold-ish heart, and maybe even one day, down the road, Sunday will be the best day of the week for me. We shall see.