Quitting Church

None of us are perfect. Not one.

None of us are Christ and few of us are Christ-like. We fail each other. We sin against one another. We forget that we are meant to be a family and not merely a social club or association where we pay our annual dues.

But a real family, defined by its beauty and imperfections–its messiness and its glory.

Yet, families fail us because people fail us. The church fails us, not because it is broken, but because we are broken. Individually, we are broken pieces, often consumed by our dysfunction and our past, our pain and our shame.

Yet, in God’s family we are called chosen, redeemed, perfected, renewed, restored. We are not a soon-to-be or maybe-someday people of God. We are the people of God now. Today. Yesterday and Tomorrow.

The church in all its intended glory and rightful glory–it’s present glory and the glory that is to be revealed–is the body of Jesus Christ. And yet, it is still comprised of people–people like me, who fail, who sin, who forget that we are members of the family of the Most High God. Adopted. Once orphaned, but now named.

And so are they…

The ones who hurt us. The ones who forget us. The ones who slight us, scorn us, judge us, sin against us. The ones who gossip, the ones who lie, the ones who betray, the ones who scorn, the ones…

So are they.

They too, are members of God’s family and while their actions cannot be excused, they cannot be used to keep us away. Because really, we cannot be kept away from church because we are the church.

We cannot allow the harm done to us by others to pull us, push us, move us, force us away from the church and our rightful place in it.

We cannot quit.

Because it is ours. It belongs to us, for we are His.

This beauty unspoken and not fully known. This mystery between the Son and His people. This glorious representation of Christ on earth–His hands and feet, His lungs and breath, His heart and mind.

Church hurts and it will hurt us. It stings and convicts. It betrays and forgets because it is made up of people, imperfect people, longing people, lonely people, people on their way to looking more like Christ…

Just like us.

But, we cannot quit. The church is us and we are His.

Have you been hurt by the church or those in the church? Have you walked away or hesitantly returned? Why and how?


25 thoughts on “Quitting Church”

  1. Wow. Thank you. I have went to the same church for 12 years. The past 2 years we have not been much, we have tried other churchs etc trying to find where we fit in, a lot due to it’s penecostal , and I LOVE the moving of the Holy Spirit, the music , I love the pastor and the word. Yet I started to feel judged and condemed for not following certain guidelines concerning the way I dress, cutting my hair etc. on top of that making me feel like an outcast I have been divorced and my ex”s whole family goes there, my new husbands family goes there and there are issues there I can go on and on. Point is I have felt justified in feeling like an outcast , in not going and thinking I was giving them all a big take that! In reality it has only hurt me, and to humble myself, and go back rips my pride to shreds, so we go, I close my eyes to everyone arpund me, I raise my hands high, and I tell Jesus even if I am the lowest scum sinner in here and everyobe hates me I will still be here for you and I will still praise you bc your still worthy.

    1. Shawna,

      I am so sad to hear this. :( I just wanted to comment and let you know that some random woman on the Internet read your comment and has felt the same way in church, and the pain is awful. Know that you have a fierce heart and Jesus sees it and loves it.

      – lauren

    2. Shawna,

      My heart breaks for you because people have been lying to you. Jesus accepts you regardless of your past. Is there a way you could perhaps go to a different church? Maybe there are people elsewhere waiting to love you with the true Gospel of Christ, the one that assures you of His love for you, that ushers you toward healing, that reminds you that you are accepted. You belong in the Beloved, for you are His. Much love to you.

  2. Thank you Nicole. I’m a long time reader of your blog but this is my first time to comment. I haven’t been able to be part of a church for about 8 years because of a chronic illness. But recently my health has improved a little and although I have been considering deciding on a church to attend at least occasionally, reading this has made me realise that part of my hesitation is less to do with the physical challenge and more to do with my fear of being hurt again.

    I had suffered many little hurts over the years but the biggest wound was that when I went through the darkest time of my life the Christians I would have called friends were nowhere to be seen. I was in physical and emotional pain, I was sick and lonely and scared and confused but now I also felt abandoned by ‘the church’. It took many years to get over that but it happened a long time ago now and although I have forgiven the people who hurt me, I guess it has left a scar altering the way in which I think of the church now.

    Yet as much as I fear becoming part of a church, I deeply and desperately long for fellowship and friendship and spiritual teaching and support. As you say God’s people, the church, is a family. Just today I was reading Psalm 68:6 “God sets the lonely in families”. Thank you for the reminder that I shouldn’t be letting past hurts keep me in isolation. I pray that God will provide a spiritual family for me, that He would help me to move beyond my fears of being vulnerable to getting hurt again and that He would provide a way for me to become part of a church despite my physical limitations. Thanks for the encouragement!

  3. Nicole.

    Ouch. Your words cut me with all the gentility of a dulled rusty razor blade wielded by a blind crack addict. In other words, they hurt.

    But it is a hurt that I am responsible for. It is a hurt that I have brought into my own life due to my distaste for the shallowness, the lies, the faults, and the jakcassery of others ho claim Christianity in any fashion and who offend my own spiritual outlook. I find myself blatantly guilty of becoming that person I revile the most.

    Like I said, Ouch.

    Thank you.

    1. Donald,
      You flashed through my mind as I wrote this because I want this for you and your family–I want for you to experience the fullness of Christ, His glorious church and family, His plan and desire for us all.

      That is my prayer, friend. And so if the ouch need be, so be it.

      1. Nicole,

        I spoke with Jonathan about this earlier this week, reiterating what I said to you here on this post. He asked me what was I going to do about it, and I honestly replied, “I don’t know.”

        So as the days have passed, I have had this issue in my heart and spirit, rolling it over and over, considering different possibilities and possible solutions.

        Should I simply ‘bite the bullet’ and attend a local institutional church and be done with it, knowing already that I will probably shake in anxiety as i sit in the sanctuary, or vomit in the parking lot as I leave? Should I cry out to Him to put people in my life, that live here locally and are within arm’s reach, in the hopes of being united through The Spirit of Jesus in a real and tangible ekklesia, and not through the false man-made and worshiped spirit of churchey-churchness? And if indeed He did steer me to others who think as I do and relate to Him as I do, would I recognize them, or would I walk right past them unawares?

        You have said that you want me to experience the fullness of Christ, and I want that as well. I do. But I also have wondered if my fullness in Christ might be limited to having a handful of believers in Christ whom I can relate to intimately and with full transparency, and not have too big of a relational spectrum. In simpler terms, I am quite content and happy knowing about 10 others whom I know have my back and my best interests in mind, as opposed to seeking out a larger gathering of folks who may or may not be able to relate to me thusly, or me to them.

        Did that make sense? If I said I am happy and fulfilled knowing maybe 10 others in Christ, intimately and without fear, and I have no desire to broaden this group, does this make me a loner Christian or a rogue son? Jesus started with 12, then only 11. Out of this group He assembled, the course of human history was changed and Salvation was spoken to The World and still echoes to this day. If I said I am fulfilled in knowing a small number of believers whom I can call, write, or contact any time of the day or night with no worries, does this make me a rebellious Christian who refuses to reach out to others in Christ? Or, perhaps, does this make me more focused and able to grow in The Spirit, since I do not have to juggle more relationships than I can handle?

        Just a thought. Thanks for reading. Oh, and I have an official Christmas Card 2012 from House Borsch coming to you and yours in House Cottrell. It will go in the mail this Saturday, tomorrow. ;)

  4. Perspective. This post and your church shopping post make me realize it’s not about me, not about other people, but about God and Christ. Very simple. I’m learning!!!

    1. LaTika,
      You can quit a church, meaning you quit going to a building, but if you are a follower of Christ, you can and should never quit being the church.

      And regardless of how “bad” a church is or people are, it is not an excuse for us to give up on the Bride of Christ.

  5. This is so important for people to hear. My friend has a buddy right now that has walked away from our church because his pride was hurt. He’s working to explain that yes, we are God’s people, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t fallible. It just means we try not to be.

  6. I have felt before that I just keep reaching out to people, reaching out, and reaching out… with little to no reciprocation. It can get so tiring and draining. I think what helps me stay strong the most is remembering that intimate community in the church is not a promise, it’s a command that we will be rewarded for 100 fold in heaven. Jesus himself served and served and in the end every single one of his friends left him for dead, one even denying that he knew him.

  7. I’m reminded of a the chorus of a hymn that said: “I am the Church. You are the Church. We are the Church together. All who follow Jesus, all around the world – yes, we’re the Church together!”

    Thanks for the encouraging words and the reminder that none of us has the right to judge. We have all sinned and fallen short. Praise God for his unending grace and mercy!

  8. You asked if [I] had been hurt by the church and I instantly felt the anger rising again. At age 18 I was diagnosed with depression and an eating disorder and was formally asked to leave youth group because of it. More recently, a member of the church who many hold in high regard, accused my brother (wrongly the entire family believes) of a horrific crime. The pastors and elders all took her side. Even more recently, while I was in the hospital last month with serious mental health concerns, not one pastor or elder came calling. I still attend church sometimes, but it’s hard to find the motivation to attend when it doesn’t feel like the want me there.

    1. Joy,
      As I read your comment, I felt anger rise up in me, as well. I am angered in hearing that you were abandoned and forgotten, left uncared for and unloved. And I know this Joy, it hurts and angers the Lord so much more.

      God has a perfect, healthy, family for you. Praying that you find it, that He leads you there, and that you feel loved, encouraged, and filled with hope in the process.

    2. Joy, thats terrible. I definitely feel your pain. I commented above that no-one reached out to me when I got seriously ill either & even though I’ve forgiven them for it, it still hurts. From talking to lots of other friends who are chronically ill, many of them housebound, it seems like a common problem. I know that in general people seem to find it difficult to reach out to those of us who are sick & that hurts enough but you expect Christians to be different. You expect the church to visit the sick and support those of us who are vulnerable, isn’t that what Jesus commanded after all? So when they let us down, when they abandon us, it hurts so much deeper than any other rejection.

      The only thing I can say to you is that God won’t abandon you or let you down even if the church does. Hold on to Him & don’t let the hurt you’ve endured affect your relationship with Him. He does care for you.

  9. When your family’s livelihood is made in church, it is thousands of times MORE possible to be hurt by church. I sadly speak from experience.

  10. Ecc 7:20-22 Surely there is not a righteous man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not. Also take not heed unto all words that are spoken, lest thou hear thy servant curse thee;
    for oftentimes also thine own heart knoweth that thou thyself likewise hast cursed others.

    Joh 6:66-68 From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.
    Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.

    These have helped humble me and keep my mind and heart on Jesus and Heaven. A person can change assemblies and stay in Church but if we leave Church, we leave it all.

  11. Reading this has impacted me and taken me back to a painful time. I find sometimes the most loving people are not even Christians.

    The church I had gone to since I was 12 had rejected marrying my husband and I because he was divorced. My husband was a new Christian and divorce was in his past and not something he planned for or wanted.

    We were gossiped about and at one point a member of the church angrily confronted my husband after service about how wrong it was that he was divorced and just really spoke a lot of hate on his past! Keyword: past.

    It really hurt that the Pastor who I had known for so long and looked up to turned us down. He basically said he did not want to deal with members getting on his case about why he married us. That if he married us then he’ll have to marry others who are divorced and that he can’t make exceptions.

    There were so many other things with the church but I am just trying to keep this comment short. I have not been a member of a church since. It impacted us very negatively to the point of atheism quite honestly.

    I realize that we are all humans and imperfect and I just wanted to share that your blog post has very valid points that I agree. I still believe in God.

    Thank you.

  12. The church I grew up in has a confession “Our World Belongs to God” which describes the church as “a gathering of forgiven sinners, called to be holy, saved by the patient grace of God.”

    It is one of the hardest things to truly accept (especially for self-righteous fools like me) but one of the coolest things about Christianity.

  13. Keep in mind that there are two sides to every story. Sometimes emotionally unhealthy people join churches, get upset over something and then spend years brooding over how they were “hurt by the church” when the church did nothing wrong. Some people love to be victims. We need to be discerning and not simply assume that people are always right and the church always is wrong.

    But in the end it doesn’t matter if a person’s anger at the church is justified or not. The Bible calls us to forgive. Here’s an excellent article on this subject: http://www.buildingchurchleaders.com/articles/2004/101304a.html

    1. Mr. Murrow:

      I certainly agree that we are called to forgive. However, please keep in mind that forgiveness does NOT mean condoning wrong or glossing over a wound. Forgiveness, imho, means that I forgo my own attempts at selfish justice/vengeance and entrust such matters to God, knowing that I’ve wronged others and hurt them and God forgiven me. That does not mean denying that wrong was done, or pretending that nothing has happened.

      1. Forgiveness is the scent a flower leaves on the heel of the boot that has just crushed it.

        But it is also a nail that that same boot steps upon that causes pain, forcing the owner of said boot to figure out what just happened.
        “Dang, my boot heel smells nice, but man it sure hurts!”

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