When Your Church Disappoints You

Recently someone commented, “Church causes more problems than it solves.”

It’s not a new notion. Churches have had issues since they were established more than two thousand years ago. Many of Paul’s letters specifically address some dysfunctional church activity.

The basic problem with church is it consists of people, and we tend to be fairly messed up. Church would be a great place if it weren’t for all those people.

I’ll bet Jesus had a similar thought. This world would be a cool place if it weren’t for all these messed-up people.

Some folks “church shop,” looking for the church that doesn’t have all those nasty interpersonal issues. What they seek doesn’t exist. One of our pastors says, “If you’ve been around a church awhile and haven’t been frustrated, you’re likely not very involved in what’s going on. And if you are involved and you’re not occasionally frustrated, you may be clinically dead.”

Some decide to go it alone and become Lone Ranger Christians. They read the bible, follow some blogs, pray, and construct their own solitary way to follow Jesus. Not my place to judge, but I suspect the bible established church for a reason. God’s about relationship, and we’re meant to follow and serve in community.

A few thoughts:

Don’t confuse God with God’s people. In an ideal world we’d reflect His character, but this world is far from ideal. Don’t reject God because His followers sometimes do horrible things.

Church can take a lot of forms. One of the most committed Christians I’ve ever known has met regularly on Sundays to worship at his home with a small group of couples—for more than thirty years. They didn’t have a website, a pastor, or a worship band, but I’d have a difficult time not calling that “church.”

Don’t equate “church” with a building or bureaucracy. Church staff members, including pastors, struggle with blind spots and biases just like everyone else. Expect inner circles, silly power struggles, turf wars, and dumb rules. If leadership’s your gift, step in and help. If not, smile and serve. If you absolutely can’t do that in love, move on.

Church isn’t about you. I find if I remember it’s about God and serving others I get a little less frustrated.

Be responsible for your own theology. To me, this is huge. Theology means “knowledge of God.” Too many folks expect church to tell them about God. They’re passive consumers, and it’s church’s responsibility to hand them the answers.

This is a recipe for certain failure. You are responsible for inviting Jesus into your heart and taking an active role in building that relationship.

THE SERVICE STARTS NOW. One of our pastors uses this benediction at the end of each gathering. It’s a good reminder of what church is really about.

By the way—if you figure out how to do this stuff consistently, let me know. My own church drives me nuts sometimes. There’s only one thing I can imagine that would be worse than dealing with their silliness.

That would be doing life without them.