By Aaron Brown, Crosswalk.com
Before you read, I’d like to offer a preface—take what you like and leave the rest. Based on my experiences within the church (and outside), I feel the need to preface this article because there are those who believe that any negative opinion of the church is bad.
Ostracization level bad. Never hang out with me again level bad.
…not neglecting to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day approaching. – Hebrews 10:25
This Scripture is often spoken to me as admonishment that I need to go to church. If I neglect to attend church I am somehow less than them. Less Christian. Less holy. Less lovable.
I recall being forced to go to church occasionally with my grandmother during middle school and high school. By the time she died in my junior year of high school, I had already stopped attending with her.
While I clung to my faith all my life, I did not regain interest in going to church until college. I participated in study groups and attended church services. Though this interest was short-lived.
Christians were upset that I didn’t attend church every Sunday. I was a problem. Though I had interest, I wasn’t enough. I was unlike them.
Part of that disinterest was the lack of love shown towards me, but also others. In the car one day leaving a service on Easter, one Christian guy asked me how I enjoyed the service. He proceeded to call Catholics dumb for their interpretation of Jesus’ Communion. He regarded their belief as “stupid.” All the Christians in the car agreed with him.
All except for me.
Post-graduation, and into my adult life, I renewed my interest in church. I wanted to grow in faith and did so through Bible study groups and church. I have since continued to attend, at my own pace.
The company and wisdom of others has made for a more fruitful experience. Still, church is not my go-to activity after all this time.
And because I may not be alone, and Jesus never shied away from tough conversations, here are three confessions of a godly man who doesn’t like church.
Since my time in college, I recognized I am no fan of lectures. I prefer discussion of topics rather than being spoken to and unable to ask questions real-time.
Pastors are entrusted to deliver God’s word to the masses in an honest and loving way. As part of the congregation, we trust them to help us better understand God.
But like any person, pastors are flawed and can sometimes create division instead of connection. There are pastors who curse as they preach and those who encourage their congregations to hate like the Westboro Baptist church.
There is no doubt that a good sermon will keep you informed while also entertained. I enjoy learning, but I enjoy learning along with someone. Due to childhood issues, I have never enjoyed people approaching me from a place of authority without first showing they can be trusted.
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/AnnaStills
Pleasant words are a honeycomb: sweet to the taste and health to the body. – Proverbs 16:24
“How are you?”
Both people are lying. Yes, lying. One is struggling in his marriage. The other was just denied from his desired graduate school program. These characters are not real, but the dialogue is true.
Too often people ask me how I am doing, while at the same time walking past me. How can they ask a question and not wait to hear the answer? They don’t stop for an answer because they know what the answer will be. “Good.”
I have chosen not to lie. I tell people I am “Okay,” if I am doing average, and “Well” if I am doing well. Sometimes I ignore the how are you question. That may sound rude, but I think asking someone something you don’t care about is wrong.
If someone wants to know, experience has shown me they will ask a second time to make sure I heard. That’s also what I do to demonstrate to people that I care.
Anyone asking in passing doesn’t really want to know. I’m sure they hope I am doing well, but they don’t care enough to see if that is the case.
So I feel that church would be more enjoyable if the relationships went deeper on a personal level. If we are brothers and sisters in Christ, should we not act as brothers and sisters, a close-knit family?
Believe Like Me Or Else
On average, I attend church 3 out of 4 Sundays. I read my Bible daily without fail. At the very least I will read a verse, and just doing that is rare. Usually, I engage myself through the Bible app reading plans with my friend or alone.
To me, growing in my relationship with God is an essential part of being a Christian.
He knows, I want to remain teachable all the days of my life.
That being said, I can never learn enough to be exactly like other Christians want me to be.
On one occasion, a Catholic girl I had a crush on in college told me I was going to hell. Why? I wasn’t Catholic.
On another occasion in college, I was told that I wasn’t a true Christian because I didn’t go to church every Sunday. Even today, I guess I still don’t meet his mark.
Then there was a time, a man wanted me to agree that everyone who doesn’t believe in Jesus is going to hell. I don’t think that is the case, but that is my opinion. Scripture tells me how to be a Christian, and how I can achieve salvation for myself. I will follow what I am told. I will.
But I won’t make any judgments of the fate of other people. That’s between them and God.
Still, I didn’t agree with him, so he told me I was going to hell.
Here’s a hard truth many Christians don’t want to hear. If the Bible was not open to interpretation, there would not be so many denominations of the faith. How many are there? Maybe 30,000.
How can so many people read the same text and come away with their own ideas?
Why can people within a church read the same text and still differ amongst ourselves?
Maybe I am wrong for not being Catholic. Maybe I am wrong for not damning other people to hell. Maybe I’m just not enough.
Or maybe I am.
What I do know is that Jesus died for my sins. I know that God loves me, and when my time comes to be judged he will weigh my heart, not by the standards of others, but by his own (Proverbs 21:2).
I am on this Earth trying my best to be what God wants of me. I pray that’s enough.
Church is not my favorite activity. After so many years, I don’t think church ever will be. Church does not excite me, even when Sunday rolls around.
But church has benefits, church has taught me. I have grown closer to God and fellow believers.
My opinion is not reflective of anyone else but myself. I’m comfortable in my beliefs.
I will likely always enjoy Bible study with people at home more than a church sermon. This sort of dialogue exchange for me is much more personal and honest than what we experience while only listening to a preacher.
In small groups, people are more willing to share their struggles. When they ask how I am doing, we can actually sit down and talk as opposed to walking past each other. And usually, these people are not telling me I am going to hell, not if they plan on seeing me regularly. This kind of exchange is also where I can show others I truly care about them as well.
I will continue to give love to God and to others. That may be in church, that may be outside of church.
At the end of the day, I vow to love.
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Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/Ryan McVay
Aaron Brown is a freelance writer, dance teacher, and visual artist. He currently contributes articles to GodUpdates, GodTube, iBelieve, and Crosswalk. Aaron also supports clients through the freelance platform Upwork.