What’s Wrong with the Church–Part 1

Over the last year, I have been, what some people would call, “church shopping.” My ex-husband and I attended the same church every Sunday for 5 years, until my daughter was confirmed. It was shortly after that when I asked him to leave and promptly filed for divorce. A victim of verbal and emotional abuse, I struggled with my decision, as it was my second divorce, and to the outside world, he was a very nice person. Behind closed doors, he was verbally abusive to me, my son and our daughter. I was also sexually assaulted throughout the entire marriage. We underwent years of counseling, and it never changed. It was time for me to move on, if not for my sake, then for the sake of our then 13-year-old daughter.

As such, it was difficult for me to continue to go to church where we had attended as a family. My daughter volunteered her musical talent for the worship band at least one Sunday a month, so my daughter and I attended on those Sundays. My ex had often worked a part-time job on the weekends, so I had hoped that most people would just think he was working, so I wouldn’t have to explain his absence. To my relief, no one asked. This practice continued, and for a year, we were not in church on a regular basis, nor ever together. This was contrary to our past church attendance. Over the summer, we went 3 months without any of us stepping foot in the door.

No one ever questioned why we weren’t at church. No phone calls, no emails, nothing. “Hi, how are you? Is everything OK? We’ve noticed that you haven’t been in church for a while. Just wanted to check in to make sure everything is OK.” My ex and I at least agreed on one thing, how Christian is this, our brothers and sisters in Christ for over 5 years, and no one is noticing that we aren’t there?

We both took this to heart, and I probably more so than my ex. After all, I was the one that was trying to heal from 16 years of abuse. My ex quickly found a new prey for his behavior, dating someone he worked with after only one month of his moving out.

I sank into deep loneliness, and yes, borderline depression. I wanted someone, anyone, to reach out with some comforting words. I wanted to talk to someone about my situation. I wanted to cry on someone’s shoulder. I wanted to know that God’s forgiveness was real, even though the Bible clearly states that He hates divorce.

During this time, our pastor retired, and the church was in the process of calling a new minister. About 5 months after the new pastor came on board, I decided to meet with him and explain my situation. It was now a little over a year since my husband left, and 3 months since our divorce was final. It would be easier talking to the new pastor. He didn’t know me or my ex. I could tell him what I went through, and he’d be understanding. I cried. I told him I didn’t feel support or love from the congregation. He validated my actions and said in God’s eyes, I did the right thing. It was an abusive situation. But he also said that I couldn’t fault people for what they didn’t know. My thought was, how could they not know something was wrong? People just don’t stop coming to church for no reason. Am I supposed to put a notice in the monthly newsletter? Hey everyone…just wanted to let you know, I’m divorced. Not doing so well. Could use your prayers.

Regardless, I thought I would give my church another try. I thought I made a connection with the new pastor. Maybe the news would slowly make its way through the congregation, but the pastor would clarify that I did not take divorcing my husband lightly. People would come up to me and say, “I heard. I’m so sorry. Is there anything I can do?”

Well, it’s been another year, and no, really no one has said a thing–only one person, the youth director, because she was concerned about my daughter. Even the new pastor says nothing to me. In fact, he can barely look me in the eye.

Now, my daughter and I have started to church shop. Our attendance at our home church is very rare–again, only when my daughter is part of the worship band, which she is volunteering less and less for because of the lack of warmth we feel when we enter those doors. As a new pastor knowing the situation, maybe, just maybe, I’d be concerned. A phone call, a note, a kind word. No. These are my brothers and sisters in Christ.

And so, this begins a series of blogs based on my situation with my home church and my observations of other churches as my daughter and I search for a place where we feel at home.

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The Purpose of the Church

Today is Sunday. Most of us, hopefully, attended church services, where we worshipped with fellow believers, heard scripture and perhaps participated in the Lord’s Supper. One of the reasons that I attend church on a regular basis is to connect with fellow believers, as we are supposed to be brothers and sisters in Christ. Another reason, is to be inspired by God’s word, whether it’s the scripture reading for that day or perhaps the pastor’s sermon. At times, it may even be the words to a song that brings me closer to the Lord.

Sometimes I go “church shopping,” because I get frustrated with something that may or may not be happening in my church. Or, perhaps I’m bored, and want to experience a church that provides more entertainment. But, is that what church is meant to be? Do you find yourself saying, “Ah, that was a good message,” or “The choir sounded so good today.” What if the choir sounded awful? What if the organist made lots of mistakes? Do we criticize? Do we judge? Is this what church means to us? I don’t think this was God’s intention for His church.

This brings me to a discussion of the mega churches today. Great music–worship bands that are comprised of professional musicians. I once knew a church that paid professional musicians over $400 each to play on Easter Sunday–they had a 30-piece orchestra. They have pastors that have dynamic stage presence. They make the message captivating and entertaining, therefore making it memorable. At first, I thought that this is all good. It’s a great way to get the message out to unbelievers and those that have fallen away from the traditional church. Jesus tells us to go and make disciples of all the nations (Matthew 28:19). Whatever way you can get them to faith, right?

But let’s look at the example of Jesus. He gave this instruction to his disciples–a small group of common folk. There was no fanfare when Jesus came to preach. He associated with the poor, the humble and the sinners. He spoke His Father’s word, and didn’t use entertainment to capture the crowd’s attention. Maybe the church has become too concerned with how we get people inside versus how it can go outside.

Jesus traveled with His disciples, teaching and preaching God’s Word. He didn’t build a church with brick and mortar. He took the Word to others. Even after His death and resurrection, the early church met in homes where they inspired each other to continue the mission of bringing others to Christ.

Spending every Sunday morning in church is great inspiration, but what is your church doing beyond the Sunday morning services to bring others to Christ? What are you doing personally? Are we using the church as a means to seek salvation for ourselves or a means to bring others to salvation?

I invite others to comment on what they think the purpose of the church is meant to be and share how your church is helping to build the Kingdom of God.

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