I Don’t Like Going to Church. Why Should I Keep Attending?

"I used to like going and got so much out of it. Now, not so much."

Eddie,

My name is Lily, I’m 29, single and a Christian. Moment of vulnerability here: I don’t like going to church. I used to like going and got SO much out of it, but now, not so much. My question is: Why should I keep attending?

Thanks for answering.
Lily

Lily,

Your vulnerability is going to be really helpful for other people who are afraid to challenge this norm and ask this hard question. Thank you. Here we go...

You don’t have to go to church.

There. You’re off the hook. It’s not mandatory for your salvation. Plenty of people who love Jesus don’t go to church. God won’t be angry at you, and your friends and family will get over it and still love you even if you sleep in on Sunday. So there. You can quit now.

However ...

Before you get too deep into daydreaming about Sunday brunches and not having to slog through another small group, I’d like to ask you to consider three questions with me. Will you do that, Lily? Have I lost you already? Come back, friend.

What is it About Church That’s Not Working for You?

Lily, while the brevity of your question was commendable, it did leave me with questions about the nature of your fading church romance. Was there instability in the leadership of the church? Has the community become toxic in some way? Are there doctrinal issues that have surfaced that are making you question your association with this body of believers?

It’s not the church’s fault really, or yours: tastes change, romances fade, and without some measure of progress, relationships end.

These questions, along with countless others, are valid and may be decent reasons to leave.

But my guess (and I’m really painting in generalities here) is that it’s not a big “thing,” it’s just, kinda, meh. It’s like a long dating relationship that, one day, you wake up and realize you want out of. There was no infidelity or dramatic reason for breaking up. You just realized he’s not the one for you and the magic has dimmed.

Is this your story, Lily? If so, I get it.

In my own heart, I’ve felt the pendulum swinging. Something has felt less and less comfortable to me about our run-of-the-mill, 10,000-Reason-singin’, Gen-X-pastor-posing-as-a-millennial type of church. Is there anything wrong with that brand of worship? Of course not, as great people are authentically engaging in this community. Seriously, I’m not making fun. Tastes change. But there’s a shift happening, and the 20 and 30 set are being drawn towards a stylistically different approach to Sunday.

Rachel Held Evans writes in her fantastic upcoming book, Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving and Finding the Church:

“Millennials aren’t looking for a hipper Christianity ... We’re looking for a truer Christianity, a more authentic Christianity. Like every generation before ours and every generation after, we’re looking for Jesus—the same Jesus who can be found in the strange places He’s always been found: in bread, in wine, in baptism, in the Word, in suffering, in community, and among the least of these ... No coffee shops or fog machines required.”

Exactly.

This happens in every generation, and the Lilys of 50 years ago just needed more of that sweet Hymnal-singin’, pastor-in-a-robe goodness. Then, the Lilys of 25 years ago no longer wanted those things and decided that the rock and roll that all the kids like should have a place in church. Not to mention fewer pulpits, more humor and significantly more hair product.

Lily, my guess is that you’ve just grown tired of your church experience because you’re on the wave of a new generation of churchgoers. It’s not the church’s fault really, or yours: tastes change, romances fade, and without some measure of progress, relationships end.

However, it’s not all on the Church. Some of this is on you.

What is it About You That isn’t Working for the Church?

I dislike Christian clichés, so please excuse me as I ask you this question: How’s your heart? Really, look inside yourself and take a bit to examine your attitudes toward the church, your beliefs, even your expectations.

Because like a romance (please notice the continued use of a relationship analogy) our hearts can grow bitter. Maybe in the beginning, everything was flowers and happiness. You were in the honeymoon season, and every sermon just “spoke to you,” all the music was spot-on, and the community, focus on the Bible, children's ministry, outreach, international missions—everything—was like nothing you’ve ever seen before.

But then, the honeymoon ended, and you drifted into a regular old relationship that you have to work to maintain and decide to keep the relationship vibrant.

Jesus says the Church matters. He loves the Church, and you love Him

Lily, would you entertain the possibility that maybe the issue isn’t that there’s a problem with your church, but maybe a staleness in your heart? This isn’t an attack on your character, but rather an educated guess based on a well-worn road where people become entranced by the Sunday show, feel like they’re engaging in community, never actually know others or allow themselves to be known, then wonder why they’re bored with this place. Well they’re bored because you can’t just be a stagnant spouse and expect the marriage to thrive. You have to participate, laugh, fight, apologize and remember why it is you fell in love in the first place.

What’s the Point of Church?

The reason you fell in love is because the Church is the bride of Christ. Yep. It’s that kind of relationship. Not one of consumerism or logos or meaningless catchphrases, but one of a marital bond. Put more beautifully:

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to Himself as a radiant Church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the Church—for we are members of His Body … For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the Church.” (Ephesians 5:25-32 emphasis my own)

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Lily, that’s why you go to church. Because Jesus says the Church matters. He loves the Church, and you love Him. Now, I know you may be feeling a legitimate disconnect with your particular church—and I get that. And while it’s between you and God to sort out if you should stay and rekindle the relationship or mourn the loss and move on, my hope is that while you may be quitting on your church, you won’t quit on the Church.

Take it from me and thousands of years of Christians, the Church is still relevant. It may look different, be disfunctional and even lose its footing at times, but it’s still the best option for, as Rachel said, finding Jesus—“the same Jesus who can be found in the strange places He’s always been found: in bread, in wine, in baptism, in the Word, in suffering, in community, and among the least of these.”

Good luck with this, Lily. I, and many others, are in this struggle with you.

Warm regards,
Eddie

P.S. To avoid a Blurred Lines/Marvin Gaye type of situation, I should say that this article was written with the wisdom of my friend and pastor, Teddy. We are part of the Church together and he constantly reminds me of how beautiful The Bride is.

Have a question? Good! Send an email to AskRELEVANT@relevantmediagroup.com. All identifying information will be kept anonymous.

Top Comments

Nathaniel Kristofer Schweinberg

1

Nathaniel Kristofer Schweinberg commented…

I think there's a difference between quitting church and quitting Sunday morning. When you gather on Sunday, do you really have time to commune with your friends and the rest of the body? Yes, there is absolutely a place for corporate worship, but can't that also be fulfilled within a small group community? To be frank, I'm pretty over Sunday mornings. They're not a time for me to really connect with the body of Christ. At this point in my journey, I find myself longing for a small group more than sitting for an hour on a Sunday morning. When the bible says do not forsake coming together, I don't think it's talking about skipping church service. I think it's talking about coming together as the body of Christ. Our brand of Christianity has confused that with what it means to be in community.

Debbie Rall

1

Debbie Rall commented…

Sometimes if we go to church not for what we get out of it...but simply to praise God or even lament or share our grief with our fellow believers...church takes on a different significance

18 Comments

Tanner Hollier

1

Tanner Hollier commented…

Honestly one of the better articles I have read on Relevant in a long while. Kudos!

Dan

1

Dan commented…

This is a great article, minus one major flaw. The whole bit about the church being the bride of Christ. Why? Because with out a real clear interpretation of the word church. We can be left with a pretty misleading directive here. The word in the original text is ekklesia which means "a group of people with a specific purpose" the word church actually comes from the word kirika which means " a place of gathering" which isn't the word used in the original scriptures but was inserted when the bible was put together by the Romans. So what are we talking about here when we say church. Are we referring to those in the church or the organization, the place of gathering. And the point that was made about not actually connecting is probably the reason that this person is tired of the church. Or maybe it's because our parents taught us to put our 40 years in at a company and we would be rewarded. But it turns out the organization really doesn't care about us as much as we thought it did.

Michael Johnson

266

Michael Johnson commented…

Great question and GREAT answer! Sharing this post with the Future Marriage University (FMU) community at https://www.facebook.com/FMUniversity.

Curiously enough, we consider pursuing community with believers one of three key life disciplines for relational success, so you might want to check out this slightly-left-of-center video to see why that is.
http://tinyurl.com/l4jptum. (Eddie, you'll notice we continue your theme of paralleling church with relationships.)

Denis Jackson

1

Denis Jackson commented…

Roman Catholics wud say it's because you don't hav the Eucharist !

But as I'm a catholic , I'm not sure about that very Catholic answer !

If God is within us ...then we are Church ! Walking, talking , sleeping meditating God bearers ! Yippee !

Adam Becker

2

Adam Becker commented…

I think for some people it's not a heart issue. It's the churches lack of fellowship. At a lot of churches people don't even see you outside of Sunday there is no fellowship so why go. Then the sermon is boring. I have a degree in Biblical Studies and was a pastor. And I read my Bible everyday. I can't find a sermon that I haven't heard before and isn't boring at the local churches in my area. Then they I find doctrinal errors and they take things out of context. One pastor even told me not to read Ecclesiastes and said it's bad. I also don't believe in tithing as a new Testament concept. And I don't see Gods Spirit moving in my local churches they are pretty dead. So I have a home fellowship and I love it. There are so many other reasons I don't go to a local church but I think I have listed enough.

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