Why You Shouldn’t Give Up On the Church

The Church is a messy place by nature. That's not a reason to quit.

I grew up in the Church. No really, I grew up in the church.

As a pastor’s kid, I spent countless hours in church and doing church activities. I am a church native and familiar with all its quirks and cultural oddities, with all its strengths and all its failings. As the son of prominent evangelical pastor John Piper, I not only saw the inner workings of my own church, I was also exposed to church leaders from around the world and saw the good and the bad from their churches, too.

Many people like me, who grew up immersed in church, have given up on it. Many see church as archaic, domineering, impersonal, hypocritical, irrelevant, contentious, petty, boring and stale. It’s institutional instead of authentic and religious but not relational, they say.

I have seen all this in church and can agree that each accusation is true in instances. A PK sees all this up close and far too personally and feels each fault even more intensely. It really is enough to make one want to bail on church.

And I had my chance. Despite growing up steeped in sound Bible teaching and a loving context, I grew up empty in my soul. I believed but didn’t fully believe. I obeyed but kept parts of my life for myself, bits of dishonesty and secrecy. I knew Jesus and knew He was the only way to be saved from my sin, but I didn’t give my life to Him.

The Church is a messy place by nature. That’s what happens when a bunch of sinners come together anywhere.

In the end it blew up in my face and I was faced with the decision: stay in church and work through my mess or leave and be free.

I chose to stay.

While leaving was an option, it was one that I looked at and saw emptiness. Sure, the Church can cause a lot of pain and annoyance, but it’s where Jesus’ people are connected. And really, that’s what it is about—Jesus. That’s what made it so clear to me that staying was best.

The Church is a messy place by nature. That’s what happens when a bunch of sinners come together anywhere. But it is a messy place designed by God to be His face to the World, and all those sinners reflect Him in unique ways.

Nothing reflects God to the world like the Church does. No, we don’t “do” church 100 percent correctly, and we never will. No, church is not a perfect place. Yes, church displays the sins of all its people very publicly. But none of that changes what it is or can be.

To leave the Church is to hurt yourself and to hurt others. I don’t mean hurt like a slap in the face (though in some cases it’s a bit like that). I mean hurt like malnourishment.

This is not to say there isn't a time and a place to leave your church. There are undoubtedly damaging churches—as well as people who have legitimate wounds they've sustained from churches. In such cases, sticking with such a church will only serve to keep that wound from healing. There is a difference between leaving a hurtful community and giving up on Church altogether.

We were created by God to connect with others and, in that connection, reveal more of Him to each other and to the world. When we depart, we deprive ourselves of those aspects of God others reflect and we deprive them of those aspects we reflect. Leaving is starving our souls and others’.

Solitude is wonderful. But many things in life, maybe most things, are better enjoyed with others. Including God. That’s why we’re called to worship with others, to study with others, to pray with others. And church is the outlet for that, an imperfect outlet, but the outlet nonetheless.

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We were created by God to connect with others and, in that connection, reveal more of Him to each other and to the world.

God wants us to experience Him to the fullest and that is done with others in song, in study, in reflection, in prayer, in tears, in confession in celebration—with others, doing church.

It’s inevitable that we will leave particular churches at different points in our life, but leaving the Church altogether is escapism. You may find some stresses relieved and conflicts avoided. Often, I often want to slap the stupid out of the church. It can be such a maddening collection of people. (And I suspect I contribute to the stupid that needs slapping just as often.) But none of that changes what it is: the organism of God’s presence and Kingdom in the world. It is His means of connecting people to the Gospel, to hope, to life.

No matter your frustrations and hurts, it cannot be abandoned. You need it now whether you know it or not, and someday you will have a need nothing and no one else can meet. And the Church will be where Jesus shows Himself to you.

Top Comments

Stephen Bassette

2

Stephen Bassette commented…

When I first started reading this article, two words stuck out to me that best describe my feelings about church: "boring and stale." So, I had hoped that this guy would address that further, perhaps even offer his take on a better alternative to the church's usual routines and activities that contribute the most to church fitting that description.

No such luck. Instead, he goes on to say, "God wants us to experience Him to the fullest and that is done with others *in song, in study, in reflection, in prayer, in tears, in confession in celebration—with others, doing church.*" After reading that, I couldn't help but think, "That sure sounds like church alright…but *man* does that sound boring!"

Maybe I'm alone, here, but that's how church makes me feel. I talk to God, sure, and I rely on him daily to smooth out my rough edges, and he does that. But God is never boring or stale. And by my experience, church is both of those things more often than it's not, and to me that means it's a waste of my time.

If I want to pray, I can do that alone. If I want to study the Bible, I can do that alone. If I want to sing worship songs to God, I can do that alone. If I want to connect with other Christians, however, every church seems to dictate that all that other stuff must come as "part of the package" in order for someone to really get involved, and that's why I just can't bring myself to go anymore.

I would LOVE, on the other hand, to sit with other Christians and just relax on some couches in a living room with popcorn, sodas, and a good movie or TV episode playing on a huge TV; go to a football game together; play volleyball at a park somewhere; see a concert; or have a card/board/trivia game night. In other words, do things that are special, creative, and memorable, not just your typical "Sunday brunch."

What I find astonishing is how at almost every church I've been to, everyone has the same story. When it comes to doing things with other people that they can do alone, like prayer, they make the time to do it, but they're "too busy" when it comes to things they can't do alone, like having a movie night complete with popcorn and soda (unless you're one of those people who are perfectly fine doing that alone, and in that case, I'm sorry if my example offends you).

So if "doing church" is only about doing things with the church that you could be doing alone, at the expense of time you could be spending with them doing things you couldn’t do alone, I want no part of it. I've spent 10 long years riding that train, waiting for the ride to become more meaningful and fulfilling, but it hasn't. But if the church is always going to be the same in that regard, and no one else but me wishes that part of it would change, I guess that means I'm on my own. :/

Bob McGaw

2

Bob McGaw commented…

I write this as a former pastor.

Not to be rude, but it can be taken as patronizing to qualify the article as authoritative experience because someone was a pastor's child growing up. This does a disservice to the people that made that congregation their home and ignores the fact those people were the leaders, volunteers, Sunday School teachers etc. that his father depended upon to make things happen in that congregation. There were board meetings he never attended, prayer sessions he was never a part of and times of counsel he was never privy to that involved many other people and pushed forward the work of that ministry without his input. Many things, good and not so good, took place involving wonderful, committed and dedicated people that had just as much of an inside look as he did. To qualify everything on the basis of being a pastor's kid is simply wrong footing to stand on.

To make blanket statements about people leaving the Church isn't right either. To say that leaving the church is "escapism" is pretty brazen, nor is it true.....if you know what people are escaping from.

Maybe people don't want to continue to go to the "God box" every week and stare at the back of someone's head, passively, while the professionals and those that made the audition cut perform the "ministry". Perhaps people are leaving to preserve their faith and connect with a fully functioning body of believers where EVERY member functions and contributes to sharing and revealing Christ.

No. The Church shouldn't be given up on. But we shouldn't be slaves to something that was never God's intention in the first place.

bobmcgaw.blogspot.com
@Bobmcgaw

20 Comments

Grizzly Bear Mom

8

Grizzly Bear Mom commented…

Jim, Calvinism teaches that the Holy Spirit irresistibly pulls us to the Father not because of our merit, but because of God’s unmerited favor. Anyone who understands that obviously would not suggest that salvation is a personal choice. To believe that “God loves everyone” has no biblical basis, and would make him horrific in condemning any of them, but he does. This is evidenced is Christ’s story about the selfish rich man in torment, crying out for the poor beggar Lazarus to bring him some water, and to warn his brothers against the torment. Having condemned all Calvinists I would presume that you are an Arminian, and believe that through some work of your heart, mind our courage, YOU CHOOSE CHRIST. To me, that is unbiblical and prideful.

Jim

31

Jim replied to Grizzly Bear Mom's comment

Actually, Grizzly Bear Mom, I am neither Calvinist or Arminian, for both viewpoints are objectionable to me. I prefer to believe that God not only desires to save all men, but actually can and will. I agree with you completely that we do not choose Christ. He has chosen all of us, but has not revealed that to each of us at the same time.

If you are content with telling your "cubs" that God might not have chosen them - might not love them - then you are free to do so. But how you sleep at night is a mystery to me. And how you yourself could love a "god" who has chosen to hate your own children is beyond comprehension.

Ryan Godfrey

1

Ryan Godfrey commented…

This article is a great apologetic for the Roman Catholic Church and an expose of the evil of the Reformation.

Sheiran Pudifin

1

Sheiran Pudifin commented…

I could have left the church any number of times during my almost 68 years, because I have experienced more than my share of injustice within it. I have, from time to time had to leave churches where even a pastor did not show me Christ centered love because he followed the influence of another member's theived wealth.

Even so, I have seen the courage of those who stand against Injustice and in doing so, have paid a great price, to be sure. I live because He Lives and continue to look to the church for continuing spiritual growth and maturity.

Given some of the more negative comments directed toward Barnabas, it seems to me that this is exactly the point or points that he has attempted to convey. We are all pretty messy, that includes me and Barnabas the PK.

John Myer

17

John Myer commented…

I served a congregation for well over a decade before church politics finally caught up with me. It was ugly beyond belief. I was burned for non-doctrinal, non-moral, non-ethical reasons. What could there possibly be left to get burned over? Well, leave it to religious folks to find something. And yet I owe such a great debt to the robust healthy few I've encountered in congregations over the years, I just can't give up on church life. I lead and I follow. I teach and I'm taught. Cool beans. By the grace of God this wounded warrior isn't done yet.

www.bareknuckle.org

Stephen Bassette

2

Stephen Bassette commented…

When I first started reading this article, two words stuck out to me that best describe my feelings about church: "boring and stale." So, I had hoped that this guy would address that further, perhaps even offer his take on a better alternative to the church's usual routines and activities that contribute the most to church fitting that description.

No such luck. Instead, he goes on to say, "God wants us to experience Him to the fullest and that is done with others *in song, in study, in reflection, in prayer, in tears, in confession in celebration—with others, doing church.*" After reading that, I couldn't help but think, "That sure sounds like church alright…but *man* does that sound boring!"

Maybe I'm alone, here, but that's how church makes me feel. I talk to God, sure, and I rely on him daily to smooth out my rough edges, and he does that. But God is never boring or stale. And by my experience, church is both of those things more often than it's not, and to me that means it's a waste of my time.

If I want to pray, I can do that alone. If I want to study the Bible, I can do that alone. If I want to sing worship songs to God, I can do that alone. If I want to connect with other Christians, however, every church seems to dictate that all that other stuff must come as "part of the package" in order for someone to really get involved, and that's why I just can't bring myself to go anymore.

I would LOVE, on the other hand, to sit with other Christians and just relax on some couches in a living room with popcorn, sodas, and a good movie or TV episode playing on a huge TV; go to a football game together; play volleyball at a park somewhere; see a concert; or have a card/board/trivia game night. In other words, do things that are special, creative, and memorable, not just your typical "Sunday brunch."

What I find astonishing is how at almost every church I've been to, everyone has the same story. When it comes to doing things with other people that they can do alone, like prayer, they make the time to do it, but they're "too busy" when it comes to things they can't do alone, like having a movie night complete with popcorn and soda (unless you're one of those people who are perfectly fine doing that alone, and in that case, I'm sorry if my example offends you).

So if "doing church" is only about doing things with the church that you could be doing alone, at the expense of time you could be spending with them doing things you couldn’t do alone, I want no part of it. I've spent 10 long years riding that train, waiting for the ride to become more meaningful and fulfilling, but it hasn't. But if the church is always going to be the same in that regard, and no one else but me wishes that part of it would change, I guess that means I'm on my own. :/

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