What to Do When You Stop Liking Your Church

We’ll make it simple: Grow up.

It's amazing how heated the preference battles in the church get. Everybody wants church to do things their way. Either the church is too boring or too entertaining, to deep to reach non- believers or not deep enough to train disciples, too big or too small. No matter how you slice it, there are a lot of competing priorities in the church. These battling preferences drain the power of community.

Everyone has an opinion. We have preferences and styles we like. The problem comes when those opinions and preferences collide in community. What makes it even more difficult is that it’s rarely an issue of right or wrong. It’s just what we like. With all of our warring preferences, how can we truly create a community of believers?

Community

Community is not just a suggestion: It’s a command for all Christians. We are expected to engage in the community of the church. When we have people from different walks of life, backgrounds, generations and cultures all meeting together in this diverse community of the church, it’s difficult to meet everyone’s personal preferences.

The only way community can truly exist is if those who are a part of it care more about what is best for the group, or the mission of that community, than they do about their own personal preferences. A cohesive group of people with personal agendas and uncompromising beliefs (in regards to their preferences) can never exist. Think of the word community as having two parts: "common" and "unity." Without something in common, without unity, there is no community. Diverse community cannot exist without a driving mission or selfless sacrifice.

Jesus makes our mission very clear: to make disciples of all nations. The only thing that prevents powerful Godly community from breaking down the barriers between culture, economic class, race and age is our own selfishness. Sometimes we are called on to make sacrifices for what we love. When we start selecting a church based solely on our preferences we are taking something that’s all about God and making it all about us. Any church that is about an individual agenda or meeting personal preferences is a church that isn’t about Jesus. The church exists for God’s glory, not our agendas.

The church is called to minister to the nations: to men and women of every tongue, tribe and generation. We don’t build churches for specific age groups. If we did, they wouldn’t be effective. Churches need diversity. The very thing that gives power to our community is often the thing that prevents us from engaging in it. When we have multiple generations of people with different viewpoints and preferences, there is no way to make everyone happy. Even if we could, that doesn’t mean that we should. So what do we do?

Sacrifice

When parents have children, do the children go off to work so the parents can eat, sleep and get new clothes? No. The children don’t support their parents. They don’t provide for their parents. They don’t sacrifice for their parents. Parents make personal sacrifices for the sake of their children. That’s how life works. The mature sacrifice for the immature. The older sacrifices for the younger.

It’s no different in the church. The mature Christian does not demand that their style be adhered to, or that things go their way. The mature Christian willingly sacrifices their preferences for others. In their maturity they understand that it isn’t about them, it’s about Jesus. It is the responsibility of the mature to sacrifice their preferences for the good of the community.

For many, if the church plays contemporary music: It’s trying to entertain, perform, put on a show and thus, is not focused on genuine worship. What if that’s not the motivation? What if the reason the church does things they way they do is to engage less mature Christians or non-Christians so that they are drawn in to hear the Gospel and be transformed by it? What if the reason the church does things the way they do, is that they believe that is the best way to reach the community around them? What if they are right?

If loud music could bring someone in who didn’t know Jesus, and as a result they responded to the Gospel and fell in love with Jesus, wouldn’t it be worth it? The truth is: Worship style doesn’t matter. The Bible does not indicate how worship should be done. Nor does it prohibit certain styles of worship. It’s a preference issue. We can cross our arms and protest the “shallow entertainment focus of the church” or we can realize that God doesn’t care if there we are shredding on the guitar or singing acappella. His joy is in the worship. Not in the style we package it in. Certainly there are churches that care more about entertainment than they do about worship. We are often too quick to cast that judgment on them. Just because something is entertaining, doesn’t mean entertainment is the primary focus or goal.

It’s not just a worship issue. It’s a preference issue. When our preferences aren’t being met we are tempted to walk away. We should be grateful our parents didn’t take that approach with us. If we are truly mature our concern should not be forcing the church to do things our way, it should be supporting whatever way best advances the Gospel.

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Non-Christians or immature Christians are our mission. We are here to make disciples. That’s bigger than us and our personal agendas. We can hide behind theological idealism all we want, but at the end of the day, the question is: Are we willing to make personal sacrifices for the good of the community and the glory of God? If we aren’t, we have no place calling ourselves Christians. The whole point of our faith is that it’s not about us. Baby Christians should not be expected to make sacrifices for mature ones.

Sacrifice is not a popular idea. It is, however, a Christian one. We live in a world that’s all about us. We are surrounded by a culture of selfishness. We are a generation that struggles with entitlement. There is a natural desire in us to get our way, to be catered to, to focus on ourselves. Community doesn’t work that way. Community cannot exist without mature men and women who are willing to set aside their personal agendas and support the good of the community. The mature sacrifice for the good of the immature and for the good of others.

The question is, which one are you? Are you mature enough to serve and invest in a community that doesn’t do everything the way you think they should? Or do things have to go your way?

Top Comments

Vanessa Correa

1

Vanessa Correa commented…

While I appreciate the fact that people leaving churches very often has to do with spiritual immaturity, I feel this article is grading harder than we teach. For decades American Christianity has been largely devoid of the very discipleship needed to address the lack of growth that will have people attending church to work in the Kingdom rather than simply to attend.

Furthermore, this article leaves no room for the fact that some people leave their churches because they are too spiritually mature and have actually outgrown that particular congregation. Many churches only offer weekend services or one time events with no effective strategy for community service, gospel outreach, etc. People who are desperate for God and anxious to reach the lost can have a very difficult time finding like-minded people to work with. Few who attend church on a consistent basis, even the Pastors and leadership, feel this sense of urgency or are willing to whatever it takes to advance the Kingdom.

I guess in a nutshell my problem here is I feel this is aimed at youth, when if there is a problem with youth that is the symptom. The root cause would be the older generations who also lack spiritual maturity and that is why today's youth need to read articles like this. Because those who came before them couldn't possibly give what they don't have.

Rick Saint

1

Rick Saint commented…

While there is a degree of truth in this article.... it's making one huge assumption: namely, that a particular church congregation is actually a healthy community. Unfortunately, many church communities become toxic due to a variety of factors (sometimes poor leadership, sometimes controlling members, etc).
Actually, there are many times when "growing up" means recognizing that one is in an unhealthy environment and takes the necessary steps to protect themselves, which may mean leaving a particular church. And, unfortunately, this can be more difficult to do in church settings since the "spin" of unhealthy churches is often that if one leaves it's because the person "isn't spiritual enough", etc.

21 Comments

Wendy Dibble-Lohr

3

Wendy Dibble-Lohr commented…

God never gave up on His church that He bought with His blood, so neither can I. But most of the Bible is God telling His grouped people what's wrong with them and how to shape up. Even good churches have problems not just of preference but of sin. "My house shall be called a house of prayer"--is prayer ahead of sermons and singing for us? And music should be skillful and loud, but does our choice of music tell the Holy Ghost that Psalm 119 is not a singable lyric; do we love God enough to use His supply of lyrics as well as the "new songs" it calls for? (Andrew, husband of Wendy)

Nadia van Popering

5

Nadia van Popering commented…

This article seems a bit shortsighted to me. I do get your point; there are a lot of people who leave churches because things don't go the way they want. And you're right: that's not the way to go.

I used to believe that there was room for growth and change in the church I used to go to. But when, despite all the efforts you have put in serving and promoting etc., you are forgotten the moment you find yourself in a bad place, that is not okay. One of the most said thing in this particular church was: we are a family, we care for each other. But no such thing was true.

So this had nothing to do with me having to 'grow up'. It had to do with finding myself in a depression and no one keeping the promise of caring for each other.

Matthew Granger

1

Matthew Granger commented…

Thank you for this article! I'm surprised by the backlash. Let's keep the main thing the main thing: discipleship. The harvest is plenty but the workers are few. If we're at a church lacking discipleship, maybe instead of simply packing our bags, we should be asking God how we can be a part of changing the culture of our church.

The church is like an arrow: the leaders up front are the tip (apostles and teachers), the body is the shaft (pastors and evangelists), and, finally, the prophets are the feathers. The drag ;) We help ensure the arrow is heading in the right direction. If we see something going on that is unbiblical, we have a job to do!

Rebecca Thomas

1

Rebecca Thomas replied to Matthew Granger's comment

I believe there is backlash because plenty of people (myself included) left my church not because of personal preference but because of poor leadership. I talked to my elder and nothing changed. I spent 14 years of my life digging into that church and to leave it was one of the most painful thing I have ever done. But, there is hope as I've found a church that is helping me to heal and is excited about the things I'm excited for (youth outreach, missions, loving on unlovable people). If you've never gone through this experience, I would not wish it on anyone, but bad or immature leadership will destroy a church faster than anything.

Christopher Ripley

7

Christopher Ripley replied to Rebecca Thomas's comment

OK, I get that the writer has only so many words to express his thoughts in a forum like this.

However, I believe that if we are to tackle an issue this complex it needs to be in the form of a series. Oversimplification is a major fault of much of Christianity's answers to things like people leaving the church. They want to paint everything with a very broad brush stroke, but while doing this ignore a major portion of the people involved.

The reasons people leave are legion. The church is an imperfect organization, anything man-made is and when they are willing to look themselves in the mirror and see the change they need instead of pointing fingers all the time, then we will get someplace.

When I was sexually abused as a child by my father, the church we attended was notified, they did nothing to help me. I served as a volunteer mowing the church lawn and cleaning toilets, I went to every meeting, served in Jail ministry and the worship team, eventually I was a full-time staff member. Decades later when the abuse had taken its full measure of damage on me and the relationships around me I was cast away. Today I call on the church to deal courageously with porn, the "drug" I used to deal with the shame of abuse.

We cannot state we are making disciples if we aren't willing to address the entire person, the good the bad and the ugly.

Christopher Thompson

4

Christopher Thompson commented…

firstly the church does not provide for us, jesus is our provider and defender. secondly a christian is not someone who is in christian community. a mature christian is some who has a relationship with jesus christ daily. a mature christian is someone who shares their faith with others who don't know jesus daily. church and community does not define a christian. receiving from christ daily and giving out to others who don't know jesus daily. that is what a christian is, someone who is disgusted by sin, and dosent want to see people go to hell. a mature christian is someone who want to reach out to others who don't know jesus be set free from sin, so they can find victory in christ.

Koketso Makhele

11

Koketso Makhele replied to Christopher Thompson's comment

Amen.....some of the coments that actually speak about Jesus and not even one like...

Koketso Makhele

11

Koketso Makhele commented…

Hmmm...you raise a pressing point that some of you raise about this article...but I feel that the state of our churches in every country is a pure reflection of our communities and even our families in general, Church is a place where we find broken people, hurt people, all kinds seeking in hope and what they should find is the fact that they can and need to be that change and very ofte ot never gets to that because church really isn't a community where people have close relationships, become friends and help one another basically it has become a place where people go just because their Christian and has become more of a religion than an actual life to live and lead, being a Christian, being new again, having a new desire, there is no unity at all and if we can agree then we can walk together, we don't have to have the same thinking or talents , just to have 1 thing in common, our purpose....what brought us together in the first place!
That is why this article speaks about sacrifice...if we come to churches for them to eat our expectations then our agendas where of selfish reasons and we will never be filled in that church..fulfillment comes when we have a purpose to fulfill in Christ Jesus!

How do we coment about "The Church" and "Christianity" and Jesus isn't mentioned once, he is our only point, to the Father and of living and it should be by Him we live....all our wisdom and principles WILL fail....I'd like to think God sent him because there was NON who could bring us back to the Father!!!

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