I’ve decided I don’t like going to church. It’s not that I’m going to stop going. But I came to the conclusion last Sunday, as I was showering before church, that I’ve come to the point where I just don’t feel like it makes a difference in my life. When Sunday morning comes, I find myself wishing it were Saturday where I would have the entire day to do whatever I wanted.
It hasn’t always been this way. I used to love going to church. I would look forward to it every week. I loved the worship time, ate up the preaching and enjoyed the fellowship with the people around me. However, all this has begun to change for me lately. I’ve come to the point where I don’t want to be bothered with talking to people. It’s not that they’re not good people, it’s just that I really don’t want to talk to them. I find that I’m not as interested in the worship and preaching as I used to be. In fact, I usually find every possible way to criticize the songs we sing or the delivery of the message (that’s the effect Bible college can have on some people).
You see, the problem with all this is that I’m in ministry myself. It’s actually my job to be at the service on Sunday morning. Maybe that’s part of the problem. Maybe I’m bitter that I have to go into “work” while other people can go and enjoy the service because they have no obligation.
There’s a larger problem involved, however, and I don’t believe it’s a problem that is uncommon to people (particularly twentysomethings, of which I am one) in the church today. You see, I walk in to the church service, sit down, cross my arms and expect God to do something in me. I expect the worship team to bring me out of my apathy. I wait for something the pastor says to catch my ear. What’s the problem with all this? It’s me. Nothing has changed in my church since the time when I enjoyed coming. I’ve changed. I’ve become more selfish. I’ve become more cynical. In fact, it’s gotten to the point where my girlfriend told me yesterday that maybe she should sit somewhere else during the service because she can sense that I don’t want to be there.
More than all this, I’ve come to expect the church to forge my spiritual development. Instead of working on my own prayer and devotional life, I want the church to do it for me. Please tell me I’m not the only one in the Body of Christ who has this problem. Please tell me there are other lazy people, who come to church on Sunday and expect to be filled up for the week ahead. Meanwhile, they have no expectation of giving anything. (I’m not talking about money either.) We aren’t willing to give of ourselves in worship. We aren’t willing to give of ourselves to each other, to minister to our friends who have hurts too (we’re not the only ones who hurt, even though we’d like to think so sometimes).
I’d like to blame all this on our American culture of selfishness. I’d like to say that I am this way because I’ve been socially conditioned by all the advertising and marketing that I’m encountered with day after day; advertising that says things like “Have it Your Way.” Well, I do want it my way. Don’t we all? Isn’t it true that if we don’t like how things are done at one church we can just go across town (or across the street, for some of us) and find a church that suits our felt needs better? Is that what Jesus intended for His church? Did He want us to forsake our churches just to seek “greener pastures” somewhere else? It’s true that the Church is flawed. No church is exempt from this. But instead of giving up (or becoming total cynics of every last detail) we should be working to change that which is wrong in our churches, but more than that—to change that which is wrong in ourselves. And changing what is wrong in us is probably the harder of the two. Selfishness doesn’t go away easily (trust me, I’ve still got plenty of it). How else can we work to change from selfish people to gracious and generous people other than asking for the help of the Holy Spirit? There is no other way that I know of (and I’m sure I’ve tried many) to deal with sin of every kind.
In the end, I can only blame my own sinful nature that allows me to become like I am. It’s my fault, not my church’s, that I think and act this way. Until I, and those like me, are willing to own up to this, we will continue to be unfulfilled Christians who take up space in the pews on Sunday mornings, but have nothing to contribute to the radical mission that the church is called to.