the church

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First, I just want to say that I love what church is to me. Community, Love and Encouragement. With that being said, today in church some people had the chance to share some past experiences they had with the church. I heard people talk about their bad experiences and it made me sad and mad all at the same time. I mean from what they were saying, if church is supposed to be the representation of the Body of Christ here on Earth, we are doing a terrible job of showing people that. As you know, their stories are not the only bad ones out there. I’m sure you’ve heard some stories like this or maybe you feel that way yourself. Pretty much when I ask anybody outside of the church about their feelings of church, it ends up being a negative thing. I understand that churches are made up of people, and these people are not perfect. That includes pastors, folks. They will probably let you down at some point because they are still humans. This is where forgiveness comes in. I am actually writing a book on good things that churches are doing. Now I will agree, there are definitely some bad things that are in churches, but there are also a lot of great things. Here’s an example of a good thing: When my parents divorced and when my dad wasn’t there anymore, the church became a second family to me. Here’s the bad side to my church story: I grew up in church my whole life and when I was in my teens, our church actually went through a terrible church split. It messed a lot of people up in the church. But, I had a decision to make there. Was I going to blame people and dwell on that? Or, was I going to forgive and move on? I forgave and moved on as everyone in that situation should. But maybe, people have the view that we are all against each other and are just there to stab each other in the back. Or, maybe they have the view of the unforgiving and the judging side? I get a glimpse of this view on the church because after I read a book by a Christian author telling me that people hate the church, I then definitely know the world hates all Christians. icon wink the church I really would like to think that most people have something positive to say about church, but if you don’t I want to hear that, too. I’m mainly looking for honesty here. So, here’s your turn to speak.

What are your thoughts on the church today? Good? Bad? Whatever it is, I want to hear it.

even though He knows
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Author: Adam Smith

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  • http://twitter.com/ineffableGod @ineffableGod

    The church is us. Not a building or a place of worship. With that being said, we are all human and are all flawed. I see it the same way–I grew up in a legalistic church, but that didn't stop me from pursuing Christ (not to say that I wasn't bitter for a while, but I saw that it was pointless). We've got to take the good with the bad, and believe that God will work through every situation. I'm not denying that people haven't been hurt by the church–I've seen it and I've heard stories as well, and it's sad. Since we are the church, we have a responsibility to lead others and point others in the right direction, but all in LOVE. I think so many times churches find themselves in trouble because they stem away from the ultimate message of Christ, which is love. The message of Christ, at its core, is simple, we just like to complicate things.

    "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."-John 13:35

  • http://blog.capturingcourage.org Cyndy Lavoie

    Church is a great place to be. It is the place where it is okay not to be okay. Church is often the womb by which we are grown and then released. And church is also stability in times of instability, the place where familiar faces from years past bring continuity and consistency in a world of change. At the same time, church is often run on ill-informed theology, where rules and 'the way things are done' squelch the workings of the spirit, and a place that is to birth warriors for Jesus Christ in fact becomes closed systems with pinched thinking and pinched spirits. In these instances it is unfortunately necessary to draw clear lines in the sand and make hard decisions. But even with all this and more, church is still a great place to be. It would do us well to take church and leadership off the pedestals which merely ensure a toppling, and seek to walk on common ground instead. Then when things go 'bad' we take it in stride, and get on with loving the church as led by the spirit. Thanks for the post Adam, a topic very much on most people's 'hot' list. Bless you your courage!
    My recent post Craving after Comfort

  • http://twitter.com/scottfinn @scottfinn

    The church I attend does many things very well: They have all kinds of ministries to cover almost any need a parishioner could have, and all kinds of outreach programs to those in need, locally and worldwide.
    What they lack, from my perspective, is inspired preaching. Some sermons are so boring and forgettable that I cannot even remember them when they first finish. I will accept part of the responsibility here, as I may not be as attentive as I should be, if I know that the speaker is one that doesn't usually inspire, but I would not be jaded in the first place if they did inspire. Vicious circle, I guess.
    For the time being, I am going to try to give the pastor the benefit of the doubt, and just try to connect with a small group, as that is typically where I really see God move. I will let my weekly church visit be all about the worship, and make the other 167 hours of the week be opportunities to learn and be fed. For now, anyway. It's hard to change churches, especially after so many (15+) years.

  • http://twitter.com/coleman_ron @coleman_ron

    I remember someone once saying, "There is no such thing as perfect church; and if there was, it would lose its perfection the moment you walked through the door." I have certainly seen my share of the good, bad and downright nasty. I've been part of churches that, when faced with financial difficulties, asked its members to take a second mortgage on their home to help out. I'm proud to be at a church now that I would attend simply on the basis of the financial integrity with which it operates. I've fallen prey to Satan's traps before, and seen both the mercy of judgement that can only be levied by the church. One thing I know: The church doesn't need us. We need the church. We need the relationships that being a part of a body of believers opens us to. The people I have chosen to "do life" with are in my life as a result of the church. I thank God that He gave us the church. I feel certain that Christianity would have perished long ago, had it not been for the church.

  • Jimmy White Jr.

    You are correct to say that forgiving and moving on is the only way to handle a church split, but perspective must also change after a life changing experience. This change in perspective can sometimes be incorrectly viewed by others as unforgiveness. I love GOD and I love the Church, but I and my view of church has been forever changed as a result of my experience. I still believe in the Church, but what I expect from a church today is to replace the self-righteous attitude for honesty. I believe church is a place for an "I am not special, but only forgiven" mentality. When you know that you are nothing special, that's when God can use you.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/dubdynomite dubdynomite

    I'm sure everyone could tell a story of the bad things that happen as it pertains to church in general. Sometimes it is the negative things that stick with us the most.

    I won't go into detail here, but I'm publishing a series on my blog this week about one of the negative experiences I had in a church. Not because I'm trying to add to the negative stereotype, but because it is the story I'm living right now. I hoping that I, and others can learn from it. And everyone is welcome to join in the discussion.

    With that said, I'm glad that you are trying to bring focus on the good that churches are doing, and I hope that it brings balance to that discussion – we definitely need that balance.
    My recent post A Different Kind of Writer’s Block

    • http://twitter.com/jackalopekid @jackalopekid

      trying to stay as positive as possible

  • http://twitter.com/rgdecastro @rgdecastro

    I grew up knowing that the church is an edifice where God's presence dwells so by the time I got saved and experienced church as a family, I was blown away. Church is the model for authentic community. The living word resides in our hearts. Forgiveness and unity is practiced. Handling conflicts and gossips is learned. We follow our mentors and imitate their faith. And the list goes on.

    Our local churches never experienced a split for the past 25 years. We were always in one page. Our leaders set the example for us.

    Honor God. Make disciples.

    • http://twitter.com/rgdecastro @rgdecastro

      The same old boring strokes… which is fun!

  • http://twitter.com/ragingrambler @ragingrambler

    Im still on the fence about it. I know it can bring good into ppls lives but it can also hurt ppl, depending on the circumstances. I think that sometimes ppl can practice religion as if they were made for religion, rather than religion for man. When ppl are sacrificed for the good of the religion then I think religion has become something it was never intended to be. And I think that happens more often than not, and I think that really hurts God.

    Right now, where I am in my spiritual life, I just can't go.

  • http://twitter.com/jackalopekid @jackalopekid

    this is probably my longest post ever :)

  • http://twitter.com/DJDANGERRANGER @DJDANGERRANGER

    The only church I felt safe and welcome at is at the other end of the country now. I won't dwell on the negative experiences I have had at other churches since then but it has left me being an individual spiritualist. I'm at peace with that. God and I still love each other anyway. Church isn't for me anymore but for others I can see why it is.

  • pistachiosGB

    the thing is is that as we do in every situation in our lives, we are much more likely to retell a horror story than to recount all the ways something is done well. I may do business with 5 companies and 4 of them treat me well, maybe even go out of their way to satisfy or help me. I might tell my husband or a close friend, but I won't find every outlet to lodge a complaint and do so with great passion like I will for the one company that in my opimion "did me wrong". So is it possible that in our hurt and pain when something goes wrong at church, we broadcast that and forget all the good? IDK, but I feel it bears thinking about.

  • eandtsmom

    Hi, Adam.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I found them very touching, and your searching inquiry is to be lauded. As many others have said, the church is made up of humans. Unfortunately, not every church is made solely of believers, To some, it's a country club, or social activity, or tradition, and has no real meaning. We have to remember that when people think of "the church," they think of anyone who professes to ever attend. So, we all get white-washed together with the same brush.

    Does that mean that the body of believers is infallible? No, not at all. Even we are sinners. We won't be made perfect until we're called home. So, we will make poor choices, experience conflict and grief, and present bad role models to the watching world. But so long as we're on the look-out for that, and doing our best, with Christs' help, to be who God has called us to be, everything will be okay. As promised in Romans 8:28, God will work all things together (even our blunders) for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose.

    I can think of many times the church has done good things too. Any body of believers who sends missionaries near and far, who supports extending the gospel to the ends of the earth, and who seeks the will of their Father on humbled knees, can be counted among the good of the church. Remember, just as the people of Jerusalem demanded a Deliverer, not a Saviour (short-term vision vs. long-term), the people of this world have their own viewpoints as to how we should be. They expect things and judge us on the here and now, while we should be focused on eternity instead. That generates a different set of expectations than the world sees.

  • Johnnie

    Discipleship. It's all about discipleship. Churches who don't disciple and people who live undisciplined are not going to be productive or happy. As Dietrich Bonhoffer said, Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ". The churches who aren't creating disciples must start doing so; and disciples are different than "believers". Every believer should become a disciple.

    Churches should be full of encouragement. But anymore that is all people want. You will never grow from just encouragement. We also need people, leaders, in our lives to point out where we're missing the mark, and ENCOURAGE us to get on the right track. This requires the leadership and congregation to be in tune with the holy spirit. Leadership must also be in tune with the people. As a staff pastor I can't speak into someone's life without first having a relationship…a REAL relationship, with that person. I've seen many leaders carry the attitude that their title allows the to say what they want, to whoever they want, whenever they want to say it. This is probably the biggest and only legitimate complaint that I've ever heard on the church. I've heard people complain that "the preacher asks for money all of the time."; well to me that's not a legitimate complaint. That's probably a person doesn't tithe feeling guilty and blaming the pastor. Leaders need to accept responsibility, as does the congregations. The people in the church must start feeling the weight of the vision that God has given that church. The time of "sitting in the seats, listening to a sermon, going out to lunch and then back to life as usual" must end. Jesus didn't just commission pastors and staffers…He commissioned all of us to evangelize and work the harvest fields!

    Sorry Adam…I think my response was longer than your blog post…my bad. :)

    • http://twitter.com/jackalopekid @jackalopekid

      haha. nah man. good stuff

  • Rita

    What will alleviate many of the church's issues? Doing specifically what Jesus said true believers would do. Sometimes we are doing everything else but. Focus would be off of ourselves and our own feeding and entertainment, and on to people who don't have a clue.

    • http://twitter.com/jackalopekid @jackalopekid

      trueness

  • Anna

    Adam, I don't know you very well and perhaps I am reading your post wrong. But I can tell you from my own past experiences that it is not that easy. The Church is supposed to be the Representation of the Body of Christ. It is about community, and love, and forgiveness as you say. But along the way, the leadership in some churches (being just as fallible as anyone else) can lose their way and get bogged down in legalism and religion, and if not caught in time, do some real damage to the hearts of its congregation. I grew up in a church that did this. It is not the church itself to be blamed, of course not, but that is what takes the blame as individuals move from church to church and find, all to often, the legalism and religiousness of the first instance. I have seen what this can do to my family, and myself. True, we can make the choice to overcome it, or the choice to run. As humans, and depending on the level and deepness of hurt and betrayal, the choice we make is generally in favor of the latter. For me, my anger was initially at the church, but then it became directed at religion and still is. To this day I stiffen when someone asks if I am "religious". I am not religious. I love my Lord and Savior, but God is not religious to me. He does not rely on legalism and rules that are not to be broken and doomsday just around the corner if you sin. Ultimately, I think an understanding of where an individual comes from(their background story rather than simply seeing the reaction to the hurt) will lend you a better idea of what you are looking for. I like to think that I escaped with the least damage b/c I was younger and not directly effected by the circumstances my family was in. I was an onlooker, though, to the situation and the pain it caused. And since then I have been very wary and discerning to the attitude of the people in the church I attend. This is, I think the reaction most people have to church–A reaction to the religiousness and judgement that is not by God. If judgement is not done right, and done in love, it turns people the other way as do rules that are not of Him (such as my sister and I only being able to wear dresses, or not allowed to play cards b/c some people gamble). I am not sure if I am getting across what I am trying to, but those are my thoughts on it. Church is a great place to go for encouragement and fellowship, when given in love. When it (and by it I mean the people in the church-leadership and congregation) becomes tainted by spirits of religion and legalism and the leadership is led astray, it can be extremely difficult for those effected the most to recover.

    • http://twitter.com/jackalopekid @jackalopekid

      This is just my experience. No, it wasn't easy for me to forgive. I didn't mean for it to come across that way. And I can speak for everyone because all of our experiences are different. I am just mad that almost everybody I come across has a bad story about the church when we are supposed to be a refuge.

    • http://twitter.com/jackalopekid @jackalopekid

      Oh, and thanks for the honesty here

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  • http://twitter.com/jackalopekid @jackalopekid

    this post comes out of trying to find the positive

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  • http://twitter.com/AnnieTackett @AnnieTackett

    I have been hurt a lot by Church. Every church I have ever been a part of has split, my whole life even as a child. I had to take a few years off. I needed time to think and regroup. How and why does this keep happening? My conclusion, wether or not its a good one or not, has been that God doesn't want us to replace Him with Church. He wants to be the love of our lives, He wants us to depend on Him, relate with Him, search for truth in Him. Unfortunately, we (myself included) have the tendency to be passive in our relationship with God. Church only makes it worse, we depend on the pastor to "hear from the Lord". We need to hear from God, we need to know His voice.

    Ultimately for me I want Church to be something organic, that won't settle for the status quo, and wants to live a great big life. That's who I want to be, and the type of people I want to associate with.

  • Lauree

    i get hurt most at church when i come to get my needs met… what i need to be doing is bearing the burdens of others and trusting God to meet my needs… that is so hard…

    i would like to grow spiritually to the point that i was able to go to any chuch and feel fed because i was ready to worship when i got there…..

  • wackywilliams

    I was raised in church & sadly I had neary the good exspernce but I kept plugging away, many times wondering why, but I always knew there had to be truth out there instead of just jugmentilness & after being kicked out of fifty & preemitvly leaving 4 I finly have found a couple that truly seem to to be genuwinly practising the gospel they preach, but unforntily the majorty of my exspernce has been negitve but hey it only took 35 years of bad exspences to now have 2 years of fairly good ones, so who knows what lay in store from here.

Listen to the latest episode of the Live Life With Purpose Podcast here.