I’m fed up with church.
This isn’t coming from an atheist or someone who despises everything related to God. This isn’t coming from a former man of faith who decided to give up on his spirituality. This is coming from a sincere Christian who’s been attending church for most of his life.
Yes, you read that correctly: I’m a follower of Jesus who hates going to church.
That probably sounds like an oxymoron to some of you. Well, before I continue expounding upon this in much further detail, I want to clarify a few things:
Many people who read this blog will be very quick to criticize and judge me for it. I guarantee that some will indeed be very angry and offended at what I’m about to write (even at what’s already been said in the first few sentences), and I may also lose a few friends in the process. This topic isn’t meant to be taken lightly; we’re talking about an area of life that most Christians consider sacred and of utmost importance in their relationship with God. I’ve been accused of being unloving, disrespectful, dishonoring to church leaders, and so many other things simply because I bring up the issues and inconsistencies that I and countless others have PERSONALLY experienced while being at church. Until now, I’ve even screened my content and limited how much I challenge those problems for fear of hurting and offending others.
It’s time for me to be honest.
I’m done with living in the fear of man, worrying about offending Christians just for sharing my heart. I’m done with watching congregants crumble under the controlling, manipulative hand of religious leadership and not saying anything about it because I don’t want to be “dishonoring” to those in “authority.” I’m done with caring what people think or say about me for fear of rejection. So many people feel the same exact way about these things as I do, but are too afraid to speak up about it.
If I can’t be brutally honest with others, how can I be honest with God? And if my friends are willing to disown me and never talk to me again because of something I believe, then were they really my friends to begin with? Was our friendship actually based on love, or just a common ideology?
If you can’t handle my honesty and me sharing my experiences, then with all due respect, you don’t have to read my blog.
I’m not shutting up anymore. Hate me, call me what you will, but I must stay true to myself and the conviction that God has placed on my heart. My reasons for posting this are not only to challenge certain aspects of what church has become, but also to help bring awareness of the freedom we can have from a system that’s held many of us captive for so long.
Please keep in mind that I’m NOT encouraging Christians to stay away from their local churches or trying to convince you that going to church is a bad thing. These experiences and thoughts are MINE, and although many other people have experienced similar occurrences, my words don’t epitomize every single church group that exists in the world. I hope that my intentions will be more clear as you read further along. If you’re still reading this and haven’t completely shut me out by now, thank you for your patience and openness. I’ll now continue forward:
Defining the Church: A Building or a Body?
What is church?
When I say that I hate “church,” I’m not referring to the Body of Christ or any specific group of people. This is where a bunch of readers get mistaken when it comes to my content. They see me talk about church in a negative way and assume that I hate Christians. This can’t be further from the truth; I love people. Jesus loves his children and I believe that I should express that love too. I wouldn’t write the things that I do if I wasn’t trying to HELP people.
Also, when I say that I hate “church,” I’m not referring to the gathering of a community of believers in fellowship. Fellowship and community are incredibly important when it comes to our relationship with God and the world. Some of the most precious times in my years being a Christian were during times of discussing, worshiping, and praying with other believers.
When I say that I hate “church,” I’m referring to the religious, organized, over-packaged, monotonous, manipulative system/cycle that disguises itself as the true Church.
WE are the true Church; the Church is the Body of Christ, the children of God. Should there be community within the Body? Of course! But so many Christians have confused the Body with a building. We’re taught that in order to grow closer to God and to experience his presence, we need to go to a specific location, enter a specific building, sing a few specific songs, sit down and listen quietly to a specific person, and go home just to repeat the same cycle the next week.
Is that what the Christian life is about?
I was practically born in church. I started attending church with my family even before it was a personal choice of mine. ”Going to church” regularly was a part of my life. As far as it becoming a choice, I started choosing to attend weekly services at around the age of twelve. Often times, I would attend more than one service per week. I’m twenty-three years old now, so that would mean I attended 2-3 services a week for over ten years. That’s at least 1,560 church services since I began voluntarily going (and that’s not including the times I went against my will). I don’t write this to brag, because I honestly don’t see that as something to brag about.
I’ve done the “good Christian thing.” I’ve gone to the same building to “meet with God.” I’ve sung the same old tired worship songs. I’ve sat down quietly and listened to pastors preach their sermons. I’ve given money that I didn’t have to support all of it. I’ve done this repeatedly for years…
and I’m sick of it. I’m bored.
I feel like every time I sit in a church or at school chapel, I don’t want to be there. Can anyone relate? I’m tired of doing the same old routines and expecting new results. This is NOT how Jesus described the Church. This is not how it was in the book of Acts or in the lives of the apostles/disciples. They saw power! They built relationships with sinners, drunks, pagans, the outcasts of society and saw miraculous things happen!
What’s interesting is that the Bible never commands us to GO to church; it commands us to BE the Church!
Jesus commanded believers to go make disciples of ALL nations and to bring the kingdom. He didn’t say to go gather as many Christians who think the same way into a building every Sunday, sing songs about him, listen to one person speak about the Bible, and pay tithes.
Please hear that I’m not condemning you if you participate in any of those things. If you find meaning and purpose in them, then by all means keep doing what you’re doing. I even occasionally listen to sermons online every now and then. But for many of us, that just won’t settle anymore. If you’re content with attending weekly services and feel that they’re beneficial to you, then I bless you in your endeavors. However, the point that I’m making here is to say that “going to church” is simply a personal choice and not a requirement for spiritual growth by any means.
House of the Lord?
One of the main reasons I attended weekly meetings was to experience the presence of God. I believed that because the church building was dedicated to worship, it was a place where the Holy Spirit dwelled. If I wanted to encounter God in a tangible way, I could go to this place and meet him. God was more in that place than he was with me at home, so I had to go there as much as possible. This is a common mindset to many people, especially those in Charismatic circles. The idea that some buildings are more holy than others and that we have to go to a specific location if we want to experience the anointing is not only an Old Covenant way of thinking, but it’s also plain silly.
God is everywhere, and his presence is the same everywhere. If he lives in you, then you have as much anointing as any building does. You don’t have to go into a building to experience God; you can experience him wherever you are!
One excuse that I’ve heard for making weekly services an obligation is this verse: “Those who are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God” (Psalm 92:13). The attempt is to prove that the Scriptures support going to church as a means for spiritual growth. But what’s funny about this interpretation is that the “house of the Lord” mentioned in this verse isn’t referring to an American piece of architecture. It’s referring to the ancient Hebrew Tabernacle/temple, where the Holy Spirit resided under the Old Covenant. Under the New Covenant, what is the house of the Lord?
That’s right: WE are the temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19)! The house of the Lord isn’t a building; our bodies are the houses of the Lord.
The Facade of Fellowship
“Don’t stop meeting together with other believers, which some people have gotten into the habit of doing” (Hebrews 10:25).
This is another reason I always hear to support going to church. But you’ll notice that “don’t stop meeting together with other believers” is very different from “don’t stop attending scheduled meetings every week and sitting under the pastor’s teaching.” Again, I agree that fellowship and community are both necessary and important for Christians to mature and grow, but the manner of how we fellowship shouldn’t have to be micromanaged by any specific religious system.
I find that a major problem in many churches is that they claim to be a community and contain fellowship, when in reality, those things are nowhere to be found.
We may not like to admit it, but church just isn’t designed for fellowship.
The function of churches that I’ve been to my entire life has been as follows: The congregation walks in, starts up short conversation before service begins, sings a few worship songs together, sits down to hear the sermon, and then leaves. In many cases, the members desire to talk with one another after the service is over, but are often ushered out of the building. I’m not sure about you, but his was how my experience was. Is that really “fellowship?”
The system of church functions allows for minimal involvement with other Christians during the service. The majority of our time is spent sitting in a pew, looking at the back of someone’s head who we may have swiftly greeted in passing, and then it’s over. We come back the next week and call it “fellowship.”
In my experience, the REAL fellowship and community came AFTER the service, when the members would meet up for lunch and talk, or when a small bunch of us went to a home group.
You know, actually getting to know each other. Imagine that!
How can we get to know each other and claim to have fellowship if all we do is sit and listen to one person speak for an hour and then leave to do it all over again? That’s not fellowship; that’s a classroom. I’m an experiential learner. I personally don’t learn very well through lectures (I never have). School was never my thing, and I always hated sitting in a classroom listening to professors lecture because 1) it was impersonal and boring, and 2) if I don’t get involved somehow through hands-on activity, I tune out and don’t learn anything. I can understand that some people enjoy those types of systems, but people like me can’t learn that way. If I’m not a fan of school lecturing during the week, then why would I want to learn about God that way on weekends?
This revelation hit me hard when I participated in a college play earlier this year. I spent hours each day with the cast, not because it was a matter of obligation, but because I got to know them well and enjoyed spending time with them. We became like a family; we had fun together, we talked about God together, and we enjoyed serving each other. And you know what?
Not only did I feel a deeper sense of fellowship and community at rehearsals than I did at church, but I learned way more about myself and God in a few months with the cast than I did in years of going to church meetings.
Did I learn a lot in church? You bet. Did I also have to UNLEARN a lot that I was taught there? You bet.
I enjoy learning and growing through experience. Jesus didn’t only teach; he demonstrated and brought the disciples into a lifestyle they could see and touch. They had hands-on training. Jesus met with them personally and enjoyed spending time with them. The disciples didn’t go to church, they WERE the Church.
Ask yourself this question: If real fellowship happens only after the main service during meals or home groups, then why is the actual service necessary for fellowship? What’s it’s purpose? To experience God? We can do that anywhere. To hear a message? We can do that online or even hear from God ourselves if we want to. To see a fiery preacher? That would make church about one person. To sing songs? We can do that with Christians anywhere. To pay tithes? Is money what church is all about? Think about it.
In my neighborhood, there’s a small park that has a lot of heritage. But another thing that this park is known for is the people who go there. It’s constantly full of homeless people, drunks, and drug addicts. Those in New York City who have no place to live often sleep in this park. The poverty and hurt there is incredibly tough to look at.
The church that I attended for ten years was right across the street from this park.
You would think that a place which is supposed to offer hope, love, and comfort to those in need would do something to help these homeless and hurting people, right?
The church did nothing.
There was no outreach or continued evangelism program that reached out to these people at all. They weren’t even invited to attend services or experience God. They were completely ignored like a piece of litter on the street, while the children of God (representatives of Christ) sat and listened to someone preach prosperity. The church prided itself on doing good around the world and legitimately helped many people in other countries, but didn’t even help those right in front of them.
A friend of mine told a story of when he volunteered to give out free invites for the church to people outside. This friend mentioned that he tried giving invites to the homeless people in the neighborhood park, but was then told by someone in leadership:
“Don’t give those to them. Those aren’t the kind of people we want.”
Are you kidding me? What are the “kind” of people Jesus hung out with and came to save? That’s your sense of community?
The people Jesus had fellowship with are the very people the church often rejects.
It’s disgusting, and don’t think I’m attacking one church or am saying these things because of animosity against certain leaders. It’s not just one church. These types of situations are happening in churches all over the globe. People call themselves a light in a dark world, the salt of the earth, and the ambassadors of the kingdom, but they’re doing nothing to shape the community around them. I know that I’m not perfect and that I can also do much better in helping those in my neighborhood, but the church needs to wake up and act like Jesus.
We can have seven different churches in one town, yet the community isn’t changing. We talk about transforming the world, meanwhile the people in our congregations are complacent and people on the street corners are dying right in front of our eyes! CAN’T YOU SEE THERE’S SOMETHING WRONG HERE?
Church has made community conditional: we say that we accept everyone but we really don’t, whether the cause be financial status or even skin color (I’ve seen it).
One of the happiest moments of my life was when a friend and I found a drunk man out on the street and brought him to church with us. He smelled horrible, slurred his words, and cussed like a sailor. We didn’t care; we brought him to the meeting and he sat down next to us. Those in the building turned around and gave us funny looks, but this man stayed for the entire duration of the meeting. He finally found someone who accepted him into an environment that usually wasn’t accepting of his “kind.” THAT’S community. That’s the kingdom.
Church has become more of a business than a place of community and servanthood. The system can’t function unless it receives donations or “tithes” from it’s members. The leadership says the money goes toward missions and organizations in other countries (which is great), but often times the people in the congregations themselves are struggling financially and the churches don’t do anything to help. The goal is to get as many butts in the seats as possible and to fill up as many services as they can.
Jesus told us to go OUT and preach the good news to the world, but we’d much rather try and get the world IN to our orderly scheduled meetings.
My mother is one of the most hard-working people I know. She’s busted her behind my entire life, trying to make sure her children are taken care of and financially stable, even at the cost of her own expenses. When it comes to her kids, she’s the most giving person I’ve ever encountered, regardless of what she has. But my family has always struggled to pay rent and other expenses at certain times. God has taken care of our needs, but there have been plenty of times growing up when I remember us having little to no money to spend. We’ve had the electricity in our apartment shut off more than once because we couldn’t pay the bills.
One week, I opened the refrigerator only to find a jar of applesauce. That’s all we had to eat in the entire apartment. My mother had to humble herself and borrow food from the neighbors just so we could survive the week. I’ve had my fair share of rough times.
But we still decided to go to church and give ten percent of what we had because we were promised a “harvest” in return and because it was worship that God desired. Christians are promised a financial blessing if they give money to keep the system running, but they’re left watching as only the leadership receives all of the benefits. I remember watching one time as the leaders of a church decided to appreciate its own staff by buying them all iPhones. They proceeded to give out these gifts to the staff in front of the entire congregation during the service.
Meanwhile, there were people sitting in the seats who couldn’t even pay their phone bills that month.
I’m not saying that giving and receiving expensive products is bad. I’m all for having nice things. But if churches can’t even take care of their own members, how can they say they’re helping people? The leaders have nice cars, houses, and other things that have been paid by the attenders’ offerings, and the attenders’ are living paycheck-to-paycheck. That’s not right.
I’d like to think I’m a giving person. I love doing things for others that they won’t be able to repay me for. When it comes to church attendance, it’s not about the tithes and offerings. I’d much rather give money to a friend who’s struggling to pay rent or one of those homeless people in the park than to give 10% of my income to a place that doesn’t care about them. I’m looking forward to the day when church offerings look like this again:
“All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need” (Acts 2:44-45).
“All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need” (Acts 4:32-35).
This was how money worked in the early church. It wasn’t about making sure a building could stay open or a pastor could get rich; it was about the Body of Christ caring for each other and supporting each other for whatever they had need of.
A Hierarchy of Control & Exclusive Leadership
“But what about accountability? Who’s your “covering”?
I get this a lot. The intent is to say that because I choose not to attend regular weekly meetings, I somehow won’t have accountability or discipleship for my relationship with God.
Well for one, Jesus is the head of the Church. The pastor is NOT. Any leader who claims to be the head of any church is lying and is on a power trip seeking to control people. Jesus is the ultimate authority in any group of believers. I can have accountability through friends and family, but most of all, the Spirit of God who lives in me. I can respect authority figures in the Church, but that doesn’t mean I need them breathing down my neck and managing my every move in my walk with God. There are many leaders that I look up to, but God alone is my “covering.” He’s all I need, and he can lead me perfectly fine.
One thing I adore about home groups is that although there are clear leaders, no one person is above anyone else. Everyone has an equal opportunity to share revelation that God has given them, or to operate in their spiritual gifts as they see fit. The leaders make sure that this is done in an orderly manner. However, in the church system, you have one person (pastor, bishop, priest, etc.) who gets up in front of everyone and talks for an hour about their interpretation of the Bible. There’s no form of interaction between Christians because they all must sit quietly and listen to one person give THEIR opinion about God.
What happens then is this one person has now built a platform in which THEY are the anointed leader, and anyone who challenges or questions them and their views are automatically wrong. The challengers are accused of being “dishonoring” or not “submissive” to authority, even though they’re only sharing their opinions.
I have friends who’ve been in ministry for years and are more than qualified to preach and teach others about the Lord, yet pastors refuse to ordain them because they aren’t quite “ready” yet. So when is “ready”? When their theology becomes the same as everyone else? When they’ve been a Christian long enough? When they earn a college degree? Jesus called his disciples and immediately sent them out to minister. How many of the apostles were legally ordained? None. But of course, the “anointed” clergy in the church had the final say.
I visited a church in Vermont once, and after the service ended, the pastor stayed at the altar and spoke/prayed with anyone who needed it. I thought to myself, “This pastor actually sticks around for a long time and serves people? How awesome!” I was used to pastors who’d preach their sermons and immediately leave when it was over. They claimed they were “too busy” or that there were just too many people who wanted to pray.
This is why I kept my mouth shut for so long.
I had so much respect for religious leaders just because they were the ones “in charge” and had superior knowledge of theology, that I never brought up any of the problems I’ve previously mentioned in this blog. I knew that there were issues in the churches I attended, but I was afraid to speak up because I was told to respect my elders and to “submit to authority.”
“Touch not the Lord’s anointed,” right? Ha.
I’m no longer scared to write about these things because just like getting out of a bad relationship, we always have 20/20 hindsight when we’re finally free. I didn’t want to admit that I felt trapped at the time, but now I feel what so many Christians before me have felt: frustrated.
I was the youth leader of a church once. It all ended when I posted a Facebook status sharing my honesty about certain things I believe. I was called “un-Christian” and told that I was causing “disunity,” “confusion,” and “disturbing the peace” of the church. I was told that I “gave up the right” to share my opinions on social media when I joined staff.
Talk about control, huh?
I then decided to leave because why should anyone want to stay in a position where they were being accused of those things? They couldn’t handle me being part of their leadership just because they disagreed with me on something. Can anyone else relate?
The week after I left, an entire sermon was preached on why what I believed and briefly mentioned in that status was heretical. I wasn’t mentioned by name, but the damage was done. I was the heretic, the deceived one, the one preaching a false gospel…
All because of one Facebook post.
Since then, only one or two people in the whole congregation has even contacted me (none of which were on staff). Not a call, not a text, not an email, or even a Facebook message. This was the place I dedicated my life to for almost ten years. I trusted these people. I practically grew up there, but am now treated like an outcast that never existed. I was quickly replaced by another youth leader as if my time there had meant nothing. I can only pray that everyone there is blessed, regardless of how I was treated.
These types of things are happening over and over again in the world. You’d be amazed at some of the stories I’ve heard. It’s not about the people in leadership as much as it’s the legalistic concept of what it means to “do church” and the pride that it brings to those with a ministry platform.
This is why I write what I do. There are people who love Jesus out there, just like me, who are fed up with church. The religious system of control will continue to keep Christians in slavery if things don’t change. There are many wonderful pastors and leaders in the Body of Christ, and not all of them are the way I described throughout this article. As I said earlier, these are MY experiences that others have similarly gone through. If you “go to church,” you’re not a heathen. Likewise, if you don’t go to church, you’re not a heathen either. I get you, and I completely understand your struggles for true community.
I have no problem visiting church meetings and worshiping there, but until I find a place that will accept me regardless of my theology, allow me to get involved without micromanaging me, or actually care enough to stick with me through my honesty and hard times, I won’t commit. Jesus always accepts me. I won’t sit under any ministry that claims to care about people but doesn’t help to change their own community or those in its own circle.
If you’re a spiritual leader in any way, I hope you think hard about what’s been written here. While I’m angry about the manipulation that goes on in many areas, I long to see the Church fulfill its purpose: to love and to serve. If you say you want to minister, then do what comes with the job description and serve people.
If you’re not a leader, but a person who regularly attends church meetings, I want you also to think about these things. What do you get out of going to church? What SHOULD you be getting out of it? Do you find it easy to be open and honest with your church leaders? Could you challenge and question your leaders, or will that get you into trouble? Is your church about programs and traditions, or about power and world change? Is your church doing more to help itself grow, or is it actually attempting to bring transformation to its community?
Get honest with yourself, your mentors, and with God. Many people go to church their whole lives and never change, not because going to a place to worship is awful, but because Church isn’t a place you go to; it’s who you are.
God is much bigger than your four walls.