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To Church or Not to Church?

Today’s post has been a long time coming and is controversial.  I won’t apologize for what I am sharing as I have done in the past.  It is time to move forward into the new thing and let go of the old things.  But I will, however,  encourage you to consider your community, your traditions as well as your beliefs.

I need to say two things before we go any further…

“To church or not to church” is directed at the traditional Sunday morning church model.  I want to go on the record as being for church.

Also…

I love the local church body.  I am a fan of how local churches are affecting their communities and making a difference in the lives of people.  Church is good.

 

This series is not about if church is relevant, but rather, it’s going to take a close look at the definitions of church, the effectiveness of the current church model and how I believe it is changing.

 

I know that sounds like a lot, but I find more and more folks “struggling” with the concept of traditional church as we all know it.  So I will try to insert appropriate humor to make you laugh every now and then.  🙂

 

So let’s go to church, shall we?  Okay not really, but let’s go there together with our imaginations–it’ll be fun.  Really, it will.

 

It’s Sunday morning because after all someone once upon a time declared that Sunday is the only acceptable day of the week to gather and worship.

 

We are dressed in our Sunday go-to-meeting clothes because somehow this brings more honor to God.  Our worship is made more authentic because of our hard soled shoes, big hats, ties and dresses, right...?

 

Once in the building, it is a mad dash to get the children checked into the designated “children’s area” so someone can teach them something.  We are more concerned with getting our precious progeny dropped off and finding our own seats than knowing what they are being taught–or not being taught. But no worries–if they aren’t being taught any deep, life-changing truths today, it’s okay.  There are probably TVs, video games, jungle gyms, basketball courts, air hockey tables and the like to keep them busy.  And I bet they will even get candy for just bringing their Bible because it is no small thing to carry your Bible to church.  And as adults we should generously reward them with food-coloring and high fructose corn syrup for such a brave and spiritual act.

 

But hey, that’s not our problem… we must hurry to the sanctuary to secure our seat at the end of the row because no one, and I mean no one, ever wants to sit in the middle of the row.  So the race is on to secure the aisle seat and make everyone crawl over us as they come in late…serves them right. They should’ve been on time like us if they wanted a shot at our seats.

 

Are you laughing now?  Well, I am–so at least one of us is having a good time with this.

 

The worship team assumes their positions, and we wonder what three songs they will sing today.  It’s always three songs because there is a schedule to follow.  If they sang four songs, then the pastor would have to shorten his sermon because people would actually get up and leave at noon to beat the “church crowd” at the restaurants.   And that’s completely okay–we can always hear the last bit when the church posts the podcast online.   Seriously…isn’t that what it’s for???

 

They are singing the third song now, but they keep singing it…and singing it.  We discreetly glance at our watches and wonder if we want chicken or a burger after service.

 

11:59 and the pastor is closing out in prayer.  We quietly reach for our Bibles and purses while every head is bowed and every eye closed.  And we also give thanks that we were able to secure that coveted aisle seat because we won’t get caught in post service traffic as everyone tries to exit the sanctuary.  (This is much more of a concern in megachurches…let me tell you.)

 

As soon as the Amen has escaped pastor’s lips, we are out of the gate and already into the corridor while the others file into lines to exit.  Quickening our pace and trying not to appear like we are actually running, we do actually run/walk to go and gather the children.

 

Peeking in the Sunday school room, the children are seated quietly and watching a Veggie Tales video.  Great, we think, at least they are watching something that teaches a lesson.  The Sunday school volunteer sees us and returns our precious little ones.

 

We both grab little Jimmy’s hand and run to exit the building before the parking lot becomes a mad house.  Never mind that he can’t keep up with us as we pull him along.  He is trying to tell us something, and so we look behind us with eyebrows raised.  He quickly explains that he did not get to play on the playground that long today at children’s church.  We change the subject and ask him what he learned about.  He mumbles something about God is love.

 

I think you get the point, and thanks by the way for attending service with me.

 

Obviously, I was poking fun and have been guilty at some point or other of all of the above.  And I am in no way reducing church to just the issues I highlighted, but was merely trying to express the way we get into rote, silly behavior as we try to uphold our Sunday morning traditions.  My experience of church has been much deeper than the nonsense I described.  I did that only to make you laugh and to preface the following questions:

 

Are going to church and being the church the same concept?  Do you have to attend church a church to be the church?  Are they mutually exclusive?  Is church bigger than our collective experience of Sunday morning traditions?  If we paired down all of the traditions, routines and rituals, what would we be left with?

 

However you answered those questions, there is a growing trend among veteran church attendees, and I won’t even call it a “problem” because I don’t think it is.

 

More and more mature Christians are openly and honestly expressing their dissatisfaction with church as we have understood it and lived it.  And many are leaving the church while trying to navigate “not going to church”…

 

…this is exactly where we found ourselves in February of 2017.

 

We knew our time for attending the traditional church model had come to an end.  We were NOT offended, angry, tired of serving, living in sin, etc.–it was nothing like that.  We both knew in our hearts that Father was calling us out of the current church model and into something different.  But that was all we knew.

 

And to be honest, we were a little puzzled as we loved our church.  We had dear friends.  We had learned a lot, and we had grown together there over the years.  We enjoyed serving there as well.  Why would we ever leave?

 

And once we had left, we struggled to the point that we actually started going back to other churches because…

How does one not go to church? Click To Tweet

 

It felt almost, for a lack of better word, sinful.

 

So hubs and I not knowing what to do decided we should return to church, albeit different ones since we had just left our congregation of seven years.  That lasted a only few weeks because we quickly felt the familiar dissatisfaction and knew it wasn’t right for us any longer.

 

So what were we to do???  Scripture clearly tells us to not forsake community:

 

24 Let us consider how to inspire each other to greater love and to righteous deeds, 25 not forgetting to gather as a community, as some have forgotten, but encouraging each other, especially as the day of His return approaches.             (Hebrews 10:24-25 The Voice)

 

I had a lot of questions for Father…here we were trying to honor His leading while having absolutely NO idea how to walk in this new place that did not have us in a local church on Sunday morning.

 

Here were some of my many questions:

 

1.) How do I not go to church?

2.) What about my children?

3.) Where will I tithe?

4.) How and where will I serve?

5.) Where will I find community?

 

When we step out of our familiar traditions and behaviors, it can feel very scary.

 

Being that I grew up in church and cut my teeth on the red hymnal, this was extra difficult for me.

 

And I won’t even talk about people’s faces when I attempted to answer the question: “So…where you guys going to church now?”

 

But it caused me to ask myself some hard questions.  It caused me to press into what the Father was trying to show me, and it caused me to dig deep in Scripture and really read.

 

He led me to the answers I needed and answered every one of my questions through Scripture and His quiet voice in my heart.

 

I will share all of that with you in the next post as I don’t want this post to go on forever and ever and feel you might need a minute or two to process what I have shared so far.

 

If any of you out there have found yourself in a similar place, please feel free to share in the comment section below.  If you haven’t, that is absolutely fine too.  There is no judgement–we are each on a different journey, and one is not superior nor inferior to another.

 

So until next time, Peace. Love. & Truth.

Melody

www.truthandink.com

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About Melody

truth-seeker. writer. wife. mom. papa's girl.

23 Replies

  1. Renee Deaver

    I have missed you sweet Melody. I have enjoyed seeing your photos of your adventures and it helps me to know you’re ok and thriving.
    I have stopped going to church in the past. Not because I was angry or offended, but because I was tired of the same sermons and the same guilt producing pleas to give more money, etc. Over time my thoughts would heal and I would return to church. Just to eventually repeat the process. I never left church to move “toward” something else, much less something else God -directed. So I am very curious to read your series.
    For myself, I’ve learned I am more satisfied with my life and more at peace when I am in church and in relationship at church. Church is not perfect and never will be. It is not the early church and is now big business and must be run as such. I have gained acceptance for the things I dislike in order to enjoy the things I do like. I often wonder if I am copping out. I also believe that smaller home churches are tonbe the wave of the very near future. That all being said, please let us know what your new normal looks like. I feel it will have very pertinent information for myself and many.
    I love you, sweet one.

    1. Hi Renee… Thank you for your kind words and for sharing your journey. 🙂 No church will ever be perfect because it is made up of imperfect people! Just to reiterate, I think the church is doing the best it can, and I believe in the community of believers. While I know I have left many of you scratching your heads, I promise to expand more next week. Love you too sweet friend. 🙂

  2. Angela

    Hey Melody, Ryan and I are in that same situation. I found myself questioning the tradition last year, I wanted more. I just didn’t know how to word it. I knew something was changing. We found ourselves at a new church and was on the worship team. It was ok, there was a few theological differences, but I thought “well, can’t NOT go” so here we are. I was leading worship when it hit me. I want more! I don’t like being confined to 3 songs and no flow, no freedom. And then go home. I came home and cried to Ryan. I want more. I want to do more. I know I’m called for more than just Sundays. The thought came to me, “Jesus didn’t die so I can be an usher”. So now we are the church outside the “church”. And it’s awesome.

    1. Hi Angela… thank you for sharing! I am always encouraged when I find that I am not alone! It has been an interesting season for sure, and it sounds like you have encountered the same adventure! 🙂 Lol… Blessings to you and yours.

    2. Julie

      Angela, that’s awesome that you feel like you’ve found your place. What do you guys do to be the church outside the “church”? Anything specific? ? Just curious.

      1. Angela

        Hi Julie. Right now I have two Bible studies for ladies on Saturdays at noon and Mondays at 6. We focus on discipleship and spiritual growth. Ladies are welcomed from all denominations to share their hearts so we can learn from each other and get healing. My husband and my boys have our time as a family. We watch videos, read the word, and pray for each other.

  3. Jeana

    Yes! We have been there. I get exactly what you’re saying. Though not offended either we were definitely dissatisfied in playing into some of those things you mentioned. We tried several churches and then quit going all together. Then, as we prayed He brought us right back where we came from. He gently spoke to us that it may not operate in the most holy or reverent way we think it should, it was full of family and people who love Him and one day we would need them. We’ve been back for 5-6 months and boy did we ever find ourselves in a postition that we have needed them. Needed their love, grace, forgiveness, counsel and support. So though I’m not all pleased with some of the way things are done we have realized they are doing exactly what Jesus asked and that is to love. So we’re pretty thankful to be back! Thanks for the post. We can relate for sure.

    Jeana

    1. Thank you for your comments Jeana… I am happy you found your place. 🙂

  4. Julie

    We’ve been out of church for a few years now, but before that we were heavily involved (we both grew up in church, and he [we] started the last church that we were attending). Now that we’ve got our daughter, we’ve had talks about whether or not we should go back, but neither of us really has any interest.

    Thanks for posting this. I’ll be curious to see where the next post goes. ?

    1. Hi Julie… your daughter is beautiful, and I commend you as parents for thinking about her future! Yes, please stay tuned. 🙂 This first post was more of an intro to the series. I will offer more meat and potatoes in the next post. 🙂

  5. Lori Morris

    As Cecil and I sat down in the pew of the upteenth church we have visited, the worship pastor noticed that it was our second time to visit so he came over to ask us our story. I smiled wryly, told him it was a long story but that the gist of it was that we left our church 2 years ago and have been grieving for the past 2 years as we have visited church after church.
    That’s when he said something I had never thought of: “wow, the very fact that your hearts have been heavy and you have been in grief tells me your heart is for the local church.”
    I needed to hear that–that nothing was wrong with us, that we weren’t cold-hearted or rebellious, we love the local church, just not how we’ve seen it done.
    Here’s to what God is doing in the very process of the search!

    1. Thank you for sharing Lori…. I pray that when you and Cecil come to the end of your process you will find yourselves in the right place. 🙂

  6. I love to see dialogue, and the comments have been great here, on FB and via email. However, I want to clarify a few things before next weeks’ post:

    1.) We were not necessarily looking to leave church. We LOVED our church. But we felt “called” out of it… How do you know, you ask? When you are happy in your current place, you have no anger, you have no bitterness and you feel the leading to leave or change or whatever, that’s a good sign it’s Holy Spirit.

    2.) The church is absolutely vital to the work of the Kingdom and is necessary. The church has existed since the New Testament, and it’s not going away.

    3.) If you are not connected to a community of believers, I believe you should be. I will explain more in the next post.

    4.) This first post was a silly, light-hearted intro into what I believe is becoming “the elephant in the room” so to speak….more meat and potatoes to come.

    5.) For those who know me, I have NOT gone off the deep end. LOL…. please hear me out. ….Love to all!

  7. And for those of you who read the comments, you will be the first to know that a monthly podcast is coming soon to truth&ink!! More to come later…

  8. You are speaking to a lot of people–who are called out of church. What is Father doing? I venture a guess that he is up to something…and I cannot wait to see your journey unfold. Keep up the writing, I’m loving hearing your story.

  9. Kenneth

    Great post. I wrote a long reply but decided to delete it. I felt like I might be getting into your next post. I would say to everyone be do’ers of the Word not hear’ers only.

  10. Cara

    Great post Melody! I hear your heart and can totally relate. We’ve gone through the exact thing and I have learned a lot. Let me know if you ever need some encouragement or a listening ear! ?

  11. Thomas & Michelle

    Great word!!! We have (and are) clearly going through this experience. We are tired of “normal church”, however you define it. We want freedom, Holy Spirit, and real life intimacy with God through community. Your writing is beautiful and plucked from our thoughts-LOL. We love you and thank you for speaking the truth to us!

    1. Thank you… it sounds as if there might be an entire community of us transitioning into a new thing! 🙂

      1. Michelle

        Listening to this replay & still chewing on what God’s been speaking to Lisa Lyons about… “It takes one type of faith & grace to step out of a place, to leave a place, to exit, but it takes a whole other kind of faith & grace to enter in.”

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