This is a classic example of a “wait, what?” headline. You read it and think to yourself, “Wait, what? Is this true? I’ve known Dan forever, and he’s always been a church goer. What happened?” I know, I know, I realize I have some explaining to do. First off, I will go through what would be the normal reasons why someone like me would walk away from the church, and then follow up with the real reason, which may surprise you.
1. Loss of faith
Over the years, my faith in God has swung all over the map. I am naturally a cynical person, a questioning person, a “show me” type of Christian. I’ve always been envious of people that never seem to waver in their faith. They are an example of what my mom would say was a “good Christian.” I’ve never been an unquestioning, sit in church and sing the songs and listen to the sermons without asking why, kind of guy. I’m wired to question everything.
But I’m a believer. I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth, and in Jesus Christ, His only son, our Lord. My experience with cancer has actually strengthened my faith, not weakened it, as some people may think. Now, that’s not to say that I haven’t thrust a middle finger at God now and then through this whole ordeal. I have yelled at God plenty of times because of my illness, but I think me yelling at God proves I believe in Him. My moving away from the church has nothing to do with my belief in God.
( A quick veer here. Anybody recognize that second sentence of the last paragraph? Yep, it’s from the Apostle’s Creed. I can recite the traditional version of the Apostles Creed at the drop of a hat. After hearing it for 18 straight years of Sundays, it kind of sticks in your brain. I still say “The quick and the dead”, instead of the more popular,”The living and the dead.” I thought I was in trouble as a kid cuz I was definitely not quick. When people started saying living instead of quick, I was like,”Oh! That’s what that means.” And then “The Quick and the Dead” became a real bad mid 90s Sharon Stone movie. Oops. Back to the blog.)
2. Hypocrites everywhere
A lot of people will say that they don’t go to church because the church is full of hypocrites, so maybe that’s my reason, too. Nope. News flash, people. We are all hypocrites. Every last one of us. Nobody’s perfect, we all fall short. Christians sin just as much as non Christians, we just feel bad about it. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve been a part of some churches that have had some holier than thou people that thought they were the greatest Christians since Paul, and those people are pretty hard to take. But, as Jesus once said, “He who is without sin cast the first stone.” I’ve sat in church knowing that my life was going off the rails, and I may have been the biggest sinner in the building, so I can’t jump on anybody for being a hypocrite. I don’t throw stones.
This one may have been true back when I was in my 20s, but after working a job for the past 31 years where I’ve had to get up at 4:15 am, sleeping in for me is darn near impossible. If I sleep till 7:15, I’ve slept an extra 3 hours! I’m usually out of bed in plenty of time for church on a Sunday morning. Now I will admit, when the dog is curled up on my lap, and I have a hot cup of coffee in my hand on a cold winter morning, getting in the car and driving to church is probably not the first thing I want to do, and I will blow the whole thing off in a New York minute. But, most of the time, it’s not an issue.
4. Style of worship
Ah, the great debate for baby boomers such as myself who grew up in the church. Traditional or contemporary? Hymns or praise songs? Or, maybe a mix of both? I can tell you that I have been a member of a churches in all three of these styles. I grew up in a church that was a traditional hymn singing, pound the pulpit fire and brimstone preaching on the evils of sin and communism type of place, complete with the whole doctrination of two services on Sunday, Sunday school, and catechism on Wednesday night taught by the preacher. Big fun. So I’ve been there, done that.
After years of this, when I got married, we went the other way and joined a contemporary church with a dynamic preacher and lots of praise songs. And we loved it. That is, until we had children and the church was on the other side of town and getting two little boys ready for church in the morning was a ridiculously daunting task. So we moved our membership to a church in our neighborhood, that had a blended worship of traditional and contemporary worship styles. Our boys grew up in that church, and we were there for about 18 years. I still consider this church to be my home church, and we made a lot of great friends. I love the people I met there.
But, eventually, after the boys graduated high school, we found that this church was a little stagnant for us, plus, we had some issues with a pastor search. So, we changed to a more contemporary church again and we love the music there. So, as you can see, I’m pretty comfortable with any style of worship. So that’s not it.
Now, we’re getting warmer. I covered some of this in my blog The New Fire and Brimstone, where I talked about how preachers today, instead of ranting and raving about the evils of communism and fornicating are now quietly telling us we are all racists and we need to understand and be tolerant of everything and everybody. Except, of course, racists. Against this we need to wear pussy hats and rage against statues of Confederate generals and conservative principles. Unless, you are on the other side, then you raise your bible in a salute to the great pussy grabber himself, Donald J. Trump.
My feeling about politics and religion is about the same as how I feel about politics and sports. Leave politics out of it. I watch sports to escape life’s crap, I go to church to hear about the Bible and how to live a Christ like life. I don’t need to hear that I suck because of the color of my skin, or that I need to adopt babies from foster care, or I fall short of the glory of God because I’m not really too thrilled with illegal immigration. Mother Teresa helped a lot of people in Calcutta, unconditionally. Pretty sure her help did not come with a heaping helping of guilt for the people she was working with for not measuring up to what God expected of them. Just sayin.
So, those are the five reasons a lot of people stop going to church. These reasons do have some bearing on my decision not to go to church, and I know that those reasons will be in play when and if I decide to start going to church again. But here is the real reason why I no longer go to church.
Yep, I’m bored with church. Now, I know a lot of people find church to be mind numbingly boring, and can’t get through a sermon without taking a little nap, but the droning on of a windy preacher is not my problem. My problem is that whatever the preacher is preaching on, I’ve heard it before. Many times. If you’ve been paying attention,(and I can only assume that you have because you are still reading this thing,) I’ve been attending worship services for pretty much my whole life. I’ve heard probably every sermon on every part of the Bible that can be preached on. Some of the more popular subjects, like the story of the Good Samaritan or the story of the prodigal son, are like me hearing “Stairway to Heaven” on classic rock radio. I don’t really hear them anymore. If you give me a couple of days to prepare, I’m pretty sure I could give you a good half hour on the Good Samaritan without much of a problem.
I realize this sounds kind of arrogant, like I know everything about the Bible and God. I can assure that I do not. But, I did do the math on how much time I’ve spent in a church and various bible studies and Sunday schools in my life. I figure I’ve spent somewhere around 5000 hours in some sort of study of the Bible. That’s a lot. That’s more than a seminary student takes studying to become a pastor. Way more. I just don’t feel like I’m hearing anything anymore that I haven’t already heard, and to sit there for an hour to an hour and a half on a Sunday morning seems like a big waste of time. Sorry if that offends you, but that is how I feel right now.
And here’s the crazy thing. I’m not alone. I know a few couples who are in the same situation that we are. Grew up in the church, went to church with their kids, and now the kids are gone and they are just sort of…wandering. They can’t find a place that they feel good about, or feel welcomed at. They might not be bored, like me, but they have their own reasons for not going.
I have a friend on Facebook that posts a bible passage and a little story explaining it every morning. He usually includes a picture of his morning walk, a tranquil pic that sets me at ease. It only takes me a couple of minutes to read, and it feels to me like a little morning devotional that sets me right for the day ahead.
So, if I can get that everyday in a couple of minutes, why would I want to go to a church where I’m bored and I’m told I don’t measure up as a Christian? The answer?
Thanks for reading.