MINI : Why I Stopped Going To Church

Loud music, bright lights, a full auditorium.

The air is buzzing and the atmosphere is electric, as over a thousand men stand and sing together, loudly and passionately (no polite-silent-mouthing-the-words to be seen here), every hand in the room raised high in the air, wide open or bunched into aggressive fists, an expression of awe / gratitude / worship / adrenaline.

Many of the worshippers are shouting, ignoring the lyrics that are projected onto massive video screens at the front of the huge room, red-faced and bellowing out their own spontaneous words of love and surrender. Tears stream down faces. Some groups of men begin to gather together in slightly awkward circles (the rows of chairs make it difficult to face each other effectively) and pray for each other with arms around shoulders. 

I see all of this from the stage. 

I’m playing keyboard as part of the band.

Our role as the band is to create an atmosphere that helps people to worship and connect with God.

My job specifically tonight, as keyboard player and musical director for the evening, is not only to play the right notes, but also to direct the rest of the band through the setlist using a microphone that only the other musicians onstage can hear, and also to watch the worship leader for instructions to pass on to the band regarding volume and song structure, and also to be sensitive to what’s happening in the room so I can play accordingly, and also to be personally engaging with the worship so that I don’t appear bored or disconnected, and also to keep watch in case one of the church pastors steps onto the stage and wants to address the congregation (which can be an edgy situation, as the band needs to drop considerably in volume but still continue playing in order to create a seamless atmosphere, and then we have to increase in volume and intensity to match what the speaker is saying, which ideally builds as a perfect crescendo until the moment where the speaker finishes, and we all launch together into one more loud chorus with perfect timing). So there’s a lot for me to think about. 

By the time of this particular meeting, in November 2014, I’ve been doing this a couple of times a week for around 12 years. That’s 1248 worship services, or around 936 hours of keyboard playing, which is a very conservative estimate as it doesn’t include all the conferences, youth camps, tours, special two-hour worship concerts, weddings, funerals, christmas events, and training days that I’ve also played at.

So I’ve gotten pretty good at it by now. I can read the room fairly well, I know how to play in a way that is emotional and sensitive, I know how to build the music in the right moment to get the congregation excited and stirred up. It all comes naturally to me.

But tonight, on 14/11/2014 at the church annual men’s conference, I feel totally wrong

One of the church leaders has taken the stage, so I am ready to play appropriately to match the tone and volume of his voice. He begins encouraging the men in the room to seek God, that ‘He is here and we just need to be more desperate for His presence in our lives’. He signals for the rest of the band to stop playing, and so I tell the musicians through the microphone to bring the volume down, until it’s just me playing softly on the piano. The speaker leads the room in a moment of passionate ‘crying-after-God’. Everyone is getting into it. I see men fall to their knees, embrace each other, shout out in a babble of tongues. The whole room is stirring and moving together. 

And I feel nothing. 

Am I the only one?

Is there something wrong with me?

Wait a minute. 

Do I even actually believe any of this stuff?

Are these men really experiencing God, or just the high of being part of a large crowd that many experience in a football game or rock concert? 

And if it’s the second option, then are we just manipulating them through great music and lighting? 

It’s just me playing now, keeping the emotional atmosphere alive through the power of the keyboard, as the rest of the band lay their instruments down one by one and close their eyes in reverence. 

I don’t know if I like this. 

I think something has to change.

All of this is going through my mind as I play.

It’s one of the most uncomfortable and clear moments that I’ve ever had.

crowd

—————–

Just over a year ago, I stopped going to church for the first time in my life. 

Nothing bad had happened: there were no fall-outs with church leaders, no angry words, no bitterness. I had loved the church that I was part of for a long time, and I still love the friends that I made there.

But I had so much noise and pressure and busyness in my head, so many expectations and inherited beliefs and assumptions about the world, that the whole experience of going to church had become meaningless and frustrating for me. 

I’d been in church all my life. I’d been a good Christian. I’d genuinely grown hugely as a person, met some of my closest friends and had a bloody good time along the way. 

But at this point, I didn’t know what it all meant anymore. I was stuck in the routine, the tradition, the group mentality, the constant challenge to do more and give more and serve more and be better, and I had to escape. 

At the same time, I wasn’t sure if I believed many of the things we sang and taught about. I’d been thinking, learning and reading in a much wider sphere over the previous few years, and some of the ideas about the world that I’d grown up with didn’t make sense to me anymore. I was tired of hearing the same answers that I’d heard since I was a kid in Sunday School, repeated over and over again every week. I had to figure out what I thought for myself.

I

had

to

stop.

Honestly I didn’t even plan to leave for good. I just went away for a few months, to take some time out to refresh and get my head together, to allow space for my doubts and questions; and when I came back it was obvious that church didn’t fit me anymore.

It’s funny because I remember how I felt about people who stopped coming to church when I was growing up. I worried about them: I thought they were ‘backsliding’ or that their lives must be pretty messed up, and then I tried not to think about it too much in case I was influenced by their apparent loss of faith. 

If you’ve never been part of a church, it’s hard to explain how scary it can be to see people leave your congregation. In my tradition, how often you are at church is a sign of how strong your belief is, how connected you are to God, and how serious you are about your faith. Leaving church is the worst thing that can happen to a person: they are cut off from God’s will and are assumed to be in some kind of downward life spiral.

So I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been encouraged, challenged, or gently forced to be at church events more often, to turn up earlier, to work harder, to stay later, to commit more. I recently saw an email where a group of church attenders was told they were ‘expected to volunteer’, which is a pretty funny contradiction, but also a sad indicator of where our priorities often lay. 

I heard so many sermons based on this verse from the Bible: 

‘Planted in the house of the LORD they will flourish.’

This particular verse is used over and over again to reinforce the idea that if you stay inside the church, serving and attending as much as possible, you will grow and become a better person and be blessed; but if you simply come and go as you please, without ‘putting roots down’, you will never become the person God wants you to be. 

There’s a couple of problems with this idea that seem obvious to me:

#1 : what about the vast majority of the world that has nothing to do with church? Are any of them flourishing, happy, content, living full and meaningful lives? I think you have to admit that the answer is ‘Um, yes, of course.’ And conversely, are there any people who give all their free time to volunteering and attending church events that are unhappy, burnt out, and frustrated? Again, the answer is an obvious yes. 

#2 : this verse is quoted from a two-thousand-year-old piece of poetry written for the Jewish day of rest (the Sabbath), long before the idea of church even existed. It wasn’t meant as a handy pull-quote for us to pressure people into attending a few more services every week.

I’m not saying that you can’t grow and become better by being involved in church: like I said, I know that I did grow there, for a long time. But we also can’t take the opposite view, and say that it’s impossible to truly grow and ‘flourish’ unless you are an active part of a church.

Sadly, in my experience, that is the view that many Christians take.

church

———————

You may not know this if you didn’t grow up religious, but a lot of churches today do extensive charitable work in their communities: feeding the homeless, providing services and care for the less fortunate, putting on summer programmes for kids and distributing school uniforms to poor families, visiting the elderly and sick and lonely. My most recent church is large, and does a massive amount of good in the local area. There are multiple events and outreaches and rehearsals and meetings and groups and ministries and ideas going on every night of the week, covering almost every age-range and demographic and need you can imagine. 

Of course, this is a good thing*. But to continue doing all of this, the church needs volunteers. A LOT of volunteers. And they also need money, because helping people at that level is very expensive. So, of course, they ask people to serve and give. This is completely necessary, and volunteering can itself be rewarding and character-building.

*(as long as the work isn’t just a disguised attempt to win converts, as they often can be in Christian circles… but that’s another issue)

The problems arrive when the asking becomes manipulative:  

When we tell people that God will bless them if they give more.

When we tell people that church is the most important place on the earth.

When we put an expectation on people to attend.

When we equate serving or attending or giving with holiness / righteousness / connection to God. 

When we ignore or insult peoples tiredness, by calling them to constantly give more energy (because in church world, people are going to Hell if we don’t help them, so we can rest when we die).

And when a church is constantly trying to do things bigger, better, and more often, it requires ever greater levels of commitment and energy from the congregation to make it work. It means sacrificing time alone, or time with family, or time to develop your own ideas or beliefs or dreams. And that sacrifice is often held up as a holy and admirable thing. 

I deeply struggled with this idea.

I heard church leaders tell their congregations that family, career, and personal dreams didn’t really matter: they would not last forever, because the church was the most important thing they could be a part of. I actually heard leaders preach that ‘the church is the only thing God is building… not your family, not your career, but his church’. To me, this attitude was one of the most arrogant and insulting things I’ve come across, and it was one of the big reasons that I eventually realised I had to take time out.

In our Western culture, busyness and productivity is often worshipped above presence and authenticity. And it’s no different in the church world: it just looks like the amount of people we get saved, the number of attendees at our services and small-groups, and the hours we put in every week to volunteering.

But what if all that busyness is just a way of disguising the fact that we don’t have a clue what we actually believe, that we feel lost, that we just want somewhere to belong, and that we are living a life that is out of sync with who we really are deep down?

littlestream

——————-

I was one of those super-busy church members for pretty much my whole life. For a long time, I was happy and growing and excited about what I was doing. But for a few years I’d been on a slow journey of questioning, learning, and losing certainty about many of my old beliefs. I struggled to continue being so active in a culture that I wasn’t sure I believed in anymore, especially when I was regularly on stage in front of others. 

I realised that I had stopped enjoying church. Every time I went to a meeting, I couldn’t wait to leave: I felt demotivated and sucked dry of energy. I found myself less interested in the world. I disagreed with a lot of what was being taught. I didn’t know how much of this religion I actually believed for myself anymore. I was frustrated, and this is the worst thing of all: I felt bad for it. I felt like this was something I was alone in, and something I just had to get over. 

Until that last men’s event in November 2014. That’s when I realised that I couldn’t just go through the motions anymore. I couldn’t just do what I had always done and expect anything to change. And I couldn’t rely on the church leaders to tell me what to do: I had my own path to walk. The answer wasn’t to do more; the answer was to stop.

So I stopped. 

The truth is that people change and evolve and grow all the time. Of course you aren’t going to fit into one place for your entire life, unless you really aren’t developing very much in the way you think. It’s nothing to feel bad about, and it shouldn’t be such a big deal for us. 

Because for me, the past year since leaving church has been amazing.

I feel more free.

I feel more honest.

I feel more myself.

I feel more real.

I feel more present. 

I feel more interested and open to the world, to science, to learning, even in some ways to the idea of God.

I feel happier.

Leaving church was the best decision I could have made at the time. 

People have asked me a lot about what I believe now: am I still a Christian, do I believe in God, what do I think about the Bible, etc. My response (at least in my head) is usually :

‘Pfft… who knows?’

The truth is that I like not having immediate, concrete answers to those questions. I’m a dumb human, figuring things out as I go, trying to be honest with myself. I’m enjoying being open to a wide variety of opinions and perspectives, and not feeling like I have the one solution to all of the world’s problems. I’m enjoying the time, the space, the freedom to make decisions and look closely at what I honestly believe about things. For me, it’s the right place to be.

As you can probably tell from reading this article, it’s very rare to hear a church leader advise somebody to just stop going to church for a while. There’s a massive sense of needing to be loyal to the church you’re part of. But I think that the best advice some people need to hear is to take a break, to stay away from any meetings and events and serving commitments for a while, and

to

just

finally 

stop

You may realise you don’t believe in God anymore. Or you may find God outside the church walls far easier than you did inside. Or you may come back to church in a few weeks, or months, or years, with a new excitement and peace and centered-ness that you never had before. Or you may lose interest, decide that you can never know for certain whether or not there is a God anyway, and feel much happier pursuing a different passion and purpose for your life.

Whatever happens, I think we need to put this option back on the table. That’s part of the reason I started The Allowed in the first place. If you are stressed, frustrated, bored and disillusioned with church, maybe all you need to do is give yourself permission to stop. It’s better to be honest with yourself than to continue tiring yourself out by trying to fit in with your tribe.

And in the quietness and honesty of simply living, not as a church attender or as a Christian but just as a human, maybe you’ll experience something that you thought you’d lost forever.

—————

If you enjoyed this MINI, check out one of our Main Issues: in-depth and illustrated looks at some big topics related to science, faith and the Universe:

Issue #1 : Hell

Issue #2 : Science & Evolution

Issue #3 : Perspective (Time, Space & Everything)

Issue #4 : The Soul

Issue #5 coming in April!

logonowriting

Comments : The Allowed is a safe space for people of all backgrounds who are wrestling with faith and doubt; many of whom may have had negative or traumatic religious experiences. Please be respectful and kind in any comments you make.

20 Comments

  1. March 21, 2016
    Reply

    Thanks for being honest Jon. Been there, and still there a bit. Reminds me of this quote from Jesus “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

    • March 21, 2016
      Reply

      Hey Brad! Good to hear from you. Thanks a lot for the comment and thoughts, love that message 🙂

  2. M
    March 21, 2016
    Reply

    Having been, too, that committed (or “on fire”, as they’d like to say) Christian from a large, expanding Charismatic church, your experiences deeply resonate with me.

    I’ve stopped attending church and am agnostic now for about a year; while I do experience that sense of freedom you write of, there is also an overbearing sense of loneliness, from realising that I walked out that church door alone, with an unknown path set before me. Books and articles like yours are what I’ve been taking great comfort in, and I’m sure it’s the same for many others too. So, thank you, for making that journey a little less daunting, and keep up the writings!

    – M

    • March 21, 2016
      Reply

      M, thanks so much for your comment, really appreciate that.

      The main reason for starting this site was to connect with other people who go through these kinds of experiences and feel alone through it all, because I came across so many people in similar places! It’s tough stuff to go through hey, even when it’s good… especially when you no longer have the community that you grow used to. Really glad if this site helps in some small way: some other things that have helped me personally feel less lonely are on our Library page – http://www.theallowed.com/?page_id=16 – I especially recommend The Liturgists podcast if you haven’t come across it before!

      Cheers M, all the best
      Jon

  3. R
    March 21, 2016
    Reply

    Wow. I cannot emphasize enough how much I can relate to this post. I’ve been in a similar boat my whole life– going to church since I was really little and volunteering in worship for the past 12 years or so (oddly enough also a keyboard player). The past year has been a real struggle for me, in the same way. I feel like I haven’t even begun to touch the surface on this massive world we life in and I keep wrestling with my place in church (as if church is everything in the grand scheme of things). I worry about what people will say when I tell them I need to walk away and just reevaluate what I am all about and what I want to do and such. But why do I worry? Maybe because like you said, I’ve been taught since day one about my place in church and its ‘importance’. Everyone seems to be on the same wave length at my church and i feel like I am deviating away from it, like I am going down my own path (and I know there is nothing wrong with that, in fact that everyone should be encouraged to experience their own journey…). I wonder when I will get the courage to just say, no, I need to stop. Reading this has really made me feel relieved knowing that this happens to people, and that it is okay, even if people try to convince you it’s not. This is basically just scratching the surface of my experiences, but I will definitely be continually reading this blog. Thanks for this.

    • March 21, 2016
      Reply

      Hey R, thanks so much for the honest comments – so glad that this could be helpful in some way. I understand how that feels, and there are heaps of people going through a similar thing… it’s honestly surprised me in the last year how often it’s come up with people I’d never expect. The important thing is that you’re definitely not alone!

      I understand that feeling of needing to stick with church and be loyal, I felt that and even now I have moments where I catch myself worrying about it… but honestly, I think for me I got to the point where I had to be cool with myself and just be authentic to where I was at… to see where the road would lead. And my understanding of God was that if he was real he would be completely chilled about that too.

      In my experience, not many people actually said much to me when I left church, or asked me about it. And that was fine! I stayed away for a few months first so that I could have my own space with no pressure to be back. After that there were some key people that I wanted to talk to, because they were close friends and church still means a lot to them. Apart from that, I think I’m trying to unlearn the idea of always having to explain myself to others, whether that’s friends or church leaders or just nosy people.

      On our Library page I’ve put links to a bunch of resources that have been helpful to me – http://www.theallowed.com/?page_id=16 – I’d recommend The Liturgists Podcast as a great place to start, especially to feel connected to a whole group of people that are in a similar place.

      Thanks again, it’s so great to hear stories of people who connect with what we’re doing.
      All the best! I hope you find some peace in this crazy experience, and clarity about how to move forward 🙂
      Jon

  4. Mel Hill
    March 21, 2016
    Reply

    Thanks so much for your bravery and honesty in writing this Jon. I think we all struggle with this at some point or other. I left the church because I just felt too pressured to be somebody I just couldn’t be either. I was never good enough, loyal enough, kind enough, Christian enough and my views never tied in with theirs. I tried several times as I moved around the country for my training to find another church, and I always found the same problem, and so I eventually left for good.

    Being away allowed me to explore how I felt about the issues affecting the world without somebody telling me I was wrong. To make mistakes without feeling like a washed up terrible person. It wasn’t a super pleasant time for me, but it centred me and humbled me in a way that would never have happened otherwise. It was a good few years before I went back, and even then, in honesty, only because I am getting married and we wanted it to be in the church. But I couldn’t predict what happened when we did.

    I felt something entirely different there. I felt alive, re-born, and encountered God in a way I don’t think I ever had before. A God who loved me purely as I am, a God who never once judged or condemned me when I went so wrong. A God who couldn’t wait for me to simply speak to him again, and who still seemed to be in control. He loves me, that’s what was missing, I didn’t really ever let this sink in. It didn’t matter how many times I went, or how holy I was, but only that he loved me. I will also point out that our church now is a very traditional church – no bands, no modern songs, no atmosphere, but I just feel the presence of God there in every service, in every person, and in every ceremony that we do. Some would say it is old fashioned, maybe dead of spirit, but they just have an understanding of God’s love for every person, and I have never felt more content. I have developed as a person, laid past demons to rest, and found such a peace and relationship with God that I have put all my plans to rest, simply to listen to what he wants to do in my life next.

    I guess my point is – never judge yourself for leaving, for not giving more, for not achieving levels – because God isn’t. Every pain you feel he shares with you, and a lot of things that make you angry or uncomfortable make him angry and uncomfortable too. I think there is too much pressure on loyalty to a church – we all believe in the same God, and so you should be free to worship wherever is best for you. If you are someone struggling with church, I would highly recommend trying another. You are not letting your other church down or breaking the family, it is no reflection on them, but maybe just not right for you. Be brave, try something completely different – go to something traditional – or more modern still, and maybe you will just find a place for you to dwell without pressure. Me and my Fiance are the closest we have ever been with a God centred life that neither of us ever thought we would have. We attend really regularly, but never out of pressure, and only out of want. I am in fact being confirmed into the church of England in just a few weeks time and I am so excited for this.

    I just want to encourage every person going through this to be encouraged. Re evaluate whether your church is the right place for you – does it share your view of God? God is much wiser than you think and he knows what is best. Always follow your heart and never ever judge yourself, God will always walk with you and love you, wherever your journey may go. Some of Gods most beloved friends in the bible were not people who were perfect, or hugely dedicated to the cause, but who simply washed his feet out of love, or gave him food when he was hungry.

  5. M F
    March 21, 2016
    Reply

    I’m so glad I read this. It’s put how I’ve felt into words in a way I haven’t been able to. I’ve found it hard to explain to people, especially my parents, about why I haven’t been going to church and why I am not in a rush to find a new church.
    I was let down by that church and it really got me thinking about how much of what I felt when I was there was real and how much was just my emotions being manipulated by the lights, music and words spoken. I feel like my relationship with God is more honest and real now that I’m not currently at church. I still have a lot of questions and doubts about what I believe but I don’t feel guilty about having those thoughts it now. I still pray, but I’m not afraid to tell God when things are crap like I was when I was at Church. I think it was a good move for me & my relationship with God to just stop. Thanks for putting this into words so well!

  6. moira tait
    March 22, 2016
    Reply

    Thank you for doing this x after feeling like an outcast since attending church x I now have left a year ago x and god is so awesome the best experiences I’ve had have been hear at home in my house x god meets me right where I am x had bad experiences that I can’t talk about x but made some lovely friends x but being brainwashed I sent for me really x I’m already am believer in jesus x and don’t need a church building to love god x the experiences of church life put me off going or attending church again x I’m a good person x I love people and help people x I just thank you Jon for your openers and honesty x

  7. Jay
    March 22, 2016
    Reply

    Thank you so much for writing this.

    I grew up going to church, coming from a non Christian family, that’s quite a rare thing. But after 5-6 years of being a “proper” Christian I started to find myself resenting church. I was angry and bitter about going but I still went, week in and week out. I spent 4-5 nights a week in it and it really started to get to me. I began to get incredibly sad because I thought something was wrong with me. I was in the worship team, why couldn’t I feel what everyone else was feeling? Why could I see all the lies that comes with church when nobody else could? Why did I feel so alone in a room filled of a few hundred people?

    I was so disenchanted that I left.

    I just decided to quit everything and not go back.

    I’ve went back once or twice since and everytime I go, I still feel so disconnected from what I felt when I was younger.

    And I don’t even know what I think about God anymore. It’s been like 7 months since I left and I probably think about church and God everyday but I can’t fathom going back. But this article made me realise that maybe it’s not my fault and I’m not the only one who goes through this.

  8. Luke Lesufi
    March 22, 2016
    Reply

    Thanks for being brave by sharing this mate!

    I didn’t realise it myself that my inner man was not genuinely okay until I moved back home further out to my home town still. I still love going to church and the church I now attend is small in number but that has given me time to reflect and seek. And I agree, in the normal western culture business is often seen as productiveness and for us we can mistake it for into Godliness but ironically is contrary to Jesus’ teachings about how rest is crucial to Godliness/productivity.

    Your post opens up more questions in my mind and one of them is: Have we been focusing more on our mandate to serve and do stuff than to be the family of God and engage more with The Father himself & each other? A family can have goals and work together towards something ,including disagreements, but there’s a sense of belonging, that you can bring your questions and get away from being noise that life can have. No earthly family is perfect but in the event that someone has it tough with their own, the family of God is meant to be that place of refuge.

    • March 22, 2016
      Reply

      Hey Luke!

      Thanks mate, really appreciate that. Great to hear you’re doing well and have a place where you can reflect – and cheers for sharing those thoughts! Good stuff to think about hey 🙂

      • Luke Lesufi
        March 22, 2016
        Reply

        Indeed bro, may God continue to help us unlearn things that burden us and reveal deeper knowledge of the inner workings of His heart!
        Shalom to you 🙂

  9. Faith
    March 22, 2016
    Reply

    This pretty much sums up my feelings. I grew up in charismatic churches. They’re noisy and exciting but also terrifying places to be. There is such a hive mind and it really was only when I was forced to be away from them for a while that I realised how damaging it had been. I haven’t been back since. I still identify as a Christian and I still believe in the Bible but personally I feel closer to God sat in nature or in a quiet church where there’s no one else.

    My mum is still in her charismatic church and frequently she struggles with things that go on within it, yet afterwards she feels guilty for having struggled or for disagreeing with them, saying that it was her at fault and that God has taught her not to be disobedient. She acts like a victim of abuse towards her church which is truly terrifying to watch, but nothing I can say will shake her out of it.

    The main problem I have with all churches, every single one, is that they act like their way is the only way that is acceptable to God. I’d like to see any evidence of this in any scripture anywhere. Maybe some people do flourish in charismatic churches but equally there are those who are happier in Catholic churches, in Quaker meetings or just in a field talking to a tree. Sometimes I used to leave my church meetings and go and wander around in the woods nearby and those were some of the most spiritual moments of my life. Who knows. I just hate the guilt that I feel from my old friends from church who silently berate me, or from my in-laws who act like missing a week of church is a mortal sin.

  10. March 22, 2016
    Reply

    Hey, I love your honesty and openness! It’s refreshing to read something from someone that isn’t anti-church, anti-God or anti-anything else! So nice that’s it’s balanced, though out and not polarised. Great post!

  11. Moses
    March 22, 2016
    Reply

    This is not good. On two accounts: religion is not primarily about engaging the emotions, and truth is not individually determined.

    On my first point – there is not a single part of our being that was not corrupted as a result of the Fall of humanity. Even my observation skills are affected by sin! So, I must placate my senses with something that goes some way to limit the effect of this corruption. This is why the gospel must be preached and taught. Singing (or responsorial experience) can easily cater to the parts of us that are not yet redeemed, the preaching or explaining of what God has revealed to us is the high point is the gathered church.

    On my second – simply, there is no such thing as a solitary christian nor is there a collective of christian. So if indeed since you departed from the church you feel more connected to God or authentic you must take caution for God has by his grace a people not a collection of individuals that in rebellion against the prevailing culture. A theologian and pastor of God’s people in this age that speaks honestly about this issue of identity says something to the effect of, ‘you need to get over yourself – it is not about your comfortable-ness or how nice people are to you etc but all about what God in Jesus has done! Our freedom is not to do what we like or want but to do what we were created to do I.e. be beholders of God’s glory. God is most glorified when his people testify to who he is (read the book of Acts)”.

    • March 23, 2016
      Reply

      Hi Moses, thanks a lot for reading and for your comments – appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts!

      I understand and respect where you’re coming from: I spent my whole life in a similar place. I agree that singing and response is a powerful thing and can draw people together and beyond themselves. And yes, some preaching can be very helpful, challenging, enlightening – but some can be harmful, and do more damage than good. I’ve definitely experienced both!

      Personally I don’t believe in the Fall and corruptness of humanity anymore – actually, I know now that even many churches and denominations don’t hold to the idea of total depravity, although I was always taught it as Truth. Personally I see it as a harmful view of the world that can lead to fear and judgmentalism. I expect that we will disagree on this one!

      On your second point, I agree that community is important, having other people that you are connected to is essential. But, with respect, I believe that churches can twist this healthy idea into a controlling one – and that often it diminishes the worth and value of the individual, teaches people how to conform instead of how to think for themselves, teaches people to fear the world instead of to experience and learn from it, teaches people to seek approval from leaders who they view as ‘higher’ or ‘closer to God’ than themselves, keeps people small and afraid to take risks, and leaves some people feeling guilty for secret doubts and frustrations that they’d never feel allowed to share. It can lead to serious, life-controlling issues that some people never get over.

      Leaving church, for me, was never about comfortable-ness or how nice people were… actually, it was one of the most uncomfortable moves of my life; and I met a huge amount of high-quality people at church, some of them are still my closest friends. I’ve heard ‘you need to get over yourself’ and similar sentiments in church too many times – I would love to hear this instead : ‘you need to respect yourself, see yourself as equal and realise how valuable you are.’

      As I said in the article, church can also be a great, safe, loving place – my last church was often those things for me, and still is for a large group of people, and I’m thankful for that. I’m not painting with a broad brush here – this is my own experience, and for me I couldn’t stay where I was without doing more damage to myself.

      I know we don’t see eye-to-eye on this, but that’s okay – it’s what this site is about in the first place – allowing different perspectives to exist together. Thanks again for writing, and all the best!
      Jon

  12. Benju
    April 27, 2016
    Reply

    Hi Jon I just read your bog and I’m completely with you. Specially when church was asking money on good Friday with thier congregation, totally unacceptable . Church totally forget about why Jesus died and what is about good Friday. I don’t think they know meaning of good Friday. What would Jesus say to those churches who taking offering on good Friday? Do you think Jesus died for money (offering) or feeding homeless people or people need help?

  13. Chris Harris
    July 11, 2016
    Reply

    Hi Jon
    That was an amazing read. I can relate pretty much to every sentence. As a fellow keyboard player/ music director, I laughed out loud several times as you most accurately described the drama that is played out every week on that stage in front of the congregation, to create the exact atmosphere needed to enable the Holy Spirit to do his thing etc etc!
    My journey towards agnosticism began in earnest back in 2012. Although I’m still involved in the church, what remnant of a shred of the faith I once held so dear, is so small it barely exists. I haven’t come out yet (so to speak) but intend on doing so in my own time. Thank you for your insights as it always helps me to read the experiences of others who are going through what I’m going through.
    Regards
    C.H.

    • July 28, 2016
      Reply

      Hey C, thanks a lot for commenting – sounds like we probably have a lot of similar experiences! Always great to hear people can relate to this journey, that’s encouraging for me too 🙂 All the best man!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *