Why I Haven't Left the Church

Monday, May 27, 2019

The American church has a current obsession with talking about the "nones." This segment of the population, the group that claims no religious affiliation at all, is the subject of just about every trending study. They're the scapegoat, the problem, the evidence of our culture's moral decline.

What I fear that the American church fails to realize, however, is her culpability in this emerging demographic. Most "nones" didn't start as "nones." No, most "nones" were at one point part of the church. They just decided that the church wasn't for them.

They were "dones" before they became "nones." And I totally get why.

I have seen the Church be capable of unspeakable horrors. I've seen churches place the appeasement and comfort of the attendees over her mission to love and redeem the hurt and broken. I've seen churches worship political platforms and nationalistic identities over and against the One who was slain. I've seen churches bully and abuse their staff members and lay members. I've seen churches silence prophetic voices, perpetuating self-promotion and self-preservation over Jesus' call to grace and justice.

I've wrestled and cussed and railed and lamented. I've become frustrated, angry, indignant, and cynical.

But then I think about what the Church could be. I remember the time a church gave me permission to ask hard, uncomfortable questions without passing judgment. I remember the time a church strategically moved into a specific neighborhood because they wanted to live with and meet the physical needs of the impoverished people who lived there. I remember a time when a church radically welcomed LGBTQ people, offered their building as a place for the homeless to stay, fully funded a Syrian refugee family's immigration. I remember when a church cried with me, prayed with me, and sat with me when my heart was breaking.

This is what the Church is capable of. This is what God's kingdom looks like. This is why I believe it's important to do life and mission with other individuals who are committed to God's beautiful dream of God's kingdom being realized here on earth as it is in heaven.

More often than not, the American church fails to reflect this ideal. And it is because of this failure that the American church is dying. We're quick to put the blame on the "nones" or the "dones," blind to the ways that we have often chased people out of the church. It's easy to blame the quitters, but it takes some hard, honest examination to admit that the fault may lie within our own churches.

There have been several occasions when I've wanted to throw in the towel.

But then I remember that if I love Jesus, then I have to love his friends. They're a package deal.

Church is messy. But I'm committed to being a change-agent in the church right now, so that when the new church rises from the ashes, she remembers who Jesus has called her to be.

I've taken much needed breaks from church to reassess and heal. I've taken breaks to find God and to refocus on the mission. But at the end of the day, I'm not ready to give up yet.

God hasn't give up on his Church, and I hope that one day, in the midst of breaking bread, worshiping, and reading Scripture together, we can learn to how love and forgive and reconcile again and again.

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