So, this post could potentially stir up trouble. But that is not my intention, so please only read on with an open mind. 🙂
I don’t consider myself to be a “religious” person. I haven’t been to church in a few years, not even for Christmas or Easter. I am according to many modern churches a “statistic” one of the many kids/teens raised in church who leave once they reach adulthood. I don’t talk about my beliefs often. But as with anyone they are an important part of me and I’d like to take a moment to discuss this.
So lets start at the beginning…
I grew up in a non-denominational church (which I guess leaned towards evangelical?) Church was at like 10-11am, we had modern music (drum sets, guitars etc) for worship. There was Sunday school, youth group and so-on. I was also home-schooled through the years I went to this church so the majority of my friends were from church. I really enjoyed church, it was fun. People raised their hands and waved banners during worship, people spoke in tongues, had prophetic words and sometimes danced during the services, there were even puppet shows for a while. This was all really great when I was young, I learned that Jesus loves us, that we should be kind to one another etc etc etc.
But as I got older and more aware of what was going on around me, I began to realize that church wasn’t everything it seemed to be. My dad was one of the elders so we were always very involved at church, going early to make the coffee, my parents led home groups (a mid-week small meetings) Things at church started getting shaky, there were parts of the congregation that weren’t happy about the way things were being run. (I have no idea what the details of it were) The pastor was tired and burnt out. There was vast amounts of judging each other going on among the adults. The church did not last, it dissolved a few years later. Which sort of began my spiritual journey outside the walls of a “church”
Now I was taught to read the Bible, that the Bible is our instructions for how to live our lives. In the Matthew Chapter 22, Jesus says the greatest commandment is to love God and then to Love one another. That is what everything is founded upon. Love. Not just a froofy lovey dovey love, a solid meaningful, sometimes difficult, real Love.
I have yet to walk through the doors of any church and witness the congregation as a whole embody this. Sure the church’s may mean well, you may feel good after the service on Sundays, the pastor might give a good sermon, or maybe the worship was especially “Spirit-filled” that day. There might even be outreach programs where you try to reach out to the community and talk at them about how much God loves them, give them pamphlets and cleverly designed brochures, preaching the Good Word. There will be weekend retreats where you can go and get an extra dose of the Holy Spirit and pray for hours on end and you know, really “connect with God.”
Now, I’m not saying that any of these things in and of themselves are wrong, or insincere. But all my life I have been to these things I have experienced the hype of a weekend retreat, the warm feeling you get handing someone a bag of cookies with a “Jesus Loves You” card stapled to it. But the reason why you do it matters. None of that stuff matters if you don’t Love.
I left the church, because all I saw was a place people went to make themselves feel better. I left because nobody really seemed interested in doing the things that mattered. Because so many of those people don’t know to Love, the hard way.
I do my best to Love the people in my life. To listen to them, to give them a hand when they need it, to give to them whatever I can when their need is greater than mine. (and their need is almost always greater.) To Love without expecting anything in return, not even a warm fuzzy feeling. Sometimes Loving people sucks. But God does it, and we certainly don’t deserve it. and God told me (us) that that is what’s important is to Love people. I refuse to judge or look down on someone because the swear, or drink or gamble, or because their gay or want to have an abortion. God did not tell us to judge these people, He told us to Love them. There are so many “Christians” out there who do not understand this.
It makes me sad.