I visited a church today…. Forgive the pause.  I’m doing my best to communicate in writing, the “question mark” I’m feeling, trying to make sense of it as I consider the experience.  Forgive me in advance if I wander. 

There has been much written and discussed about why so many people are choosing to leave their “churches”.  Some obviously do so because of anger, or abuse.  Or sheer rebellion.  Some are mad at the leadership, or the leadership leaves because they are mad and burned out by the inordinate demands placed on them and their families as they try to meet the expectations of their congregation.  I’ve experienced all of the above.  But what is also true for me, and what I’m hearing from others is that, some are leaving in order to salvage their faith.  Does that sound radical to you?

The idea that some people would actually choose to leave a church because of an abusive situation isn’t a radical idea.  Simply choose another congregation, right?  A healthier one.  But if you leave what is traditionally called “church” because it actually hinders your faith, and choose instead to opt for a Faith Community that breaks the traditional mold, in their thinking something is obviously wrong with “you”.  Either you’ve been wounded and need healing, or you are bitter and need to forgive, or you’ve failed and need to be restored.  All of which may be true, and often is.  Thank God for churches that minister to these well.  But what of those for whom “leaving” is just another developmental faith stage through which they are growing.  Does your church have mature leaders and spiritual directors who can help such individuals navigate through those seasons of growth.  Truth is, few churches know how, and are not comfortable with it because their leaders have never crossed over into such terrain, or successfully navigated  through those “Dark Nights” themselves.  Nor is that what their church programs are designed to do.  So Jesus himself, the lead shepherd, intervenes (he still pastors his flock).

“Jesus is building his Church”.  He is preparing his Bride, and he loves her in all of her various expressions.  He is shepherding his sheep, and leading each of them (who will listen) to spacious pastures, where they can find nourishment and space to flourish.  I  do not believe it matters whether it be a house church or the church that meets in your house, or the church that meets in a big building with a steeple on top or a glowing neon sign that blinks the word Pub”.  Yes, I know of a faith community that even reserves space at a bar, and another who meets there every other week during business hours for bible study.  There is nothing wrong with the Church Jesus is building, whether we’re scandalized by it or not, and I’m excited about what I see happening (more on that in upcoming posts). 

I visited a church today.  And I am reminded that, yes, there are many people who leave churches for the wrong reasons, and those who have been wounded need someone to leave the ninety nine in order to seek and find the one.  

Many others, however, haven’t truly “left”; they’ve simply obeyed the voice of their Father to move on, to new works, creative works, and kingdom expanding ventures that defy being contained in old “wine-skins”.  Jesus is shepherding his sheep, and some will return to the “fold”.  But some will move on out of spiritual necessity.  Those who are “listening” know this to be true.

“Because they cannot play the religious game anymore….The social benefits of going to church could no longer compensate for the lack of spiritual life.”- Chip Brogden

Yes, I visited a church today.