There is a really interesting conversation happening on Pastor Edmonds’ Facebook wall which I think is worth reading.
I’m curious. If you stopped going to church, why did you stop? Did you stop for similar reasons?
Okay, the title of this post is a little click-baity. I am still an Adventist and I’m not planning on leaving the church anytime soon, but my church attendance has been spotty as of late.
Here’s my response. It’s really honest and I hope you all can appreciate the honesty — because I KNOW I’m not the only one:
You already have over 200 comments but here’s one more 😊. I don’t mean to write a confessional, but bear with me: 1) I’m too tired. I have to wake up early every single day to go to work (and it hurts all the more because I’m not a morning person – I HATE MORNINGS), and I teach Zumba on Sunday mornings, and Sabbath morning is the *only* time in the week where I can sleep in and/or I don’t have to rush anywhere. In my mind, I *have* to make it to work, but I don’t *have* to make it to church (wrong, I know). There are immediate and dire consequences for not showing up to work. Unfortunately (I could be wrong here but imma type it anyways) there are no immediate and dire consequences for not going to church. I admit that being too tired to go to church means I need to re-evaluate my schedule.
2) I think sometimes people take the “rest day” idea literally (I know I do). Sometimes I want to sleep, read, eat, listen to music, watch a sermon and sometimes I just need a rest from people. Sabbath lets me do that. Sometimes that means staying home from church and engaging in other ways of self-care. Sometimes people want to do community service activities or meet a friend. They may forgo going to church that Sabbath in order to do so.
3) Sometimes churches are not friendly. They are sometimes large and loud but not warm. I’m a little bit of an introvert, and I’ve been going through my own depression, hence my withdrawal I think from church and me not feeling like making myself known and introducing myself to people. At the church I now attend, for the longest time, I went relatively unrecognized and unknown for the whole first year I was in Ottawa. I was surrounded by lots of people, but I felt horribly alone. I didn’t feel like this at my church in Montreal. Some churches are warmer than others. I heard someone say once that 11 o’clock on Sabbath morning can be the loneliest hour for some people (singles, widows, students/people who have moved away from home etc.). Unless you have an “in” (i.e. someone who takes a special interest in you and introduces you to other people and invites you to lunch [lunch is key]) it can be hard to integrate oneself into a church family.
4) The pastor can’t preach. I know I’m wrong for saying this (“we don’t go to church for the pastor,” “we go to worship God” yada, yada, yada), but I once went to a church where the pastor really couldn’t preach. There was actually a solid consensus at that church that the pastor could not preach. People started to stay away from church. I did not gain any spiritual knowledge from his sermons. Some church members said that the lack of spiritual food at church forced them to study their Bibles more fervently and make sure they were spiritually fed before they went to the church. They learned not to depend on the pastor for their spiritual nourishment. So be it. I go to church for encouragement because life is hard (but God is good! Amen!). I go to church because I’m hoping that there’s a Word for me – just something to hold onto that will tie me over. So to go to church and leave just how I came… I just couldn’t do it anymore.
5) Sometimes we don’t go to church because we are depressed. I know that when I’m depressed, church is the last place I want to go. It’s yet another place where I have to pretend like I’m okay. I have to have the fake smiles and say “Happy Sabbath” and endure questions about my love life and my ovaries and people beg me to take on yet another responsibility (because when you’re one of the few who are willing, people ask you to do *everything*. There is no end to what people will ask you to do). All of that takes energy that I just don’t have at the moment. I’ve also been seriously disappointed with God as of late, and there is a direct correlation between my church attendance (or lack thereof) and my relationship with God/spiritual life. Sometimes it hurts more to go to church than to stay home. It’s like trying to get close to someone who you feel has done you wrong or seriously hurt you.
6) Church doesn’t meet my needs. There I said it. I know many a pastor has preached on this point (“church isn’t about you. Church isn’t supposed to meet *your* needs. What are “you* doing? You are to *meet* the needs of others. You can’t come to church and expect to be catered to. You are the church.” Yada, yada, yada). But the fact that church doesn’t meet my needs is the real reason why I have (unfortunately) started to treat church attendance as optional.
At the end of the day, we go to places because we have a need to be met. I go to the grocery store because I need food. I go to work because I need money. I go to school because I need an education. I go to the washroom because I need to pee. I go to church because…? Why?
It hasn’t always been this way. I was raised an Adventist. Growing up, I’d go to church because I had no choice. When I became a teenager and got baptized, I’d go to church because I was excited about Jesus and I wanted to develop my relationship with him. Sabbath was the highlight of the week. My sister and I would begin planning our Sabbath outfits for the next week on Sunday – worse if the next Sabbath was Youth Day or Camp Meeting – that sometimes demanded a whole new outfit/wardrobe. lol. I was in Pathfinders, and I later became a Master Guide, so I had to be at church and my Pathfinders needed to see their leaders at church. I was ordained as an elder and I was on the AY committee and I taught Sabbath school, so church activities and engagements also often kept me going to church.
When I moved away from home (Toronto) to Montreal for law school, church met a social need, and so I continued going regularly. I found community at church. I was single and alone in Montreal, but I felt less so because I went to a church with other single young adults. My church in Montreal offered me community. I knew that if I missed church even one Sabbath, people would be calling down my phone.
Now, in my very late 20s (lol), as a working professional and still single and on my own in yet another new city, I have slightly different needs: I want to find other single young adults in their late 20s and early 30s; I’m looking for a life partner/mate; I’m looking for community; I’m looking for Christian young professionals (and preferably those with graduate degrees – I find that I have more in common with them at this point in my life); life is hard and I need an encouraging (pertinent!) Word, I’m looking for people who think critically, who are open-minded, and who are not afraid of asking questions or poking holes into or challenging long-standing beliefs, traditions and doctrines. Sadly enough, these needs are not met for me at church. I feel like an internally displaced person at church. Church caters to those who are in two parent (read: whole) homes. They do not cater to singles, or widows, or the divorced, or those with two mamas, or those with two daddas, or those who are single mothers, or… the list goes on and on. Church often is not cognizant or refuses to respond to reality. We do not have real conversations at church. Insofar as we have real conversations, we do not often present and offer real (compassionate, accurate) solutions. I suppose it depends on the church you go to, and I really do like the church I currently attend (when I attend…), but I have had to get these needs fulfilled elsewhere and by different means/media, leaving me to wrestle weekly with the relevancy of church and its place and necessity in my life.
Again: I’m curious. If you stopped going to church, why did you stop? Did you stop for similar reasons?