not going to church? don’t want to? :: i’m asking for your help

March 28, 2011

If you don’t go to church and you don’t want to go to church, I want to talk to you.

I’m in Seminary right now, working towards becoming a Pastor. And I’ve been a part of church staff and leadership teams for alomst 17 years now. That makes it hard for me to see Christianity from an outside perspective. I’m about as inside as they come. Β I’m asking for help from some of you outside the “church crowd.”

I’m not going to make you my personal evangelism project if you comment here. Β I’m just looking to understand people well, so I can serve them well when the time comes. Β Can you help me out?

So here’s my question: what keeps you away from church? If anything might make you reconsider, what would it be?


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Psalm 24:7 & Luke 10:42 >> Like David, and Mary, I'm in pursuit of my one thing. I'm the Pastor at St. Olaf Lutheran Church in Montgomery, IL. Pastor, teacher, writer, communicator, designer, and drummer. I definitely got the better deal in my marriage to Amy. And I couldn't be any more proud of my five amazing boys. Deeply grateful.

14 responses to not going to church? don’t want to? :: i’m asking for your help

  1. It feels like I’m trapped in a box when I’m there. It’s as if there is an outline that has to be followed, instead of living in the here and now. I want to do church like they did in Acts.

    • I get that. Do you mean a LIFE outline, or a WORSHIP SERVICE outline? Because both can be a problem, I think.

      (Thanks for adding your 2 cents Lisa)

  2. I grew up going to church. I worked full time at a church for 5 years. After that I didn’t go to church for about a year and a half. Then I tried a new place for a few months. But really I haven’t been involved somewhere for about 3 years now. And I don’t want to be. Maybe I’m not as much of an “outsider” as you’re looking for, but anyway…
    I have found that one of the things that bothers me most about church is that I have seen many claim “come as you are” but then when it really gets down to it, they don’t want your messes or actually want to help you work through them. I’ve even watched my friend on church staff be turned away completely unsupported when they are honest with things they are struggling through in life even after being told they would be supported.
    I also don’t like feeling like I have to be committed to church things. I guess this one is tougher to pull from my brain and put into words… I guess it’s the conventions of what you “should do” in church that I have a hard time with. Who decides the way church should be done? And what I should be involved with in order to be a “good” Christian.
    There’s a bit of my brain on it πŸ˜‰

    • Thanks Christy. I really appreciate that you took the time to join the conversation. I TOTALLY get the “come as you are… but not really” problem. I’ve thought about this a lot. Some day I hope to Pastor a church, and if God leads that direction at the end of my Seminary years, I want to talk openly about this with our congregation: “Do we want sinners with issues working out their stuff with us? Do we really? Now… don’t pretend those sinners with issues aren’t you.”

      I also have a hard time as a church leader knowing how much to ask of our congregation. I want to protect them from feeling pressured into doing “church stuff.” At the same time, I want to challenge them (and myself) to live out our faith in dynamic, meaningful, sacrificial ways. Some people need a kick in the proverbial pants. Others really need rest. Finding that balance must be supernatural, or we’re doomed to get it wrong all the time.

      Loved this Christy. Thank you, and God bless.

  3. I can find no other definition for myself other than Deist… I believe there is a God, I believe there’s proof all around us that he exists, I don’t believe man can define him/her/it; I don’t consider myself a Christian because I have yet to find my connection to or place in the Christian mythos. My personal feelings about church are shaped by only a few personal experiences. I was dating a girl in high school who was Christian and wanted me to come to her youth group. I said, “Haven’t been raised in a faith… kinda uncomfortable about going.”

    “Don’t worry about it, it doesn’t feel all church-y.”

    So… I went. I had a great time, played games, ran around with fun kids my age… then came the bible trivia. I suddenly felt judged and ambushed. It was quite uncomfortable. Instead of an inclusive experience, I felt on the perimeter, to put it lightly… bluntly, I felt like a demon. Will never forget that night.

    Later, the same girl convinced me to go regularly to her church with her family. I got used to going, but always felt odd. “Who here is pretending to ‘feel’ the holy spirit in the room?” The pastor was pretty free form (evangelical Christian, I believe… don’t really know the full break down of the divisions of church and… church) and was a good storyteller, so I started to jive with the message, but always stopped short when picking up a bible or hearing specific stories of the bible told. The truth of it never hit me.

    The social aspect of church was pretty amazing and made some good friends there, but when the conversation moved to the “have you accepted the Lord as your savior?” moment came, and it always did, it got uncomfortable once again.

    What would make me go back? It would take a heck of a lot, really. One of the major things that keeps me away is the competion factor… the “who believes more?” factor. We are human, we are always uncomfortable in our own skin, we are always ready to compete with the Jones… so what if Mr. Jones says, “I feel God’s hand on my shoulder, right now!” it is within our nature to not only belong, but to exceed… “Yes, I feel his finger on the tip of my nose! Hallelujah!” I want people to get real–if you’re sure he’s in the room, preach it… by all means, but if you don’t know he’s even in the same town… preach that too! The only way the truth can be spoken in church is if people speak the truth. If I feel preasured, threatened, cajolled, or nudged to “see God” or “feel his presence” I’m outta there.

    I find God in music, in love, in the eyes of my child, when someone is kind to me or when I am kind to someone–those are also the places I feel saved.

    • Alan,

      yea, I’m with you on at least one thing: the social aspect of Christianity.
      One of my friends, who is very wise, said this: “so many people get so much more out of the social benefits than actually Christ.” Even though Christ is the foundation.

      So when life hits the fan, and social benefits aren’t enough, they’re left without any foundation.

      I’m often guilty of this.

    • Alan – I love that you took the time to write out your thoughts. Thanks man. You’re a good friend – and this really helps me.

      I won’t take time to walk bullet point by bullet point through your comments, but I will say I can actually relate to you… even as a “church guy.” I’ve had similar experiences being on the “outside” of another denomination. As a teenager I could tell you some crazy stories about my experiences visiting another church’s youth group for awhile. πŸ™‚

      Thanks for your honesty dude. You’ve stirred up all kinds of thoughts in me. I’m trying hard to not be the guy doing the talking on this one – to be a listener – which means fighting my type-A nature. πŸ™‚

      Anyway, mucho appreciation. God bless you and your familiy. Which may seem kind of ironic for me to say, considering where we’re coming from, but I really mean that. πŸ™‚ Take care man.

  4. Secret Person ;) March 29, 2011 at 1:08 am

    What about those who are in ministry and don’t want to go to church? Are you looking to hear from them as well? πŸ™‚ I don’t want to go to church because:

    It’s hard to find a place in community where moralizing is less common than grace.
    I often feel like others are trying to take grace away from me. AKA: moralizing. Judgmental.
    It’s hard to be an egalitarian in a heavily complementarian church body. At least in one where that doctrine is elevated to essential status.
    Pastors who major in minor issues.
    Moralizing. Legalism. Oh, did I say that already? πŸ˜›
    I hate (HATE!!!!!!!!) hearing prayers for our troops without prayers for the troops of other nations, even (and especially) our enemies.
    I hate it when the pledge of allegiance is said in church and when the American flag is flown. I don’t participate in the pledge in church.
    Socio-political sermons.
    Sermons that are moralizing or legalistic. Yup. That’s not good.
    Churches that are heavily authoritarian.
    Knowing too much about where the leadership stands on things that are not important. Who they voted for. And why. Who we should vote for. And why. Sermons about the state of the nation/world every week. And why culture is soooo bad. Over emphasis on the way you’re supposed to raise your children or relate to your husband/wife. Degrading of other denominations or beliefs. Pride in our own beliefs, that we have everything RIGHT “Biblically.”

    That’s a long list, I know, but it really comes down to this: If a Pastor is teaching the essentials and ignoring the rest, he/she is only going to offend and ostracize the people who are just offended by the Gospel. If he/she is ignoring the ridiculous minor things that make people stare at Christians and call them hypocrites and judgmental idiots, then he/she is going to allow Christians of all social and political stripes to join together in one congregation who can learn to serve together in unity.

    Yes, it’s not just the Pastor’s job – I was in a church once where I literally walked out on several sermons, but LOVED the church because the church body was loving and amazing – but I think that a Pastor can help set the tone one way or another in a very powerful way.

    I also hate going to church where the people or pastor have a superior attitude. Yes, we’re Christians, we’re better, we have alllll the answers! Where they make jokes that show they think evolution (and anyone who believes it) is stupid. Where things like “Well, we all know women are more easily deceived” are put out there like “any true Christian says/thinks/does ______________” Where it’s more about getting back at people/ideas they disagree with than just good exegesis of Scripture and a focus on freedom and unity in Christ and service to others in Him.


    • Thanks Secret. We can agree that the primary focus of the church is to prclaim the truly GOOD NEWS that Jesus, who is really God, came and really became a man, he really died on a cross to take our sins away from us and to give us new life with God – free from sin forever, and after three days he REALLY DID rise from the grave. He is alive now and intercedes for us. And God is looking for hearts, ready to STRONGLY SUPPORT those who turn fully to Him.

      If churches would pour the majority of their energy into getting that message out, I think a lot of your frustrations would be lessened.

      Thanks for adding your perspective, too, friend. Praying you find some peace even amidst the broken and faulty people who make up the Church.

  5. “Religion was meant to be a stepping stone towards true spirituality, instead, many people find it as a crutch to hold them back from the truth.”

    Thank you for posing this question. It is really nice to see it asked.

    I’ve personally attended SEVERAL churches… though, I felt every single one of them were flawed and it would be painful for me to go into one and watch either the lies come out of the pastors mouth/head, or the disconnect within the congregation with their spiritual self and no awareness from the pastor, and I couldn’t be myself at any of them. I am “psychic” and gay, and as soon as any church would find this out… I was shunned for one or the other. Also, there is only so much that you can learn from “Church”… and does not involve knowing your self, your higher self, your spirit, your soul… and ultimately, knowing the Creator. Every church (and I’ve literally been to about 25 different ones, spanning different denominations), only one had ever talked about this aspect and none of the others would teach or talk about the spiritual side. Church has become a place to go to hear a reciting of the Bible, with very one-sided thoughts of how the pastor feels their congregation should think in regards to that passage. It has become a place that produces spiritual zombies (we see this issue stemming from the Middle Ages and the Catholic Church having the need to control everything).

    Many Christian and Catholic churches also try to convince people to denounce every other religion out there… yet… OMG… these religions (for the most part) say almost all exactly the same thing… they are just different stories telling the same truths and relaying the same messages in different ways, and sometimes even expand on them. All of them give hints towards the spirituality… yet is never talked about! In spirituality, you learn more about uniting, in religion, you learn more about dividing.

    Christianity… means to walk like Christ, though a majority of people who call them that have NO CLUE what Christ stood for. For example, many “Christians” will tell you that he was against gay people. This is NOT true… there is even a passage in the Bible that Jesus blesses a Centurion and his [literal translation for the terminology during the time] gay lover (Matt. 8:5-13 and Luke 7:1-10).

    Many “Christians” will tell you that God, the Creator, that psychics are essentially demons, or cavort with the devil (which is not true)… yet, most of the stories in the Bible were written by what are called mediums (they channeled the word of God). Essentially, from what I have found in the Bible in RE to being psychic (there’s actually very little, though not surprising)… is that you are not supposed to actively try to find out your future… though, in the Christian religion, you will never know WHY that is. My personal issue came when I started having visions of things that would come to pass (not to mention seeing dead people, or hearing peoples thoughts, or feeling their emotions, etc, etc, etc). I spent years being afraid of this, then finally, one day I realized… I was meant to see that (Long story short, God told me to open my Bible and to read and to understand), and then finally, I stopped being afraid. Then I realized, this fear actually creates a darkness within, disconnecting you from the light (light = love = the Creator, later we can talk about light/darkness = positive/negative = matter/anti-matter = dual aspects of the Creator).

    So… what do you do when you cannot find the answers you seek from the Bible? Do you lead in growing the spirit? Do pastors even know how to do this? Are they diverse enough to be able to do this? What about reincarnation? What about energy? There is so much left out.

    At one point in my life, yes, I thought I wanted to be a pastor… and then I realized how limited it was in my current life journey. This, I believe, cannot be found in a modern Church.

    • Thanks so much SchaOn. I really appreciate your input here. Mostly, I’m trying to listen here today. You raise many points I’d love to talk about, but almost across the board they would be best discussed over coffee face to face. This forum isn’t real time, and there’s no eye contact or body language – no real person to person connection in the way this discussion requires. I still love hearing your point of view.

      As I read through your comment I had so many thoughts. I’m sure you’ve run into judgment – and differing opinions – and rejection of your lifestyle, etc. As someone in the church, I can’t possibly deal with all of this or represent all Christians. But I can say this: NO MATTER WHAT, God wants to be in a real relationship with you. That’s what He made you for. I’m not sure if you believe God is an actual tangible personality, or something else… like an energy or something less definite. But I can share with you that I believe He is an actual knowable personality, and He wants us to be close to Him.

      Our sin mucked that up. Yours AND mine (and every singkle sould ever on the planet). So we lost that relationship – that close connectedness we were made for. And I’m not trying to be preachy, but maybe it sounds that way.

      It’s just that if these things are true, and JESUS is the ANSWER to the sin problem, and an answer to our guilt, and the answer to a reconnected love relationship with God that is two-way and mutually joyful… then JESUS IS THE BEST NEWS OF ALL TIME. It’s hard not to let that spill out.

      All of your other ideas, faults, gifts, loves, failures are between you and God, and they are secondary to the question of what do you do with Jesus. You may be right – the mix of ideas you are looking for may not be found in church. But the Church can come second. WHO Jesus is (not just how He lived) is the first foremost decision anyone needs to make.

      The only other thought I’ll throw out in response right now is this… do you think there is such a thing as fixed, absolute truth. I mean, some things may be relative, but are there things that just “are”? Many people today don’t engage that question to the point that they really decide. I know that’s an existential question, but it has implications to your church experiences.

      If there ARE things that are either TRUE or NOT TRUE (and I think there are), then the question I want to ask when I go into a church is not necessarily “Does this church allow for many points of view?” but “IS what this church teaches TRUE?”

      Anyway, again I deeply appreciate your input. Thanks so much. God bless you, and I wish you the very best.

  6. We need a church that is a “Grace” church not a Legalistic institution. Where can Christians go to be honest about who they are and what they are going through? Does our church accept sinners? Do we want to even hear that a born-again christian really SINS? In other words how can we be authentic with our brothers and sisters if we cannot confess our faults one to another and not be judged? We need spirit filled lovers of God and lovers of His called out ones rather than skeptical, judgemental, critical analysis every time we meet.
    There should be a love for the brethren and also a prayer support system. How can we reach and preach to the world if we do not love and support our brothers and sisters first? The preaching of the Word of God must be Central in every worship service. Everything should point to the word so as not to get off focus with programs, marketing, and management! Then and only then will we see our great commission of Matthew 28:19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations…..Let us not invite the world into our church but let us be a light house of God’s grace and the Gospel message to all. The world at its worst needs a church at its BEST!

    • Thanks Jane! You rasie some great points – many of which are far easier to TALK about than to actually DO. Something is broken, I think, in God’s free people when our FIRST impulse is to judge rather than to love. I’m all about sharing the truth, and having Biblical standards – yes! AND loving people genuinely right where they are. I also want to shout a loud AMEN when you say “everything should point to the Word…” The Bible is our plumb line, our source, our minitry fuel and content, our guideline, our joy. Thanks for connecting here, Jane. Your perspective is valuable.

  7. You may already have my take on this from previous posts but since you straight up asked this question and I like you, I’m going to answer πŸ™‚ It’s also funny that I read this post today because just yesterday (Sunday) while I was cooking breakfast, I was thinking how glad I am that I don’t have my Sundays occupied by church anymore.

    Of course, the main reason I don’t go to church is because I’m not a Christian. A lot of people have problem when I say that I use to be a Christian (in that, if I really was then I would still be now, so I clearly wasn’t really ever), so I won’t say that because I don’t think it matters, but I did certainly regularly attend various Christian churches for many years, and I attended a Christian college where we also had to attend chapel weekly.

    In general, I agree with a lot of the things that Secret Person doesn’t like about church (moralizing, judging, prayers for troops — that was a particularly good one), plus I hate that it has to start so early. (And it doesn’t really matter what time church started, if it was in the AM part of Sunday, that was too early for me.) However, it was never really the people at church, even the minority of moralizing and judgmental people, that really bothered me. I actually accepted that people were flawed and that it wasn’t their responsibility to do, think, or believe what I wanted them to. I truthfully LOVED the social aspect of church and benefited from it greatly from the time I was a child forward. There was nothing I liked better than those fifth Sunday night covered dish dinners. Socializing and chicken and dumplings? Sign me up!

    But I digress…. why I stopped going to church basically boiled down to relevance. Nothing that went on a church, nothing that was said, nothing in Sunday school, bible study, etc., seemed to have any relevance to my life (or to anything really) at all. I don’t believe you have to go to church/believe in God to be moral or ethical. There are great people who have a huge heart full of compassion for people who go to church and who don’t go to church. There is no definite correlation between being a good person and church attendance. I couldn’t figure out what the point of going to church was suppose to be (besides socializing, which as I said I loved, but I knew wasn’t suppose to be the point) and decided that if I couldn’t understand why I was suppose to be there, I probably shouldn’t be there. I like to think that people who really do have conviction in Christ like church or at least think it’s relevant and has a point and decided it was my lack of underlying conviction that made it irrelevant to me.