Keeping faith is not always easy. There are plenty of reasons to give up on church and God. I’m currently reading a variety of history books that sadly tell the story of a corrupt and hypocritical church. I’ve struggled thinking that this is part of my spiritual heritage.
When Church Hurts More Than it Heals…
I didn’t set out to read about the church. I love history and I just followed a variety of interests I have:
- I’m headed to Mexico City in a few months and so I am reading La Capital, a history of Mexico City.
- Our church supports a medical clinic in the Republic of Congo and so I picked up a book on the history of Congo (Congo: the Epic History)
- Someone mentioned that The Poisonwood Bible was a good read so I put it on backorder at my library. I had no idea what it was about. But it came in the other day and, coincidentally, it tells of a missionary family who travelled to Congo in the 60’s.
- I have some German ancestry and so I started listening to the historical fiction book: The Castle of Kings that relates the history of Germany in the 1500’s.
- On the other side of my family I have pietist English pastors. In doing a little research I came to learn that one of them was linked to the Salem witch trials That led me to read a book chronicling the trials.
I’m reading all these books simultaneously and they all share one thing in common: a very sad story of a corrupt church that did much more harm than good. In each instance the church used its power to gain control over people to their detriment.
Add to these readings the weekly emails I get from people who have read my book, Broken Trust (about toxic faith and spiritual abuse), and a recent politician declaring his candidacy as ordained of God, and it’s all very disheartening.
I Don’t Need That
It saddens me to be a part of something that I believe in so much (the church) yet has such an ugly history of hurting people. Honestly, if I wasn’t fully embedded in such a positive church community it would be very easy for me to step back and say, “I don’t need that. There must be something about organized religion that is inherently wrong.”
Many people have come to that conclusion. In fact, if you’ve read my books, I came to that conclusion many years ago, causing me to quit church all together for a season. It was only through a series of events that I came back to church and ended up in ministry.
I find it ironic that I’m a pastor because I hold organized religion with such a high degree of suspicion and even contempt. I’ve seen the dark side. I’ve heard too many stories of hurt. It would be easy for me to walk away from the church. But thankfully I’ve seen the good side as well. I know so many people of faith who exhibit true devotion to God, great character, and inspiring generosity,
Why I Won’t Give Up On Church
I’m indebted to these people and the church I’m a part of (Cedarbrook). They are what make me stay in the church. They are what make it all worth my time and effort. They help me to believe that God’s people can actually come together to do good. I see it every day.
I agree with Bill Hybels who has famously said that “the church is the hope of the world.” But I say that knowing that many people scoff at such an idea based on their experience with the church. They would say that the church is the scourge of the world and we’d all be a lot better off without it. There are websites and Facebook pages dedicated to exposing the abuses of the church. I get that, better than you might think.
It’s important to realize there are two “churches” out there…one that is called and directed by God to reveal his nature and serve others and one that uses the idea of God to manipulate others for its own gain (I don’t believe everyone in this second church realizes what they are doing. They have just been fed a self-serving “gospel” and they don’t know any better. It empowers them in an unholy way and they accept it, not knowing that it’s contrary to who God is. Graciously, God still moves in their lives, but not as much as he could.)
If you are a believer in God, I hope you won’t give up on church but seek to find a healthy church and join it. If you can’t find one, then be a part of creating it. Don’t give up. The world needs to see the kingdom of God in action. If we give up…then the world truly has no hope.
If you are not a believer I hope you will not judge all believers based on the evil you’ve seen. Please keep an open mind that there might be people out there who haven’t turned to faith out of ignorance or use religion for personal gain.
Choosing to Not Give Up on Church
It’s tempting to write off religion as corrupt foolishness, but I know better. I’ve seen too much good…too many changed lives. I will continue to believe that God is calling his people together to do good in 2018 and the days ahead. I hope you will do the same.