Why people really quit going to church…and other stuff.
I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to work with scores of young adults during my time in ministry. I can’t tell you how many times I would hear stories about how they were deeply hurt by the church. Sometimes it was true and really sad! Sometimes it was false. Sometimes it was an actual event but with a ridiculous response.
Let me explain…
I have discovered that anyone who wants out of almost any situation will find a reason to do so. From quitting a marriage to quitting college, if you really want out you WILL find a reason to quit and by the time you share your story about your old marriage, college, job, or even church you have convinced others and yourself that you are a victim of your situation.
Don’t get me wrong…there really are horrific things that happen in marriages, jobs, colleges, and even churches; things that absolutely need real professional and legal attention.
Yet, what amazes me even more are what some people will put up with when they really want to graduate, stay married, get promoted, or even serve in a ministry.
Here is the bottom line… If WE want out of something WE will find a reason to quit, to be offended, or to walk away. Furthermore, every time we share our story WE CONTINUE TO REINFORCE the victim mindset. WHY DO WE DO THIS? Because deep inside we know, we have to justify our action.
People often quit on things because they believe they do not deserve this pain or they don’t believe the pain they are currently experiencing is worth the desired outcome.
While they may be justified or even advised to quit, it is wise to recognize that quitting can become a sabotaging habit. If our life’s decisions are constantly driven by what looks easiest OR appears to deliver pleasure the fastest, two things will happen. 1) The deepest satisfactions in life, the ones that can only be achieved through time and work, will be traded away for quick superficial solutions or brief hollow pleasures that don’t last. 2) We will ultimately be trading one pain for another because a life void of intentional effort working to develop deep relationships and meaningful purpose leaves us empty.
So what do we do? We embrace hope. Hope, that all this work is worth it, that faithfulness in marriage, with children, in a ministry setting, on the job, in a fight with cancer, or though an addiction, is worth it.
The Bible says only one hope is strong enough to pierce through all of this. It’s found in a deep belief in something beyond ourselves, beyond this world and even beyond death itself! (Hebrews 11) We are loved and we have a purpose!
When people really, really want to grow spiritually, nothing will keep them from pursuing God, not even those quirky, weird, spiritually off people in church.
If it has been years since you have been in a church, let me tell you what you will find–a bunch of messy humans looking to find deep meaning in this crazy world. They may say things that are off, misrepresent Jesus, and probably offend you. BE FOREWARNED: The ways of Jesus aren’t culturally cool, and you probably won’t like that either. We also have our weirdo people too, just like every gym, job, and school.
So if you are looking for perfection, look to Jesus. If you are looking for some messy people with whom you can figure out your own messy life, you will fit right in…and most likely be offended at some point, too.
This is the story of the church from its inception in Acts. Even Paul, the Apostle, in his Biblical letters written to church people is constantly holding people in the church accountable, helping them work through their messes. Welcome to real church. Messy church, messy you, messy me… all pursuing God growing in hope.
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves