If You Feel Like Quitting Church, Read This First

Encouragement for when you feel like quitting church...

Wanting to write a few words about a life-changing book like Irresistible Revolution is a little like my tone-deaf self sharing a favorite song by singing it--it just doesn't do the music justice. The most I can coherently get out is this: Just read it.

Much of my loss of words (or failing at fitting them all into a single blog post) has something to do with the story God seems to be writing into my life right now. And how the words shared by Shane in this book fit together with several other books and everything I'm reading in God's Word. So many thoughts and feelings, revelations and ideas for change.

It's been a long time coming, but it's finally culminating in action. Slowly.

I used to say I'd never leave the church. Seems like a reasonable vow, right? As long as my church's beliefs coincide with what I've found in the Bible, there's simply no reason to leave. I most often saw people leave over "hurt feelings," and that seemed petty to me.

Then, I got older. My own quiet moments with God slowly and steadily awakened my faith and opened my eyes to new possibilities.

You mean love was meant to be courageous and messy and spread beyond the neat walls of church? You mean we're called to more than our cushy lives lived for people like us? You mean we're all meant to be missionaries and that means more than being nice to my neighbors and raising Godly children?

One of the first times this started really hitting home for me I cried (and I don't make a habit of crying). Thinking of all this passion renewed or newly discovered in comparison to the complacency of church made me mourn. I couldn't keep this faith alive in "that place." I discovered love outside of the church, and it seemed the only way to keep it alive was also outside the church.

I wasn't necessarily intentional about quitting church. I knew I wanted something more and dreamed up ideas of a home church--a group of friends that would spend "church" serving the homeless, then eat together and dive into God's Word together. An accountability group for courageous discipleship.

Before thinking too much more about this, attending church faded naturally into the background. Sickness (several rounds of it for our whole family), company, bad weather and travels kept us away most weeks. When we went, I felt fidgety. Like I didn't belong there. Like I knew we're all called to more and that wasn't it.

I didn't realize fully that this was happening, until my five-year-old mentioned it. (She has a way of bringing my flaws to their proper light.) She casually told someone something like "We don't go to church anymore." As I gasped, she clarified, "...when Dad's not home."

Which is true, I don't brave church alone with two kids when Daniel's gone. But lately, I hadn't made much of an effort for any of it. I didn't want to be there. And when I went, I didn't feel like I belonged.

I mean, Christians should already know everything God's been revealing about love and the poor and our purpose. So why did everyone smile and chit chat like showing up was all that was required of them?

That negativity is when I realized I wasn't any better. All my self-righteous views were fatal for me if all they did was keep me from church.

So, I dreamed up what a solution might look like. Based on my new dreams and desires of more fully following Christ, what would church be?

I thought it would involve courageous love and getting out of comfort zones. It would involve volunteering together and encouraging each other in this odd way of living. It would include diving into God's Word and discovering these truths together.

But it would always circle back around to love in action. Loving and caring for the poor, orphans and widows. Feeding the hungry, and clothing the naked. Speaking for the voiceless. Meeting them face-to-face on a regular basis, and in that simple act, meeting Jesus.

I corralled some friends to try it out. We'd volunteer at the local homeless shelter (I'm a newbie to volunteering--that seemed like the most logical place to start). We'd arrange for our kids to be cared for. Then we'd eat lunch together and study God's Word in light of having already put it into action.

These rockstar friends entertained the idea, and I tried not to get discouraged at their reluctance. If someone had suggested this a couple years ago, I likely would of had the same hesitations.

Then, one gloomy Sabbath, we did it. We served food at a local shelter. We met some of the incredible people that make these meals happen for hundreds of people everyday. We saw the faces of parents simply trying to care for their kids. I held my breath as I served them up beef and potatoes.

I didn't want to leave. Nothing miraculous happened. But I somehow felt the Kingdom of God was more likely to show up there than it was in my church.

And that's where I've found myself. Caught between obedience to the church and a desire for true Christianity. And due to limitations on time and energy and other lacking resources, there doesn't seem to be enough room for both.

I continue daily in those quiet moments seeking what God would have me do. Attending church in between, and seeking more opportunities for service. All the while, failing miserably in so many areas of my life that I'm tempted to throw in the towel and concede to quietly do what I've always done.

But I can't. There's no turning back when you start seeing glimpses of God's Kingdom here on earth as it is in Heaven. Even if my own humanity wants to mess it up.

And that's where Shane's words of encouragement come in. So much of his book has made me pause and shout "Yes!" and want something different. I've written so much of it down, but for now, I'll share a message from his final pages--something speaking to me most in this moment:
"We mustn't allow ourselves to detach from the church in a self-righteous cynicism. That's too easy and too empty. To those communities that have severed themselves from the established church, please build a bridge, for the church needs your prophetic voice. We can do more together than we can do alone.
If you have the gift of frustration and the deep sense that the world is a mess, thank God for that; not everyone has that gift of vision. It also means that you have a responsibility to lead us in new ways. Recognizing that something is wrong is the first step toward changing the world."

I'm a hot mess as I humbly share this testimony of sorts with you. I meant to write a quick review hoping someone else might read this book and be changed too. Then, the Spirit moved my fingers to type.

I've kept this struggle to myself. When I let pieces of it ooze out, I get odd looks. Then I hear my own words and realize other people are likely hearing, "I'm discontent, so I'm quitting church." And I get frustrated.

I get frustrated that I can't properly communicate all these incredible things God is doing on my heart. I get frustrated that I feel alone in this epic movement. I get frustrated that so many people with so many resources (money, love, knowledge, time) are simply content in keeping it to ourselves, while much of the world dies in need of all of it.

I get frustrated, so I give up. I shut up at church. I struggle quietly alone. And I forget that I'm not the only one.

I forget that at least one of you reading this feels the same way. I forget that you need encouragement and support on this challenging path you've found yourself--the courage to not give up. I forget that change starts somewhere, even if it's with a frustrated and failing people.

God does big things through small offerings of ourselves.

So, dear friend, keep on keepin' on. Remember Shane's words (and more importantly, Jesus'), and try as best you can to see this frustration as a gift. Move forward one step at a time in community, in church, in Christ and know that we'll follow your lead.

We just need you to speak up. We need you to do something. We need you to be courageous.

We need you to show us Christ in action, and dare us to be courageous enough to truly follow Him too.

The church, and hurting world, needs you to be courageous.


also read:
when you need bread and the church says no
if you've quit church, read this
courageous at home
do everything for God
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linked up: wholehearted home // deep roots at home