Saturday, April 30, 2011

Leaving The Church

I have long held that that word "Church" definitely has different meanings for different people, and even different meanings for the same people in different situations. With that in mind, the name of this post might well be entitled: "In Search Of The Church".

I have become disillusioned in my experience of Church. Accusations of us-four-and-no-more hyper-spiritual elitism at one time might have poisoned the well of my thinking on this matter, but my need for more now trumps that.

I recently read an article by Albert Mohler that helps me to articulate my current dissatisfaction. In his article he cites a book "Why Conservative Churches Are Growing: A Study in Sociology of Religion" by Dean M. Kelley, and an article, Creed or Chaos by columnist David Brooks concerning Mormonism. Mohler focuses in on this idea at the heart of Brook's column: "the religions that grow, succor and motivate people to perform heroic acts of service are usually theologically rigorous, arduous in practice and definite in their convictions about what is True and False.

Brooks is an agnostic I would presume.  Yet he has the insight to see that the very things that define what modern western churches seem inclined to avoid, are the same things that "motivate people to perform heroic acts of service". Mohler, however, points out another probing question at the center of the true/false quandary for the Christian , a question I often ask myself as a guiding light in my decision making processes: "Do we really believe that the message of the Gospel is the only message that offers salvation?

Mohler attributes this question to the one that was asked by mainline denominations in the sixties, hence the word "only", and indeed it appears that the modern day mainline denomination did ask that question a half century ago, and for the most part answered it wrong. But for me, the question is still a pertinent one, absent the word only, and deserves an answer today; indeed every day. I am in search of the Church that is willing to ask this question daily, answer it daily, then practice life daily as if the answer is yes.


Laura Grace Robins said...

This is really good! Part of my problem with churches is that they are not "theologically rigorous" . Everytime feels like they are catering to newcomers and it is very basic and very safe. Nothing deep or scary is ever talked about. Even the bible study groups use weak materials. The women's studies are all about Beth Moore, who I find not challenging. In fact, aren't bible studies suppose to be BIBLE studies. They rely on the latest Christian book instead.

I wonder what is worse going to a church that you don't think is all that sound or not going at all. What are your thoughts on that? I don't think you have to go to church to be a Christian or be saved, but it does supplement you spiritual life. Trick is finding a place that supplements you with fruits and veggies rather than junk food.

Christian Ease said...

John 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me."

I'm not sure how "only" can be removed from the question. I would reply to the objection of Jesus being the only way by asking "Why would God use several ways?" Was Jesus wrong in saying that He was the only way? Was the suffiency of His sacrifice somehow insufficient? Is there salvation apart from the cross? I don't believe it to be arrogant to support the claim of Jesus to be true. It has the support of reason, and Christianity is the "only" relgion that offers the solution to man's dilemma. I hope I'm not completely reading you wrong on this. Otherwise I'm in complete agreement with the intent of the post. We are currently church-less or less a church apart from our brothers and sisters in the faith. I can sympathize with Laura in that the church teaches opinions rather than the Bible. Actually, I love others' insight. It's just the others that they're peddling, like Beth Moore, that truly reveal the lack of depth in the church today.
Oh! I love your picture! You look a lot like one of my heroes.

Susan said...

Daily we must remind ourselves that Jesus is the ONLY way. Sadly so many churches are not truly centered on Christ and HIS standard for our lives. I am grateful to say that I believe the Body of Christ we attend is striving for these ideals.

Dan said...

Christian Ease

I hope I'm not completely reading you wrong on this.

I'm afraid you did, but that's OK. I went back and read it again and can see why one would. So let me explain. As I wrote this I struck out the word "only" because that word introduces the idea of relativism, which, while I sternly disagree with any notion of relativism or that Jesus is simply "a" way, that was not where I wanted to place my focus. Instead, I wanted to focus on the ramifications of the truth of the Gospel as the way and how those ramifications ought to impact our lives daily, and in as much, the Church. It is one thing to affirm the Gospel as true, which I do, but to live my life as if it is true, I find, is is another challenge altogether.

In our home. We love The Andy Griffith Show before Don Knots left. His antics often reminded me of my blogging so I adopted his picture. I've actually been considering changing it as of late.

Dan said...


I wonder what is worse going to a church that you don't think is all that sound or not going at all. What are your thoughts on that?

Let me get back to you on that.

Dan said...


Writing a post like this scares me somewhat. On the one hand, I'm perfectly happy to maintain a status quo kind of life. But on the other, I live my life with my sensibilities daily assaulted by everything from false teachers: the worst, to apathy: including my own, to a Nation that has rejected truth, its foundations, and it's God. I daily witness a world gone mad, and my very bones cry out.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

I think going to an unsound church is worse than not going at all. By going you give it tacit approval, and you may also end up being deceived yourself!

Craig and Heather said...

This post echoes so many other voices with regard to the lack of fulfillment people are experiencing in the westernized version of Christianity.

You've touched on some important questions. Has our freedom and typical approach to organized Christianity effectively quenched the movement of the Spirit in the majority of our congregations? Is it better to stay and actively encourage change in a fluffy/distracted/legalistic/floundering congregation? Or, is the dissatisfaction due to the Lord calling individuals out of a corrupted and disintegrating religious system?

How does the American believer effectively put shoes on his profession of faith?

Ease of existence does tend to breed a sort of apathetic indifference to matters of eternal signifigance and the need for diligent pursuit of spiritual excellence.

While the concepts of religious/social tolerance, or "pluralism" sound good on the surface, we can easily see the devastating effect it has had on the American church and our need for singleminded pursuit of Christ by those of us who profess to be His.


Z said...

I think Christian Ease's reminder of John 14:6 is everything. The gate is narrow. But the only gate in town, that is IF one believes Scripture is the inerrant Word of God. If not, one can come up with all sorts of easier ways to Salvation, I suppose! It's not easy to live up to the Word of God and that's where some churches fail, too.

Funny, though....there are some pastors near me in L.A. who are very very strong on the Word and don't shirk and their young population is growing in leaps and bounds, oddly enough. These men are fairly young, they're very bright, and they even talk against scantily cut bikinis, girls dress in general...all sorts of quite amazing things you'd think would lose a young audience. I only hear about them so I can't give more info on them, but they're doing SOMETHING right..completely following the Word.

As for going to any church just to go to church.......I have problems with our pastor, as do others there, but we all love each other so much we wouldn't leave unless he strayed from the Word. He does give it unwaveringly but he has pride problems, confidence problems, etc.........still, we try to deal with him as a group of people who've come to love each other over the years....which has made our church what it is!

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Pride problems, etc, are okay to deal with, as long as the teaching is sound. Even my church does things I disagree with, but the teaching is sound and the leadership solid. As long as those two important features are present, we can deal with the "small" stuff.

Dan said...

Thank you all for your comments. If the Lord puts it no your heart, please pray for me. I am currently experiencing a trial of sorts that I can see I do not struggle with alone, which is comforting. Wisdom also demands that it would probably be best that I do not struggle quite so publicly either. Suffice it to say that all of your comments have been both comforting and helpful.

Joe said...

One of my famous, but little known, brand new old sayings is: "If we could just get the people out of the church, the church would have no more problems."

The word church comes from the Greek, "ekklesia," meaning assembly, called out.

How can we say we love Christ if we don't love what He loved. He gave his life for His church.

He built the church (Mt 16:18)

He gave the church authority (Mt 18:17)

He told his disciples to be shepherds of the church (Ac 20:28)

He wants the church edified (ICo 5:12)

He wants the church built up (I Co 14:12)

He wants the church strengthened (I Co 14:26)

He is the church's head (Eph 5:23)

The church is His body on earth (Col 1:24)

Is the church all it should be?


Found a perfect church? Don't join it, you'll spoil it.

Denominationalism? No.

Church? Yes. Most assuredly yes.

Dan said...

Thank you Joe for a well timed and loving admonition.

Dan said...

Oh, if that last comment sounded like sarcasm, it wasn't.

Divapalooza said...

I think people argue a lot about what and who belongs to “the church.” I always remind myself that “the church” is bigger than it’s walls. Do I go to “the perfect” church? No because there are no churches that are perfect. BUT, I do like the church that I go to because they have a mission/vision that they have not deviated from in all the years that I’ve been attending: “Our mission is to lead people toward PASSION for God and COMPASSION for people.”