Tough Love ~ Stop going to Church

I’ve been trying to wrestle the thoughts I’ve been hoping to share into submission now for about two weeks. So far it has been completely useless. The thoughts seemed to be linked (in my head but I’m not a linear thinker) but I can’t figure out how to share them so that they seem clear. So let me just start.

Two weeks ago a very good friend (one of the best) of mine came into visit all the way from the land down under (sing the song with me!!). I was sharing with him and my beautiful wife how great it is just for me personally to see him. In a strange way we are kind of soul mates. What I mean is we have a similar history, at least in the way we lived, and have similar hearts. So talking to him allows me to feel safe as I’m confident he’s not going to take me the wrong way. But he is also very wise and I love allowing him to speak into my life. Anyway. We were sharing around our kitchen table about church, and the people that attend it. The discussion was based on a frustration I have been having; a frustration that has only been compiled in the last several months by a few different circumstances.

The first frustration I have been having is the lack of connectivity and commitment people have to the church. I have had some amazing people come and go throughout my ministry time but I am becoming more and more frustrated by the attitude of indifference to being involved. Sure there are tons of excuses. I have no time. My work schedule doesn’t work etc, etc. If I was honest with myself I’m sure I could make the same excuses. I haven’t really though. There hasn’t been a church that I have attended that I didn’t volunteer in. I find that most of these excuses equate to two things: Laziness, or a self-centered life perspective. I’ve even had people that love to “paint” (whatever someone loves to do, paint, music, be social) but have no time to “paint” for the church. In all honesty it seems ludicrous to me. I have never once worked anywhere that had no flexibility. Even if it’s a simple request to have one weekend off a month. Most employers, keeping in mind that you’re a good employee will allow you to be involved in other things.

The next frustration came when we received our yearly giving receipt from the church. I don’t give an extraordinary amount. I don’t make an extraordinary salary, but when I saw how much we gave last year I became frustrated. Why? Because I know that Danielle and I (along with the other people in the 20% rule) are giving towards 80% of the church’s needs. Yes, at first glance this is selfish. I can assure you that my intention isn’t to be focused on me. It’s to focus on the church, and building the kingdom. So as I was talking with my good friend I told him I’m sick of pulling on the end of the rope alone. Not literally, I have been blessed with some amazing people in my life and church. In fact my church has a much higher average giving than the national average. However that usually means that the top 20% are giving way more. Imagine if the bottom 80% did? See when people are in the 20% they are passionate about their community.

I was watching Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew the other night. At one point Dr. Drew leaned back in his chair and said, “I’m tired of fighting harder than my patients!” Really that’s the heart of it for me. I’m passionate about people becoming passionate about their faith. As I’ve traveled across our nation leading worship and attending many churches I see the same thing. Passionate people having their passion sucked dry because they feel like they are doing a lot of work for nothing. It’s the old saying. “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink.” Have you ever just said, “screw this?” I mean have you ever just looked around at a room full of completely talented and capable people staring at you while you do all the work and say “if you’re not into it why am I”?

This will probably be one of the harshest blogs I’ve done but in all honesty I’m sick of the selfishness in the church today. I’m sick of giving substantially more (percentage wise) than 80% percent of the people in the building. I’m sick of seeing some of my key volunteers work and give more time than others that are just as capable.

You’ve all heard the saying “we are only as strong as our weakest link.” As I was sharing with my friend about that idea I thought to myself maybe this is the problem with the church? Maybe this is the reason our influence is dwindling? Perhaps people on the outside looking in are as interested as the people on the inside looking out.

I’ve blogged before about the idea of people coming into the church broken and needy and staying that way. I’m not talking about brokenness here. I’m talking about attitude. I’ve asked the question before but I think it needs to be asked again. Why do you go to church? Church doesn’t save you! It doesn’t even make you a Christian so why do you go?

We had some people over to hang out with our friend from Down Under. During the visit we got into a fairly heated discussion about the idea of purging our church (the focus of the purge is of an indifferent attitude, not the people. We want to see people grow and come out of an indifferent mind set). The basic heart of the idea was not to give up on people (as it sounds like it is). The idea is to encourage people to go somewhere they can get involved and feel passionate about the community and its vision. I get it that our church, or your church isn’t for everyone but everyone has a church that is for them. The idea is to encourage people to find that community.

Why? Well it’s two fold. One so the people can grow in their faith and passion for the Kingdom in an environment that they are passionate about with people they love. Second, it IS so the church they leave can move and progress. It’s basic math. 100 people can do more than 20 people (if they are all doing the same amount). Beyond the math is a humanitarian issue. If 20% of the people are doing 80% of the work they are going to get burnt out. They are going to get discouraged. They are going to quit.
Right now our church is going through some lessons on giving. I hate the approach most churches give to tithing and giving. Give and you will get, or give and be blessed. Or if you don’t give…dum dum dum! Sure in my situation I can say that God has been completely faithful to my family. We have never stressed about money or worried about work. We also give over a 1/5th of my salary away (to our church and to other organizations and missionaries). However the story of my life I’m sure can be balanced by an equally not so glorious track record. Not everyone’s bills get paid miraculously. In my opinion if you attend a church, or a group, or are a member of an association you should be giving to it. The church is a not-for-profit organization. They function on what people give to it.

A good friend (not the one from Down Under, I have a few but not many really J) told me that not everyone can relate to the concept I have on giving to the church. That concept is of being a responsible consumer. That’s fair. I guess if you have been raised on welfare or are on some social assistance program you don’t understand that if you are taking, you need to give, or else it will run out. I suspect though for the majority of people in the Northern Hemisphere they can understand the concept of being a responsible consumer. Here’s the deal. If your church is a good church, you get to sit under a life coach (applying scriptures to biblical principles to make your life better). You place your kids in the kids programs. You listen to a band. The list could go on and on but what I’m saying is you take every week from a not-for-profit organization. If people aren’t giving to the operational costs of this organization soon it will cease to exist.

But Evan..we are saved by Grace so we don’t need to give. I agree. Giving has nothing to do with your salvation but I suspect you have a very skewed idea of grace if you think that it free’s you up from giving. The idea that God has saved you by His grace should fill you with a passion to see others saved. It should also fill you with a passion to give to His work. If not, well maybe you aren’t saved by His grace. See the concept of giving is a concept of grace. You give not for you, but for others (I.E. graciously viewing other’s as important as yourself).

As we discussed the purging concept it became clear that giving is not, and would not be the only measuring stick. There would be things like length of time one has attended the church, physical ability. However another key one is the person’s involvement. Do you go to a church? Are you helping that church? Before I go on please understand that even in discussing this concept I recognize a need for grace. Not everything is this cut and dry. I know there are some churches that do this and have seen great fruit from it. But I think that in order for the process to be an encouragement and an opportunity for people to get more involved there needs to be a massive amount of love and grace involved.

My biggest stress is my volunteers. Either their commitment level is zero, or their passion for what they are involved in is slim. There are a few people that would die for them ministry which I am grateful for. Without them my department wouldn’t even function. It’s all too often that I look at the stage and see the same people every week. God is blessed by them..The church is blessed by them.. I am blessed by them. However the stress of having to have a few people do all the work is overwhelming sometimes. I become easily frustrated as I see the same people giving so much while others are either completely indifferent or lining up with excuses as to why they can’t help pull the rope.

We are only as strong as our weakest link. I don’t want the church and Kingdom of God weak. So if you are already giving and volunteering at the church I pray that God would encourage you, and bless you. If you’re not, start. Either find a place that you can feel passionate about giving and being involved IN, or stop going. See, when 80% of a community is not interested and only attends “necessary” events soon it will be 100% of that community. Sure some of our churches might downsize, but I can promise you that if you have a church that has 100% of its people passionate about it, you will soon have a church bursting at its seams with its bills paid and its volunteers rested.

So come on church! Let’s stop doing church and start being the church. If you can’t get on board to give back your time, resources and efforts to the One that saved you do the rest of us a favor and do that alone. You are not encouraging those seeking to continue to seek (why should they seek if you’re not). You are not encouraging the 20% to continue. In fact you’re leaching their passion for the kingdom!

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6 thoughts on “Tough Love ~ Stop going to Church

  1. Thoughts:

    We are only as weak as our FAITH.

    The church is often referred to as a body of believers. We all know that our bodies have many different parts, each serving a different purpose, and even with all our scientific advances it is not completely understood. What if those you want to purge are hair, serving whatever purpose hair has, or appendices? Maybe they are like white blood cells, waiting until there is a crisis that they are called upon to respond to.

    Is God blessed by them? Is the church blessed by them? God looks at the inside of a person, at the heart attitude. If these people are burning out, why? If we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us, are they doing it on their own? Is this really a blessing?

    The others should “seek if you’re not” because they want to be known of God and know Him, and are not basing their response to God by what others may or may not be doing.

  2. I understand your frustration. I am sure every leader, lay-leader, board member or long-term volunteer has felt your feelings of frustration toward the church. We desire the Church to be the vehicle of change in the world. For years we have so desperately wanted to see a healthily church that is an effective witness to the world. Our experience seems to correct our optimism for a better church. Yet we cannot give up hope…

    I think one of our greatest failings, as the church is that we have created a society of spectators rather than disciples who follow passionately after the heart and purposes of Jesus. I am convinced that the average congregant feels like they go to church to “watch ministry” happen before their eyes rather than participate in it. It’s hard to live out the “priesthood of all believers” when we have a system that directly or indirectly communicates the “priesthood of some”. I’ve been reading a lot of Dr. McLulan for my Tech for Ministry class. He is famous for coining the phrase “the medium is the message”. In many ways I think this is the truest statement of the church. The medium of church often says: “come and watch a show”. I am not saying that we need to get rid of the leadership or structure of the church; rather I am saying that we need to promote a culture that says, “we are all ministers of the Gospel”. The only way we are going to see a different church is when we address the root issues, and not get frustrated with the bad fruit that leaves an awful taste in everyone’s mouth.

    Peace.

  3. I am nervous to reply in the sense that I am choosing to make myself now responsible. As good as it can be to write along side and agree, are we living to what we profess?
    Evan, thank you for sharing, I recently was really challenged as I was doing a study on Acts, it was talking about the prophecy given about a famine coming to the land, and the church from Antioch sent to the Jerusalem believers supplies and gifts. “everyone gave as they could afford”…one commentator made the comment that the it was not directed to just the wealthy and financially stable…everyone gave…am living well below the poverty line and it is easy to crapple with the midset that I need to keep what I have for me and mine. But the reality is that none of it is mine to begin with. I am here as His missionary, given things from His hand for the purpose of His kingdom. So in not giving of whatever, time, talent, encouragement, admonsishment etc, I steal from teh kingdom of heaven…ouch! God have mercy!

    I started to really look at why I am not giving….many areas because of fear of man, what if what I have isn’t as good as someone else? what if I make a mistake when giving/pouring out? know what? I will and I have…but I have begun to step out…thank you for being so honest…I share your frusteration and am taking up the challenge with you….one more pulling with you….

  4. To add to what Paul said – something I clued into in Bible College is that the “gospel” that has been presented to so many people is a passive one. We ask people if they want to be “saved.”

    We present to them a saviour, because we think that is the most appealing part – say this prayer, Jesus will save you, you get to go to Heaven.

    The “Lord” bit is sometimes – generally – overlooked.

    When Jesus recruited his disciples, he didn’t say “listen to me” he said “follow”… we somewhere down the line lost that, and just asked people to listen to what we were presenting, and then agree with it “believe” we said, and you will be “saved.”

    Thing is, so many people have been told this, and are still dying. God wants to be a true part of their lives, to use them to bless each other… and they think they’ve done their part. The genesis of their faith was “don’t do anything – it’s all done for you.”

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we need to do anything to achieve salvation, but the getting to heaven bit, as we’ve discussed before, isn’t the point… so why is that where we try and start people?

    Then, hears later, we are pulling our hair out wondering why they aren’t giving more, living more… why they aren’t doing what seems so natural to us…

    But we told people they grow by being passive. That saying a prayer and listening to a sermon and agreeing with it, or even reading their Bible and being blessed by it, is where growth is.

    Not only do we present a gospel that suggests Christianity is a passive thing, there are also a lot of churches that freak if the “babies” want to help. They are told to wait until they are grown.

    And then it just never happens.

    My two year old niece loves to help with the dishes & the dishwasher. It’s adorable. Now, her mom could be worried to let her do any of the work. This is glass, if someone’s not watching her, just imagine what she could do if she got her hands on a knife! Yikes!! Some people would say it’s too dangerous to get her to help. Instead of supervising and keeping an eye on her, they’d say it’s just simpler if they do it themselves. Wait until she’s older, it’s safer… If she’s told not to though, by the time she’s old enough, she’s not going to want to anymore, she’ll have gotten into the habit of NOT helping, and it’s going to be a whole lot harder to get a 14-year-old to help with the dishwasher. You’ve got to motivate AND teach at the same time, instead of teaching when the passion to help is oozing out of them.

    I sympathize with what your feeling Evan, so much! I think it’s a problem we’ve (or the previous generation) has created for ourselves.

    We created passive congregations… and now we have to figure out how to get the “teenagers” off the couch.

  5. Hey Evan;
    Long time no speak bro, how are you?
    i read your blog and wanted to offer an idea. If you wanted to offer to people to look into other churches so that all people can eventually fit in with the church of their choice, it might in in your benefit to contact all churches in your area and organize a huge event, pulling all churches together, with that goal in mind. Everyone can mingle and share the truth with each other. If you word it properly (don’t know if I’d tell people it’s a PURGING of the church, he he), then people can know its to find the right church so that ALL churches and ALL people will be in balance.
    I know I’m on your Facebook, but if I waited to comment there I would have forgotten. Drop a line bro, I miss hangin with you back in the day.
    One Love and Peace!

  6. Pingback: Light & Easy (Part Four) « Faith Quests

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