“The Church Is Too Dogmatic”
Maybe. But I don’t think being dogmatic is the problem. Once we discover that something is absolutely true, we should indeed hold onto it, right? I think the problem is often the way we present truth—like a bulleted list of precepts to be blindly affirmed. If we know Jesus is the only way to eternal life, we must be dogmatic about it. But we also must allow people the room, the space and the time to explore our message and come to a place of belief on their own time.
In other words, I don’t think the problem is that we preach the Bible. I think it’s that we preach the Bible in a way that leaves no room for conversation about the Bible. But again, there is a generation of church leaders aspiring to set the table for real discussion. So come on back and grab a chair.
“The Church Just Wants My Money”
Sometimes, the church has approached the subject of money in terrible ways. People have definitely been spiritually abused and taken advantage of for the benefit of some church leaders who live lavishly off of a gullible flock. But again, this doesn’t represent the church as a whole. In fact, most church leaders today are calling upon the few who commit abuses in this area to repent.
What makes it hard for leaders is that generosity is part of discipleship, and giving is part of a commitment to Jesus and to the local church. Jesus talked a lot about money, and the Bible has a lot of teaching on the subject. So if you’re done with church because of the subject of money, you have to evaluate whether your problem is with the church or with Jesus.
The matter of greatest importance is the motivation behind our giving. Financial contributions should be the responsibility of those who are called, saved and committed. The face of the matter is, when we give, we reflect God’s nature, our faith grows and the world is ultimately impacted as a result.
“The Church Doesn’t Care About Issues That Matter”
And what are the issues that matter? I would say that this question is a little bit relative to our current historical and cultural moment. What matters to you may not have been a significant issue a generation ago, or at least not as prevalent. I personally believe the church is doing amazing things in arenas like human trafficking, poverty, education, the environment and civil rights.
Every church will have a different personality and its members will have a unique set of overlapping burdens such that one church might take on several signature issues, but not every issue. And since I assume I’m talking to people who generally agree about the truth of the gospel but disagree about the usefulness of the church, we must understand that the eternal destinies of the souls of people is the single most crucial issue of all.
Don’t leave the church over this. Bring the issue to the table and take personal responsibility for it.
“The Church Seems Irrelevant to My Life”
The church has often been slow to adapt to its environment, culturally speaking. Our music, our terminology, and our means of communicating the gospel have been too slow to keep up. Walking into many churches is like walking out of the modern world through a time portal to the 1950s. And out of fear, many churches refuse to give up extra-biblical traditions. But the last few decades have presented a significant course correction in this area.
From the Jesus Movement of the 1960s to the admittedly awkward rise of contemporary Christian music, many segments of the church have endured the necessary and painful transition needed to bring an always relevant biblical message back to the attention of the surrounding culture. We have a long way to go and many preferences yet to lay on the altar, but the church has come a long way.
I think it would be difficult to find a mid-sized town or large city in America where there is not a strong, biblical, culturally-relevant, gospel-oriented church to join.
“The Church Let Me Down”
Me too. When I was 12, the church I grew up in had a split over personality issues masked as doctrinal ones. My family quit. When I was a young, inexperienced pastor, I found myself in the middle of a couple of feuds that ultimately killed two churches. I was determined to never be a pastor again, but God had other plans. The church lets people down. Often.
Now let me share my pastoral heart with you. My deepest pain as a leader is knowing that we won’t be able to meet everyone’s needs, connect everyone in a group, discover everyone’s gifts, solve everyone’s problems or bring healing to every sickness. I know, Sunday after Sunday, that while we will do our very best, our best is never enough and some will always be let down.
So here’s my question. What if nobody bailed? What if everyone decided to stay and work out their issues and be part of the solution? I think it would be a game changer.
If you think you’re done with church for any of these reasons, let me challenge you to think differently. Instead of saying, “I’m done with the church, because …” why not say, “I’m done with my part in the problems I see, but I’m going to be part of the solution.”
Here’s the biggest reason you CAN’T leave the church. Jesus died for her. The church, as imperfect as she is, is the love of Jesus’ life. The church is God’s choice institution for sharing the gospel, making disciples, counseling the broken, healing the sick, feeding the poor and making a difference in its surrounding community. God wired you for community. You need his people and you need to be humble enough to see the church as “us” and not “them.”
As Bill Hybels famously said, “The local church is God’s Plan A, and there is no Plan B.”