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Monday, June 25, 2007

The Art Of Pew Hopping And The Christian Free Loader

I've had some pretty bad church experiences.
I joined a cult a few years back. Didn't know it was a cult at first, but after a few months I was leery of the koolaid. Lesson learned. I'm carrying a bit of baggage from the experience, but I feel pretty "healed" of the situation.

Fast forward to my last church. I thought it was perfect. I read the doctrine, but failed to dig deeper, and after two years of heavy involvement, and leadership, my husband and I had to leave. There were some HUGE differences in opinion regarding some doctrine, a children's pastor who would go around saying some of the kids were possessed by demons, and we were told (and expected to live out) that family comes second, after church duties "sorry kids, I can't make dinner again, I've got to decorate the sanctuary with fake flowers ".

We tried a little start up church, but after a few weeks of debating whether women could talk in church, we high tailed it out of there.

We decided to go to the little Christian church in our tiny little town (usually we've attended in the larger town 10 miles away. The messages are good. It's a pretty geriatric crowd. I'd say 70 is the average age. The music kills me. I mean literal death in my chair every week. We just finished VBS and brought a family with us to the Sunday service (this is the big one where they try to get the members of the community who came to see there kids get their vbs awards to attend church). It was a packed house... and I had high hopes. Then the music started. They lead the entire congregation in two rounds of "Jesus Loves Me, This I know..." Our friends (who joined us for dinner after the service) said that they "never fell asleep standing up before, until today", so much for the outreach.

I told my husband a dirty secret today, "I hate church." Yes, I said it, and I meant it. I'm tired of it! I've been a Christian for about 12 years, so maybe I'm in a Christian mid life crisis, or adolescent rebellion. I know church attendance is biblical, so y'all can lecture me on my bad behavior, but it doesn't change how I feel (and sadly my husband agrees with me).
Don't get me wrong, I LOVE worship and fellowship and serving in the body, but it feels like anymore the church just sucks us dry! I am not being fed!

I think due to our plethora of bad church experiences we now suffer from Church commitment phobia, but we have a plan. Maybe not a good one, but I'm more excited about next Sunday than I've been for a long time!

We are going to a Vineyard church 40 minutes from home. We've heard the worship is the best in a 100 mile radius. After we've filled up on the Spirit we are going to fellowship with strangers. 40 miles = no commitment, no ministry obligations, no hurt feeling if we don't return. The following week, we may go back, or try another one (my husband says hopefully a church that offers free snacks). We'll be church freeloaders!
Spiritually Fat Christians!

Do I feel guilty?

Nope.

I've gotta tell you, since I have been free of women's ministry, and my hubby was free of his weighty church obligations we've finally had time to reach out. Now that our evenings are not filled with pointless meetings we have had the opportunity to invite several unsaved families into our home, cook meals for families in crisis, invest our time in helping people with projects around their homes. I feel more like I'm serving in God's church than I ever felt serving in man's church. If only I could find a church that would let us serve where the spirit calls us, instead of where man calls us.

22 comments:

Cindy said...

Favorite line- "leery of the koolaid." Hilarious.

But I know that it is serious, too, and I pray that God continues to heal you from that experience.

I bet "Jesus Loves Me" was their attempt to reach the kiddos/fams from VBS and say, "We care about kids!" Bummer it backfired.

I'm praying right now that you will find a church body that you can serve HEALTHILY in, grow in knowledge and wisdom, and experience at-the-thrown-worship! Cuz I know this... some church is missing out on YOU!

Anonymous said...

Wow... I truly think you are my long lost twin. Your story sounds just like ours! My husband and I have been to a start up church that failed because the pastor was too controlling... a MegaChurch where our child was given a tag with #237 on it instead of his name... another church where the pastor wanted the women to go through a six week series where you would imagine leaving your body, reassuring it you would be back, float up to meet God and then take what He says as your instruction for your life... to a church where the Youth Pastor's wife wore micro jeans with her butt showing when she sat down... to a church where they refused to give out free Bibles to unchurched kids (Bibles which we would provide) because the kids would have to EARN the Bible - "you couldn't just GIVE one to them!" the pastor's wife said, aghast at our idea.

So, now we refuse to join a church because we ARE a part of the Body of Christ. We flop from one structured, unfriendly church because they have a great kids ministry and music, to a church where the music makes you want to stand up, rent your clothing and scream "ARE YOU KIDDING ME!?!?!?!" at the top of your lungs, but the teaching is awesome.

I'm afraid we are passing down this malcontentedness to our kids, although I keep reminding myself that we are supposed to feel like aliens here. If we felt completely "at home" in a church, would we long for Heaven?

I think you should try a Calvary Chapel church. Check out their website at www.calvarychapel.com and check out their doctrinal statement. If you agree with what you see, click on "churches" which will take you to a search engine where you can type in your city to see if there are any around you. They have very good doctrine (to us, anyway), contemporary music, don't usually enslave their attendees, don't have official church membership, don't usually pass a plate ~ rather they have a box in the back, and they don't usually have 5 meetings a week. They equip to send you out in your world. They say they don't want you to be in the building all the time, because then you're not out there making a difference! Not sure if they are good around you or not, but we usually have good luck with them. We're moving out of state soon, so we are content malcontents for now (LOL! there's an accurate OxyMoron)
~Katherine

javamamma said...

Nice thing about being the pastors - we can make our church the kind of church we want to come too. :o)

Seriously though, I'm praying for you guys. That God would lead you where He wants you and you would be used for His purposes while you're there!

Oh, I hope to be sharing our church excitement soon. Right now it's gotta stay under wraps, even in internet world - since I might have some local lurkers.

JoAnn said...

Hi, my name is JoAnn. I will admit, I have been, what they say, lurking at your blog for a long time, since you switched to blogspot. I had come over to you HSB one from someone else's blog to read you were changing and going in a different direction, don't expect the blog to be the same. It got my curiosity up, so I've got you on my RSS feeds and have been reading it ever since. Sorry I've never introduced myself until now, but I had to comment on this post.

I want to say, "You go girl." I think everything you said is right. I too have come out of a cult type church, that wanted family to come second. We moved from Illinois to Idaho almost 4 years ago, and the town we now live in is soooo small, not to many choices with churches. And I miss the fellowship. But going to "church" as we know it here in America, I don't think, is a true biblical mandate. The definition for church in the bible, means "called out ones", so everything you want to do, fellowship, reach out to others, be with you family, is what the Lord has called us to. I think it's great that your family is heading in that direction.

So sorry that this is such a long comment, especially since it was my first, but I wanted to encourage you in where the Lord is leading you and your husband. Keep following the Lord, His way is always the best. :)
JoAnn

Rachelle said...

Once again I am amazed at how much your story sounds like mine. We went to a church, blended into the crowd and soaked in some incredible teaching and good fellowship for 2 1/2 years. It was exactly what we needed, and when it was time to move on and become a part of things again, we knew and we were ready. Those 2 1/2 years were exactly what we needed to heal our spiritually abused hearts and renew our minds in Him. Maybe that's what you guys are looking for too. I'm praying that you find exactly what God wants for you.

ConservaChick said...

Cindy, Thanks for the sweet words! I never thought about the meaning behind the bad song choice, your probably right. Too bad they are SO out of touch with their outreach group.
Katherine, wow, our church experiences are similar, although no one ever asked me to leave my body for 6 weeks (+: Ugh, and my last church was stingy like the Bible thing... we'd have outreach meals where they charged for the food ('cause we don't them to think the church gives out handouts, they might start to expect it... GAG!
Javamamma, Hubby and I often joke that we should become pastors so we could have the kind of church we want, but it's not our gifting. We need to hope someone like you to come along and start a church.. any desire to move to the West Coast? Oh, and I can't WAIT to hear the church scoop!
Joann, So glad you decided to comment! I love meeting new blog friends! Thanks for the words of encouragement.
Rachelle, I think you are right, after a time of rest we will know when we are ready to renter the church "work force", and hopefully be better for it (and better at saying no (+; )

Carl said...

We followed you over from CountryMomof4 days...we really like the new look of the blog.

I'm sorry that things have been rough lately on the church front. One suggestion I'd offer is that you and your family might be in need of a sabbatical. I'd say anyone who is ministry needs to take time away from those recurring duties and be fed (not just a Pastor, but anyone who serves diligently).

The Lord encourages us to rest and if the congregation is overworked, that will only lead to hardship and ill feelings.

With that said, I'd just encourage you to keep looking for a church that preaches the whole counsel of God on a weekly basis. I'll leave you with this from the author of Hebrews as my encouragement to you:

"Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near." Hebrews 10:23-25 (ESV)

I truly pray that you will be able to find a place of rest where you can serve with a glad heart and be fed the Word of the Lord on a daily basis.

God Bless,
Carl

P.S. No hidden rebuke meant by that scripture verse...I like that verse for the theme of encouraging one another and not just for the "not neglecting to meet together" part. Not looked to get flamed! I know this must be a hard time for you and your family. Take care.

Halfmoon Girl said...

I was going to comment of Calvary Chapel as well. We attend one and enjoy the verse to verse teaching, and the lack of agenda. Not to say that it is the only church that is following Scripture, but I have enjoyed how they focus on the Word instead of little things that don't matter.

nsremom said...

I loved your post and I loved the nice, thoughtful comments. No rude comments. What a miracle.

Taking a break has never hurt my faith. Taking a break has never made me doubt. It's just that.....a break. Nothing deeper. No hidden 'thing'.

We are not attending a church while we're here, as it's so short lived (2 more months) But if we feel led to worship within a community we'll just show up and jointly worship and then leave. Is this sinful? uhhhhh. NO. REally, who's going to know....or care.

the 'no free Bible' thing was very annoying to me. Bibles should be free. period. DUH. That's a non evengelical mindset if I've ever heard one!

My kids VBS this week is at a Baptist church and I've only been to a Baptist church a few times. I was greeted by an old gal who harassed my 7 yo because I didn't put down a home phone number on the sign up sheet.

we don't have a home phone number. And so I put a cell phone number down.

She looked at Beth like she was a criminal. Now, isn't VBS an outreach? What if I wasn't saved and my little bumpkin needed to be at VBS for spiritual instruction? Should she be kicked out and harassed because she didn't have a home phone number? (I got a bit snippy because she was snippy towards Beth and didn't adress me, the person who FILLED OUT the form)

Sorry for the rant. Us Christians sure make church a fun place.

Keri said...

I just read some of your blog, which is always thought provoking. Someone commenting was glad not to be a " bread baking, goat investigating, soap making, herb using, tincture creating, denim jumper wearing (my hubby burst out laughing and said I looked like I was wearing a Baptist Burkha. I only wore it once!) Homeschool-type drone.".........guess I've been pegged!

Well, I don't wear jumpers (dare I admit that I have three pairs of jeans?!) and I don't think I'm a drone......I do have a duck (now three)....does that make it worse? I hear this kind of "glad I'm not one of THOSE" comments often, and it really bugs me. I can't tell you how lonely it can get being someone who, for example, LIKES to know the weeds in the yard. Where are all these people living where they are surrounded by people who want clones? Because in all honestly, I feel the pressure to give up these kinds of things I actually really like so that people aren't offended by false assumptions. It doesn't faze me a bit that someone else doesn't want to or like to or need to live in the country (and make bread with, yes, fresh ground flour!). If I wear a skirt, I don't want the knowing looks from either side: the "modesty skirt only" club OR the "you're so legalistic" club. How come it can't just be a pretty skirt and not a call to arms?

The body of Christ is supposed to be made up of different members. Just let me be the little pinky toenail, and I will love that you are a thumb in all her glory (a very important member, mind you....one that a church somewhere needs).

Bah. Enough ranting.
Keri

ConservaChick said...

Keri,
Hey, I bake bread and often wear long skirts (I like the ones from India with all the sparkles (; ) I live in the country and we plan on getting a goat (kids 4H project).
I took no offense to the comment because I understand what she means. She was basically saying the same thing you are "The body of Christ is supposed to be made up of different members". In some Christian circles I am ostracized for jeans, or my love of loud crazy music, or my choice to allow my children to enter the public school system. In others I would be ostracized for my years of homeschooling, or the fact that we were crazy enough to sell our over indulgent dream house and move out to the country.
I think the point we can all agree on is that we need to be who we are! It's all about being real. Let's all claim freedom from others expectations and focus on the big guy!!! And you go and flaunt that goat loving flour grounding pinkie toe of yours!

ConservaChick said...

Nsremom, Yeah, it took all my power to make my first paragraph a nice one... see how far I've come! Ah, but the thoughts were bad (;

Carl, No "hidden rebuke" felt. Great scripture. Thanks for the Sabbatical idea!

Halfmoom Girl, Boy, I think I need to check out that church.

EE said...

Oooh...can't wait to comment on this tonight when I have more time:)

justabeachkat said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving a comment. You're always welcome.

We too had trouble finding just the church for us. It seemed like it took forever for us to find a church that "fit" us. We ended up having to go to one about 30 minutes away, but it is so worth it. Keep trying until you find your "fit".

Hugs!
Kat

Trina said...

I giggled and laughed through out this post!! VERY FUNNY, but also sorry that you had that much experience to draw from...but still giggling! Well you just keep pew hopping until you find the right one. You will eventually. Ask and ye shall find it.

EEEEMommy said...

It is sad that it's so hard to find a church these days to call home. You're definately not alone! We struggled often as a family to do so growing up. I remember watching Cheers as a kid (gasp!) and every time they played the theme song, my mom would say, "that's what church should be like!" The idea of a church being like a bar is kinda funny, but I think there's some validity to it, and one of my adopted moms actually got saved in a bar, so praise the Lord that girl wasn't too self-righteous to walk into and lead her to the Lord!

The Calvary Chapel churches have been a good fit for us because they are very balanced in their theology. Also, they go through the Bible cover to cover which means you get the full scope of the Word. Every one I've visited is different, and I'm currently at the one that makes Katherine pull out her hair listening to the music. :) It's definately not perfect, but we gave up trying to find one that was and bottom line for us, it's where God wants us to be.

I will be praying for you and your family. Be encouraged to continue serving in the ways God has put on your heart, and even though you might not be gifted to stand in front of the church and lead worship (evidence that I've been lurking:), you can still sit in your living room with your own kids and husband and worship the Lord together.

Blessings,
Angel

marykathryn said...

I have to admit those are some BAD church experiences...hope you find your way soon so the confusion of where to assembly can be put to rest..However, I must admit again this post was quite funny..Not to take pleasure in your unfortunate luck, but at least you can look back now and say you at least got a giggle out of it..:-)

Kimmie said...

I am grateful that you are willing to be real with us, sharing your heart and exposing yourself and the pain you have been through. I am soooo sorry that you experienced some rotten stuff in church-that is not supposed to happen, sadly it does.

I feel led to share my church with you...check it out, podcasts, sermons...funny videos (mergeahead)
its a place that brought restoration to me when I was hurting.

http://www.clgonline.net/
http://www.mergeahead.com/

Praying God heals your sore spots and directs you to the perfect place to fellowship with others who are crazy in love with him and desire genuine (nothing artificial, that doesn't smell like Him) worship!

love you!
Kimmie

ps- I tagged you with a meme if you feel like joining in ;-)

Anonymous said...

I would have posted this on Keri's blog, but didn't see a link. I wanted to post this to her and to others I might have ticked off... Thanks ConservaChick for accurately clearing up the foggy comment I left earlier. You hit the nail on the head of what I was very wordily (is that a word?) trying to say.
Yikes! KERI, I totally didn't mean to "peg" you... I don't even know you! I guess I should have put a sentence in there somewhere which said, "In my experience..." or "Where I live and homeschool..." or something like that. In all seriousness, I would safely say 80% of the homeschoolers I know, here in my town, in my experience, look down upon anyone who isn't the "typical" homeschooler, or the type of homeschooler which I had described. Even my best friend, who homeschools, was telling me the other day about this "weird woman" at her homeschool group who wears loud clothing and lots of makeup ~ but seems to love the Lord. That is what I meant by "drone" or "Lemming"... so many of them around here want to be the same. I guess I have a tendency to use extreme verbage which could tick someone off. I'd better quit here before I gag from my foot being in my mouth again. I hope this rambling makes sense. So sorry to have offended you!
Hugs, Katherine

ConservaChick said...

Katherine,
Your experience is similar to mine. In "my" town the homeschooling community DOES look down upon anyone who isn't the "typical" homeschooler. Although the last town I lived in it wasn't the same way. I was blessed to be in a community with great ladies like nsremom and grace for gayle and many other fantastic God driven ladies who kept it real... ah the good ol' days.

Jenn said...

i found your blog through kimmies... and boy can i dentify with this post! i was raised mennonite (talk about ultra-conservative!) and have been in a non-denom. church for 2 1/2 years. the feelings you expressed about church are common with our generation. "Organic Church" by Neil Cole was recommended to me by some friends that expressed similar thoughts that you have written. I have yet to read the book...

jennifer in OR said...

Great post, I can relate, like several of your other commenters. Currently churchless myself, but will be driving 45 minutes to a (big spirit-filled) church tomorrow where we can be filled up - and then leave. :-)