For about the past 4 years, I’ve been battling a pretty severe bout of cynicism about the church. I’ve had days where, were it possible, I would have punched the collective church in the face and not felt guilty about it. You’ve probably noticed, as a good number of my posts are about what the church is doing WRONG in the world. I’ve griped and complained and gotten angry and thought about it a whole lot.
I basically tore down what I believed about the church and have been rebuilding it ever since. A deconstruction of my beliefs about “church”, if you will.
The first challenge to what I’d thought about the church came when I visited my first house church in Syria. I saw people who were truly committed to each other and to the Lord. It just felt right. When we got back to College Station, someone who had gone on the trip started a house church and from that point on, I started to have conflicted feelings about the “institutional church” (meaning church where there are pews and a preacher and you go on Sunday mornings). After reading Pagan Christianity and having a few run-ins with church politics as I worked with the youth, I became downright angry and bitter.
During this time of reconstruction, it was hard for me to walk into a church building without finding something to roll my eyes about. Initially, I had a hard time even understanding that good things could come out of institutional churches. If I’d had my way, we would have closed all the doors and sent everyone to house churches. In my pride, I looked with pity at Christians who chose to attend church on Sunday mornings. I couldn’t find any value in it. Nothing an insitutional church could have done would have gotten my applause.
In fact, the more I think about it, I’ve kind of been going through a grieving process. My old beliefs about the church were threatened (and died) and I had to get over it. I grew up going to Aldersgate United Methodist in Abilene. Immediately following my disillusionment with the “church”, I completely dismissed my experiences there, mostly because they happened in a building on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings. I denied the fact that anything positive had come out of my growing up there and chalked up my spiritual growth to something else. Slowly but surely, though, God has been changing my heart. I know that the truth is that Aldersgate was extremely foundational for me and I wouldn’t be the same person I am today without it.
A couple weeks ago, I was complaining about something the “church” as a whole does wrong to my grandmother and she (in a grandmotherly way) said, “Why don’t you quit your belly-aching and do something about it?” At first, I was a little offended but then, the more I thought about it, I knew she was right.
Even though I probably won’t attend one, I don’t want to be an enemy of institutional churches. I love the Body of Christ and what it can do in the world. Sure, it’s got problems galore, but that doesn’t make it any less usable for God. Maybe I could take my misdirected anger and use it to encourage and edify the church. Hmmmm.
So, that’s that. I’m learning how to act on this new found acceptance and that will probably be a slow process as well.
Just to clarify, getting over it doesn’t mean that I won’t be angry when I hear pastors preaching their own agendas or see churches wasting ridiculous amounts of money on things that don’t bring people to Jesus. I can’t promse I won’t roll my eyes in church services. I can promise, though, I that I have learned that no church can be perfect (because they’re made up of people, duh) but God can use them anyway.
Thanks to my friend and family and blog readers who have stuck by me, even though I have probably offended or insulted you with my rantings at one point or another. I’m getting over it, I promise.