Have you ever wanted to leave your church? Maybe you were wounded by another member, maybe the preacher left and you don't love who took his place, maybe the size of the church is different than when you first started... if we're honest, we've all had reasons and season that have made us want to pack up and start church shopping.
According to churchleaders.com, less than 20 percent of Americans regularly attend church. As a believer, I have had a bittersweet relationship with the Church. In fact, there have been several times where I have wanted to quit attending church altogether. Considering both the current trend and my own prior feelings, I decided to look at some of the excuses I made to leave the church and why I decided to disregard those excuses.
1. The Church is full of hypocrites.
Talk with most anyone who has made an excuse not to go to church and chances are they have used the hypocrite justification. I am no different. I remember once in my rebellious college years not wanting to go for that reason. However, God reminded me that I was just as hypocritical as my accused. Romans 3:23 states we have all sinned. Therefore, why am I so quick to point my finger at other believers?
2. I disagree with the church’s leadership.
One of the most frequent reasons people leave a local church is out of a disagreement with a church’s leadership that has nothing to do with kingdom matters of consequence. A local legend in Gainesville, GA tells that a church split over a last piece of chicken at a fellowship gathering. While this tale may seem juvenile, intense arguments will keep people disengaged from the community of believers for decades.
Unfortunately, I have had my own differences with leadership in the past. In those times, I prayed for my leadership. I respected my leadership. I confronted my leadership. And when it became irreconcilable, I engaged in another community of believers (Hebrews 13:17-18). However, I still hold those leaders in high regard and continue to pray for their ministry.
3. I won’t know anyone. No one will like me.
When looking for a church, this is a common excuse. No one wants to feel like a wallflower and the first time walking into a new place is uncomfortable. However, I started thinking differently about the “newness” of church. As a believer, I belong to the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27). Therefore, I am not an outsider. Wherever I am worshipping, I am with my brothers and sisters in Christ. I therefore committed myself to hold my head up and engage the people I met. It made my experience much more welcoming.
4. I have other obligations on Sunday. I have more important things to do.
When I was in college, I waited tables to earn extra income. Oftentimes, my managers scheduled me to work on Sundays. Most weeks, I could juggle my schedule and continue to make worship a priority. I donned a choir robe early in the morning and quickly changed into my apron before the lunch rush. Today, more activities occur on Sundays during the typical worship hour. However, our family continues to prioritize weekly worship (Matthew 6:33). If we have to sacrifice activities or rearrange service times to accommodate, we will adjust.
5. I can go to church at home.
With the convenience of podcasts and church online, it is easy to make the excuse to go to church at “Bedside Baptist.” On a cold winter morning, my mind tempts me to stay in bed and have home-church. Then, my children come into my bedroom, excited to go to Sunday school. It only takes a moment to remind me how important staying in community is for the entire family. Staying in fellowship with other believers provides renewal of faith that is vital in my spiritual walk that I cannot get on my own (Galatians 6:1-10).
6. I will feel judged.
I think I use this excuse when I know I have done something wrong and I already feel convicted of my own sin but I am not ready to admit it. I therefore would rather escape church by blaming the judgmental nature of others than going to the one place where I know I am most likely to receive love and support (James 5:16).
7. I need a break from church.
Sometimes, after I serve for an extended season in ministry, I feel entitled to a sabbatical from church. However, this mindset is contrary to the exhortation given in Scripture (Hebrews 10:24-25). Meeting together in fellowship is for encouraging one another to continue in good deeds to reflect the love of Christ so that the world may know the difference Jesus has made in our lives. Taking a break from church to rejuvenate is self-defeating. For me, it is better to rotate ministries or to take a break serving, while continuing to be a part of the local body of believers.
8. I can’t find a church that fits my needs.
I remember using this excuse for a little while when I was in my twenties. I was in seminary as well as a wife and a new mom. I was also seeking the “perfect church.” Since there are no perfect people, there will never be any perfect churches. My expectations were too high. God had to teach me that Church was not about me. Worship was about giving back to Him. As soon as I started going to church with those expectations, I started receiving more out of worship (Philippians 3:8).
9. I’m tired and I don’t want to go.
Some nights, I stay up too late. My husband and I finally have a date night or a child decides they do not want to go to bed. The following morning, I think of how I can convince the rest of my family how to stay home. However, on these mornings, after a hot shower and a dose of caffeine, I find that God had a purpose for my attendance in worship on those mornings (1 Chronicles 16:11).
10. The Church has hurt me in the past.
I have heard the phrase once said, “Hurt people hurt people.” The church is made of sinners saved by the grace of God. Yes, I have been hurt by members of the Body of Christ and I confess, I have hurt other members. But Christ’s work on the cross redeemed the heartache and because of that, I continue to grow in community with other believers (Colossians 3:13). To me, this is the best example of the overflow of grace.
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Cortney Whiting is a wife and mother of two wonderfully energetic children. She received her Masters of Theology Degree from Dallas Theological Seminary. After serving in the church for nearly 15 years, Cortney currently serves as a lay-leader and writes for various Christian ministries. You can find her at www.unveilinggraces.blogspot.com.
Image Credit: Thinkstock.com, Unsplash.com
Originally published Thursday, 16 March 2017.