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Read This: What Church People Need to Know About Once-Churched People

August 17, 2015

This blog post has been going around some of the disaffected Mormon Facebook spots despite not really being specifically about Mormonism at all (as far as I can tell.) Isn’t it interesting how those things seem to be universal? A snippet:

This message is for Church People.

It’s for those of you who are part of a faith community every week; a physical place  where you usually find yourself on Sundays. You come there willingly, expectantly, and in that place you receive encouragement and find community and feel acceptance, and where you regularly experience moments of challenge and inspiration and joy.

You feel at home there in that building, connected to those people, confident in the creeds you recite there, comforted by the songs you sing together. The sum total of what you find in that place makes you certain that God exists and makes that God feel close enough to touch. Your presence there on the inside of it all makes you better. It leaves you feeling lighter. It takes your faith deeper.

If that describes you, I celebrate what you’ve found and what you feel and what you have, because it is well worth celebrating.

But what you need to know, Church People, is that there are other people too (lots of them, in fact); those who used to have those things and used to feel that way—but who no longer do.

I like that the author of this post begins by describing the value that Church People get from their church communities. As someone who has never believed, in some ways, this “ideal experience” of what a church should be eludes me, so I appreciate being reminded of the difference in experiences.

I have to be reminded that some people do really see church as a place of validation and support, a safe space, a hallowed space. Because if let to my own devices and interpretation, I see churches too often as being the same place of invalidation and interpersonal violence that so much of the world is. I can see more clearly the idea of church as being a testing or proving ground rather than a place for rest. (And I can sympathize with those for whom church is such a testing ground, and that that is its own solace even if the community isn’t).

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  1. I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it….Matthew 16:18

  2. Gretiana,

    Thanks for commenting, but if I may, can you say how you feel that particular verse helps in thinking and serving the “once-churched”?

    • what I was responding to is a portion of the post which sees the church as some extension of the world or so, i hope i didn’t misunderstand you.
      but what I’ll say is this. For anyone getting into the church they need to know the church is made of
      of former prostitutes, thieves, liars, swindlers…and the list continues.
      All these people are on a journey towards perfection. If you expect to find people who are perfect you will be greatly disappointed.
      Even Pastor may have his own issues he’s still dealing with. That is why each individual should strive to have a personal individualized experience of God and not depend solely on others.
      Why did you get into the church? Do you believe God can give you answer, sometimes using imperfect people?
      Do you have a strict preconceived idea of what you expect a church to be?
      I know there are many fake out there, but What I need to know is that God is worshiped in a church and that He is supreme and that Jesus is given His place as the only Savior.
      I almost quit the church some time ago, but my personal experience with God and what I know I get from Him kept me connected.
      question: why not stay at home and get connected?
      well, I still need to be edified by other people’s experience. I can still learn even from imperfect people. I need to learn to love the unlovable because love your neighbor as yourself does not presuppose your neighbor is your best friend.
      If the church is not a threat to your spirituality, your life and joy, then be ready to overlook some weaknesses just like Jesus did for His disciples.
      sorry for being so long.
      Bless you.

      • Thanks for the response. No need to apologize for length, because my response will probably be just as long.

        I appreciate that churches see themselves more as hospitals for the sick, not as museum for perfect people. However, I think that my comments about the church being an extension of the world applies as well to the idea of it being full of “people on a journey toward perfection” — maybe it’s because I have grown up in the Bible Belt, but I see religious ideals as to what is moral and what is ideal or perfect to be examples of problems in the world, so the fact that people in churches are striving for those ideals is also problematic.

        Like, to put it in another way…it’s not that everyone, including pastors, have issues that they are dealing with. It’s in what things Christianity says are issues — again, from my experience, I see too many people basing their racism, homophobia, sexism, religious intolerance, etc., on their religious values. So, they don’t see these things as being issues to be solved.

        As for my own personal background, I was raised a member of my church, so I did not choose that. I personally see no reason why God could not give answers using imperfect people, but I do not personally perceive God or personally perceive an answer, so that’s all theoretical to me.

        I do not have a strict preconceived idea of what I expect a church to be — I have my experience and my recognition that my experiences don’t really inspire me to keep on going to church or to find a new one — I really do think that I’m doing pretty well on my own, and I know that other people may have different experiences. I took a look at some posts on your site so I know that your experience has been very different.

        It seems to drill down to difference in personal experience. Like you said: your personal experience with God and what you know you get from Him keep you connected. You feel a need to be edified by other people’s experience. You presumably have a community where you do in fact feel edified by their experiences.

        But what if you didn’t feel edified? What if, even more, you didn’t feel the need to be edified in that way? What if you never had the personal experience with God? What if you didn’t perceive that you got anything from Him?

        You say at the end: “If the church is not a threat to your spirituality, your life and joy, then be ready to overlook some weaknesses just like Jesus did for His disciples.”

        What if, by overlooking some of the things that people at church would say are weaknesses, you just bring more misery into your life? Per your message, it’s OK if joy is threatened by the church (and that if it’s not threatened, then you should overlook weaknesses.)

  3. Parker permalink

    Just a day or two ago I ran across a paper written by an ordained minister who pastored churches for many years. I got to know him quite well and we spent a lot of time together. He had by the time I knew him left the ministry, and from any regular church participation. He says, among other things in this paper; “I am not addressing those for whom the traditional interpretations of the Christian story remain vital and life-giving, but to the growing number of those for whom the old, old story has been so literalized that it has lost its power to stir and feed the soul; those for whom the creeds no longer roll easily off the tongue; those who hunger and thirst for God who has innumerable names, and unlimited manifestations, a God to whom all can bow and none can possess.”

  4. Perhaps once-church people are longing for the lost word of the Bible — ekklesia!

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