Sunday, February 20, 2010; it was the day I quit church.
The thoughts, conversations and emotions of the day remain vividly etched into my mind.
Let me preface that when I say I quit the church, I’m referring to the ‘church’ as the local gathering of believers; not the church as the body of Christ.
Throughout the prior 29 years of my life I had become quite the ‘company man‘. Having been born into the church (for a lack of better terms), by and large it had become an infallible cornerstone in my life. I was fully and wholeheartedly committed to her.
While I know there are many who quit the church because they have had very negative experiences, that wasn’t my story at all.
Prayer services. Pot lucks. Youth group outings. The A/V room. Post service meals at Shoney’s. Friendships.
My early sentiments of the church are very warm and fuzzy.
Sunday school teachers, leaders and pastors all helped to shape and mold me in to the 29 year old man I had become; the man that was quitting the very church he’d come to embrace and adore.
The very institution that raised me to think the way I was was the same institution I was breaking up with.
As I shifted from youth to adult, from parishioner to practitioner, the beauty of her infallibility slowly became a little less perfect.
In the beginning the positive experiences far outweighed the negatives. But as our life and circumstances continued to shift, so did our image of the church.
The closer I grew to Jesus the further I pulled back from the church. I didn’t feel she represented what Jesus would represent.
The politics. The agendas. The pride. The money. The control. The leverage. The hype. The emotion. The comfort.
All real experiences I have had with real names attached to them; experienced from the inside.
What had started as a slow dissension had blossomed into a full distrust as the years passed by.
There are plenty of juicy stories to share; that would do nothing to further the sentiments of this post…so they will remain untold.
So on that fateful date in 2010, as my wife and I pulled out of the parking lot following Sunday service, we decided enough was enough. This would be our last Sunday at this particular church, or any church for that matter.
We certainly weren’t done with God, conversely we felt closer than ever. We weren’t done with ministry, we were continuing to see God reveal himself through motor sports.
We were just done with the church. We could no longer stand for what she had begun to stand for.
As we drove home, we made the decision to be done. We decided we would start a bible study in our home and begin to experience community with others who were just as worn out with what they were seeing as we were.
That is the day we quit the church.
The week that followed we made zero movement towards starting a bible study. We didn’t want to find ourselves in a rut of no study and fellowship so on that next Sunday, my birthday, we ‘picked a dot on the map’ and showed up to fill the gap until we got a bible study off the ground.
We found ourselves sitting in a High School cafeteria that Sunday. As the pastor began to share that morning, with the neon glowing cafeteria signs behind him, he began to share the vision and direction of this group of Jesus people.
Conduit. An Acts 2 type of church. A simple gathering acting as a conduit through which resources, truth, love, help and more could move. A group more concerned about living out the commission than being recipients of it.
We had found a church that was different, and it revived us. We felt the Holy Spirit welcome us home.
I know what you are thinking, cute story, right?
We ‘quit church’ for an entire week, and didn’t even miss a Sunday. How can we even begin to speak to those who have deep emotional, spiritual and physical wounds from the church? Those who have walked away and never looked back?
In our hearts and in our minds we ‘quit’ the church long before February 20th, 2010. The resentment. The bitterness. The distrust. The embarrassment. The anger. It was all there. They were all little seeds that were planted as the result of negative interactions. Seeds that we continued to water and that continued to grow.
We allowed the imperfection of man to be the lens that we looked at the church through; rather than allowing the church to be the lens we looked at imperfect man through.
The truth is, any organizations that are led by fallen man (which we all are) are bound to reflect fallen man. There is no ‘perfect’ church because there are no ‘perfect’ people.
Even that church in Acts 2, it wasn’t perfect. How do I know that? Because people were involved.
Remember Ananias and Sapphira? Reflections of the early church.
I spend a lot of time within the world of motor sports; as do many of my friends. We all have a common affinity; automobile racing.
We have all been compelled to be a part of the sport for one reason or another. We have seen the camaraderie and community that happens within the sport. We have seen the dedication and teamwork it takes to compete. We have been captivated by the sights, sounds and smells of the race track. We have been drawn into the competition.
It offers us something.
It offers sport and competition. It offers belonging. It offers community. It offers friendship.
Now imagine if upon our first encounter with motor sports we encountered ‘that guy’ throwing a wrench at someone in a fit of rage? Or we were scammed by some sleazy business dealer? Or we lost our first race to some cheater?
What if at that point, we said, “that’s it. I’m out.” What if we said, “I don’t like racing because of the bad people that can be found at the racetrack.“
What would we be missing then?
We would be missing some of the most amazing people we’ve ever met. People who are willing to give you the shirt off of their back if you need it. We would be missing out on some of the funnest camaraderie that can be found in all of sports. We would be missing out on some of the most exciting moments we share together at racetracks.
Why? Because we let one bad experience give us the wrong impression, and we chose to stay away from racing because of it. That one experience that didn’t represent the sport as we love it to begin with.
So when I quit the church because of the imperfections, I was in essence throwing away all of the beautiful things that a church gathering does and has to offer, simply because of experiences that weren’t good representations of Christianity to begin with.
It has taken me a long time to come to the realization that a church should not be defined by its imperfections, rather by its pursuits.
Coming to this realization has given me the freedom to walk away from churches that aren’t pursuing the things Jesus would pursue; and to embrace those that are.
In the end we never did really quit the church, we just shifted to align ourselves with those who were pursuing the things Jesus pursued; together.
There is no perfect church, just as there is no perfect man. So don’t let someone else’s pursuits spoil your opportunity to experience something amazing, something full of life.