A little over two months ago I (an ordained minster who has gone to church my whole life) walked away from church– for three months. It is what I've decided to do with my sabbatical. You can read about my initial thoughts on my blog or on The Huffington Post. As the journey unfolds, I will be blogging about it in this series entitled, “Church No More.” I hope you will not only follow along, but add your voice to the reflection by commenting or joining the discussion on my FB page.
I love the Church. I have literally been going to church my whole life– until two months ago. I stopped cold turkey. You can read about it in my article “Ain't Goin' To Church No More.”
Masses of people responded. It astounded me. Most ministers expressed concern saying things like, “My Brother, I am worried that you may be on a dangerous journey,” or, “I fear you may lose your faith.” Frankly, what I heard them saying was, “Faith is so fragile it needs the Church to enforce it,” which only made me more certain I was making a remarkably healthy spiritual choice.
Formerly church-going folk frequently told me things like, “There is a large disconnect between the 'Church' of today and the teachings of Jesus,”and “I have found God in a dynamic, deep way and I love God so much more and for real now than when I was unwittingly trying to fit in with my church culture.”
I've been away from church for two months now and I have to say, I am more at peace than I ever have been. My faith is stronger than it ever has been. My family life is healthier than it ever has been. My desire to seek out God and follow the teachings of Jesus is stronger than it ever has been.
I do not want to go back to Church because life outside of Church is better. It just is. There's no dogma complicating the path to God. It is more than refreshing to escape the games church-folk play with the intent of establishing control and “rightness” on their part; it is life-giving to escape it. Being able to preach the Good News without worrying about which clique within the church will quietly use my perspective against me simply because they don't agree with me has allowed me to honor the call God placed on me more than I could in an installed pastorate.
Yet, with only a month remaining in my sabbatical journey away from church, I'm already having to consider what going back to church will look like. I still have a month of experiencing, listening and learning to go, but I can already tell you a couple of things. One, the Spiritual But Not Religious (SBNR) are right in their critique of the Church. We are fools if we don't listen extremely closely to them. And two, their consistent complaint that the church is hypocritical actually only diagnoses the symptom and not the problem.