DARK NIGHTS of the soul are, according to John Ortberg in Soul Keeping, a time to stop going to church. Being around happy, clappy Christians is likely to send us into a deplorable tailspin, so why go there and put ourselves through unnecessary pain?
Other life situations when it’s time to stop — for a period — from going to church:
2. When the pastor or church leaders are being nasty: yes, this apparently does happen. If a person in leadership at a church is behaving nastily — under the guise of speaking the truth in love (that isn’t so loving!) — it’s time to stop going to church there. There is a people of God out there who will love you better than that.
3. You’re not being included: some churches think they are inclusive, but they don’t ensure you are invited into their number. There is something incompatible with the New Testament teachings of Jesus here. There is a people of God out there who will include you better than that.
4. Pressure from a church leader or a friend to attend church more regularly: some pastors have this way of following up on folk — after a week or two absence — by way of saying, “Hey, we missed you at the weekend... what’s been happening... are you okay, we haven’t seen you.” Don’t buy their concern unless you know they really are concerned. And great if they are concerned. If you are suspicious maybe it’s time to look for a church with more authentic and humble leaders who are beyond a ‘numbers’ mindset. There is a people of God out there who will not pressure you like that.
5. You’ve noticed people leaving the church you go to abruptly and without reason: everyone has a reason for leaving a church, especially those you know who have gone abruptly. Church leadership has occasionally been known to be the most autocratic of management under the guise of being under the headship of Christ. There is a people of God out there who won’t push you out even if they disagree with you.
6. When you quiz church leadership and you’re fobbed off: any time you feel you’re not worth the time of a church leader’s day is probably the time to investigate other churches in your local area. But also ensure you haven’t just caught your pastor on an ‘off’ day — because we all have them. Beyond a generous sense of graciousness, vote with your feet if you need to. There is a people of God out there who won’t ignore you.
7. Experiences of healing haven’t come: many people roll up to church in order that God might heal them of a particular sinful expression they haven’t yet shaken. If healing hasn’t come as you’d expected, talk to your pastor at the church. Mention to them you’re pondering moving to another church. Their response should be to facilitate healing if possible.
8. You or someone you know has been abused: nobody should stay at a church where they’ve been abused, physically, emotionally, sexually, spiritually, verbally, or otherwise. Your safety and the safety of the person you know who is susceptible are so paramount you need to take immediate steps to get clear of such a church. There is a people of God out there who will love you and won’t abuse you.
9. If putting the past behind you is crucial, you should make a clean break of it. There is a people of God out there who will allow you to be the person you need to be now.
10. You are not growing in your walk with Christ: this is not always a concern for those indirectly involved, but we all deserve to grow in our relationship with God. If you are not growing, be prepared to challenge yourself boldly. There is a people of God out there who will urge you to grow and they’ll do it in an encouraging way.
We shouldn’t up and leave churches just because the seats are hard or the worship’s no good. Even if we aren’t perfectly comfortable it may still be the best church for us at the time.
© 2015 S. J. Wickham.