What I Miss About Church

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What I Miss About Church

Post by paul-s- »

I've been thinking recently about what I miss about church. I've found it's not much really. I considered what worked and what didn't.

Most of the charismatic churches I went to were either whacky or subtly abusive. Some of the people were good, but I don't miss the people at all. Most of the relationships were coaxed, fake and unnatural.

One church I went to, Hillsong London, was grace oriented and the people were generally awesome. Frequented by mainly Aussies, Kiwis and South Africans – Hillsong London was a great place to hang out with some really cool, but dedicated, Christians. But the novelty wore off and I was going through a serious loneliness phase at the time. I have now moved away from the area.

The concept that I need to report to church every Sunday morning for a weekly infusion of Biblical wisdom, seems crazy to me now. I can't think of many sermons that I can really say changed my life for the better. As if my life would turn to mush, if I didn't listen to the Joyce Meyer podcast once a week. As if I can't figure life out by myself.

A lot of preaching, I believe, falls into one of three categories: challenges, platitudes and pep-talks. Challenges come in the form of the pastor saying something like, "Will you be the one to go all out for God?" They make a Christian feel special, that they're "going all out for God", making sacrifices and such like.

The church often tries to encourage people going through a hard time, by using platitudes such as, “If you’re going through a hard time, it’s because the devil is attacking you because he knows that God has something wonderful planned for you.”

Pep-talks are the usual "you can do it" spiel. You can come out of a service feeling on top of the world. But a couple of days later, feeling all stirred-up, wondering what to do next. Such pep-talks can cause apathetic Christians a lot of distress as they agonise over decisions, leaving them wondering if they are wrong to wait for an inner conviction about what they should do; they can end-up wondering if they should force themselves to do things that they have no conviction about. I've learned that you can't always instil confidence in people by giving them a rousing speech. That confidence has to come from within, for it to be practically effective.

What annoyed me the most about church, was the idea that they could just give you a list of Do's and Don’ts; as if people just needed to be told the difference between right and wrong, in order to affect a change of behaviour. I quickly learned that most of what I do, is driven by the subconscious mind. I can purpose in my conscious mind to behave a certain way, only to behave in a totally different manner. It's the classic dichotomy of Paul, we read about in Romans 7:1-25. A great deal of my own spiritual studies have centred around affecting real change from within – it hasn't been as successful as I'd like.

One thing I credit the church for, is the baptism in the Holy Spirit. That experience in October 1997 changed my life, and my perception of God, forever. That is something that you could not read in a book. Only interaction with mature Christians could bring about that experience. This challenges my argument about not needing church, even to this day.

I've come to the conclusion that not worrying about things, is probably one of the best things you can ever do. Since childhood, I've been plagued by anxiety and depression: it's been devastating. These mental and emotional afflictions affect every area of ones life, including the major ones, such as relationships, finances and career. Things have got gradually better for me, but those issues stayed with me right into my thirties. I'm a lot better now, but it still affects me to an extent.

I've observed that the people I admire the most and who's lives go well, are the people who are positive minded and don't worry. Upbringing doesn't matter that much. Life is about making the most of who you are, where you are, what you have and what you're called to do. Christians make a big fuss about prayer and miracles. But in my experience, people who fare well in life, are clear-minded and consistently make good decisions. They end up making the most of their lives. Such people don't pray for hours everyday. In fact, they might not use any self-help or spiritual methodologies. Life is like a series of decisions. If you regularly make bad decisions, you end up falling by the wayside.

Getting on well with others is a key aspect of success in life. Christians often talk about divine favour – I believe in that. But respect is usually earned. You don't need to bend over backwards to please others. But just have a good, positive and friendly personality. People are attracted to others who have a good personality. The church is bent on Christians proving they have a heart of love. But in my experience, people with a genuine heart of love, don't have to prove themselves. You hardly ever see such people on church outreaches or even doing charity work. But they work well with others, can be trusted and will help other people when they can.

Anxiety and religion has formed a lethal combination of judgmentalism in my life. I can personally vouch for the fact that criticising others and bearing ill will towards others, is devastating. In my own life, its been blatantly obvious to a tragically, comedic level, just how devastating its been to direct a negative attitude towards other people. When you're in that zone, no amount of prayer, affirmations or other methodologies will help you. Unfortunately, religion encourages such negative attitudes, in the guise of so-called holiness. There's a major consensus regarding the effects of negativity towards others, including Christian teaching, Law of Attraction and a recent New Thought favourite author of mine: Catherine Ponder.
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Re: What I Miss About Church

Post by Jac »

Very interesting. Lots to think about. Just curious about the baptism in the Spirit changing your life. I come from a non-charismatic background (or should I say anti-charismatic) but have found much in common with your church experience.
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Re: What I Miss About Church

Post by brettact2 »

We moved to Alaska during the summer, and haven't attended church, since we have a distinctive belief and practice approach that is not mainstream. While I agree with your experience of many churches, I am also seeing the value of participating in a HEALTHY community. Even though we are still personally growing in our relationship with the Lord, I also see the value of community that actively calls and supports a fuller grace & love life. As to your point of churches becoming teaching life's steps approach, it is merely following our culture's belief in education as the key to life. I prefer to see a 1 Corinthians 12 - 14 church, where experiences and revelation with God is the norm, so people are more rapidly growing in their relationship with the Lord and others. I've had a few revelation experiences that have transformed my life, and I see that much 'steps' and 'counseling' have been avoided because of them.
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