support your local church

church, worship, congregation, ministry

Written by Nikole Hahn

Nikole Hahn is a recovering perfectionist blogging at "Life Upside Down" at www.thehahnhuntinglodge.com. She is also the publisher of The Relevant Christian Magazine (@TRCMagazine). She is a member of Word Weavers International, a book reviewer, writer, and coffee addict.

May 15, 2011

church, worship, congregation, ministry

My hands pressed against my face and I stared at my bathroom wall. Most of my intimate conversations with God happen here. Yes, it’s unorthodox. I hope it’s not disrespectful. My thoughts run amuck, but one thought blazes through the rest: What’s going on?

Maybe it’s the blogs I read where cynical and discouraged Christians put down church to a world of unbelievers: (1) The people are unfriendly, (2) It moves me too far out of my comfort zone, (3) The teaching is hard, (4) The people are snooty, (5) The people won’t cater to my political/moral agenda, or (6) I had a disagreement with the pastor. I could list a few more, too. We expect God to meet us on our terms and attend church harboring unforgiving hearts, graceless when someone in church makes a mistake.

Where are the transformed lives?

I think being a pastor is harder than attending church for the first time. They are the last people we think about because we become too self-involved. Some pastors become those cynical and discouraged Christians. It’s a tough life fraught with meetings, expectations, and the frequency of putting out fires to meet the needs of a congregation. They are the most dedicated. Their families are the most dedicated. Their hearts are big, and big targets, too. They say at the Schaeffer Institute that:

  • 948 (or 90%) of pastors stated they are frequently fatigued and worn out on a weekly and even daily basis (did not say burned out).
  • 1,050 (or 100%) pastors we surveyed, every one of them had a close associate or seminary buddy who had left the ministry because of burnout, conflict in their church, or from a moral failure.

I flushed the toilet and stared at my reflection. The water ran from the faucet cold over my hands. A frown stretched across my face. Heroes exist in church. I know many of them. They give selflessly. They sign up to pray for the pastors. They give church a good name. I wish more bloggers and people would speak about that—the good that comes from Christian church fellowship. Negativity gets out of hand if we don’t give it a short leash.

In one of my first few Praise and Coffee meetings a woman began a vicious cycle of speaking negatively about churches. Like rows of dominoes falling, I and other people added their stories, too, at first without realizing it; and then, we were too weak to stop the storm. There are legitimate stories. Then, there are those who can’t see the plank in their own eye and we miss the opportunity of invitation by speaking well of the church that we do attend or used to attend. Negativity is the weapon of the enemy. Even those of us with the best of intentions can fall. I worry for those who leave on this wave of cynicism or lukewarm faith. According to an article in Christianity Today:

“Kinnaman reports that 65 percent of all American young people report making a commitment to Jesus Christ at some point in their lives. Yet, based on his surveys, Kinnaman concludes that only about 3 percent of these young adults have a biblical worldview. Kinnaman translates the percentages into real numbers: “This means that out of the 95 million Americans who are ages 18 to 41, about 60 million say they have already made a commitment to Jesus that is still important; however, only about 3 million of them have a biblical worldview.””

I dry my hands on the towel and walk into the bedroom. Across from my bed is an art piece. Shells are glued over a framed board painted white. Scrawled in black paint across the bottom, it says, “Joy.” The shells came from our honeymoon. I created it to remind me of the joy of following God. I haven’t been a Christian for very long—only eight years—and yet I know ministry brings us dangerously close to becoming the cynical and bitter beasts we preach against. Satan laughs when we arrive at that place and while we should live transparently, blogging for real, living for real, we should also remember to point out the good in church fellowship and live in joy. We can’t blame a church for what it lacks when we refuse to commit to its success and let Christ shine through us in our actions and words. Transformation happens all of the time only eclipsed by cynicism. Change occurs when a few STAY and make a difference in genuine love and fellowship almost in spite of their circumstances.

So please support your local Christian church.

12 Comments

  1. Jezamama

    While I completely understand the need to speak of the church in good terms. I disagree with why some leave or stay and speak out.

    My dad is a pastor so maybe seeing the inside and hearing his heart and watching the treatment leaves me a bit sensitive. Maybe I just know too much.

    And then my own experience… my husband and I have walked away from church with very good reasons. And no place to go. And no Holy Spirit leading to return at this time.

    It isn’t for lack of looking or wanting to go, this isn’t about shallow faith, not liking people or a worship style. Our choice isn’t some weird need to be negative over focusing on the good. 

    For me this is about living in truth. In my past our family was willing to give up much perhaps to the detriment of our family to be a part of “authentic church community”… and we were amputated. Eaten alive. This happens a lot.

    It’s not about being cynical. This is just a reality of life for many people. So I can shine the truth of Jesus Christ to the unbelieving, share truth about how sometimes even Christian people and churches get it wrong, and they (the unbelieving) seem to understand better then we do most days.

    I pray I’ll have the opprotunity to support a local church again… but for now I am loving on the pastors in my life, their families, those who still go, those who don’t and those who wouldn’t even consider it.

    Thanks for you words and thoughts.
    Just wanted to give the perspective of someone who left… who speaks truth even negatively about the church…in hopes that one by one we will be able to understand what we do to each other and to our pastors all in the name of Church.

    blessings,
    J.

    Reply
    • Nikole Hahn

       I had bad experiences, too, and not to trivilize yours, but in order to grow sometimes we do have to stay to make a difference and take the higher road. I hope you do find a church home. This may be a growing period for you and your husband. Then again, how can we grow if we don’t stay and weather a bad storm? A friend once told me that we have lost the value in longsuffering because we leave more often than we stay. Sometimes, we do have to leave and there are legitimate reasons, but sometimes you have to stay, weather a difficulty for a while, before you get fruit. I did. I stayed and it was difficult, but God wasn’t telling me to leave. Things are better now. It was a growing experience.

      Reply
    • Nikole Hahn

       One more thing…how would anyone be able to understand what we do to each other and to our pastors if the person offended leaves without making the small differences that count in the congregation? Just a thought and again, I am sorry that whatever it was that made you leave kept you away. And thanks for leaving a transparent response. Believe me…I love the honesty.

      Reply
      • Jezamama

        Our situation specifically was very complicated. So it would be difficult to articulate why we left, but there wasn’t an option to stay and take the high road to work things out. It was super messy and painful. And I believe in hindsight…so necessary to our growth as individuals and as a couple and family. It has been good. really good. {think spiritual manipulation with a ton of lies and you’ll be close to understanding :)}

        I’ve thought a little bit more about this… and I think what I 100% agree with is that there are so many in the pews unhappy, bitter, disengaged and leaving when offended or angry… hiding. Because they don’t have the nerve to speak. They/we do avoid confrontation unsure how to work it out, be mad and talk it out. That it is ok to be mad at someone, and still live in truth together.  It is ok to disagree and you don’t have to spread filth. It is ok to disagree and NOT have to leave. If you feel you have to leave there is NO reason to split the church and leave scars while taking some with you.

        Pastors also need to be willing to talk things out. Discuss the difficult. Be confronted and confront, love, disagree… it goes all directions. That is the biggest hurt for us…that we would have liked to resolve and discuss, but there was NO discussion. Someone disagreeing is not disloyalty or a personal attack.

        Church is so complicated. We need people to live in truth. And pastors to live in truth and both sides to be willing to be wrong and that is ok.

        I shared this article on facebook with this comment:  “I like this article even though I kinda disagree… perhaps if we did begin to speak positive about the church we would be more willing to encourage our pastors and their families (instead of analyzing everything), perhaps we would be willing to live in truth together and maybe just maybe we would be able to accomplish what Christ intended for His church from the beginning.”

        I’ve written on my blog about finding gratitude in my past church experiences and this post has convicted me to perhaps really write out those experiences… to share the positive not just the frustrating.
        For that, I thank you 🙂
        J.

        Reply
        • Nikole Hahn

           Thank you…for your courage to speak out. Truth does need to be spoken in truth. I agree with everything you said. Believe me, I and others understand the spiritual manipulation and lies. Unhappily, it does occur, but as long as you and I and others, “did begin to speak positive about the church we would be more willing to encourage our pastors and their families (instead of analyzing everything), perhaps we would be willing to live in truth together and maybe just maybe we would be able to accomplish what Christ intended for His church from the beginning.” I’ll have to check out your blog. Thanks for your encouragement. :o) 

          Reply
  2. journeytoepiphany

    Excellent post!  You are right about bloggers needing to write more about church heroes.  Maybe we could start a blog where people could send entries of church heroes to share…

    Reply
  3. Sheila

    My husband and I changed churches in January. He’d been a member at the previous church for 15 years; I’d been there for four. We truly felt “led away” and have mentioned that nothing scandalous was happening. It was just time. The “old” church was a very large one; the pastor’s name would be instantly recognized. So I won’t provide it. 🙂

    And I won’t provide the details, here, (or anywhere), of the wounding I received in a ministry there. I attempted to bring it up with the individuals directly involved and there was no interest in engaging.

    Our new church feels like home. We’re glad we made the change. And I will never publically air the source of our discontent. There’s no point.  

    Reply
    • Nikole Hahn

       I’m sorry Sheila that you had been burned like that and you honor Christ by choosing the higher road. That in itself says alot about your character. Like I said, there are legitimate stories and sometimes God does put us in a different home church. But there’s an awful lot of people who leave on a whim under the guise of God’s direction or out of offense that could have been resolved. Unfortunately, in this culture of no accountability we lose people in our Christian family and lose the chance to grow. You obviously feel peace about your decision and probably did all you could like you said, but still…kudos to you for the higher road. :o)

      Reply
    • Nikole Hahn

      And 4years and 15 years is admirable. :o)

      Reply
  4. Lori

    Beautiful, beautiful post…..”Upon this Rock, I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” I too, am tired of hearing about what is wrong with the church, when there is so much that is right about it.

    Reply
    • @bibledude

      Glad you liked this! And I totally agree that we need to hear more about the good stuff. 

      I can’t help but to think though about a coaching method for performance improvement that focuses on three things… continue (what’s happening that’s good), stop (what’s bad that we need to correct), and start (thoughts about new behaviors that we should try to implement). I wonder if the best approach is to properly balance all of them so that we can get to optimum performance… 
      With that said… there is often more criticism with very little praise for our successes. I’ll make sure that we stay very balanced in our approach here at bibledude.net… 

      thanks for the thoughts!

      Reply

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support your local church

by Nikole Hahn time to read: 4 min
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