In search of a new Sunday
Thoughts for those who are considering trying church, again
I grew up in a time when most people were part of a church. Many of our neighbors and most of my peers at the public high school I attended had churches to call home. Some of my earliest and fondest memories are rooted at my childhood church. Such was life in the American South.
Fast forward to today and we find ourselves in a different world. The precipitous decline in church attendance we see in survey data bears out anecdotally in my lived experience. A majority of my Christian friends no longer identify with a local church. Most of the rest have left one church for another during the last several years. And while many of my non-Christian friends think Jesus is pretty cool, plenty of them believe that most churches don’t take him seriously. My Christian friends tend to agree.
Many who left a church did so because they were made to feel like it was the only option available to them. They long to call a local church home; however, they see similar bad experiences bleeding out of other churches in their community. Coupled to a toxic mixture of cultural elitism masquerading as Gospel truth and abuse or unkindness at their previous church, they have been given plenty of reasons not to risk stepping into a new space.
But the deep desire to be part of a vibrant, Jesus-centered and outward looking faith community often remains, sometimes persisting for years. It’s why so many who leave a church heartbroken and abused long for another faith community to help make them whole again.
I have a great deal of empathy for those who have been burned by a church. After working in the nonprofit sector for over a decade, I’ve met some genuinely fantastic, engaged faith communities. I’ve also been misled by others, with promises of support never materializing and doors promised to be opened staying shut. And roughly this time last year, our family departed a church we thought we’d be wed to for life. By the time we left, things were so broken beyond repair that leaving on decent terms wasn’t possible.
As the saying goes, I have the receipts.
There was a time when I felt like never stepping foot in a church again. Much of the church culture in my…