Dear threads community,
You’re an honest and insightful crowd. You have a wealth of wisdom between you and an array of perspectives that you’re kind enough to share. So I’m hoping that in return for a little flattery, you’ll offer your ever-helpful thoughts on a dilemma that’s very real for me.
I love church. I get mocked for how much I love church. I’m the person who tweets song lyrics on the way home and turns sermon titles into illustrations for their wall. But right now, it feels like church could kill my faith.
About 18 months ago I moved away from a big town, where I was part of a huge student church. I wanted to take the chance to downsize church and let my faith grow up. The plan was to move away from the comfort of Sunday mornings spent with a mass of people just like me, surrounded by top quality musicians, preachers, welcomers and technicians all putting on a sleek service with a smile. I liked it there, but I couldn’t escape the feeling that I wasn’t really needed. I wasn’t motivated to serve and it was too easy to feel like a consumer rather than a community member.
This was the time to grow up. I’d move to a smaller church. One where I’d meet more people I felt less comfortable with. I’d go where I could be useful, where I’d be challenged to develop my gifts and skills, and learn lots from being part of a more diverse family.
And 18 months later, here I am. In my small church. Surrounded by a little assortment of interesting people – people who come with a story, people who don’t fit in, people who cry in church, people who never fail to make the tea, people who are warm and generous, people who are closed and difficult. People with whom I share communion , preach to, sit through meetings with, set up microphones for, entertain the children of, and wash up with. People who pray for me, laugh with me, cook for me, serve me coffee, and really care how my week has been.
It’s a beautiful, messy picture of family. It’s exactly what I wanted.
So what have I got to complain about?
For the first time in my life, I don’t have a group of church friends. There are all those people I mentioned, but they’re not a group of friends. I’m pretty open and I like to share honestly about prayer requests and struggles, so it’s not that no one knows about me. They’re just not much like me. There’s no one who says: “Me too.”
I’m questioning. Like many people who’ve written on threads before me, I’m asking questions of the faith I grew up with. My own faith looks different to how it did five years ago. Or even 18 months ago… At church, I don’t have a community to walk through that with. It’s lonely. I can try to explain and people can try to understand. But there’s no one saying: “Me too”.
I’m tired. I want to live my young professional, sociable, partying sort of life. That life feels a bit at odds with how other people at church think I should behave. It’s draining to drag myself to meetings I don’t want to be at and I resent giving up what could be precious down-time. No one else’s life seems to look like mine. There’s no one saying: “Me too.”
So I’ve disengaged. I scroll through Facebook instead of listening to the sermon. I go into Bible studies knowing I won’t say what I really think. I’m losing the will to read the Bible at all. I don’t want to go to services unless I have to because I’m on a rota. I forget things I’ve said I’ll do because they just go on the mental ‘boring chore’ list.
There are plenty of churches around where I think I could find the community I’m craving. But wouldn’t it be terrible to give up?
The grass is always greener. No church is perfect. You can feel just as lonely when you’re one of a crowd. And we shouldn’t be consumer Christians, right? Only going to church for what we can get? Isn’t that the tendency of our generation that we should be fighting against
But I feel trapped. Now I’ve committed, I’m important to the church and it would be selfish to leave. I don’t mean that to sound arrogant. I’m definitely not irreplaceable, but I can be useful. I couldn’t justify leaving them in the lurch without a very good reason, could I? They need more committed people, not fewer. People might be hurt. How would I begin to explain?
So there’s my dilemma: I love church. I love my church. I’ve committed for the long-haul but I sort of wish I hadn’t. When your faith levels are falling fast and church isn’t the oxygen you need, would you get out or just get over yourself?
Over to you.
Yours with gratitude,
A. N. Other