Monday, October 12, 2009

Leaving Church?

This is a tough subject to breach and I had a hard time trying to decide whether to hash it out on the blog or not. I've decided to do it because I need an outlet. I need to get this off my chest.
For the past few months, perhaps even close to a year, Sarah and I have been feeling pretty dissatisfied with church. It's been a struggle to get up on Sunday and go. We actually took a couple of months off in the hopes that it would renew us. It did not. The only thing we missed about it was the people, our friends.
I'm not going to speak for Sarah. She has her problems and I have mine. I can only speak to mine. First and foremost, the biggest problem I have with church is me. Spiritually, I am dead inside. If there's any faith left, it's a small spark. Sarah says it's still alive in me but I don't sense it. God hasn't been real to me for a number of years now. I struggle. I have doubts. I swing back and forth. The bottom line is, I don't believe like I once did. I went thru a time when I was begging and pleading with God to return to me but I've gotten zilch. I am mourning the loss of my faith. I miss it. But I can't fake a belief that's not there anymore. So, going to church is hard for me in that respect. I can't participate in worship because, for me, there's nothing to worship. I'm sure I could continue in the vein but I think I've covered it. If you want details, you'll just have to call me so we can have a conversation.
Moving on. Another reason I don't enjoy church is because I've found no way to contribute, to be involved, that rings true. The loss of my faith makes it difficult to contribute but I have tried. I went back to leading worship for a time but I felt like a hypocrite so I stopped. Authenticity is important to me. I don't want to fake my thru it. I've seen too many people doing that and it makes me sick.
The other reason I find it hard to contribute is due to issues of quality and creativity. I've always had, compared to most people, radical ideas in regards to "doing church." For a while I actually felt like that was my go against the flow, to challenge the status quo, to inject some life and creativity into church. Unfortunately, I've not had the benefit of being with a like-minded group of people. I've tried to lead but felt instead like I was dragging people behind me. That just weighs me down and wears me out. I can't do that anymore. So, trying to change things hasn't worked but being in a church where the quality and creativity I crave isn't valued is hard. Again, I could talk about this for ages but I'm going to move on.
I have enjoyed expressing my frustrations, doubts and spiritual questions thru my art. Unfortunately most people don't get what I do and don't know how to ask questions about it. In the past I've had people in my life who I could talk to about these things or groups of people who felt the same way I did about church. I felt like I had a "team" that I was moving forward with. I used to feel valued as a creative, spiritual being. I haven't had that in a long time. Frankly, I'm lonely. I feel like I'm creating in a void.
I know this is a disjointed mess of ideas that I've thrown out here. I'm sorry about that. I just felt like I had to get some of it out of my system so it wouldn't eat me up from the inside out. Honestly, we don't know what we're going to do. We don't enjoy going to church. And before you say, "But what have you put into it?" let me just say that we have tried to find our niches, our places of service, to no avail. We're at our wits end. But leaving is still a difficult choice because we have so many people that we care so much about. Seattle is a hard place to make friends. The thought of losing the few we have is terrifying. Some of you will say, "Well, why not try another church?" We have been to a ton of churches in the area and none fit the bill.
So, there are no easy answers. Do we stop going to church altogether? Do we stop going to services but continue attending lifegroup (which we do enjoy?). We're still trying to figure things out. Your patience, prayers, thoughtful conversations and positive thoughts would be greatly appreciated. And for those of you who find yourselves offended by this entry. Don't be. I am sharing my heart. If you want to talk with me about it, I'll be happy to do so. Don't take this personally. I am directing this at no one but myself. I am the one with the problem and I am trying my hardest to get over it but I'm running out of options.
Thanks for listening.


Stacey said...

Hey Marty. I haven't been blogging much, nor reading others blogs. I've had much on my mind. Chris mentioned your blog to me though, and said you were struggling. You have my prayers. I can't say I am where you are right now; but I do know I've had to pray Psalm 51 over my own life. I even had to get on my knees, I didn't want to, but I knew I had to, I even told the Lord, "I don't want to be on my knees and I don't know what you want from me, but here I am." Even if you miss church, stay connected to the people. The people are the church Marty. Not the politics or the money, but Jesus. That's why we are told to focus on Him, not on man. I'm not preaching, I hope that it doesn't come across that way. Just sharing my heart with you. I love you guys, praying for you, and with you.

Anonymous said...

I know where you're at, Marty, even though it's been quite a while since I felt the way you do right now. Through the years I've developed my own views and understandings, but a touchstone for me, and maybe for you, is still St. John 17, especially:

'And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:
I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one.'

These verses say to me that, as Oswald Chambers points out in his classic book My Utmost For His Highest, that _we are God_. Now, being God through the death and resurrection of our Creator does not always alleviate the loneliness and isolation. Very often it increases, because those truly born from above end up standing away from the crowd even that much more--and as you and I both know, there is not a more confused group of people on the planet than people who routinely go to church. Remember the poem I sent you a while back?

'I went down into Heaven
to save them from their hells;
I saw their holy diadems and heard their tolling bells;
I walked their shining streets of gold, passed through their pearly gates.
I went down into Heaven.
I think I went too late.'

I wrote that poem right at the apex of my departure from all organized religion, which for me included belonging to a church.

I live in lonely, lonely Pittsburgh where it is also very difficult to make friends. As a result, I have been here three years and have two friends, and I see them rarely. The life of the true Christian is a lonely walk, but remember, if they love the world, they will hate you.

I love you, Marty, and always have. I wish you and your wife well, and feel free to talk with me anytime.