I have been struggling with something for weeks and afraid to write about it here. You see, although I have a lot of readers whom I don’t know personally, I have a lot that I do know personally. So, sometimes, it’s hard to be as completely transparent as I’d like to be. But, the more I struggled with this, and the more it kept making its presence known in my mind, the more I began to think that it was something God wanted me to address here. I pray that those who read this will not only be understanding, but will also glean something from it for themselves.
I’m disillusioned with my church.
We have a small congregation – we’re lucky if we have forty people in the pews each Sunday – and I know almost everyone on a personal basis. Sometimes this can be good, sometimes bad. I’ve been on the board (for a short time) and I’ve worked as the secretary (I put the bulletins together every week and help the pastor occasionally with other things), and my husband and I participate in almost everything the church has to offer.
Or at least we did until recently.
Some would call it burnout and I would agree. When my husband was the chairman of the board, he became so overwhelmed and disheartened with the processes of the church that I encouraged him to step down. I did not want the “nitty gritty” to get in the way of his relationship with God – and it was. We both stepped back a bit to gather a bit of perspective and to let others fill in spots that needed to be filled. The church cannot grow if only one or two people are doing all the work. It worked well for awhile. My husband and I were both relieved to have a bit of a reprieve. Slowly, we began to step back into rolls that we enjoyed and tried to only participate in the things we felt led to participate in. We began to, once again, feel God’s calling in new ways.
But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matt. 6:33 NASB
But in the process of stepping back, we upset some people. We brought it on ourselves, to be honest. When we first joined, we jumped right in and did so much. In fact, some people still come to my husband for direction on church-related items, as if we own the church or as if he’s the boss. This was one of the reasons we stepped back. We don’t own the church and my husband isn’t the boss. He’s not even the pastor (whom I think is, technically, the boss – after God). But we managed and organized so many things at one point that people simply assumed we were running the show. To be honest, it frightened me.
When people would come to him with concerns, my husband started saying, “I don’t know. Go ask so-and-so (to direct them to the appropriate person).” We determined this would be the best response because we didn’t want to speak for others and we know that the entire congregation works together to make a church run. We have a board of many people for a reason. We have people who take on duties for a reason. So we directed people to those positions.
God has placed each part in the body just as he wanted it to be. If all the parts were the same, how could there be a body? As it is, there are many parts. But there is only one body.
1 Cor. 12:18-20 NASB
But it upset many people when we responded this way. I think they thought we were simply giving up on the church. We weren’t. Or that we didn’t care. We do. We were trying to back off – but not turn our backs. We were trying to give ourselves a bit of self-care. We were trying to discern what God’s purpose was for us – as part of the church – as well as let other people’s purposes be fulfilled.
And this was when hurt happened.
I’ve felt more disconnected from my church every since. Although I still help with many things, when I don’t help, I feel the sting of reprimand from others. Sometimes it’s in their eyes, sometimes in their demeanor and, sometimes, even in their words. There is an underlying tension. The conversations are not the same. The love is stilted.
One woman sometimes tells us that the church wouldn’t be there without us. How ridiculous is that? Of course it’d be there. It was there before us and will continue even if we leave. If God wants it there – it’ll be there. How misplaced is that thought? It’s guilt, plain and simple. I’m sure she means it to be an encouragement, but it isn’t. I am not just a body to fill a pew or to do all the work. I am someone in need of grace, mercy and love just as she is. I need care, too. I’m not just a worker for the church – I need God’s healing, too. I need his salvation. I go to church to worship and to connect, but it sometimes feels like we’re only there to do work. It’s a job, not a sanctuary.
And I’ve seen this too much, and I’m sure it happens in every church. That’s one of the reasons I have yet to move to another church. I’m sure it isn’t better elsewhere. People hurt one another everywhere you go. People expect the small minority to do the work while they come and enjoy the service. I guess we hurt people by stepping back, too, but we didn’t mean to. We were trying to find our niche, our place, our sanctuary. We were trying to listen to God.
Now, when I go to church, I often think, “What will I have to do today?”, “Who will upset me today?” or “Will I actually be able to let this bitterness and hurt go enough to be in God’s presence today?” Sometimes I can. Most of the time I cannot.
So what do I do? Move on? Start over? See it through? How do I change these things?
I’m not sure yet. This post doesn’t even begin to explore all that has occurred. And it doesn’t give the other side – only mine. For now, this post is already too long so I’m going to pray about this as I have been doing. I hope that by writing it down and letting you read it you will see how you could treat someone differently or how you could seek change in your church.
It’s Lent season. Even though Baptists don’t formally follow Lent, I’m determined to give up bitterness and anger. This is my start. It’ll be a hard season, I figure, but I’m trying. And with God’s help, I hope to bring myself closer to Him.
More next time…