Thursday, March 22, 2012

Response to 15 Reasons Why I left the Church

Some blogging chick name Rachel Evans that a friend of mine follows on Twitter (and I subscribed to his list) put out something rather provocative. And sad. And perhaps something those who haven't left the church really need to hear. Her blog post is called "15 Reasons I left the church." It's worth the read as its insightful, honest, and accurate. Here it is and here are her reasons:

1. I left the church because I’m better at planning Bible studies than baby showers...but they only wanted me to plan baby showers. 
2. I left the church because when we talked about sin, we mostly talked about sex. 
3. I left the church because my questions were seen as liabilities. 
4. I left the church because sometimes it felt like a cult, or a country club, and I wasn’t sure which was worse. 
5. I left the church because I believe the earth is 4.5 billion years old and that humans share a common ancestor with apes, which I was told was incompatible with my faith. 
6. I left the church because sometimes I doubt, and church can be the worst place to doubt. 
7. I left the church because I didn’t want to be anyone’s “project.” 
8. I left the church because it was often assumed that everyone in the congregation voted for Republicans.
9. I left the church because I felt like I was the only one troubled by stories of violence and misogyny and genocide found in the Bible, and I was tired of people telling me not to worry about it because “God’s ways are higher than our ways.”
10. I left the church because of my own selfishness and pride. 
11. I left the church because I knew I would never see a woman behind the pulpit, at least not in the congregation in which I grew up. 
12. I left the church because I wanted to help people in my community without feeling pressure to convert them to Christianity. 
13. I left the church because I had learned more from Oprah about addressing poverty and injustice than I had learned from 25 years of Sunday school. 
14. I left the church because there are days when I’m not sure I believe in God, and no one told me that “dark nights of the soul” can be part of the faith experience. 
15. I left the church because one day, they put signs out in the church lawn that said “Marriage = 1 Man + 1 Woman: Vote Yes on Prop 1,” and I knew the moment I saw them that I never wanted to come back.  

I first want to say how NOT to respond to these issues when they come up with your friends, your kids, co-workers or neighbors. Don't respond to someone's frustrations at church with the law: "it says you should go to church regularly (which I think it does in Hebrews 10). Don't respond with anger. Don't respond by saying how dumb the reasons are. 

Most of these reasons are good reasons to WANT to leave the church. None of them qualify as biblical reasons to JUSTIFY leaving the local church. But she has some great points, so let's see what we can learn from her. When people grow up in the church but don't abandon the faith professed in the church (the latter happens as much as the former I presume), it is often motivated by a lack of love they sense in the church. So instead of pointing fingers, let's repent of ways in which we may have repelled people from the church by our intentional or unintentional sins. By the way, she came out with a following article for why she came back to church-though I'm not totally sure what that coming back looks like in practice. 

I'll just break these reasons up into a mini series with hopefully not too many posts. Probably 3. Worked for Tolkien and a few others....

1. I left the church because I’m better at planning Bible studies than baby showers...but they only wanted me to plan baby showers. 

This chick may be better at bible studies. We need more women teaching the bible in the church. I know folks who are better at teaching bible studies who haven't been utilized or affirmed in their gifts. Church leaders do drop the ball. That makes me sad. Yet I know of one gal who hasn't been utilized properly with her teaching gifts, but has taken the opportunity to do more private one-on-one discipleship (people have sought her out-that's what happens sometimes when you're gifted; though it doesn't have to be the case, as I still have to seek people out for this!). Jesus had a discipleship/small/cd group (whatever you call them) of 12. But he also had 3. If you as an individual aren't given the opportunity to lead a bible study, then meet one-on-one with another believer and train him/her to do the same. There are a zillion people in my church alone who could benefit from this! One-to-One bible reading is a great resource for how to read the bible with another Christian.

Sometimes people refuse training or oversight and that's why the opportunity isn't there. Sometimes its just not having time. Sometimes we aren't as good as we think we are and so people don't come. Sometimes we are good enough, but for whatever reason people haven't showed up to bible studies we tried to start. Don't leave the church. Disciple one or two or three people. Nothing is cooler or more effective in building and multiplying the church.

2. I left the church because when we talked about sin, we mostly talked about sex.

 Great point. Don't ignore the sin of suburbia. These sins are much more subtle. I "need" a bigger house, more expensive car, more space. That's greed. Let's talk about greed and selfishness as often as we talk about sex as sins that ensnare.

3. I left the church because my questions were seen as liabilities. 

The church has to be a place to raise questions and to not be afraid of what we hear. Parents, pastors, teachers have to listen. For our primary learning place (Sunday School), we try to let it be a place for questions. In youth group, we are spending a semester answering THEIR questions. The church can't be scared of questions. It also can't be scared to say, "I don't know." As James reminds us, let us be slow to speak and quick to listen. Listen to questions. Wouldn't we rather have folks ask the church questions instead of their non-Christian friends who WILL listen non-judgmentally?

4. I left the church because sometimes it felt like a cult, or a country club, and I wasn’t sure which was worse.

Would love some more info on what makes it feel like a country club. Probably cliquish. Fair indictment. The only way to change that is to talk to others who don't look like you. Get talking now. Too me a cult has specific rules (explained or understood). For instance, you might have freedom to school your children the way you feel led, but if you don't do it the "church's way," then you get snide remarks, a need to give good explanation for why you're not doing it the "church's way" (as though that's THE way unless you can argue for another), or a stack of books on why you need to do it the "church's way." I've been a target of that, and it does feel cult-ish. Very. Believe the gospel. Really believe the gospel gives you a freedom to follow YOUR convictions. Don't force convictions and don't let others force convictions on you. But when they do, please don't leave or the cultists will continue.
5. I left the church because I believe the earth is 4.5 billion years old and that humans share a common ancestor with apes, which I was told was incompatible with my faith. 

Whether or not someone can become ordained in a denomination and hold this view is up that denomination. I don't believe in Darwinistic evolution, and believe our common ancestor is a LITERAL Adam. I think there are plenty of holes in evolution. But many Christians do believe in some sort (not totally because they believe God played some part) of evolution. I have former professors who do. It's probably a slippery slope, and you should in the context of a good relationship be able to disagree and explain why you do. I just don't think its accurate to tell someone that any form of evolution is completely incompatible with faith; and that they need to leave the church or give the impression that they should. It's probably wise to be careful when you say you can't be a Christian and hold to some sort of belief in an evolutionary process (or any other ______.) I just don't see how the bible gives us that 100% confidence to make such a bold claim. I might be wrong, but when you make such a claim you should have 100% confidence. And I don't. If someone still holds to I Cor 15, which Paul puts forth as the message of the gospel, I can't say with confidence that their science makes null and void their profession (even if they are wrong in their science-which I believe!).

Hope this is helpful in our quest to examine our own churches so that we can do what we can to be responsible and pray God's Sovereign grace brings back those we may have unknowingly pushed away. Let's hold more tightly to the gospel and let that be the reason people don't like the church.


Regan, a.k.a., Club Soda said...


Read both parts and enjoyed them. Insightful, honest answers, which I appreciated, as well as the original blogger's 15 reasons. I've been through most of those 15 at one time or another. One, in particular, caught my eye, and that was the evolution/old earth subject. We home schooled for a long time and found that other home schooling Christians were quite dogmatic about the subject to the point that they basically questioned your faith, though we don't believe in Darwinian evolution (macroevolution where one species evolves into another). The sticking point was the age of the earth. We're old-earth creationists, though we're perfectly fine and dandy with a young earth, if that's the way it is. Anyway, the point is that it can be very difficult to have a discussion about a topic in a church situation, even one that is not central to the faith at all, without it turning into a theological battle royal. In other words, it seems the church would do well to preach Romans 14 on a more regular basis. Your thoughts? And please be nice...


Geoffsnook said...


Good to hear from you brother. Yeah, the old Earth/New Earth is a big deal to some folks, particularly the group you mentioned.

But my denomination, the PCA, accepts as legitimate the Literal reading of as Genesis 6-24, the Day-Age theory, and the Framework theory. So if a pastor in a theologically rigorous denomination says, "you're cool," that's probably enough for the laity to relax.

I don't see ANY difference in the sound doctrine or practice of believers holding these differing views on creation, so that also leads me to care less and less about WHICH one is correct.

Also, I don't think we should hold ALL convictions and doctrine with equal confidence and certainty. For instance, what's in the Apostles Creed, I hold the highest. There is no disagreement there among Christians. I can't have real fellowship with someone who doesn't believe that. I hold my Calvinism with less certainty (but still pretty high!). If you don't want to listen to why I'm a Calvinist, that's fine. But I'll do my best to convince someone that the gospel is true. Make sense?

I hold baptism, a little less certain (still high, as obviously I'm a presbyterian!), but I will not seek church discipline on a family who doesn't believe in infant baptism. Less certainty there.

When I see something clearly in scripture, AND the church as a whole sees it clearly in scripture, the higher certainty I have. The age of the Earth is IMPOSSIBLE to prove and so we should be able to disagree. Whether or not Jesus rose from the grave, well, those are "spiritually fighting" words.

Romans 14 should be preached on more as well. I agree.

Does this make sense or help Regan?

Regan said...


And good to hear back from you as well. Everything you wrote makes complete sense to me.

Here's my problem, though it's not really much of "problem," per se, and that is that I'm a man without a denomination.

Though I don't feel like I fit in one specific denomination, I'm a denominationalist (if that's even a word). In other words, I believe that denominations are a good thing, and are not divisive.

Anyway, my "problem" is that I'm semi-Calvinist and I don't buy into infant baptism (sorry). On the other hand, I'm not terribly emotional and I'm not a big fan of how the sacraments get short shrift in the generic/Baptist evangelical church. In fact, from a sacramental standpoint, I lean toward Lutheranism, sans the Catholicism.

Perhaps I'm simply confused, which is okay because I'm not confused about the Cross and what it means whatsoever.

You made a very good point about the Apostles Creed as doctrines that cannot be compromised.

So, an interesting post at your blog might be how you rank the relative importance of certain doctrinal points, namely the "disputable matters". I would put Republicanism right there at the top followed by music.

Geoffsnook said...


Thanks for the dialog. I think the main purpose of writing this was to encourage folks to hang in there with the local church AND for the local church to love its members and visitors better. Hopefully it helped both parties.

Would be an interesting post on what disputable matters really are, because that varies from church to church. I've done some stuff similar to that in posts, on HOW to determine what's secondary and primary. But maybe I'll get to that in the future. Thanks for suggestion. We'll see buddy!