[This is an anonymous post from a good friend of mine who has been burnt by the church.]
Sometimes, the church just sucks.
Before you completely write me off, let me explain.
First, I know that the church is near and dear to the heart of Jesus. He calls us to live in it and exemplify his hands and feet through it. Second, I believe we are called to love the church. Why? Because Jesus does. Third, I know that each and every congregation is very different. They all have their strengths and weaknesses. And we should give them grace because while the church is made up of beloved children of God, it’s also made up of humans. Fallen humans. That live in a fallen world.
And that’s why sometimes the church just completely sucks.
This past year my world was completely wrecked by my congregation. My church. The very people that were supposed to be my rock solid community. The people that had been with my family through thick and thin. And in one defining moment, they all left. They packed up their bags and walked out of my life for good.
And I’m just not so sure that’s how it’s supposed to be.
My dad was the pastor of our small church. He’d been in that place for almost 30 years. There are pictures of him in the seventies with his church softball uniform and tube socks on, digging at the groundbreaking. When my parents were unable to have kids, the church prayed for years alongside them and then rejoiced together at my mom’s baby shower. They were there when I was dedicated and baptized. They were there for every graduation party, mission trip, and youth group all-nighter. They brought meals over as my mom was dying of cancer and braided her hair as it slowly fell out.
They were all I knew, and I trusted them.
Then, out of nowhere, through the spread of lies, deceit, betrayal, suspicion, mistrust, and what I believe to be the devil himself at work, life turned upside down. And my dad was left standing at the door to the church in tears, knocking to get in to the meeting and clear things up, as the leadership spread lies to the congregation about him and didn’t so much as offer a handshake of thanks or goodbye.
In months following, my Dad was ready to end it all. He hid in a secret apartment, heartbroken and alone, clinging to the few friends and family he had left.
The church he had poured his heart and soul into, the church that had sat under his teaching for year after year, the church that’s walls are literally covered in his murals, lost sight of what it means to be the church.
Because, you see, even if the accusations were true. EVEN if they were true. The body of Christ is called, yes, to holiness, but also to grace and restoration. But it wasn’t true. And the devil wreaked havoc.
Y’all, he wreaked havoc.
Betrayal, hopelessness, financial ruin, families moving across the country, and trying to stay afloat. That’s what life became.
I hated church. How’s that for a good missionary? I sincerely hated it. Sitting in any service in any church building made me want to throw up. I decided everyone in church was a hypocrite. You know, that whole “I love your Jesus but not your Christians” thing. That’s where I was at.
I look back at letters I wrote to the leadership of my former church that went a little something like, “I can’t believe I ever trusted you, you f*@king ba5t@rds. You’re the most immature, evil brood of vipers that…,” well, you get the picture. I realize just how angry I had been. And still kinda am.
Listen, I’m not saying that reaction was 100% appropriate (though I believe there’s room for righteous anger here). But the very people that were supposed to be Jesus with skin on in my life took my family to the proverbial pit of hell this year. And I lost all faith in the church.
But then I went again. I went to a new church. And for the first time it didn’t make me sick. I didn’t want to leave and I couldn’t wait to get back. Granted, I happened to have stumbled across a world-renown, amazing church. But regardless, Jesus used it to restore my faith in the people of God. The imperfect people of God.
Because we’re all a bunch of hot messes. And we all freaking suck sometimes.
And when we let the devil in -when we let the devil win – we hurt people. And we live as the antithesis of who we are called to be.
But, y’all, it doesn’t have to be this way.
This is not a call to the holiness movement or to perfectionism. This is not an ultimatum that we need to get ourselves together or no one will ever see Jesus in our world. But what it is… is a call to step up. To walk in grace, redemption, and restoration. To seek truth, humility, and honor. To exemplify love. To exude mercy. And to be Jesus with skin on.
Church, step up.
Because sometimes we just suck. But we don’t have to.