Recently I have read some blogs by people who, by all accounts I can see, are God-centered people. What they have been writing about is why they, or others, have left the church. (Here are a couple by Christian Piatt: Seven Reasons Why Young Adults Quit Church and Four More BIG Reasons Young Adults Quit Church and one by Rachel Held Evans: 15 Reasons I Left the Church.)
My first response to these articles is, “Yeah. Me too.” These are the reasons I want to leave the church. But I can’t seem to do it for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that, as a pastor, my family and I depend on the paycheck that I collect for being a part of the church. I truly believe that the Holy Spirit it at work outside of the institutional church and I want to be at work where the Holy Spirit is but I’m genuinely having trouble making the transition.
My second response is that I want to apologize. I want to apologize on behalf of the Church. But I can't. I can only apologize for the way that I have represented the Church as a leader and for the way that I have participated in the very things that have driven people away. I apologize for:
1. Assuming that the only way to live a faithful life is the way that I do it, within the confines of a congregation like mine.
2. Deceiving myself and others about the real reasons for evangelism. When I am honest with myself my evangelism has a lot to do with recruiting people to share the burden of ministry with their time, talent and treasures.
3. Using the metrics of business to evaluate the success of our programs as if the effectiveness of ministry can be determined by numbers, charts and graphs.
4. Believing that the one-size-fits-all model of spirituality and piety was ever a real thing that could be attained with enough training or persuasion.
5. Being oblivious to the deeper concerns of your life that peek out at the edges of our conversations.
6. Engaging so much of what is happening in our culture and our world on a doctrinal level and not as a matter of faith that is sometimes messy and unsure.
7. Participating in a church culture in which any kind of doubt is viewed as suspect and hiding my own struggles with faith behind a veneer of certainty.
8. Being slow and unresponsive to the need for change because it’s easier to follow the path of least resistance (and there is tremendous resistance to the changes we are faced with).
9. Getting so overwhelmed by the programs, meetings and all of the minutiae of sustaining a congregation that I don’t have the creative energy to explore new ways of being the church together.
As I look over this list I ask myself why I don’t do something about these things. I’m trying. I really am. But I’m finding that it isn’t as easy as just deciding to change. Well, maybe it is but I don’t really want to change. That’s what I’m trying to figure out.