When Church Makes You Not Believe in God, There is a Problem.

I’ve found myself wanting to drift off in church.

Not for the typical reasons of it being boring or dull. I mean, I still pay attention during worship. I love corporate worship. I don’t know if it was something that God intended for the church to have, but it really does renew my faith.

But, pretty much everything else about church does the exact opposite.

One of my main issues is preachers.

Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t hate preachers, or dislike them in any way. From my vantage point, the problem with traditional preaching is that the person doing it, whether very qualified in theological studies or not, often times simplifies things to the point of ridiculousness. They speak in cliche. They say things that nearly everyone in the church has heard a thousand times. And like I said, boredom is not the problem.

The problem is, that simplifying something that is so obviously mysterious and that requires much faith, makes me doubt. When Christian theology is put in such simplistic and absolute terms, I sit in the pew thinking, “I literally can’t believe that I believe this.”

Just the other day, I was reading about the whole Mitt Romney/Mike Huckabee heresy debacle. I dug a little bit to find out more about the Mormon faith. Lots of stuff about planets where people live, Jesus and Lucifer were brothers, aliens, etc. And I laughed. I was making fun of them in my head.

But when my faith is treated in the same simplistic manner, I look at it and think “I believe there’s some unseen being that decided to create this world, then the world went bad, so he sent part of himself, that he calls his Son, to earth to die, so that we can be saved from another unseen place that apparently is much worse than being in poverty in Africa, or in war torn Iraq. And that those people in those countries have got much worse problems than the fact that they live day to day, not knowing if they’ll survive.”

I think, “How is that not more crazy than believing in aliens, or that Jesus and Satan were brothers?”

I guess church doesn’t really resonate with me much anymore. I can honestly say, if it weren’t for relationships I have at Otter Creek, even though I love the corporate worship,  I wouldn’t be there anymore. Its the developing relationships that I have there that keep me planted in my seat when Sermons make me question what I believe, or when someone prays and it doesn’t make a damn bit of sense. Its the relationships that often times talk me off the cliff when it comes to faith. Its the relationships and the lives of people that really strengthen my faith.

Anyone have any thoughts?


10 responses to “When Church Makes You Not Believe in God, There is a Problem.

  1. I feel your pain. Think about how those of us who actually are preachers feel. It’s a fine line between laying everything out there and pushing people faster than they are willing to go.
    To move people incrementally is much easier and loving than kicking them into harder truths.
    For people like you that ask harder questions the problem is not meeting your needs as well. These are the kinds of questions I wrestle with every week.
    Of course, I try to push people regularly. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.
    And, granted, many preachers haven’t progressed beyond spouting orthodoxy. I don’t know about your situation but if that IS the case then it’s the perfect opportunity for you to dig beyond the orthodoxy into what new revelations that can bring.

  2. The feeling of “I can’t believe I believe this” is not that uncommon for me either (not daily or weekly but more often than yearly) and typically comes during daily Bible reading (I listen to the One Year Bible)…the realization that something fantastical that I’m reading in the OT, for example, is nothing like I have ever personally experienced.

  3. As a preacher, I certainly understand what you’re saying. I think those of us in the “profession” are going to have to change how we communicate.

    Saying that same old things that people have heard 1000 times is not going to cut it anymore.

  4. Don’t you love the way the Body was designed to do that? I’m fairly confident that I know exactly what you’re feeling.

  5. Thanks for the responses guys. I’m glad to know I’m not alone on this. I’m also glad to know that preachers are thinking about it. I’m pretty sure our preacher is like you Scott. He preaches around issues, doesn’t say where you should stand, but tries to help you come to the right conclusion on your own. I do appreciate that of him. Its definitely better to listen to him than almost any other preacher.

    Courtney, I do. Have you read anything by Bonhoeffer? He writes a lot about Christian community. You’d probably enjoy it.

    Jeff, You are correct. I think one of my biggest issues with the repeating cliches deal is spontaneous prayer in church. I know that the spirit intercedes when we don’t know what to pray for, but I feel like its embarrassing the types of prayers that get thrown up. Especially in church. From my perspective, most of the time, its nothing but platitudes.

    Jonathan, I wish I were disciplined enough to get some daily bible reading.

  6. I really liked this post, it reminds me of Tillich’s comment that many Christian characterizations of God and faith are “justly denied by honest atheists.”

    I’m always hesitant when I hear people say things like “what I get in church isn’t resonating with me.” The little Hauerwas in me wants to say, then looks like you’ve got some changing to do. We don’t adjust church to resonate with us; God adjusts us to resonate with his inbreaking kingdom on earth. Perhaps we’d differ here because I’m more comfortable in locating that inbreaking kingdom in the institutions of the church and you find it to be more present in communities of faith.

    After all, your point about the power of relationships displays that you’re certainly not walking around looking for a church to meet your individual needs. Rather, you do indeed seem to be concerned with engaging your views with those of your community of faith, defined for you at a more organic level.

    So I’m left with a point of resonance because of your characterization of community. It reminds me of one of my favorite Lewis quotes where he argues that the point of church is to get you out of your solitary conceit. Regardless of the ability of the leaders of a congregation to model and practice good incarnational theology, if you look, you’ll still see Christ on the face of the woman or man next to you. This is one of the most important tenets of my own faith, regardless of the brokenness of the church, it will continue to be the Body of Chris.

    Oh, and with regard to spontaneous prayer, your frustration is one of the reasons I like my Prayer Book so very much. 😉

  7. Sorry, one of the most important tenets for me isn’t that regardless of the brokenness of the church it will continue to be the Body of Chris, but that it will continue to be the body of Christ.

  8. http://bibleonradio.com/

    Subscribe in iTunes if you have an ipod and listen in the car (which is what I do).

    Or make a habit of reading and discussing it with your wife (which is what my wife wants to do in 2008).

  9. Justin…you are not alone. So glad we have brothers we can walk and talk with. Peace to you today and TOMORROW MORNING! Frankly, I am glad you’ll be up there.

  10. the morman church threatened me with persecution ,prosecution and tresspassing and disruption of services.why?i told them what i found.the hidden book of daniel`s day ,the latter day people are us.i tested my works,i reported major events to the govt and news teams.no response ,none.i reported things like north korea turning in radioactive doc`s before they did.then they did 6-30-08,many events like this.i know tomorrow.who will listen and make the difference? who besides myself?who?

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