The Neighborhood Liturgies


I'm Over Church. Now What?

For the past 15 years I have gone to church just about every Sunday and at least one mid week gathering. That's roughly 1,560 worship services! I know that's a low number given my 2 years as a pastoral intern, traveling "worship" musician, small groups coordinator, community director and on and on. Honestly, I get exhausted just thinking about all of this time spent in church. It's also disheartening to know I can really only count five or six notable encounters with the divine. I even went to church while I was an agnostic and going through an extended period of doubt! 

I'm over churched.

I'm over church. 

Yes, I'm over church. I'm over doing the 1 fast song, 1 slow song, offering, 1 more slow song, 30 minute message, 2 reprise songs and the dismissal. I'm tired of feeling like being bought in means I wear the shirt and come to the event. I have too many of those shirts and it's time somebody else wears them for awhile. It's not that I'm against church or The Church; I just feel like I'm missing Jesus in it. That is not to say that others aren't having an encounter with the living Christ but for me it's just boring. I have been to way too many repetitive services, heard the same corny jokes and drank too much watered down lemonade in my life.

I know I'm not the first person to say this but church can become an idol. It really can! Ask yourself this question: When I think of my faith do I think of Jesus or do I think of the church? I can hear some of you now saying "there is no church outside of Christ and there is no Christ outside of church". While I agree on the first part of that I very much disagree on the second part. Jesus existed eternal as the word. This was long before the church existed. Long before we had nice vestments and incense, before the wine was replaced with grape juice and even before we were expected to believe Newsboys were a good band; the Christ existed. Why does that matter? It matters because we put too much emphasis on the loyalty to a building and group of people and maintaining the status quo more than being like Jesus. 

We expect people to come to our spaces to receive a transformed life. Most churches I've been a part of don't attempt to be present in their own neighborhoods! What do we do when people do show up? We promise incredible community and support, rush them through a 101 class and tell them to serve. Church culture sells a lifestyle that we are all expected to conform to whether it works for us or not. In my experience I have found little community, lots of unforgiveness and an expectation from church staff that they don't hold themselves to. I've found a whole lot of empty. At this point in my life I can't handle "empty" for the sake of representing a logo on a bumper sticker. I was promised an abundant life not a repetitive cycle of indifference. One of the most interesting parts of all this is that my work/home life is fulfilling but the place that is supposed to feed my soul is not. Somewhere along the way the Christian faith became more about an entity than one we seek to become like. We're responsible for mortgages on large buildings with little funds for the widow.

What Am I Going To Do About It?

Plain and simple: I'm quitting church for awhile. Allie (my wife) and I discussed it and we feel our Sunday time is better spent eating brunch talking out our faith alone for a little while. While we go through this time we will discuss what we need in our faith. We aren't quitting forever I'm sure but we will cross that bridge when we get there. We want to take this time to love our neighbors better. We bought a movie projector and will host movie nights for the neighborhood kids. Our giving will go to groceries for people in need and we will cover some bills for others. We want to scale back church to what it was: A community. What better way to start than in my own backyard?

May the Lord bless us and keep us. Amen.

Charlie P.