Churches are full of judgmental hypocrites. They shoot you when you’re wounded, judge you when you’re down, and look down their noses at you.
At least, that is the reason so many people give for why they won’t go to church, even if they may believe in Jesus.
And you know what? I’m not disagreeing!
Because it’s true.
Churches are full up to the rafters with imperfect people that make mistakes, and sometimes the mistake that is made is a judgmental attitude, misplaced pride, and harsh criticism.
In churches you’re going to find people who may gossip about you, look down on you, stab you in the back.
And you know what?
I still believe you should go to church!
Honestly? Because God didn’t create us to go through life alone, He placed us in families to learn and to grow together in. That is what a church is, or what it should be, a family. Sometimes a dysfunctional one, but still, a family.
We need each other during hard times. We need each other to call each other on our junk. We need each other’s perspectives as we learn from God’s word, because none of us are ever going to have the whole picture alone.
But I just said that church is full of hypocrites! Why on earth am I saying we need to be around these people?
Ok, so I admit, there are times when a church isn’t the one you should be in. That doesn’t mean that there ISN’T a church you should be in.
So how do you find a church?
I have a few thoughts on what a healthy church looks like that I would like to share with you.
1. A healthy church is firmly grounded in the Bible.
This doesn’t mean that they are always correct in everything they teach, but a healthy church should have a healthy love of the Word of God. They shouldn’t be apologetic about it, and they should be willing to tackle even difficult to handle passages. They do their best to guard against twisting the Word to what they WANT it to say, but instead seek to have as good an understanding as they can of what it DOES say.
Yes, there tends to be a head pastor, but that doesn’t mean one person should be the only person in charge. There should be submission and understanding between the leaders in a church. Respect and consideration and a willingness to be real.
3. A healthy church shouldn’t be afraid of unhealthy people.
We are all on a journey, and none of us are perfect. A healthy church will, though not having a focus on sin, still be real enough to stand up and say, “We’re not perfect, and that’s ok, God loves us anyway.” And desire to bind together to help each other.
4. A healthy church doesn’t like gossip.
Ok, it’s probably impossible to keep all gossip out of a church. But a healthy church will be wary of just telling stories about the people in it, or pointing fingers.
That is all simple enough, but you may have some further concerns. I’d like to address a few I hear about all the time from the world at large.
Concern 1. “They are just after my money!”
I kind of get frustrated with this concern honestly. Pastors generally only barely get by financially if that, and yet are expected to be available pretty much 24/7 to help with any crisis that comes up. Yes a church may have a few messages on things like tithing, and they ask for an offering every week, but how else do you expect them to pay the bills for the building you are sitting in, the services you expect from them, and the outreaches to the community they may be trying to implement? Not to mention, preachers need to eat too!
Concern 2. “That Pastor isn’t preaching/doing things I agree with!”
I’m going to be very honest with you right here: Pastors don’t always get things right, but than neither do you always have things right. It’s true that there may be a time that you are in a church and you don’t agree with something that is being taught, or something that is being done. Don’t go crazy, don’t get upset, DON’T start gossiping about it. Pray about it, sincerely. And don’t say “God make them change!” Say, “God, Your will and truth be done in this. If its them that needs to change, change them. If its me that needs to change, change me.” If you still feel that things are out of order, DON’T try to back-bite, DON’T let hurt or offence control your response. Go to the people involved respectfully and voice your concerns RESPECTFULLY. Keep an open heart and listen. Be willing to agree to disagree. Don’t take things personally, don’t allow hurt to take root where it doesn’t need to. Forgive offense.
Concern 3. “I just don’t feel like I belong.”
Ok, first of all, take a look at yourself and ask yourself a few questions: Are you trying to be involved? Sometimes people stop by a huge church for a few weeks, get lost in the crowd, stop going and then are offended nobody noticed. Don’t be unreasonable in your expectations of these people. Seek relationships out. Find needs and volunteer. Get involved in a home group. Sometimes it takes time to connect, no one needs to be blamed for that. But if you still feel for some reason like you just don’t belong in that church, don’t get angry or offended, don’t be disrespectful, just move on so you can find someplace you do belong.
But do find some place to commit to, and commit to it. You will never be able to understand the fullness of relationships with others if you never stick around long enough to make them. Yes, it can be scary to open up to people, but quite honestly, this isn’t just a social group, these are people who may just become your closest family.
I feel like these are important things for people to understand. If we can just learn to be respectful and understanding of each other so much hurt and division would never happen. Yes, I know, that’s why you don’t want to go right? But you know what? I remember a long time ago my standing there, looking around and judging the people who weren’t paying attention or worshiping, and God whispered in my ear, “Joy, YOU aren’t paying attention or worshiping. Stop looking at what others are doing, focus on yourself.” The thing is, we are a family. We need each other. And we need to not focus so much on what other people might do to us, but rather what we can bring to others. We need YOU. You’re part of this family too.
I hope what I’ve had to say here can help someone out there. I hope you find a home.
~Joy Aletheia Stevens