How Then Shall We Live?
By Joseph Ellis
Just a couple years ago I could not have imagined being a person who does not belong to a church. It’s amazing how a series of events can transpire to where all of a sudden you’re in a situation you never thought (in a million years) you would find yourself in. Yet that’s exactly what happened to my family and I when we no longer found ourselves a part of a church. The specifics, for this post, really aren’t important. What is important, is what we have learned by not going to church, and I’ll go over several of them today.
To begin with, I was amazed at how unfulfilling it had been. My wife and I had been involved in church most of our lives, and I think if anyone had asked of us at any time, we would have said being involved in church was very fulfilling. However, after we found ourselves on the outside looking in, it was amazing how little of it we had actually enjoyed. Instead of having felt good, we realized that we were burned out, and unsure if we really believed in what we were spending our time doing. We had been a part of numerous programs, and while we could look back at moments where we felt our lives had been changed, or been a part of others’ lives being changed, it seemed like those moments were few and far between with a lot of busy in between. It left us wondering: Had we just been wasting time?
We were also surprised at how few actual relationships we had. To their credit, there are a few people who have remained our friends to this very day, but there were many more who we haven’t heard from since. This is not to disparage the people who knew us, but it spoke to the reality that church had been much more about programs, growth, and marketing, than relationships. We had spent a lot of time with other people, but at the end of the day we really didn’t know them, and they didn’t know us – at least not in a way that would allow a relationship to exist without the social structure we had called church.
Since then we have been moving on with life; and we know we would like to be in a church again some day, but for different reasons. It will be because we enjoy the people there, and believe what their about rather than what their doctrinal statements are; and while we had both grown up in Evangelical/Pentecostal churches, we can’t see ourselves in those traditions again. So we will probably end up in a traditional church when that day actually comes.
Will it come? I believe so. We have realized there are good aspects as well: support and love for a member who is sick or going through difficulty, encouragement through life, and counsel. There are other aspects important to us as well, but it needs to be about community. Endless programs for every wish, desire, or need? We’ll pass, thank you.