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Retreating from the Church December 13, 2010

Posted by thesociallyawkwardchristian in Christianity, cynicism, introverted, prayer, socially awkward, The Church.

Last month, I wrote a blog about a prayer experiment I was attempting where I would have a concentrated hour of prayer for 30 days straight.  The goal was simply to improve my prayer life, an area in my walk with God that I felt was lacking. While I felt that goal was accomplished (not without a fight, I’ll have a detailed recap of the prayer experiment up some time before the New Year), one surprising place that I felt God led me during it was away from the Church.

I have been growing frustrated with the Church for a few years now, as many young Christians have. But, I never stopped attending church services simply because Christians are not supposed to miss church services. As my pastor is fond of saying, “You should never miss church, because you could miss your miracle.” I used to agree with this statement wholeheartedly, after all the Bible does say, ” And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV).  Just a few months ago, both the Christian and secular media made a big deal out of author Anne Rice’s statement that she was leaving the Church, but not Jesus. Most Christian leaders disagreed with Anne’s decision because, as Andy Stanley (I think) said, “You can’t love Jesus without loving his bride.” While I believe the words of the writer of Hebrews, and I tend to agree with Andy’s view, I couldn’t help but sympathize with Anne. I was becoming less and less patient with people in my church who disagreed with me on theology and liturgy (how church services should be structured). Not only that, I also felt a bit of conviction on what I felt was a seed of arrogance growing in me. While this was a problem that I needed to deal with that was totally my own fault, I felt that some people in my church were just stoking the fire, so to speak. I would get to church excited and leave angry and bitter. I had no idea what to do, because I felt like I needed to get away, but my pastor’s words would ring in the back of my mind. Thankfully God led me to a blog series Ed Cyzewski was doing on surviving church burnout (click on the link to his blog, “In a Mirror Dimly,” on the right; Ed consistently knocks it out of the park). I felt like God gave me permission to skip church for a few weeks in order to get refreshed and refocused on Him through these words from Ed:

No Christian I know wants to step away from the church. This is not something done with glee and joyIf you’re committed to processing your church or ministry burn out in a healthy way, then the next important step is to seek out a period of rest. That means stepping away from ministry and possibly even a traditional church service for a period of time.

Those words gave me the encouragement I needed to do what I felt I had to do. Ed is right about no Christian wanting to step away from the Church. This was not something I was looking forward to. We are created to want to be in the Church and to assemble and worship with other Christians. But, for the sake of my own spirituality this was something I had to do.

The first bit of relief I got was when I realized that I didn’t have to force myself out of bed to take a shower on Sunday. After that bit of purely physical indulgence, is when I felt like the Holy Spirit truly was ministering to me. After I got up, I put on some worship music and just dove into the Word. I ended up fellowshiping with God through a lectio divina type of Bible study, followed by a time of worship and prayer. When I looked at the clock I realized I had been in God’s prescence for almost two hours, about as much time as the service at my church usually lasts. The difference being, I felt so refreshed and relaxed that I felt like I had just gotten out of a hot tub. 

I ran into some opposition, of course, particularly from my mother. My parents are very traditional Southern Baptists, and mom has never liked me going to a less traditional non-denominational church in the first place, so choosing to skip church altogether was completely lost on her. I might as well have told her I was now an atheist. This opposition from the previous generation of Christians is just something the next generation will have to get used to. As Gabe Lyons describes in his book, The Next Christians, Christians aged 16-29 are about to change the way church is done, but our parents and grandparents won’t understand or like it. I viewed this instance with my mom as just a glimpse of the things to come. The key is learning how to handle this with grace and honor to those who have gone before us.

Yesterday marked the third and last Sunday service I plan on missing during this “retreat.”  I feel refreshed, refocused, and am looking forward to rejoining my church in worshiping God together. I know that the things I disagree with about my church haven’t changed, and some things will continue to frustrate me. But, through taking a few weeks away from them, and letting God work in and minister to me personally has given me enough strength to where I feel I’m ready to handle the frustrations that churchlife and Christian community can sometimes bring, at least until the next retreat.

How do you feel about skipping church to get closer to God?

Have you ever felt like leaving the Church, like Anne Rice?

What are some suggestions you would give to someone feeling burned out by the Church or their Christian communities?

What are the things you most like about Christian community? What are the things you like least?


(It would be wrong of me to not mention how Adam S. McHugh’s book Introverts in the Church, has also inspired me through this time. Adam taught me that it is perfectly normal for an introvert to need more times of solitude than extroverts do, and churches usually are extroverted in nature. If you are a Christian and an introvert, or a pastor of any personality type, Adam’s book is  must read.)




1. Alexis Smith - December 13, 2010

Yep, very much. I’m not very fond of churched these days, seeing how the Church of Acts was set up, and then seeing how our churches have strayed from what the most Biblical church would be. And as I got back from Mexico, truly experiencing a church that a could see Jesus stepping foot into, I’ve noticed the lack of Holy Spirit in many churches.

There’s a pastor from Cambodia, He said something along the lines of this, “A church inside four walls is really no church at all.”

So, yes, many times I’ve wanted to step away from going to traditional church services and maybe instead, taking the gospel to perhaps the homeless people of New Orleans, or maybe even just having a Bible and worship study, allowing the Lord to do what He wants during that time, but I don’t really have say over whether I go to church or not being this young.

2. Charles Frith - December 13, 2010

God is inside us. Not the walls.

3. Brandon Kraft - December 15, 2010

You know, I have gone through the same thing. Except, I didn’t focus on God. I focused on me. I stopped attending, and I’m a staff pastor, for a period of 5 weeks. I was mad at God. I was mad and couldn’t trust Him because of people. I had let people had ruined my trust for God and love for the Bride… I am still struggling with this even though I am back to attending and going through the motions… I guess that’s the real answer. I am just going through the motions…

thesociallyawkwardchristian - December 15, 2010

I think that’s the real fear of most people about taking a break from church services. A lot of people think if we take a rest from church we are obviously falling away from God. The important thing to remember, Brandon, is that our problem is w/ the Church and not w/ Jesus. Sadly, most people in the Church are not the reflection of Jesus that we are supposed to be. That’s why it’s up to us to be that reflection to our brothers and sisters. To paraphrase Paul, we need to show them how to imitate us as we imitate Christ. We can’t do that if we given to bitterness though. My advice to you would be to be sure to give yourself plenty of time during the day to seek Jesus, however it is you choose to do that, both before and after you encounter the people that frustrate you the most. By doing that, you will be reminded that Jesus is not the one you are frustrated by and it might help His love for them translate into your own spirit. I’ll be praying for you, sir.

4. rushartist - December 17, 2010

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV).
I feel, very much, that “Church” as we see it in America is not the gathering together that the author of Hebrews was referring to. I don’t know about you, but when I go to a Sunday morning service I do not feel as though we stir one another up toward love and good deeds. Indeed there is only one person at our services doing the stirring. I am only listening…not stirring up or encouraging my brothers and sisters. It is a very one sided meeting. But in my other activities – small groups, bible studies, playdates, running with friends, couples game nights – I feel as though there is an abundance of stirring one another up and encouraging one another. That is where my true church happens. It’s where I learn and grow and am encouraged. It’s also where I am able to exhort my friends, encourage the body, share in wisdom and conversation and feel a deepening in my relationship with the Lord as my relationship deepens with “His bride”. The church, to me, does not necessitate a building, a program or a specific day of the week. It is his people (wherever they may be). I love the church with all my heart. If I stopped attending Sunday morning services, i’m not sure my spiritual life would be affected much (maybe there would be more peace in my heart and less hostility toward other Christians). But if I stopped gathering together in my home, in the homes of friends, in coffee shops, at playgrounds, on running trails…I’d miss that tremendously and my heart would wilt. I’d miss the wisdom and love and encouragement and challenge of the relationships I have with other believers. That is the assembly I cannot do without.

5. Aaron Dederich - February 23, 2011

a much needed begining Warning is needed. to those that are more prone to be “wise in their own eyes”.
some of the “struggle” is good, needed, by GOD, from GOD, important and HOLY.
Some view truth as lies and lies as truth…
How does this change?
How do we get on the same page as christians?
Work together?
Loose religous traditions?
Learn….? not of ouselvs for ourselvs

Keep intouch and focused on a Holy goal/mission/purpose …other than me/self/i

6. Aaron Dederich - February 23, 2011

Dont confuse the wrong church and/or wrong theology
all church
all theology
call to truth….
a certain truth… not had
holding a problem.. a lie
not letting go… of lie
or.. sometimes not standing up for truth…

For me going to a place (after seeking n prayer) that i would have never gone to before would be of more value than not going at all. (just me?)

there is no house of the church of budwiser or 420 believers fellowship where buzzed n high is king…
that said …..
any doubt to the ignorance out there?
why even the Bible calls us sheep? dogs? evil?
we go from Glory to Glory, lies to truth, ignorance to understanding… that often does not happen alone apart from church…
The bible places High value on this for a reason
GOD calls people
to be shepards… for a reason.
people get silly little lies all the time… “im too good for”
“I dont need” “i am” “that good” “that smart” “that holy” “that awesome” “better than”…. where do lies end? start? Where are they corrected?
Never underestimate the reason for the Church… And WHO started

7. Holly - July 19, 2013

I’m gonna be honest with a struggle I’ve been dealing with for years. I feel like I’ve disliked the Church. I’d say hated, but maybe the better word would be disgusted. Back story, I’m a Pastor’s kid (since the age of 13 when I was “adopted”). I learned early on what it meant to serve the Church and its always been my JOY to serve Jesus by serving the Church. But the past few years, I’ve just felt taken advantage of because I’m willing. A few weeks ago, God began working on my heart (I had finally allowed him to touch that area) and my heart is softening ever so slightly. I was at a camp meeting with a friend and the speaker was talking about the church– powerful message honestly. In it he had a long list of “If you give God ______, He’ll give you a ______” He started in Genesis and basically worked through the entire Bible sharing stories. “You give God a boy with 3 stones and He’ll give you victory.” (type stuff). It was so powerful. Anyway, after his message, he told us to get into groups of 3 or 4 people and pray for the Church. And it was at that moment, that I just thanked God for His people. I hadn’t done that in awhile and it did something in me. I need to do that more– just pray for the people that really grate on me knowing that God’s love is for them too.

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