I’m realizing that my faith is something that is very personal to me, not something that can be contained within the walls of a church. It can’t be defined in a Sunday service, or organized by traditions or rules. It sometimes changes from day to day, not that my beliefs do, but how I relate to God definitely does.
We haven’t been to church in several years, but my husband wanted to try to go. I’m the complete cynic when it comes to church. Being an INFJ, I tend to sit back and observe everything with a careful eye.
First thing I noticed upon entering was the lack of friendliness. Sure the greeters smiled and said hi, but didn’t really seem to know for certain if I was new or not. The church was a bigger church. When we walked in, there were stands with special brochures you could take if you were new. It was a like a one-stop-shop for newbies. So I grabbed the bulletin and sat down. The only person who spoke to my family and I was an older man who asked if we had received a program. Otherwise, the entire thing was pretty awkward.
Church Service or Concert?
The service started and I was confused about if I should cheer or sing. The singers were a talented bunch. The lead singer had a really great voice. The instrument playing was swoon-worthy. It didn’t exactly put me in the mood to worship though. I just kept staring at the singers, not focusing on worshiping God. They did manage to belt out a hymn in a non-traditional manner and I sang to that. Otherwise, I didn’t know 80% of the songs they were singing and was a bit turned off by the fact that I was more interested in their voices than praising God.
A guy stood up front and gave some announcements about an event where they’d be playing board games. We were encouraged to invite our friends because they’d get free food and they’d “pack the church”. Not exactly my idea of fun. Then he said there was only two ways to play board games: dice or timer. So then he abruptly ended his sentence with “go greet”. I felt stupid when the person in front of us then turned around and then introduced herself and then asked us if we preferred dice games or timed games. HUH? OK. Must be some sort of ice breaker, I guess.
Church Observers Not Participants
The lady in front of us told us a bit about herself and then asked how long we had been attending. Another clue to me that this church was too big and not personal. Granted, I wasn’t in the mood to connect anyway, but what’s the point of church? Just show up and give yourself pointers for singing a contemporary Christian song and listening to some feel good sermon? I don’t get it. Anyway, she ended by telling us she served some poor people with some other church members. Again, why do I care? Good for you. Pats on the back all around.
The sermon was alright, I guess. It was one of those sermons where you hear God’s word, then he relates it to something else entirely, and then you go home feeling grand about yourself. In this instance, it was the story of Nehemiah. The wall (which you can read in the book of Nehemiah) represented hard things in your life. He made a point somewhere that we need to be students of the word. Then started talking about resources to help us with our families. I don’t know. I got lost along the way actually. It seemed like he was elevating the church instead of what God was actually saying in the passage. I still didn’t get the point. Ok, read my bible and go get resources from the back table of the church, check. Whatever. Lame.
Outsiders & Traditions
Then they had communion which was utterly confusing to me. The communion tables were in the back of the church so everyone got up and walked to the table and participated in communion. Then in the front, people got up to light candles, which I read in the newbie brochure was to pray for loved ones. Basically you light a candle and say a prayer. It was rather chaotic and disorganized. Also, the entire time I was there, it seemed the church just assumed I would get what was going on. I did not get most of what was going on actually. I felt like I was in some weird mix of a Catholic and Evangelical Free Church mixed with a concert going experience. It was bizarre.
At the end, the pastor told us to turn our hands out to “receive the blessing”. I honestly stood there and told my husband “I’m not fricken doing that”. I was just fed up at this point with all their weird traditions with no explanations. Might as well have been attending a Muslim service. At least that would have made more sense. Anyway, like sheeple, everyone turned their hands up while the pastor prayed. I just wanted to leave.
The people in front of us told us that they’d hoped we’d come back. Yeah, not likely, but nice sentiments. We walked out with barely anyone noticing, except for the woman on her cell phone who was glaring at my daughter. My daughter shaved her head and was wearing a dress so my guess is that she was confused about the shaved head. I glared at the lady and she was still staring. At this point, I was just done with church. I told my husband I’d prefer to not go back.
So now we are back to square one. Where I always end up. I’m not keen on trying to find another church. It seems like the churches that might be accepting of our family are the ones where I am not interested in their fluffy sermons and music. And the churches that don’t have fluff are the ones that stand in judgment of new people, or families with daughters who have shaved heads. I get tired of feeling like I never fit in. It’s an exhausting experience overall.
I spent some time searching around at other churches and honestly, I think I’d rather not go. I’d like to be apart of a community somehow–especially since faith is important to me, but I’m not interested in defending myself, being judged, or church politics. I don’t want to try to worm my way in to some small elitist church nor do I want to be an extrovert so someone will notice me in a bigger church. I just don’t have the energy for any of it nowdays.
Why can’t churches be full of grace, accepting, and loving? Why do I always feel as if I’m being judged? Why is it so hard to find someone actually preach a sermon from the actual bible? Well, I don’t know. All I know is that I tend to just read it myself and not want much to do with church.
Desktop Background + Inspirational Verse
Anyway, I created this desktop background if you are interested. This verse from Psalms 27 and is one I felt comforted by recently. It reminds me that even though I don’t have a church or a community, the Lord hides me in his shelter and conceals me. He will lift me up. It’s my job to trust in Him.
To download, just click the link below and save to your computer. In windows, you can right click and go to “set as desktop background”. Enjoy! (PS – Photo by Matteo Catanese on Unsplash. Graphic design by me!)