I was talking recently with a dear Aunt. Before I launch into this post proper, I need to make it clear that I deeply respect this particular Aunt, as I respect all my Aunties. This “Aunt” is an Aunt by virtue of being a family friend, rather than an actual relation. (That reminds me – an Asian guy, possibly Indian, from Pakistan or Sri Lanka, tried to call me “Aunty” when I was shopping in his shop which is one of my local shops, I go there approximately once a week, so I already knew him quite well, and I was so upset! I think you mean “Sister”! Admittedly he is a lot younger than I am.)
So anyway I was discussing with this Aunty about church. And I explained why I was currently not attending any church. And she essentially said what any caring and concerned Aunty would say: “Tosin you have to go to church to find a husband!” And then we started discussing a particular church that I have previously attended.
I explained to her that were it not for a particular individual, I would have been happy to swallow my pride and return to that church. And then she also encouraged me to go back, this is the way church is, many people are undoubtedly going through the same things I experienced.
And you know, I sincerely listened, and considered what she was saying, and I was genuinely ready to reconsider returning to that church.
But then after the call, I remembered a few things. Have you ever been in a situation where you are in a conversation with someone, and you temporarily forget the arguments you have previously considered, and the points you have previously weighed up? I later realised that that was what had happened during that call. I was so tired that day, I literally had not slept the previous night, although that was entirely my own fault.
So during that call, I forgot that I am essentially a different faith to everyone else in that church. I forgot that I had said that I would wait to see fruit of the Holy Spirit at work in a church before going near it. Ironically, first time I went to that church, I was already aware of that consideration, but I overlooked it – and here I was about to make exactly the same mistake again, and with the same church too!
And I thought to myself: You know what? This is exactly how church works, in short, the whole thing largely runs on persuading people, especially women, to endure abusive situations in the name of “forgiveness” or humility, or serving God. Because truth be told, that situation in that particular church was abusive towards me. If I were to go back, it would be like going back to abuse. And this is also true, that this is exactly the way relationships often work, that women are encouraged to go back to their abusive husbands in the name of trusting God, or “fighting for your marriage.” And once again a Christian culture where marital abuse is often rife, but hidden, is often built on the woman’s capacity to endure, to persevere in a nightmarish relationship without complaining. What I am saying is that this type of abuse is often a given, whether it occurs in church or in the home, and the people involved, the perpetrators and the bystanders, know that it is going to be like this. There is simply no scenario in which they would be anything other than awful. And instead of changing themselves, or the atmosphere around them they just encourage you to be whatever you need to be to put up with it, “because no church is perfect Tosin”.
Candidly, I know that this is exactly the same advice that I would be given if I was talking about an abusive husband.
So you know what? On balance, I am not going to go back. I am going to stay right here and keep my money in my pocket, other than that which is to be given to charity. Because to add insult to injury, not only will these people treat you badly, then encourage you to “forgive”, but then they will also try to squeeze every penny from your pocket, in the name of “Serving God with your substance.”
The truth of course, is that even a Biblist church would not be perfect. But the available, non-Biblist churches are consistently filled with such egregious examples of bad character, right from the leadership.
I am not the only one complaining about this. I have seen so many things on YouTube, I have heard so many people asking “Why Millennials are leaving the church”. It is not because of a problem with Jesus Himself. It is not because the Gospel is so difficult, even though the Bible says that that is also a factor in the last days, that people will not want to listen to truth. In my experience, the people most aggressively refusing to listen to words of truth are the ones in the church, the ones claiming Christian positions for themselves. And then with their hatefulness and their spiritual insincerity they drive away so many people.
People say “Together we’re stronger”, but actually, I am stronger by myself than with a church like this. I can accomplish more both for myself and for my God. And I have done. Something else I have experienced not only in the church but also in work, and indeed in any situation where there is a collection of human beings, is that there is often so much pettiness, and politics. In church particularly, people will often pretend that this is not the case, but I have found that it remains the case as much in church as elsewhere: people will start projects ostensibly for the sake of serving God, but more truly for the sake of serving their own egos. And then they would constantly be recruiting people to be working on these projects. So often then, instead of investing my time and efforts into something which truly advances the Kingdom of God, I would instead be running around after one ego-oriented project after another. Also, getting the OK for the simplest projects or undertakings was often difficult.
For instance, I had an idea that we could film the services, and put them on YouTube. Actually, this is definitely not the simplest of ideas, but it is so standard among churches. And then come see the endless discussions back and forth. And I was thinking – what is complicated about this?! And guess what? They have actually adopted this idea now that I am out of the church. A second idea: I am currently posting daily prayer request to Facebook. This is a simple idea. And yet as simple as it is, I can imagine the headache I would have experienced in trying to get the approval while still in the church, or the number of feathers that would have been ruffled. Or people would just not have understood: “I don’t get it, what do you mean posting prayer requests about different countries in the world?” This is why I say it is a complete waste of my time and my initiative and my money to stay in such a church, and actually, I can accomplish a lot more by myself, and a lot faster and more efficiently.
Now this is what you have got to understand about this church: it was the best I have been to. The pastor was the soundest that I have experienced in adult life. And yet, on reflection I have realised that what I experienced in that church was actually abusive. That particular church might not be abusive to everyone. However, I sadly seem to be able to expect the very worst of someone’s possible behaviour, because the devil is so keen to pull me down, and he will use any tool available to him, and his available tools sadly often includes supposed “Christians”.
So long story short, it is not that I don’t want to find a church. I truly do. However, experience has taught me that as I am pursuing Biblical standards of Christian commitment, I also need to insist on a Biblical standard of church, and refuse to accept those lame modern excuses about no church being perfect.