I love Jesus, but I don't like the church.
My head jerked around to re-read. Did I read that right?
Those were the words on a local church sign, advertising the upcoming Sunday's sermon. I've thought about that sign quite a bit. My initial reaction stemmed from deep parts of me that have always known the Sunday School answers: We're supposed to love the church.
Then I was honest with myself: Sometimes I don't like the church. And, more than likely, I'm sometimes the church person that causes someone else not to like the church. Ouch.
I've wondered how the pastor of the church with that sign delivered the sermon. I've wondered what points he included in his sermon. I've wished I had been there to hear what he had to say.
I'm aware that many pastors would jump on that sign statement, and berate those who agree with it. Unfortunately, the more honest and transparent conversations I have with people, the more I hear how others feel the same way. It's almost like a secret underworld of people who find one another when we work up the courage to offer one honest statement. Suddenly, we realize:
Hey, maybe I'm not alone! Maybe someone else feels the same way I do. Maybe there are other people who are weary from wearing masks, uttering the right words, dressing to fit someone else's code, smiling and serving when all they want to do is lay in a heap and cry. I'm not the only one who sometimes dreads coming to church where everyone attempts, in vain, to fit the same mold.
The joy-filled Christian life doesn't come without difficult circumstances. Yet, at church, we often pretend it does. And that often makes us hold back our longings for honest, authentic, transparent relationships. We start to feel like we don't belong with all the other joy-filled Christians. Before we know it, we no longer like the church. We no longer want to attend. It becomes work to wear the mask, but we put it on and go through the motions without an ounce of honesty, authenticity, or transparency.
You'll find me somewhere in the middle. I desperately want honest, authentic, transparent relationships. But I wear my mask, mostly out of fear. I've succumbed to trying to fit the mold. Because of that, I'm probably that person that causes other people not to like church. The irony is that I don't really like the mold, and being part of the church sometimes makes me want to run far from it.