Bless me, Father, for I have sinned.
Or at least abstained from gathering with the saints.
It has been six months, two weeks and two days since I have been to church.
I have forsaken the assembly.
Well, not totally. I still pray for my church family. I still pray for people who are not in my church family, but who feel like family. Surely they need Your help as much.
You see, that’s where I’m having this problem. I haven’t lost faith in You, Father; nor your Son; nor your Holy Spirit. I’ve lost faith in your church. The Bride of Christ. At least, I’ve lost faith in the way we’ve conducted ourselves.
As if we’re just married one or two hours of one day every week.
But that’s not all, either. I also feel like when we gathered to worship, it’s all about us. The songs we like to sing. The scriptures we like to read. The prayers we like to repeat. The sermons we like to hear. The gifts we like to put in the collection plate. The potlucks and activities we like to participate in. All in the building we like to have around us with the pews we like to sit in.
I’m just not at all sure that’s what You meant by “church” or “assembly.” I’m not convinced You intended for it to happen once or twice a week, every week, with the same rituals played out over and over with the same words spoken and sung and prayed. I’m not positive that the gifts we give should be largely funding a building and its expenses or even a ministry staff. I’m not certain any of that equates to worship.
Because it feels like, if that’s what worship is, we can only do it then and there and when we’re all together, and I don’t find that to be the case in scripture.
And I have to wonder if the time of worship in a specific place at a specific time with everyone gathered was supposed to end when the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed just as Jesus of Nazareth, your Son, predicted. That worship was to be constant, and prayer was to be constant, and singing was to be constant in our hearts — whether we’re alone or together in our homes or a borrowed place or on a seashore or a mountainside or a plain or wherever.
I get the picture that our gifts should be blessing the hungry and sick and poor and homeless. That there wouldn’t be as many of them and the destitution wouldn’t be so extreme if we weren’t spending our gifts otherwise. Mostly on ourselves.
I’m just not comfortable with the way we’ve been conducting ourselves as your family and the Bride of your Son.
I don’t preach anymore because it feels that my life should be the sermon seen and heard by those who aren’t familiar with You, or have had an awful experience with people like me who preached You but didn’t live You or love like You or bless others like You do.
I can’t see myself doing it the old way anymore. I’m spending more time, I think, with people who don’t really know You; people who feel like family whom You would love to hear calling you “Father,” and trying to drop hints to them that they’re loved and You’re listening and that You care.
I feel more at home among my fellow sinners, Father; You know I do.
And I don’t even know whether to be sorry about that.
I know that your family still gathering will be fine without me there. They don’t need to see my doubt and hear my lack of faith in church as they love it. I still love them, and I miss them, and I just can’t be there for them the way I used to be any longer. It’s not their fault or your fault or anyone’s fault, as near as I can tell — not even mine.
I’m just different in my doubt now.
I still believe in them, too; and that they will do much good and their hearts will worship You and people will be blessed.
That’s what I needed to confess. I will never forget what your Son said or did or gave for us, nor cease to be grateful for it, nor will I ever give up on church altogether.
I’m just with a different church now. The one that doesn’t really know You yet. The one willing to shake any preconception of the way church is or must be in order for You to be pleased and worshiped.
I want to hang with them, and be less of myself and more like You. Loving. Accepting. Gracious. Forgiving. The nonconformist who fishes for men and shepherds people and shares meals and tries to help heal brokenness.
That’s my confession, Father. I may be totally wrong and off-base, and if so, I’m doubly triply sorry. But I can’t believe in church as church is done right now, and I have to try something else.
Lord, help my unbelief.
3 thoughts on “I am apostate”
You’ve stumbled into grace my friend. God bless you.
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Keith, I could not have said any better than you have, exactly how my wife and I feel and have been acting the past four years. We like to say that our home is our church and the people that come see us are our congregation. And we try to serve them and love the people (and plants and animals) that we encounter along the way.
I’m wondering if you have been talking to other folks about the phenomenon of “deconstruction” that has been happening across the body of Christ for the past few years. I got a head start on it because I was involved with a cultish church for 12 years and, following that, opened my eyes to much of what you write in this post…and a good deal more. In my case, it was control and manipulation that most distressed me about the way many churches operate. I am grateful for your journey and trust that God will continue to be with you and guide you through it all.