Waking up with Leah: Learning to Love a Disappointing Church

In the tiny Texas town where I grew up, sleeping in on Sunday morning was as inconceivable as rooting for someone besides the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday afternoon. Going to church made the list with apple pie and Chevrolet. My dad was a deacon; my mom a Sunday School teacher; and I was the typical daydreaming boy fidgeting in the pew. Fast-forward a couple of decades, and I found myself in a job where sleeping in on Sunday was highly frowned upon since the pulpit would’ve been quite empty without me. There I was: seminary trained, armed to the teeth with confessions and creeds, zealous to convert a world—or, at least, our Oklahoma town—to the faith once for all delivered to the saints.

Looking back at myself as that twenty-something pastor, I have to admit that I was almost as steeped in naïveté then as I was as a twelve year old boy. Sure, I knew plenty about the church, but it was heavily freighted with the good stuff. The good stuff of the ladies’ guild cooking casseroles for grieving families, youth groups pounding hammers in Mexico to build homes for the poor, a rancher showing up on the pastor’s doorstep with half a beef from his own herd to stock the freezer. But as good and giving and beautiful as the church can be, there’s a dark side, too, that at times can be dog ugly. The day I stumbled upon a secret meeting of the church leadership and one of the elders stood up and slammed the door in my face—that comes to mind. Over the years, there were the not-so-veiled threats of violence, pastors who broke the seal of confession, bishops issuing warnings about me, and occasional rumors about me so outrageous they could have been ripped from the cover of the National Enquirer. I learned plenty through those years, the most obvious lesson being that the church can be a place that’s just as mean and nasty and royally screwed up as the world.

Like the patriarch, Jacob, who after his wedding night, awoke to the wrong wife in his bed, I too one day opened my eyes to find that the Rachel with whom I had fallen in love, for whom I’d labored long years, was not the one beside me as the sun rose. I rolled over and came face-to-face with the uncomely, undesirable, older sister. And then I had a decision to make: leave the church, or learn to love Leah.

Have you been there? Maybe you too grew up with a congregation as your second home, perhaps even served in the ministry, but later encountered within its walls abuse or neglect or a whole host of other ills. While going through a divorce, or struggling with a sexually charged issue, you found not clasping hands of support but wagging fingers of accusation. As the shards of your broken life fell about you, when simply having a Christian show you they cared, when that alone would have meant the world to you, all you saw was the church’s back, turned away, walking the other direction. Or maybe you just slowly slipped away, skipping a Sunday here, a whole month there, and eventually never darkened the doors again, but not a single believer took the time to call or visit to reveal they missed you. You have your story, and I have mine, but all such accounts shoulder a common burden: the fellowship that is supposed to be a hospital for sinners can seem more like a religious country club, a xenophobic clique, or a horde of hypocrites. Call it what you may, it’s not been a church to you and for you. So what do you do? Do you leave or learn to love Leah, walk away from the church or stay?

I could’ve washed my hands of the whole affair and walked away. In fact, I gave serious thought to just that, and for several years, rarely planted my butt in a pew for, when I did, I could taste the bile rising up my throat. But over time, and through a whole lot of healing, re-wounding, and re-healing, I finally came to the point where I see and love Leah for what she is: a beautifully ugly church in whose arms I encounter the God who loves beautifully ugly sinners like me.

A beautifully ugly sinner like me—that’s where healing has to start, with an honest acknowledgement that there may be a slew of unattractive things about the church, but I’m no supermodel of holiness myself. Part of the way we humans deal with our grief or anger or guilt is to deflect any culpability from ourselves by blaming others for almost everything that goes wrong. And though there are important exceptions—such as the victims of sexual predators—most of us who’ve had a rocky relationship with the church must fess up to our own failings. There’s a good chance Leah finds me just as ugly as I find her. I see hypocrites in the church, but I see in my own soul times galore when I wore a mask of piety in public and a face of shame in private. I deplore how the church’s tongue can destroy a person’s reputation, but my own tongue loves the desserts of lies and rumors and gossip more than it loves the bread of honesty. In our society, where it seems everyone claims to be a victim, it needs to be said that we are all perpetrators ourselves. We struggle with the same faults with which we fault the church.

In addition to personal accountability, we’ve got to kill and bury any utopian daydreams we have about the church hitting the gym to tighten her glutes and getting a boob job so we have a hotter, sexier Leah. There has never been, nor will there ever be, a time when the church was flawless. Barely had Jesus ascended before the church descended into trouble. Squabbles arose, heresies spread, pastors played favorites, sexual immorality mushroomed, and hearts grew cold. In the last book of the Bible, there are letters from God to seven different churches. Although he commends those congregations for many good things, he also complains of them leaving their first love, holding to false teachers and teachings, spiritual death, and lukewarmness. And this while the church was still basking in the afterglow of the earthly ministry of Jesus! As long as there are people in the church, there will be problems, for if humanity is anything, it is problematic.

Therein is the reason I found my way (or rather, like a lost sheep, was carried) back to the church: because it’s a place pregnant with problems. Because of those imperfections, I fit in perfectly. If you’ve got it all together, have no struggles, live a full and happy life, free of sin, then the church is not for you. But if you struggle with selfishness, greed, lust, addiction, problem children, a cheating spouse, fear, loneliness, or anything else that plagues our race, then the church is the ideal place for you. For Leah struggles with all that crap, too. Don’t let the pretty stained glass and padded pews and vested clergy fool you; all around the church are wounded sinners wheeled about on gurneys, doctors sewing up stab victims, nurses checking IVs, and double amputees carried by the blind who are led by the mute while the deaf sing prayers for healing. The church is messy place for messed up people who are in dire need of a God who cares.

In uncomely, undesirable, older Leah, that’s just what you’ll find: a God who cares. You’ll find a God who was born of an unwed teen whose neighbors likely whispered was a slut. You’ll find a God who hung out with outcasts, welcomed whores as followers, touched untouchables, called bullshit on the holier-than-thous of his day, and walked eyes wide open into the clutches of those who would torture him to death so as to save a world that really didn’t think it needed saving. In the church you’ll encounter the God who takes all his beautiful and exchanges it for your ugly.

And so, after a few years of growing up, maturing in a some areas, and realizing a bit more clearly what life is all about, I can now honestly say, “Leah, just as you are—not who I want you to be, not who others say you should be—but just as you are: I love you.”

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57 thoughts on “Waking up with Leah: Learning to Love a Disappointing Church

  1. Beautifully written. Great analogy, too. Profound food for thought, and believe me, I’m chewing on it. But I’m not sure if I’m mature enough to swallow it whole. Can’t I find the “God who hung out with outcasts, welcomed whores as followers, touched untouchables, [&] called bullshit on the holier-than-thous of his day” in other places than the Church? The Sunday morning bile-rising-in-my-throat experience, as you described, is one I know all too well. In fact, most of the time, nothing makes me feel farther from Jesus than being in Church. Why should I force myself to be somewhere that makes me feel abandoned by God? Nothing makes me doubt God more than going to church, so it seems like avoiding the source of the pain is the most obvious response. 😦
    Help me with this one, if you will. Can you meet God elsewhere? And if so, is there any other purpose for attending church that could serve as motivation for forcing oneself to learn to love Leah?

    • Yes, Lydia, God is met where he is present for us–in his Word of life and forgiveness and healing. But since that Word is present, in abundance, among the believers who gather in the “brick-and-mortar” church for the reading and proclamation of his Gospel, the eating and drinking of his body and blood, the declaring of absolution, the singing of his praise, the baptizing in his name, then that’s where a Christian needs to be.

    • Lydia,
      While many of us have struggled with these feelings, I urge you not to give up. It took me a couple of decades to find a church where I felt welcome. It isn’t perfect because it is made up of imperfect people, but we welcome the unchurched, the over-churched, and everyone in between.
      Check out podcasts of local churches before “attending”. The message will give you a lot of insight about each church you investigate.
      Your pursuit may be lengthy, but it will be worth it. I went from being the person who “didn’t need God or church and all the hypocrisy that comes with it” to a Christ-follower and volunteer, to now a church staff member.

      • Sharon, thank you. I sincerely appreciate your thoughtful and encouraging reply. However, I’m not actually church shopping at present because I’m trying to figure out if there could ever be a church I’d be happy with. I’m getting skeptical & cynical. That’s why I hoped Chad’s message would help me to accept the Church (at large) as it is instead of continuing to hold it to a higher standard that it could never possibly hope to reach. While I know that being welcomed & fitting in is important for many people (and I don’t begrudge them that need), that’s not exactly my issue with the Church. My issue is that the Church doesn’t seem to care about the Lost. The churches I’ve been a part of seem primarily concerned with the Found. The leaders (pastors) LOVE working hard to make people into good church members.

        Instead of helping people learn how to evangelize and witness their faith to nonChristians, we’re taught how to be good members of committees and boards and guilds. We come to programs and events that are for US. We plan potlucks and picnics for ourselves. We gather together over and over and over and never seem to even mention the fact that the majority of the people we interact with outside of that club is on a fast track to Hell. In terms a modern LCMS Lutheran would get, we’re really good at “Life Together” but really crummy at “Witness” and “Mercy,” and even crummier at fulfilling the Great Commission, which, as far as I’m concerned, should be a primary focus of Christians. So when I go to church, I feel abandoned because I think, “How am I supposed to grow in my ability to witness or reach out to others if the only ‘skills’ are planning potlucks or cleaning communion ware?” Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that fellowship isn’t valuable. What I’m saying is, for most churchy folks, that’s the only thing that matters. And I can’t stand that. The other major thing making me see red these days is churches’ budgets. I’ll know a church I can be a part of, not by the sermon podcasts, but by the budget. If I see a church that spends a overwhelming percentage of its budget on evangelism, missions, outreach, and Gospel-spreading (to the Lost, the Unchurched, etc.), then I’ll see a church that has its priorities straight. But the more conventional approach is to sink the funds into buildings, redecorating projects, and inwardly-focused activities.

        From my perspective, Leah seems like one of those wives who cares very little about her husband’s needs and desires and a great deal about herself. She’s the sort of woman who spends all her husband’s hard-earned cash on expensive shoes that she doesn’t need. When her husband says, “All I want is for people to know how much I love them,” she says, “I don’t have time or energy to go around telling people about YOU, dear. I want them to just come and have fun and focus on ME!” Some wife.

        Sorry. Rant ended. 😦

      • Lydia, you make great points about the LCMS. What frustrated me as a parish pastor was that I seemed to be talking a different language than many I’m the church – especially the elders and council members. For me, fellowship, or “Life Together” is about growing in Christ, maturing in faith through studying and wrestling with the Word. It is about learning how to “do” Christianity. Most folks seem to see fellowship as having happy times together that didn’t necessarily include Jesus. Any social organization cod provide that. Now I am a speaker for an organization that serves the poor in Latin America and the Caribbean. I find those who reasonate with the message I proclaim are those who hear Jesus saying, “If you want to serve Me, serve the hungry, thirsty, naked, sick and imprisoned.” – Matthew 25:40

        I believe every Christian needs to take those words seriously and get out of their comfortable pew to serve the Lord by caring for others instead of only caring for themselves. I have a suspicion that the worst thing that happened to the Church was becoming another institution instead of a movement in the hearts and lives of those Christ has called out of the world.

      • Betty Braddy on said:

        Lydia, You are so right in your ans. to Sharon below…. budget shows where the ‘heart’ of the church is. However, do follow Sharon’s ideas to church shop. Church is the place where one can really worship God; where one can ‘feel’ the presence. There are churches who feel strongly that reaching the ‘unchurched’ is their reason for being. These churches are few and far between. I have been helping start such churches for over 30 years… and know that churches that are new and are begun with people like you to reach others, to help others, to help others to feel Jesus’ love thru other Christians do exist. Leah does have reason to love, but can I worship w/her? No! I can work for a community effort to help the homeless w/all the Christian Churches in town…. but be part of the politics, of the denomination with such principal practices of Christianity that I cannot abide. No way. Keep looking. God has a place for you to worship HIM.

    • Acts 29 sister, youll like it.

  2. this is a BEAUTIFUL post! may i repost it (with due credit, of course) on my blog?

  3. SPOT on ! I’ve pondered Jacob’s Leah at more than one level, but never this ! As a once-ordained who left his Leah a quarter century ago, never to darken her vestibule again, you’ve done some good ‘marriage’ counselling here.

  4. This one might be worth developing into a book, BTW.

    • Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community by Dietrich Bonhoeffer explores this topic and is a good and worthy read.

      • Yep. Read that one. Bonhoeffer wrote good stuff. Still, I feel pretty confident that Chad’s perspective and personality and experience would produce a different work with a different audience that would also be a significant and useful contribution to the Church community.

  5. Andrew Byars on said:

    Chad, Sometimes it seems like you are reading my thoughts, only with much more eloquent and descriptive words. Thanks for this.

  6. Chad, thank you for writing this. I needed to read this myself. I thank our Lord that you have His peace once again.

  7. I remember Gabe Huck at the Valpo Liturgy shindig urging us to learn to love the Church as she is and not as we would have her be…absolutely right on.

  8. Ben R. on said:

    Word

  9. Pingback: Waking up with Leah: Learning to Love a Disappointing Church | apples of gold

  10. Jim Haugen on said:

    Thanks Chad, needed to hear what you said.

  11. Sam Pakan on said:

    I don’t think I’ve ever not loved something you wrote, but this is extraordinary. Thank you for writing this for me. I’m vicariously relieved of my burden.

  12. Does it really matter who sits beside you in church? “Where two or more are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Mr. Webster defines worship as reverence to a divine being. There still are many Christians in churches who demonstrate their faith by their actions.

  13. Pam Knepper on said:

    Thank you for this message, Chad. So profound and so true. May our loving Lord continue to bless you.

  14. Stephen Williams on said:

    “Bull” works just as good as “bullshit” doesn’t it? Do you want to give us license to unleash the tongue? Because I think that’s what we weaklings will infer.

    Great message though. Thanks.

    • Jim Kress on said:

      Stephen, no disrespect but if Chad were a play-by-play announcer on the radio, his broadcast of the play was accomplished with discriptive perfection. As a listener, I heard him well and found myself on the playing field.
      I too am shy at times in using language that may cause offense to others, but Chad is not preaching from the pulpit here. My preferred word would be ‘crap’, but that’s me.
      Chad, an outstanding piece. WOW! WOW! WOW! My wife at one time uttered, “All I want to be is a crappy Christian.” Your post has me thinking about loving Leah and being and crappy Christian in a crappy Church. Love it.

  15. From A Pastor's Wife... on said:

    I disagree. “Bull” is not just as good a word as “bullshit.” It was appropriately shocking, and I was glad to read it.

    This article is beautiful. I’ve shared on Facebook and have had several re-shares by friends. This speaks to us. I have several friends who have left the church because of woundedness, and as a Millennial, I find myself discontent quite often. But as I embrace my own flaws and have grace for the shortcomings of my brothers and sisters, I am, like you said, able to see The Bride for what she is – messed up and beautiful at the same time. Just the right place for a person like me.

    • Stephen on said:

      Thanks. Now I know who to contact about what is and isn’t appropriate. You teach your teenagers your bullshit, and I’ll try something else. I hope those who learn from you don’t inappropriately shock you down the road. I really don’t know the right answers here, but right now I’m of the opinion that Jesus didn’t say, “tame your tongue unless you want to shock someone.” I spent 40 years of my life struggling with cursing, and now have two teenagers that refuse to curse. Imagine my confusion!

      • Carrie on said:

        I’m with you Stephen. I read the entire post and was disappointed when I got to the curse word. I just canceled a subscription to a magazine for that very word being used in print. Not what I want my kids to see. They hear enough of that in the world. And when one uses curse words they become part of your thought pattern and are definitely not glorifying to God.

      • The word “shit” isn’t exactly a curse. In fact, it isn’t one at all. God commanded us not to take His name in vain. Last I checked, God wasn’t named “shit.” Not all expletives are in violation of the second commandment. Bullshit’s not a particularly pretty or polite word, and like most churchy folks, I do prefer that children not see/hear/use it. But I highly doubt there are many kids reading Chad’s blog, and within the context, it’s a meaningful word to have used. Think about it. The things Chad labeled as BS really are as smelly and vile and unwelcome as a pile of the literal stuff would be. It’s a fitting term for the context. It’s not swearing. It’s not cursing. It’s not a sin and doesn’t need to be treated like one.

      • Stephen on said:

        Lydia: I would love to allow you sheriff of “fitting terms”, but I already implied the “Pastor’s Wife” could wear that badge. (As if I had that authority.) I appreciate you inviting me to “think about it”, as if I hadn’t until the sheriff came to town. My post doesn’t claim any violation of the second commandment as you imply it does. Ironically, you seem to think you can describe it accurately using “smelly and vile”, while at the same time implying Chad can’t. Interesting. Again, keep in mind I am a recovering cusser. (I fall off the wagon regularly, btw.) But consider this. Amid the 66 books of the bible, why can’t I find cuss words? Why didn’t Jesus cuss while turning over the tables of temple courts? Why didn’t David cuss in the Psalms? Or, conversely, why would the divinely inspired writers feel compelled to eliminate all of the cussing? My point is, I don’t need a “fitting term”, “meaningful word”, “appropriately shocking” sheriff, because I already have a standard set from the bible. Frankly, as a long time cusser, the word doesn’t offend me, as many of you assume. But it does offend people close to me, and people I would otherwise like to share the article with. If you will reread my original post, I was simply asking why Chad thought he had to use it. BTW, I also find it interesting that none of you who are running for new sheriff seem interested in taking the time to write the new standard, since we’re not using the bible. WTF?!?!

      • Skubalon on said:

        While coarse language can be needlessly offensive, scripture has its share. Ezekiel chastised the kingdoms of Israel comparing them to a pair of whores desperately randy for horse penis and horse semen. Elijah mocked Baal, asking his prophets if he was busy making potty. Isaiah compared our personal righteousness to menstrual rags, and Paul called his righteousness under the law Skubalon (excrement), and called for the Galatian Judaizers to chop off their own privates. In mutliple places scripture compares those returning to unbelief of being dogs that eat their vomit, or pigs that wallow in their filth. None of this was theopneustos in the politely worded way that I related it.
        And in Christian history it gets even stronger, where folks like Martin Luther wrote diatribes comparing some beliefs to ingesting fresh feces straight from Satan’s posterior.
        We don’t want to be guilty of gossip, slander, or uncharitable attitudes to others, but there are times when strong language shouldn’t be condemned merely because it is strong.To do so would be to condemn God’s word.

      • Stephen on said:

        Skubalon. I appreciate your input. When you say “none of this was theopneustos in the politely worded way…”, do you mean the original texts used words considered “cuss words” at the time of their writing? Maybe I’m wrong, but I think there’s a significant difference between “coarse language” and cuss words. I was taught that coarse language meant one simply put an ugly thought into harsh, yet acceptable words, for instance. Cussing, on the other hand, meant using unacceptable words. Most on this forum are trying to convince me there is no difference. I respectfully disagree. I think there has to be a standard, and I think the bible offers a standard. If you convince me that original writings were “cleaned up” after their divine inspiration, I would probably change my stance. You sound more educated than me (as do most on this blog), so I would appreciate hearing more. In a broader scope, ugly thoughts are typically more troublesome than ugly words. But “ugly words” is the question at hand.

      • Skubalon on said:

        Stephen,
        I guess I don’t see the same divide as you. From my perspective “cussing” or “cursing” is the act of calling down a curse on someone, like “Go to hell” or “God damn you”, or “a pox on you”, or “f— you”. Insults and unkind words aren’t curses exactly, but are similar, they are designed to provoke and inflame.Things like “You are a stupid idiot”, “i hate you”, “you look like a dirty troll”, or “you are a nasty carbuncle” or “shut the f— up” are used to demonstrate hate, anger, and disrespect.
        In contrast, I think coarse language is something entirely different. In English, most taboo or “coarse” words have synonyms that aren’t coarse. It’s not the meaning of the word that makes it coarse. For example, it is generally acceptable to say, “poo”, but there are a wide spectrum of coarser analogs from “flith” to “dreck”, to “cr-p” to bulls—. and they each carry varying tones and connotations about the worthlessness of what is being described. Many of these words were considered coarse in England because they had viking origins. This made them lowbrow and unacceptable in polite society, especially at court. Others are just considered low because they are associated with sexual acts, sexual anatomy, prostitution, venereal disease, all manner of fluids and solids that issue from the body, and ethnic/racial epithets. However, people still use them for emphasis, or to express strong emotion. There is also a great deal of divergence around which words are coarse, and this has social and cultural context. Friends may call each other the n-word out of respect, and on british tv, people sometimes call each other the c-word because they are friends teasing each other. Often nicknames among youths contain coarse words because they are perceived as “edgy” and used with affection.
        Coarse language and curses are often combined to express a curse with strong emotion, but clever sophists can usually achieve even more powerful statements without the use of coarse words.
        Ezekiel is interesting because it includes all three. Ezekiel curses Israel, Ezekiel insults Israel, and Ezekiel uses coarse language to add emotional emphasis to the insult. I doubt there are many insults in the history of the world as offensive or invective as accusing a people of being whores that crave the genitals and emissions of horses, certainly there are few theological insults of this caliber.
        But we should also remember that these words speak to us and remind that like Israel, in our heart of hearts, we are idolatrous whores chasing after the members of Egyptian horses. We crave any word that does not come from God. And apart from Christ, we justly deserve the full measure of his wrath. But despite what we deserve for our wicked whoring, this God is gracious and merciful, He pours out unmerited favor instead, and sent Jesus the Christ to bear our sins on a Roman cross, so that anyone who believes in him might not perish, but have eternal life.

      • Stephen on said:

        I appreciate your thoughtful and informed input. But honestly, I’m as lost as ever. I understand the issues of use and intent and context. But I remain of the belief that using the word bull—t was inappropriate. I guess you disagree. Thanks again for your help though. I did learn from it.

  16. I can relate! As a pastor for 26 years I have struggled with the same disappointments with the church. I have to keep reminding myself that, just like Jacob, I am as ugly as Leah. Everyone who is disillusioned with the church needs to ponder this truth. I do wonder whether the institution of the church was ever meant to be so large. Perhaps a smaller gathering (like a house church) would enable folks to be more honest and vulnerable with one another.

    • That’s a really good point.

      • By the way, there’s no reply option to your comment on my comment above, so I’ll just put it here. 🙂 I appreciate your reply to my rant; from what you said it seems as though you and I are on the same page. It’s always nice to meet a kindred spirit. Thank you for helping me feel less alone in my struggles and frustrations.

  17. Shimuel on said:

    A clever post…I was waiting for the analogy to lead into Leah’s role as the ancestress of Christ, and how though Rachel was Jacob’s desired, Leah was God’s chosen vessel. While we might think other “ways” are better, it is the Church through whom God bears His Son, and thus cleanses our sins and the sins of others.

  18. jjduncan on said:

    You wouldn’t happen to know the name or location of that sculpture, would you?

  19. Janice Schmidt on said:

    I can relate and have been there, done that. We were fortunate to find the warm loving church we needed when we moved to Massachusetts which healed many wounds. There is much to say to you individually, but this is not the forum. Praying for God’s blessings for you and your family this evening.

  20. Junker Georg on said:

    Pastor runs into a parishioner he hasn’t seen in church for years, asking them how they’re doing, telling them their missed and hoping to see them again at service. Parishioner replies, “Oh, well, I know the people at that church better than you do, pastor. That church is full of hypocrites.” Pastor replies, “Well, you know, at our church there is always room for one more.” 🙂

    • See, I didn’t call anyone a hypocrite. And I didn’t condemn anyone. And I didn’t have secret meetings about the pastor. Actually I was the one being discussed in secret and kept out of the loop. I kept my mouth shut, bit my tongue, reflected on my own sins, and did my best to keep my head down and focus on my responsibility to serve. And when pressed to explain why I seemed sad I confessed my anger, disappointment, and frustration. And I was told “you’ve done a lot of things for the church but maybe this isn’t the church for you”. So little witticisms like this sound like glib, flippant, shallow, and empty responses to me.

  21. I know the following will be denounced as nonsense. Fine.

    This piece is truly wonderfully written. And it sounds amazing. And then as soon as I turn my emotions off, put aside my desire to return to a fantasy I once believed in, and turn my brain on, it all seems to ring hollow.

    I think this is really easy to say when 1) you are paid by the church 2) you fit into the church ethnically, culturally, and probably politically as well 3) you have a network of colleagues and people who look up to you to tell you how awesome you are 4) you decide what is preached and taught in your church because you’re the one doing it, and 5) the church and your nuclear family (and possibly even extended family) really do overlap.

    Several of the comments here (and elsewhere dealing with the same subject) express the view that it comes down to finding the right church. But many who make these same comments will also denounce those who go “church shopping” for a place that “suits” them. And I’m sure the author would encourage people to leave the vast majority of churches in America today because they aren’t properly teaching and preaching the Word or administering the Sacraments. So the people in YOUR church should learn to love Leah. But the people in all those bad churches should come join yours? Or do you believe denominations, doctrine, and practice don’t matter??? Leah shouldn’t be criticized for her faults. Except of course when someone says something mean to a Pastor somewhere in America and the Confessional internet mafia erupts in rage. These are just a few of the obvious contradictions.

    And I also note that like almost every single thing written by the new generation of Confessional Lutheran Pastors, this piece makes sure to mention how horrible the elders and other volunteers who aren’t paid by the church are and how terrible and anti-clerical the bishops/district presidents are. Notice how specific all their sins are. But there is of course the perfunctory “we are all perpetrators ourselves” and the old “I am the chief of sinners”. But somehow I didn’t catch as many details on that one.

    What I hear is a bunch of folks who need new members, new babies, new volunteers, new recruits, and more money in the collection plate to keep their jobs, their club, their power, their prestige, and their pretty buildings. Which is why the one thing which will never be forgiven and never be tolerated is suggesting that you can have Jesus and have salvation (which is allegedly a FREE gift for the WHOLE WORLD) without joining a church and giving them money and finding a pastor to worship as if he was Jesus himself. But of course that is all up to and what you choose to freely give out of the goodness of your own heart. Wink, wink. Nod, nod.

    If you are lucky enough to have a Lutheran Pastor who doesn’t hate the Gospel and doesn’t make you feel like crap for being a Lutheran. If you are lucky enough to have a congregation where there are at least two other people who struggle with the same faith as you and know full well how sinful they, like you, are. If you are lucky enough to be part of church where you fit in, feel welcome, feel at home, and aren’t an outsider. If you are lucky enough to be part of church that actually has something to do with Jesus, then good for you.

    • I need to voice a loud “YUP!” to the following two statements by Lance:
      “The one thing which will never be forgiven and never be tolerated is suggesting that you can have Jesus and have salvation (which is allegedly a FREE gift for the WHOLE WORLD) without joining a church and giving them money” and “If you are lucky enough to be part of church that actually has something to do with Jesus, then good for you.”

  22. Raquel Bello on said:

    As a late Millenial and one born in a RC family, I left any form of church institution for many years and have just recently returned to worship regularly in an Anglo-Catholic (Anglican) parish.

    Despite the personal hurts that I had to deal with and the conservatism that I have faced, especially regarding my views on homosexuality and transsexualism, I still go to Mass, albeit an Anglican one. Why? Because my relationship with Christ is between me and the Blessed Sacrament, in the spiritual communion of the saints of the past and the present.

    The divine liturgy is an enactment of making sacred space, even with our imperfections: the Blessed Sacrament teaches me that His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity can truly dwell in me and give me spiritual nourishment to see that divinity in others and all creation.

    Yes, the Church is not perfect, and Christianity is certainly no longer a cultural phenomenon, but a label of those who choose this spiritual path. Still, through the meditation, intercessory prayers for others, the Blessed Sacrament, song, sacred narrative and contemplation, I can find courage and strength to journey on with the rest of life.

    Our parish is in the very slums of my city, and thus we have an open-door policy: all people are welcome to come and worship, regardless of sex, age, gender, sexual orientation, or economic and financial status. We are almost blessed to have some of the poorer members of the diocese, and that to me is proof that we can provide a haven for all peoples if they desire to participate in Mass.

  23. Reblogged this on Ordained for Growth and commented:
    A brother pastor sent me this post after the many things I’ve posted here… more food for thought for me.

  24. Well written. Been there. One of the reasons I became a chaplain in the military followed by prison and medical center chaplaincy. It was a good direction for me.

  25. Pingback: This Week’s Links | Timothy Siburg

  26. I say bull. Christ cannot dwell in a church where people refuse to acknowledge they have problems. Read Revelation, particularly Christ’s message to the seven churches. One theme talks about a church losing their first love. They minded all their p’s and q’s but they did not show a love for Christ. With no love you cannot give love. Today we are in the Laodecian age. Not only do people hurt you they also don’t care that they do it. This type Christ specifically calls out and says they disgust him. They disgust him because they cannot be rebuked for they refuse to think they can be wrong, therefore they will never apologize. We live in an age where people who apologize are seen as weak. We live in an age where lying is second nature and people will not live up to the truth on the matter. We live in an age where people are so selfish they don’t care what comes out of their mouth. All these things Christ condemned and he also said the gate was narrow and few people would find him. Not because his yoke is hard , but because most people claiming to be Christians are so stiff necked that they think God is under their control. They will never make it to heaven because they only accepted Christ in word and not willing that he can change them. I’m glad you recognize your need as a sinner but today’s churches have all sold themselves to Baal and follow what they want Christ to be and not what He really is.

  27. Pingback: Waking Up With Leah: Learning to Love a Disappointing Church | LIBERATE

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