Monday, October 10, 2011

Leaving Church

A Churchless Faith’ by Alan Jamieson is about people who kept their faith but left church. A member of a congregation gave it to me. Perhaps I should take the hint.

It’s heavy, but worth the struggle. The author interviewed people who could no longer cope with their local evangelical church. The common theme of the replies – many of the people were in leadership positions in churches – was that they had questions which seemed a step too far.

The interviewees raised issues, some of which go right to the crux of Christian faith. Others are peripheral. Questions such as:

Can we really trust the Bible?

Can you be a Christian without being certain of your faith?

Why do our churches apparently have so many rules?

Why so much emphasis on sexual behaviour?

Is the church leader always right?

There are many more. The questioners felt that the very act of asking was deemed to be so divisive that they had to, eventually, take their queries outside the church community, painful as that was.

Once, a man called Job suffered greatly. Read about him in the Bible. He’s got a whole book named after him. For thirty seven chapters he questions God about his pain, whilst listening to the dodgy advice of human comforters. Eventually he shuts up and listens. God asks some questions back. Job can’t answer. He ends up saying, ‘I have talked about things that are far beyond my understanding.’ He learnt through questioning.

As a Christian Minister I hear loads of questions; about church, about God, about everything. I have some myself. I feel my church is a reasonably safe place to raise them. The answers may cause someone to leave but asking should not. All churches should have signs over the door, even if only imaginary, saying ‘Questioners always welcome.’


Marcella said...

I regularly go to a home group, but hardly ever go to church itself. Mostly it's to do with the fact that questions get a pat answer - there seems to be a "right" answer for everything and no-one will admit that there are sometimes when the answers don't actually make much logical sense. Stuff just seems a bit convenient to me but questioning the party line isn't generally encouraged!

Would reading the book help? Would you recommend it or is it just a lot of people agreeing with each other that 'Something Must Be Done' without having much of a clue what?

St said...

The book does conclude that we ought to help people to leave well.