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Love the Lord, but Not the Church

Updated on July 9, 2011

Well, you don't HAVE to go to church!

If I had a dollar for every time I heard this sentiment, I'd be a wealthy man. I used to blow it off as the retort of a person who is spiritually troubled. No more! Of course there are those who are truly persuaded that the church is irrelevant to modern life. They condescendingly smile at those of us who have aligned with a church. Gotta respect them and love them. But there are increasing hords of sincere people who long to know God but are turned off by what they see of the church. Having been stabbed a few times myelf by fellow churchmen and churchwomen, I've developed a heart for God-lovers but church-haters.

Let's start at the very beginning. (I know that wasn't very original) So God finds himself confronted with human beings created in his own image, but who are hostile, or at least indifferent toward him. While this hostility troubles God, it is self-destructive to human beings. God could have turned his back and allowed the destruction to take its course. Instead he set in motion a plan by which to arrest the destruction and reconcile human beings to himself, giving them new life and hope. The plan is a perfect reflection of God's personality. This covenant of grace, as it's known, also respects God's image imbedded in every human being whether or not he loves God. In other words, somehow God implements his plan without violating human significance. That's a mystery I don't expect ever to understand, but I accept it.

The core element of the covenant is that God's justice is respected while his love is expressed. How'd he pull that off?  He, himself, chose to bear the just penalty for our sin. That is possible because God is one God in three persons. Another mystery. Did you expect to understand everything about an infinite God?  In one act, Jesus on the cross satisfied both God's justice and his love. Those who know God humbly acknowledge they should have been on that cross and gratefully pledge their loyalty to Jesus.

The church then is the company of those who want to be loyal to their Savior. When people say they are turned off by the church, they usually have in mind a religious organization marked by a building, officers, distinctive practices and a budget, of course, to which members are expected to contribute. But at its core the church is first and foremost a company of people who long to worship and serve God. I say "long" because in this life, we'll never achieve perfection, thus the hurts we inflict on each other.

I'll have a lot more to write on this, but for now my question is, are you turned off by the organized church? or by people who profess to know God and want to follow him?


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    • Pintoman profile image


      7 years ago

      I don't think I'll ever attend church again. Every time I do, I get stabbed in the back. I know no one is perfect. I just don't see any reason to put myself in such a position again, and it doesn't matter what I do. Get involved, stabbed. Be reserved, stabbed. Maybe I'll get over it. I would like to. I don't blame God, I can't turn my back on Him.

    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 

      7 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      'Wherever two are gathered...' As I said in a comment on another of your hubs, I'm not a member of any organized religion, but that's not to say I'm not exposed to religion several times a week. I have a legally-blind 86-year-old friend who lives 200 miles away who's a broad-minded but devout Catholic with whom I chat by phone and exchange emails almost daily. Before her eyesight failed, she read anything she could get her hands on and continues to do so via audiobooks and volunteer readers who come to her home. This is a woman who knows the Bible backwards and forwards, but never *preaches*. We regularly discuss other religions, but never with the mindset that one is superior over the rest. 'To each his own' is her motto and mine, as well as *tolerance* and *respect* for the beliefs of others. She pointed me to the (Jewish) Zion Covenant series, and I the (Anglican/Episcopalian) Mitford and Father Tim series (serieses?) to her. If I could find a congregation composed of people like her, I'd gladly join them on Sunday mornings! As I now live in the midst of Southern Baptist Central, I'm extremely thankful for the electronic connection to this wonderful woman, also for Joyce Meyers' TV program when I can find it.

      I should add that several branches of my family tree were Quakers and Brethren. One daughter is married to a 7th Day Adventist minister, the same religion as one set of great-grandparents.

      I, however, was raised as fire and brimstone Methodist, but escaped to my BF's First Christian church in junior high and high school. After that, I found earth-based religions suited me best and make everything quite simple: live by the Golden Rule. Period. If everyone did that, the world would be a much better place. ;D

    • liftandsoar profile imageAUTHOR

      Frank P. Crane 

      7 years ago from Richmond, VA

      Right on, Laundryman40, especially your last paragraph.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      This is a difficult question to answer simply because there are several layers to consider. You have asked about the organized church or people who profess to know God. This is a very broad "either or" question and difficult to compare.

      The "organized church" can be a local church and if it is part of a larger organized denomination then they are very different items. Typically we speak of broad denominations in discussions such as I'm a Presbyterian, a Baptist, Methodist, Roman Catholic, etc. that puts our beliefs into some context. If you then further define yourself by membership to a particular specific church you will be further defined. There can be many styles and viewpoints within a broad denomination but the local church typically attracts a similar group of individuals with common beliefs and common worship styles. I have heard that Sunday morning between 11:00 am and noon is the most segregated hour in the United States. Is that because our beliefs are so different or because our style of worship is so different or is it simply a matter of geography?

      I have not given up on the organized church as you call it. The difficulty I have is with how the power within the local church can be wielded by a very select few for what appears to be personal gain. I think that is what does such damage to the reputation of any church and can give the term "Christian" such a negative view to the world outside.

      I am not typically turned off by those who profess to follow God and are seeking to follow him because at the individual level I am probably too trusting of what people say. I have been more cautious of late and will typically rely on an individual's action and life habits to see whether I believe what they profess. If their life and their words are not in conjunction then I guess you could say I will be turned off. I would probably choose not to associate with that individual but I would not make the case that the entire church should be judged by that one individual. If there is a pattern that individuals are living as hypocrites and the church casts a blind eye then I would not be a part of that church body.

      The performance issue gives me great difficulty in trusting what the church really believes. If the leadership expects perfection they will be disappointed but if grace abounds and love is shown through actions then a truer sense of community is evident. Jesus said in John 17: 25 & 26 that his followers would know his Father's love through him. If all Christians truly understood the Father's love there would be far fewer issues in the church. The incredible pain of sending your only son to be a redeeming sacrifice for a people that reject you as much as they worship you, must have seemed pointless. God did it anyway and when you put that love in perspective our issues shrink in consequence.

    • liftandsoar profile imageAUTHOR

      Frank P. Crane 

      7 years ago from Richmond, VA

      Thanks, sonfollowers. Grace is what it's all about. Trouble is that many churches give lip service to grace but practice a peformance culture that is akin to the pharisaical. What we ought to model is a bold integrity about our failures that leads us to thanfully confess our sins to God and to those hurt by them and then move on confident that we are of infinite value to the One who purchase us with his blood. You don't hear a lot of that from pulpits these days.

    • sonfollowers profile image


      7 years ago from Alpharetta, GA

      When I was in college I was treated poorly by those at a church I was attending and I walked away from the church for a while (year or two). For a while I was mad at God for letting his church get like that. But I don't really feel that way anymore.

      I think the bottom line is that we're all a little bit messed up in one way or another. Christians are messed up; non-Christians are messed up. The problem is that people expect those in the church to act like like they're not messed up. If you're a Christian then people are going to be watching you, looking for your faults and weaknesses. But you know where I think we go wrong? We try to act like they aren't there, as if those faults and weaknesses somehow invalidate the message of God. We're not being real, and the world sees right through that. Am I growing? Yes. Am I a better person than I was? Yes, I think so. But the world wants the standard to be perfection, so they can say we're no better off than they are. It simply isn't reality, and we can't let them win that argument. The more we try to hide our flaws and the more our flaws magically pop out of hiding on their own, the more damaged our credibility is.

      The church is the way it is not because organized religion is bad but because it's full of messed up people. They're being molded over time by a loving God, but he's not done yet (and won't be any time soon). But the church is also a place for grace and mercy. God showed grace and mercy to us. It seems like we should follow His example.

    • Trish_M profile image

      Tricia Mason 

      7 years ago from The English Midlands

      Hi :)

      I think that there is a lot of confusion around this subject.

      Some people seem to become atheists, based upon some unpleasant experiences in church.

      But belief in God does not have to relate to a church or to a congregation. It does not even have to relate to the Bible, or to Christian teachings.

      People may or may not reject certain teachings, or certain behaviour by Christians, or certain physical church buildings.

      I know some very devout Christians, who had long enjoyed the fellowship of their church ~ until certain vocal members of the congregation started to display behaviour that they considered 'unChristian' and unacceptable.

      They felt alienated and, though they retained their faith, they no longer attended church.

      People are people, and they may or may not be pleasant, welcoming and thoughtful, whatever their religious beliefs, or lack thereof.

    • HattieMattieMae profile image


      7 years ago from Limburg, Netherlands

      I am not spiritually troubled. I believe there are good churches, I think it just depends on the group of people and how they respond and act towards other fellow members. I have been to different churches in my community, and while I feel there are many heart felt christians among them, their are others that harm. There hearts are in the right place, but I would say people get hurt very easily by the people they fellowship with, and if some come on to strong to non-christians it can ruin it for others to come to know the lord. I don't attend at the present moment, because I have not a found a church in my community that is suitable. While I can just show up and leave, that beats the point of having fellowship with others. I daily have watched many things Life TV Church is one of the greatest. Joyce Meyers is another. I think some times people feel they get more out of a service on air, than off, because they are not caught in the cliques, judgements, and some times fellowship memebers that present themselves as caring when you're around, but when stuff happens in your life no one is around. Think actions have to speak louder than words, and have seen to many in my community read the bible, memorize it, but never live it. I don't judge them, but learned from them, that is not what God meant by church or fellowship.

    • RTalloni profile image


      7 years ago from the short journey

      "...turned off by the organized church?" is too vague a question to answer without a long explanation. Yes and no would have to be my short answer. I think I know the gist of what you mean, but am not quite certain.

      "...people who profess to know God and want to follow Him?" also has many potential answers. If those people are professing, yet leading others into false teaching/gospel/religion, then yes, I am. If they are new believers seeking to understand God's Word as they mature, then no I am not. If they are mature believers struggling against their imperfections just like me, yet seeking to grow in grace and knowledge, then no I am not.

    • Hyphenbird profile image

      Brenda Barnes 

      7 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

      So many people have a skewered view of the church and Christians in general. I meet people who refuse to be called a Christian because of the contamination that has been given the word. I love to associate with fellow Christians and believers and accept the designation Christian with honor. The church building is not the church, it is only a meeting place. Necessarily so, there must be responsibility to it. There is rent to pay, electricity to purchase, etc. However I believe the main disappointment comes because people put their faith and belief in humans and leaders instead of God. Even on this website, I see people ask questions related to the Bible when the answer is in there and they could see for themselves if they just read it. Satan loves for people to be turned off by organized religion. Then he can keep them confused and in darkness.

      For me, I simply say Jesus is Lord. That has changed my life and no person or organization can turn me from it. Hallelujah to Him.


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