Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

park-and-drive
Image from nakedpastor.com (David Hayward) and used with permission

Dear Church,
We’re breaking up with you. And here’s why:
For approximately 10 years we’ve tried to fit in. We’ve attended Bible Studies, Life Groups, Book Clubs, Dessert Nights, BBQ’s, volunteered in various capacities, etc. and ad nauseaem.
The Bible Studies/Life Groups we’ve attended have either not been a good fit, or have folded. We asked to join the last small group we attended and were “allowed in.” The group folded thereafter, save for monthly social events.
A recent invitation extended to myself to a women’s breakfast was given, I suspect, purely because I’d overheard discussion about same and asked about it. My suspicions seemed to be confirmed when the main organizer of the woman’s breakfast conveniently (and, purportedly, accidentally) kept leaving my name off the email list for same.
The life groups, BBQ’s, dessert nights, etc., to which it appeared only a select few were invited or welcome, continued. We’d only hear about them in passing, and at times we’d wonder, firstly, why these events were not publicized to the church at large and secondly, why we were so continually left out.
Church, to us, felt less inclusive and more exclusive.
Slowly, we found little community within your walls.
We had few people we could call friends.

All Take and No Give

I’d hurt my back quite significantly in 2008 and requests for help went almost completely unanswered. Yet you were happy to take from us – including our money, and my time spent volunteering. Often, the only phone calls we received were calls to help out, not invitations to connect. Because I work both out of the home, and am a homemaker, the assumption seems to be made by you, Church, I have scads of free time just waiting to give to the church.

Sharing Not Acceptable

In 2013 – 2014, because of the death of my father and two beloved pets, as well as additional health challenges, I’d been going through a rough patch and thought I could share the same with the life group. Silly me. In response, I’d get the usual Christianese “propaganda”. [Seriously people, can I make a suggestion: just shut up if that’s the best you can offer.] Its notable there’s no room for true heart sharing in most life groups—only the “safe” prayer requests like health or job or family concerns are “allowed.” And God forbid you show emotion when requesting the same. Stiff upper lip: the hallmark of evangelicalism, western religion and culture.

Our Responsibility, And Our Fault

One lady and I did become friends. When we tried to discuss the situation with her and her husband regarding the lack of friends and community, we were told “you aren’t always there on Sunday,” “you’re not reliable,” and the latest comment was along the lines of “we had unreasonable expectations.” Further, they intimated, it’s up to us to reach out. Comments like those seem to imply that it’s both our responsibility and our fault that we have so little connection.

Pastoral Change

Our beloved lead Pastor left last year and several people left likely as a result of that. At this point, it’s a small church of around 100 people.
We’ve now been over a year without a lead pastor. An interim lead pastor was eventually hired. The interim pastor’s sermons have become so legalistic my husband nearly walked out the last time we heard one. Further, this interim pastor appears to be complementarian [he stated, first sermon he gave, that women can’t be in leadership positions in the church], does not seem to believe in being a welcoming church to the LGTBQ community, and his approach comes across rather patronizing, condescending and extremely authoritarian.
Meanwhile, back at church, I threw myself into more volunteering, adding more and more responsibilities, and thinking I’d find connection & community that way. Yeah, not so much. There were interactions of course during certain volunteer activities but beyond that, nada. Few invitations, few initiations to connect, and all I’m left with now are feelings of sadness, fatigue, and burnout.
We all have areas in our lives that need improvement: I struggle with communication and listening skills, fight constantly against self-absorption and making conversation all about me. This is not a negative trait or a trait that needs improvement; however my husband is an introvert. It’s with disbelief I ponder: could those traits be the reason for an entire church community to turn its’ back on us?

Beliefs Not Congruent

We are an older couple without children who do not have family in the area. We’re grace-based, non-fundamentalist, don’t believe rules and legalism ever changed anyone’s hearts, or drew them to Jesus. We don’t believe in the guilt and shame of focusing on our sin (and sinful nature) with daily confession, and guilt trips from the pulpit about how awful we, as Christians, are because of “sin”. We believe in showing love and acceptance to our fellow man, not judgment.

We’re the misfits – too liberal for the conservative churches, yet not liberal enough for the liberal ones.

It’s telling that there’s no community for us at this church after 10 plus years , but what it’s telling us we still do not know exactly why. It’s also telling there’s more community in a secular Facebook group I’m part of than at our church.
So, we’re done. Done trying to fit in, done trying to be the square pegs in the round holes, and done trying to figure out why this has happened. The next church we attend, if there is one, the plan is to start over, keep expectations extremely low, and our conversations light and fluffy.

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Light and Fluffy – like Cotton Candy. Cotton Candy, as you know, melts in your mouth, maybe because too much water from the saliva in your mouth breaks it down. It could be said water is the stress that breaks cotton candy down. I wonder, is too much authenticity the stress that breaks down community at church?