Why I Stopped Going to Church

Mars Hill is a well-known church in America and one that I went to for a good 6 months. It was the last six months I ever went back to church out of the four years of my involvement in Christianity. I’ve gone to other churches before this, but when I moved to a different state, I had to find another church to go to. Ideally, a church is a place where people go to worship God, build relationships and become more enlightened through various sermons. The problem for me was there was always too much noise from beginning to end. The worship portion felt forced. The lights would start dimming and melodic sounds from instrumentals led to what felt like a full out concert. I’ve been to many concerts, so I would know. It was hard to worship or even think beyond the blaring noises that came out of the instruments. I examined my own heart only to realize I was moved by some songs and annoyed by others depending on familiarity. What I was doing was not worshiping. I was creating an image of God in my own mind based on the songs I liked with lyrics that moved me. Is that true worship? When the pastor would start speaking, I felt entertained because he was funny. He made people laugh constantly. When he went out of town, another speaker took his place and I remember feeling bored…extremely bored. Something inside of me clicked, it was as though I didn’t feel connected to this God at all. I was going through the motions because guilt would result in me not going. So one day, I got up during the middle of a sermon and went out into the lobby area. I said to myself, “You shouldn’t give up, try again.” So I went up to the front desk and told the woman that I was having a really hard time and needed to talk to someone. She went into the back room to find someone for me and a young woman in her mid-twenties walked out. She was saying how she heard I was having a hard time and wanted to know how she can help. I told her I was having a hard time believing Jesus is truly the only son of God. I asked her right off the bat, “Why do you believe in Jesus?” She thought about it for a little while and said she grew up in a Christian home and didn’t have a relationship with “the Lord.” When school was hectic for her, she gave prayer a chance and was surprised her grades got better. Naturally I was expecting more, so I nodded and stared at her hoping for her to add on. She looked uncomfortable and said, “Let me go get someone else for you.” I was not only confused, but felt ashamed. I thought there was something wrong with me. Then a man in his thirties walked out with an older gentleman and they greeted me. I told him that I knew the gospel quite well, but didn’t understand why Jesus had to be the only son of God. I asked him if he could tell me more referencing outside the Bible or personal experience why Jesus is the only son of God. He then told me the gospel using the Bible. I was disappointed. It felt generic. He didn’t ask me about my life or struggles. Once again, I nodded and fell silent. It was the whole “We were born in sin; Jesus came and washed it away when he was crucified and resurrected.” I just came out of seminary school, so this was Christianity 101 to me. He too said he will grab another woman for me because he didn’t think he was the right person for me to talk to, he thought a counselor would be best. At that moment, I truly felt something was wrong with me even more. The older gentleman literally said nothing; he looked like he was overseeing the whole thing to make sure this man was telling the gospel correctly. Another woman came out (probably mid 20-early 30’s) and offered to sit down with me over coffee on Tuesday to discuss my feelings because she was a counselor there and wanted to help me out. I was beyond thrilled, it was exactly what I was looking for-real connection. We exchanged information. When Tuesday came, I got ready and waited for the time to come when I could speak to her. I received a text from her saying she couldn’t make it and instead of sitting over coffee, she will just meet me at church on Sunday. I was saddened to the core. She gave me hope and dropped me in an instant. Not only did I not return to church, but I never texted back or heard from her again, not even a text inquiring how I was doing. Then I figured it out, I was another duty, another task on someone’s list, another patient who needed help…not a friend. The girlfriend I went to church with every Sunday was the only friend I ever made (church related)and I didn’t even meet her at church. I met her outside of her apartment when I was smoking a cigarette on a rainy, cold night. She came up and bummed one off of me and said her family is very Christian and she didn’t want them to see her smoke (she was 25 years old then). We clicked and went to Mars Hill together until the day I decided enough is enough. Needless to say, I never came back and I don’t miss it. I don’t have anything against Christianity, it’s just my idea of worship has changed. I am glad things happened the way they did because I don’t have live a lie anymore. The guilt isn’t there. I don’t worship a God of my imagination, but a God who I truly believe is loving and accepting. I’ve learned to reach out to people in ways I wish they would have reached out to me. I gravitate towards people who feel alone and confused because I felt that way myself. I don’t walk around thinking people are going to go to hell for their beliefs. I am much happier spiritually. Sure, I am still somewhat broken, but it’s better than going through the motions and pretending like nothing is wrong.

24 thoughts on “Why I Stopped Going to Church

  1. Pingback: “Why I Stopped Going To Church” | Jack Saunsea

  2. It sounds like you went through many of things that I went through at perhaps a bit of a younger age. The amount of Christians, or really religious people in general who accept and understand your doubts are few and far between. I think it is the MOST NATURAL THING in the world to question and to have doubts. We are curious by nature, we want to know how things work and we grow up in a physical world where our senses define reality. What surprises me is how people can be SO SURE about something that is by definition immaterial and non-physical. I get faith, I really do, but in my experience faith is made stronger or healthy by blind acceptance. Faith is made stronger by asking questions and seeking answers to those questions through investigating the world that we live in. It sounds like what you were looking for was acceptance of the struggle and some honesty that we all have doubts from time to time. Some admission that the world will shake our faith. The meaning of life and the universe is the biggest question there is out there and I find it to be the height of arrogance that people think they’ve figure it all out at the age of 25 (or even younger). In reality it doesn’t matter. Once you stop searching, you actually stop learning. I mean real learning. Not the kind of learning that just confirms what you already believe, but the type of learning that challenges you to grow. That transforms what you thought you knew into something else. The type of learning that takes you places you’ve never been and changes you in unexpected ways. This is why I always say that humility is one of the most important qualities that we can have. Not only humility towards a god, but humility before a physicist who has a great understanding of the physical laws of the universe, a psychologist who can teach you things about how the brain works and why we behave the way that we do, a teacher whose skill in communication teaches you new and better ways to interact with people, an old man who has lived many years, a woman from another country whose culture is different and thus sees the world in a different way.

    There are so many things to know in the universe. As a species we know only a fraction of this, and as an individual we know even less. How can anyone be done learning. How can anyone think they know it all. I have a Ph.D. in Atmospheric Science and I don’t know everything there is to know about my field, so how can I ever think I know everything about the biggest questions in the universe? I guess it comes down once again that line we walk between safety and uncertainty. Some people just choose to be safe in their groups and an end to questions. The world becomes small and in my opinion less wondrous and colorful. If there is a God I truly believe you can’t get to know him/her/it by not asking questions. If there is a God then knowing God actually comes from trying your best to understand what God created. God then is in every question you ask, God is in the answer, and in the many new questions that come to your mind after you learn the answer. God will be in the way that music makes you feel. God will be in the joy you get by painting. God will be in the fulfillment you get through learning.

    Organized religions want you to stop. They don’t want you to keep asking questions, and in my opinion prevent you from enjoying the spiritual journey that is life. I think you have the right idea Trang. You have chosen to be courageous and take your own path and you seem to have a very open mind and thus I have every bit of confidence that you will be more fulfilled in the end. Thank you once again for sharing what’s inside you. You are far from alone in the questions you ask. 🙂

    • “What surprises me is how people can be SO SURE about something that is by definition immaterial and non-physical.” This is something that surprises me too.

      “There are so many things to know in the universe. As a species we know only a fraction of this, and as an individual we know even less. How can anyone be done learning. How can anyone think they know it all.” This is very insightful! 🙂

      “Organized religions want you to stop. They don’t want you to keep asking questions, and in my opinion prevent you from enjoying the spiritual journey that is life.” I couldn’t agree more!

      Your whole response was very enjoyable to read. It’s awesome to know people who have open minds. It expresses a lot of what I feel inside.

  3. Sounds like you have not found the right church yet. I grew up in the Catholic Church and had many discussions with my parish priest that left me unsatisfied. Most of his answers were, “That is one of the mysteries–we must take it on faith.” In 1973 I was introduced to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by a school friend and as I took the discussions and heard the missionaries explain things to me, I kept thinking, “This is what I have believed in my heart all my life, but I have never heard anyone preach/teach it before.” My testimony and knowledge of Jesus Christ as my Savior deepened as I relied on Him and called upon God in prayer. Over and over again my prayers were answered and I felt the power and influence of the Spirit in my life. Jesus Christ lives! He loves us. Every one of us; and His hand is stretched out to us always. We have to make the effort, exercise faith, and invite Him in.–Gail

    • Thanks for sharing with me Gail and for your encouragement! 🙂 You wrote, “Over and over again my prayers were answered and I felt the power and influence of the Spirit in my life.” I absolutely agree with you on this, on the power of prayer and the life Jesus lived was nothing short of amazing. Everything Jesus stood for is something I see myself standing up for. His love, generosity, understanding and accepting nature for all are things I appreciate about him.
      I just couldn’t see it then because I was too busy comparing all the physical distractions happening around me to him and somehow in my mind, that stirred up a little bit of bitterness and confusion. But when I separated myself from exclusive doctrine (or exclusive organizations), I began seeing Jesus with reverence (as well as other leaders preaching God’s love) because I stopped comparing God to my negative experiences. I like how you said “He loves us. Every one of us; and His hand is stretched out to us always.” You are a very loving person and I know I will find that community of worship as you have!

      • The other thing I appreciate is how Christ knows our hearts and judges with mercy and compassion. His atonement covers our hurts and griefs as well as our sins.

  4. Thanks for stopping by my blog. I enjoyed this post. Worship is more than sitting in a church and following a scripted demonstration. Not everyone understands that or exhibits the characteristics of God by reaching out to the lonely, forlorn and hopeless. Thanks for a perspective that offers a breath of fresh air.

  5. I can sympathize with that struggle. I got some unhelpful and hurtful reactions since I started to have questions about faith. Now I don’t really know where I am at or what I believe, but I have decided that being available to help others, being open to conversation, and living honestly are all I can do. I am glad you are finding ways to worship that work better for you, and I enjoyed your post. It’s comforting to know that I am not alone in struggling with faith and community.

    • Thank you for reaching out to me. It’s nice to know we are not alone. It makes me sad that you were not able to get the the sort of help you were seeking as myself, but at the same time, that allowed you to become a person with a beautiful soul who reaches out to people. I guess life is not about answers, the journey is filled with questions and acceptance that there doesn’t need to be answers 😀

  6. Wow! Your experience is almost identical to mine, except I didn’t ask those direct questions to any church members. I was raised Catholic, then changed to Pentecostal, then attended Assemblies of God, and now I don’t go anywhere. I have been an usher, youth leader, deacon, and secretary of men’s ministries. I always doubted what the church said about God, and felt guilty about it. I have had the same question “Is Jesus really the only way to God?” “Does God send people to hell?” “What about those who never heard of Jesus?,” which I tried to hide many times. But I gradually made the bold decision to accept my doubts and consider alternative ways of seeking God. I became frustrated with all the praises, preaching, and casting out demons, which now I consider simply shows to entertain. Traditional Christians will only use what they were taught by other Christians to explain why they still believe. It is like staying inside a box and refusing to dare to be outside. I have embraced being more of a “free thinker” and being inclusive. I applaud you for doing the same.

    • Hey Noel, thanks for your response. Although I may have asked questions you didn’t directly ask to members, you have worked in all the positions I had only observed from a congregation POV. It’s fascinating how we arrive at similar conclusions with our different experiences. It’s interesting how you said you felt guilty about asking questions because it’s exactly what we are taught to believe. The church taught us to believe that we were somehow more honorable by adhering to the idea of blind faith, but that is unfair and untrue. There are many Christians I have come across who considers somebody questioning their faith (simply to understand it better) equivalent to persecution. Do they know what persecution looks like in other countries? I heard about Jesus from them, but hardly saw Jesus through them. If Jesus hung out with rejects, then why do so many reject?

      “Traditional Christians will only use what they were taught by other Christians to explain why they still believe. It is like staying inside a box and refusing to dare to be outside.” I couldn’t agree more, or could have said it better myself. It’s so common to come across people who never study any other religions (and say it’s wrong and of the devil) and don’t even study their own religion (from a historical POV). How can we even have conversations when I am being to pointed to the most common versus….In John, it says…and therefore you should believe.

      I applaud you also for going out of your comfort zone! It’s not an easy thing to do post indoctrination.

      How was it working as those various roles in the church?

      • When I was going to church, it was taught that questioning the Pastor and the bible was a sign of rebellion…. It was considered a “sin” to consider anything questionable. Working at the church as an usher, deacon, or youth leader was considered a duty to serve the Lord, when it was actually a way to manipulate us into submission. I wanted to get involved with they youth, but now I acknowledge it was because I missed my youth. I was asked (repeatedly) to be an usher, and was also coerced to be a deacon. All I want to do now is to serve the poor (although it is hard to do with today’s routine). I work with the mentally ill, which I think are also considered the “least of these.” But I wish I could do more.

        • Wow that’s moving that you wanted to work with the youth because you missed yours and now work with the mentally ill. That’s amazing!! It sounds like you have a very compassionate and understanding heart. This is the kind of compassion Jesus had. You ought not to think you are not doing enough. It seems like you are already offering so much. I want to work with the poor too, so i share that desire with you.
          You know, I believe most people at church do have good intentions and perhaps the suffering comes from lack of execution. Jesus was incredible (and Buddha) and striving to be like them is great. Although you didn’t have the best experience in church, you are using your struggles to better the world and that’s awesome in itself.

  7. “The lights would start dimming and melodic sounds from instrumentals led to what felt like a full out concert.”

    Everyone assumes that people need gimmicks to stay interested in Christianity. I’ve struggled with my traditional Catholic faith immensely and have felt similar disconnects with those around me. But when I’ve been away from it for a while and I hear this:

    which is what we hear at the beginning of Mass during most of the year, it can move me almost to tears. The church experience has never been my problem. I wish it were my only problem. I don’t mean to proselytize (since I’m not even sure where I stand I don’t think it could even be that), but when you say you aren’t sure if what you were doing was worshiping – I’ve never doubted for a second that what happens in the traditional Catholic liturgy is worship of God.

    I guess I’m trying to convince myself and using your post as a means to do so. Sorry if it comes off as self-absorbed. I think I will always be a struggling Catholic, but I also think I will always view the Church as my home.

    • “I’ve never doubted for a second that what happens in the traditional Catholic liturgy is worship of God.” I’m truly happy for you. 🙂 Doing it with the right heart is quite amazing. Mine was just a different experience, and I don’t mean to put the church down in any way. You don’t come off as self absorbed, I think worshiping is great and it’s quite special that you were moved to tears. I remember feeling that way a few times. Keep believing what you know is true in your heart! My experience is by no means a reflection of everyone’s. Thanks for sharing!!

  8. I love your honesty in this post. It makes me sad that your doubts were shruged off. Churches should embrace questions like yours! I have listened to so many stories like yours. It is the job of the church to engage and discuss these things with you, not give a one size fits all awnser! Doubt and questioning are not wrong, on fact they are how you grow your faith. It is my sincere hope that you find the answers the the questions you asked. I would love to discuss them with you some time!

  9. Dear Trang,

    Let me first introduce myself. I’m in my early 50’s, a professional engineer nearing the retirement, happily married and having kids of your age. My eldest daughter is 27 and if you don’t have any objection then I would also like to call you ‘daughter’. I landed on your page because someone has liked my blog and from his page I found a link back to yours. I have read your post and it didn’t surprise me that a rational person like yours is confused because the Church failed to satisfy your lust to find the truth which is divinely embedded in every soul.

    For me, the religion was neither an important issue nor an integral part of my daily life. In fact, I was using it occasionally to fill in the void and emptiness which was prevailing and expanding inside me with the passage of time. In rational terms you cannot pump air into a punctured balloon unless you first patch up the holes. I started searching for the answers just like you and felt that after finding the logical and rational answers the void was gone, the emptiness was filled with satisfaction. I’m not a religious scholar or attached to any organization converting people from one religion to another, but a simple and rational person like you.

    You may visit my blogs
    http://www.aftabchughtai.wordpress.com
    http://www.dawah2peace.wordpress.com

    I would like you to introduce to Sheikh Yusuf Estes, who was once a Catholic priest but later on reverted to Islam. I think no one can better answer your questions than him. I have searched and found a Youtube video in which he is telling his own story and his confusion in the teachings of the Church and what he found in Islam. Please visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u1siyAlRb2k and watch this short video. I trust that you will find the answers you are looking for.

    Please for God’s sake, do not let yourself be fooled and trapped into the negative and false propaganda against Islam. The trump card in the hands of anti-Islamic lobby is the women rights, but they cannot hide the truth that Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world and about 80% of the new Muslims are women from the Europe and America.

    The famous British journalist Yvonne Ridley was on the war coverage mission in Pakistan after the 9/11 but she sneaked into Afghanistan illegally and she was captured by the most notorious terrorists in the history. What she found and learned from her personal life-threatening experience in Afghanistan is really something which everyone must watch. Please follow this link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nFqtZd0y_0g and listen what she has to tell you.

    My dear daughter, I have opened up the door leading towards the truth for you and now it’s up to you to take the first step and explore it. May God be with you and guide and help you on every step. Take care and stay in touch.

  10. We have all had our personal trials, each of us goes through them differently.

    The church is the people, not a brick & Morton building, many fail to acknowledge that…it could be your home, apartment, or campsite.

    John 10:34-38 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are “gods”’? If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be set aside— what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.” This infers and indicates to me that we are sons & daughters of the One true God; hence, we are gods – note the difference. God called us into creation, created us from the dust & back to it our bodies will go, and God knew and created our souls attaching them to the physical bodies upon the breath of life. Jesus was the Son of God who was in dwelt with the Holy Spirit of God.

    Though the Bible is God-breathed and God-inspired, it was written by man; meaning that the word at points in time are allegorical, moral, literal, and at other times contrary to other parts. However, it’s overall view is to aid us, perhaps prod us, to seek God and a relationship with God through God’s Son.

    As far as being born in sin, Matthew 18:2-5 He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. Which infers children are blameless & without sin because sinners cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. In Deuteronomy, we are not to be held accountable for the sins of others. Also, Jesus claimed & bled for our sin so, how can we be born into sin! That is doctrine/dogma being contrary to the Bible…steer clear! All too many yield too much applicability and weight to their doctrine and dogma.

    There is much more I could write, but I must get ready for work…I always look forward to your posts, very interesting.

    God bless & Godspeed, my friend!

  11. “The church is the people, not a brick & Morton building, many fail to acknowledge that…it could be your home, apartment, or campsite.” This is a lovely concept, I wish it were actualize better because I never understood that before I left the brick and Morton building.

    “This infers and indicates to me that we are sons & daughters of the One true God; hence, we are gods – note the difference. ” I absolutely agree!! I don’t know why this isn’t taught more, why do churches keep teaching so exclusively? It’s against what Jesus was actually all about. Good one brother Murf. 🙂

    “That is doctrine/dogma being contrary to the Bible…steer clear!” Wow I’m glad to hear that from a believer, I hadn’t looked at it that way. Probably because I was taught I was born into sin. Makes me realize how this type of exclusive dogmatic doctrine could make people love their neighbor less while speaking of love on their lips. Thanks for the insightful read!

  12. I’ve been interested and impressed going through the comments and reading how other young people are responding to you. I was also somewhat amused to read that the music was what drove you out of church because in our own small community, sometimes the pianist comes and sometimes she can’t and I wonder if people find not having a music program is off-putting. We sing unaccompanied often, my husband and co-pastor still has a pretty good voice. And sometimes we wonder whether having this small community is worth the work, and yet, each week we prepare and go back. Like you, there’s not a lot of places where we feel comfortable worshiping. Our community is inclusive, believe all roads lead to that which we call God. We bless in the name of God Father/Mother.

    I was raised in a Bible church, fought and argued against the exclusionary thinking, left it in my early 20s, attended various churches, wanted to be a Roman Catholic but couldn’t buy the politics, studied Hinduism, Buddhism, Native American spirituality, Huna, Women’s Mysteries, and then in my fifties found this Independent Catholic church that blessed in the name of God Father/Mother. My mouth fell open. I became an altar server and eventually entered seminary and was ordained in 1997, consecrated bishop in 2005. All that history to tell you that if you continue your search you will find where you belong and God will be there. In fact, God is wherever you are. Wherever any of us are. God is. By the many names we call that Holy Energy, God is. You can worship walking outside or sitting by your fire.

    So don’t give up. Don’t despair. Walk your journey and see where it leads you. Your generation is remarkable and it’s your generation – which came into this world to accept diversity, that will change the world. Just remember that evolution happens slowly but it doesn’t go backwards. Be bold. Trust yourself. Follow your heart and mind. Be the change that you want to see in the world, as Gandhi said.

    Blessings to you. And to all the young people who are confused and searching. And if you ever get to Kansas City for whatever reason, you’re welcome to look us up! Peace, Janet

    +Janet Sunderland, Community of the Incarnation KC.

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