Burned once too many times by the church? Has church-hopping become the defining characteristic of your worship life? Thinking about just writing off church altogether, and living out a Christian life apart from the frustrations and melodrama that come with church attendance? Bob Hyatt, writing at Next-Wave magazine, looks at some recent Barna writings and urges us to not to permanently abandon church membership.
While many people go through a temporary phase of detachment from a physical church congregation, Hyatt cautions that a Christian life without Christian fellowship is missing something very important:
...what I struggle to understand, are those who, rather than seeing this as a (sometimes necessary) phase that many of us go through, something to be faced, experienced and then moved on from, seem to see it, and indeed embrace it, as a permanent state. The perpetually churchless Christian wants to experience a bit of what the "spiritual but not religious" all around us seem to have. In other words, they want Christ, just not His Community. [...]
Whether you are on the fringes or fully committed, chances are that participation in a community is a frustrating experience that often just plain hurts. But what's different is that those who walk away often see that frustration wasted in their lives while who lean in have the opportunity to see something beautiful come out it. Whenever you get people together, fallen people, at various levels of commitment to ideals and living them out, you are going to have a place where toes are stepped on and where you are given many, many opportunities to work out what mercy, grace and forgiveness really mean.
That's all easier said than done, but Hyatt realizes this, and lays out his case for not giving up on the physical church. Have you experienced (or are you experiencing) such frustration with the church that you've decided to just write it off entirely? Does Hyatt's essay give you reason to reconsider your decision? Have you found spiritual value in sticking with a church community that's hurt and disappointed you badly?