Dealing with Church Guilt

I thought long and hard about what to call tonight’s post. In fact, I have changed the name several times. I thought about putting Methodist or Presbyterian or Baptist or Catholic in the title, but I really didn’t want to alienate anyone – because tonight’s post is about a very serious, sensitive issue that real people deal with every day in the real world. And I hear about it more times than I can relate to you – and it’s this – people feel guilty if they attend or join a church that is inconsistent with the way they were raised, or if it is different from the expectations of their families. Oh, and by the way, I left out Jewish people. They deal with these issues also; especially if they are thinking about converting.

So there, I said it. More people than you can possibly imagine deal with feelings of guilt about disappointing their families or even betraying their first spiritual homes as they experience different expressions of worship in various kinds of churches.

Let me start by saying that I myself have had pangs of guilt with this issue – although not a severe as some of my Catholic friends as they endeavor to seek other churches. Janet and I both grew up in the Methodist Church and when we moved to Carmel, thirty years ago, we attended the local Methodist Church for about a year before I just didn’t feel at home – or even very welcome.

So we went down the street to the Presbyterian Church and we started attending there. It didn’t feel right either – I was angry that I didn’t feel welcome in the Methodist Church – my roots from the time I was born. Then I started learning about elders and the presbytery and all things that seemed so foreign to me – and then the senior minister made a decision that was beyond his authority – the purchase of a $100K organ – without consulting the elders or the congregation. When caught in his deception, his excuse was that several large donors would leave the church if they didn’t have a new organ. So much for honesty and transparency by the Senior Pastor. That was the last time I was in that church…

Back to the Methodist Church… that’s home isn’t it? Well, not really… I had problems with the growing liberal theology of this particular church and had made a decision to attend seminary. I wanted to learn God’s word for myself – not in some place where it felt like things were a mile wide and an inch deep – I wanted deep roots – strong biblical teaching and a solid personal relationship with God. And… a place where our children could learn to follow a committed Christ centered life. I felt like an orphan…

Then, we tried a more evangelical church – I’d never even been in one before. People in jeans, wearing sandals and drinking coffee in the sanctuary.  That’s not me. Wow – but you know what? We loved it and have been there ever since. The pastors have their roots in Baptist theology and training, but with a more contemporary twist. The teaching is great and even though I attended all Baptist seminaries, you know that from time to time I still miss the old Methodist traditions…For example the Gloria Patri – “Glory be the the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost – As it was in the beginning, is no and ever shall be, world without end, Amen… Amen…”

Or how about the Lord’s prayer, or where’s the big cross in the front of the church? I miss those things, for sure, but I get sound teaching and now that I am a pastor myself, I admit that I am pretty tough as a member of the congregation. I am sure that all of this has helped my own preaching and teaching, but the point here is that God pursues me and wants to commune with me. And while I know that God wants us to be holy and does not say that we have to be happy, I feel closer to God and in a deeper posture of worship when I am energized by the music, sound teaching and a community of like minded believers.

God makes it quite clear that we are not under the Law; we are under the grace of the New Testament. That means guilt doesn’t work – please set that load down, once and for all… God is a God of grace and He is much more concerned with our posture of worship than whether it’s called Methodist or Presbyterian or Catholic; or even Baptist. God loves you – and while I know it is difficult, please try to set yourself free and ask God to direct you to a Christ centered Bible believing church with sound teaching. And if you need even more encouragement, call or write me and I can walk you through it. Because I know many of you are struggling with guilt – and it just doesn’t need to be that way.

And as far as your extended family is concerned, it is important for them to know that your relationship with the Lord of the universe should be the most important one in your life. And if you are in the right place, it will be. You’ll be a better parent, a better spouse, a better member of the community of God and a more fulfilled Christ follower. And that means that we are all better off when each of us becomes more Christ centered.

And it’s never too late to make the change. I know people in their nineties who have made the switch and are getting better teaching than they have ever had in their lives – and it shows… They are more fulfilled as children of God. You can be, too.

The verse for tonight is a verse that reflects the desire of Christ for your life.  In Matt. 11:28-30, we are told by Jesus, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Notice that the verse doesn’t mention a particular denomination…

My encouragement this evening is that God will steer your thinking if you let Him. Go with the spirit. My prayer is that God will give you peace about your decision and that you will set down the guilt that you may have lived with for years of your life. I know I did. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…

Comments (2)

  • Jill says:

    How ironic that you wrote this post. Tomorrow our family will attending a “new” church for the first time; well it will be new to us. Unfortunately the church we had been attending just wasn’t doing it for us. The lack of a children’s ministry for Drew was really weighing on my mind. That coupled with me feeling absolutley nothing when I left made this an easy decision for us. Although I don’t feel guilty about our family decision, I am sure that since we live in a small town we will get questioned about our sudden move. Will keep you posted as the church we will attend tomorrow will be very similar to our church in Carmel (on a smaller scale) which excites me =)

  • Lori says:

    This is so very true! My husband and I both come from different church backgrounds, so it was difficult to make church decisions when we began our own family. We “church shopped” for a long time before finding the right fit for us. Bottom line is: GOD will put you right where he wants you to be a part of His body of believers. 🙂

 
 
 
 

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