leaving church to save our souls

kathyescobar church stuff, ex good christian women, faith shifts, fundamentalism, healing, incarnational 49 Comments

our souls are more important than church

goodness gracious, people get riled up over conversations about “church.”  i wish we could get as much traction on justice & poverty issues!  it’s fascinating, really, how passionate many are about this topic, especially when someone threatens the church in any way.  i didn’t read all of donald miller’s post last week about why he doesn’t “go to church” much anymore (language that drives me nuts) but it sure did stir up a lot of discussion from all different angles. the one post i did read in response was why i left church by the awesome emily maynard, good stuff.

if you know me in any way you know that i have a very loose definition of church and believe that our limited notions of it are why so many people are leaving it. the exact things that Jesus was railing against have been what we’ve built many of our institutions on because it’s easier that way–doctrinal statements that are filled with long lists of requirements for beliefs, an us & them mentality, and homogeneity. affiliation, certainty, and conformity are values that often keep the wheels spinning & people coming.

we all know that so many people are “growing out” of church. 

we want more freedom, mystery, and diversity. we are tired of giving our souls to something that stops giving us life.  we want to break the weird cycle where we are going through the motions in our faith.  we realize we are addicted to inspiration and it’s time to get sober.  we are drawn to a more practical theology. we wake up to possibility of a life with more justice, equality, and practice at the center. we begin to see (or unfortunately experience first hand) unhealthy leadership that controls & uses people. we want to feel more freedom & less fear.

and often, we find that in order to save our souls, we might have to leave.

that we need to detox from all a lot of things we were taught that didn’t bring us closer to God but actually further away

that we need to find some quiet, some space, some air to breathe.

that we need to reevaluate where we were and consider where we might want to go in the future.

that we need to get out of just our heads and listen to our souls & bodies in a new way.

that we need to reconsider how God, Jesus and/or the Holy Spirit might be speaking to us and what they might be trying to say. 

that we need to quit relying on others to tell us what we believe and discover for ourselves what we do. 

that in order to save our souls, our best shot is to get out for a while, maybe forever, it just depends.

this does not mean we are unfaithful.

this does not mean we are rebellious.

this does not mean we are unwilling to submit ourselves to community.

this does not mean we have hardened hearts.

this just means sometimes we have to leave church to save our souls.

and i feel oh-so-clear that our souls are far more important to God than whether or not we leave the institution.

honestly, sending the message to people that it’s not okay to leave church is really not okay. 

i know it can come from a sincere place, but it can be so parental, so controlling, so shaming.

and it’s one of the reasons people are leaving.

i wish we could just trust people more and respect that there are so many wild & beautiful & unique & wonderful ways to live out our faith.

and i wish we could trust God more.  i’m pretty sure he’s big enough to handle it. he’s creative like that.

most people i know find their way into some kind of community & connection & back to some form of church. sometimes it looks so different from where they came from.

a measure i loosely use that i think points to Jesus’ greatest commandment is:

do these spaces & places challenge us to grow deeper in our understanding of God, ourselves, and others and spur us on to loving God, others, and ourselves better in tangible ways?

fortunately, there are a lot of ways to find this–inside and outside the confines of what we call “church.”

do i love the church?  yes, i do.  i am committed to incarnational community for a reason. it’s what my soul needs.  at the same time,  i know sometimes that the best thing someone can do is take a break from it to find their souls.

please, whatever you do, don’t let them take your faith and don’t let anyone tell you that church is more important than your souls.

sometimes we really do have to leave to find them.