Getting yelled at in church…REALLY???

getting yelled at in church

By Kenneth Justice

~

I was in church on Saturday for a funeral and I got yelled at by a dude 20 years younger than me” said my mid-50ish friend

Yesterday I was having coffee with a good friend of mine who recently returned from the funeral of a pastor-friend of his. The pastor had served the church for nearly 50 years and my friend went to the funeral on Saturday to pay his respects.

Kenneth, the temperature on Saturday morning when I got to the church was like 8 degrees. So I had my winter coat on, a scarf, gloves, and a hat. I had just come through the door of the church and I was hobbling up the stairs (my friend is disabled) which led to the main lobby, and as I’m slowly making it up the stairs, this usher, who was in his 30’s, looks over at me and has a nasty look on his face which he follows with a harsh sounding, Sir, you MUST remove your hat while you are in the church building!”  said my friend, “I couldn’t believe it Kenneth, it was 10 ****ing degrees outside! And I’m getting yelled at because for the all of 30 seconds I had been in the building I hadn’t removed my hat yet!

Obviously the usher was well versed in the protocol of church attendance; men must remove their hats while in the ‘house of god’….but my friend was convinced that this usher had taken his responsibility a little bit too far; a little common sense should have been practiced by the usher…especially since they weren’t even in the actual sanctuary of the church; they were merely in the lobby.

Unfortunately, in many ways the encounter my friend had over the weekend is what many people experience in relation to church; a heavy emphasis on dogmatism and rules and a major lack of love and understanding.My friend is severely disabled and has a really difficult time walking up stairs; and so as mad as he was that the usher yelled at him for wearing his winter hat in the building, he was even more pissed off that he wasn’t offered a shoulder to lean on from the usher to help him up the stairs.

Too often the church is not for the unchurched; it is often only designed for the people who know the rules and are willing to follow the rules to a “T”. And if you happen to be a poor soul who wanders in off the street; instead of finding a welcoming embrace you may instead get yelled at for wearing a winter hat in the lobby of the building.

As a Christian this subject frustrates me quite a bit because it seems to me that in many ways the Western Church has somehow lost sight of what really matters most. My friend is a Christian so the experience didn’t alienate him from believing in God,….but I can only ponder what it must be like for an atheist, agnostic, or person of another faith to encounter Christianity and see things such as a guy getting yelled at for having his hat on in the building.

Had Jesus seen my friend hobbling up the stairs I suspect he would of cared less about him still having his hat on…and would have been more concerned with running up to him and helping him make it up the stairs without falling! Whenever I read about Jesus I often become perplexed since it seems like it is exceedingly difficult to find any Christian leaders who look anything like the dude. Jesus exemplified humility and what it meant to serve others……

—–) He didn’t hang out with rich people in order to be popular

—–) He didn’t exclusively hang out with other religious leaders

—– The majority of his life was spent hanging out with the poor, the hurting, the brokenhearted and the people at the bottom

Yesterday Suzi made an interesting comment, “Bloggers that I initially tried to connect with in my early stages only started to respond to me once I had gained a following that was similar to theirs” …..and just as Suzi described the culture of the blogging world; the church world is very similar.

Many of the ‘famous’ Christian teachers, preachers, professors, and speakers live in an altogether different world than from the laity they preach at. Try and get an appointment with one of the religious elite and you’d be lucky if they give you the time of day……..instead of being servants to the people; many Christian leaders have more in common with politicians and rock stars.

Where Jesus spent his life hanging out with the people at the bottom of society; many priests, pastors, and theologians spend the majority of their life hanging out with the people at the top of Church culture. It’s a sad comparison………and one that is more often true than not.

Somewhere along the line the Western Church seemed to have forgotten that Jesus came to help the poor, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and heal the sick……..and instead of modeling their lives after Jesus; it seems like the church would rather worship a bunch of rules and yell at disabled people who wear hats in the building.

I really need another coffee this morning,

Kenneth

If you haven’t heard I’m currently on a national and worldwide tour of 100 coffee houses this year. My next stop is in Atlanta on March 1st, followed by Chicago, Pittsburgh, St Louis and more! Check out my homepage for more dates and locations, I’d love to have coffee with you!



Categories: Religion

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141 replies

  1. Could not agree with you more. As a younger man I was quite religious, as I have matured I have less and less to do with organized religion. This has nothing to do with my faith and everything to do with the people.

    • Its sad that so many people feel this way because if done properly, it seems like organized religion could be a beautiful thing…unfortunately in so many cases it is not beautiful at all 😦

  2. As an old non aggressive atheist I respect your words on a way of living in this post – maybe our thoughts on the ‘history’ behind them don’t match yet respect nonetheless.

    • Thank you….. there is definitely a lot of ‘negative’ history connected to the course of Christianity throughout the last couple thousand years unfortunately. But I suspect that is the case with any religion, movement, country, etc; there is good and bad to be found.

  3. If the life and teachings of Jesus Christ are the model, then the “Christian Church” has not been Christian for oh, about 1,800 years now. Now it has run its course, and is in rapid decline as an institution. It ceased being the major moral influence on society two or three centuries ago. Now the institution itself is losing members and selling church buildings. Time for something new.

    • Lee,

      I’m sure there have been little bright spots in the last 1800’s years….. but unfortunately the overall trend for the past 2000 years has definitely moved in an unfortunate direction

  4. Faith in God made and religion is man made. That’s how i see it anyway. I have never been very religious but i have always had MY own relationship with God. When i tell people i dont attend church most of the time, people cant understand my reasons.. i believe you go when something inside you calls you to go, not because it’s a habit.

    that said, that usher has gone a little far. he is a mere man in the church, do not judge what he church can do for you and your relationship with your God and faith, based on what MAN dictates.

    At my church it’s been said to come as you are.. but i personally feel that rule is a bit loose as well. there should be a balance. it means come in your worse if you dont have more, it doesn’t mean sneakers, track pants, or a dress you would wear to a club. funny how i notice that when im not much of a church going type right. but as a child i learned you had your Sunday best for church.

  5. A loud and resounding “Amen!” Now, I need more coffee as well.

  6. Similar situation happened here in an Orthodox Church with a 10 years old girl. Her mom got so pissed that she will not go so soon into that Church. I have no idea if the priest teachs people to act like that or there is an evil dressed into Cristhian that make people run away from Church. Go figure that!

  7. I’ve always said spirituality is too personal to organize religion.

    • Well, I totally know what you mean. I’m the type of person though that loves organization so it doesn’t bother me that religion is organized; what bothers me is how many negative elements are connected to it 😦

    • Individual vs. collective. I see “organized” religion as a vehicle– one that does skew more to the collective, than to the individual, but I think that both individual and community are important.

      I mean, for me, personally, I see church time as an opportunity to get out of the house, get out of myself for a moment, and to serve others. Conversely, I go for my own endeavors and purpose– setting aside distractions such as judgment for others. Still, though, I believe in that power of community, and I do despite the mistakes, shortcomings, and short-sighted attitudes that such a community may have. Nor do I believe that they can take away from my personal strivings. But, this just me. I perceive that your mileage does vary.

  8. When my husband was visiting a church in Venice he didn’t know the hat rule and as he walked in six guys (members of the church) grabbed his shoulders and pulled him back. Once he took off his hat, he was allowed entrance. Fortunately he was in the mood to experience new things…also being in a foreign country, his awareness of different customs was higher. Had this occurred in the states, he might have been quite upset by this manner of enforcement.

    Also you similarities to religious leaders and rock stars is another reason I really like Pope Francis!

    • Pope Francis has been a bright spot in the midst of a lot of muck for sure! Interestingly enough I have a TON of ‘hat in church stories’ and I finally decided to write an article about it cuz this particular one happened to my friend recently. While I totally respect customs… it seems like some people like to take things to an extreme level unfortunately.

  9. This is true of christianity in Africa as well. So sad. Its one of the reasons i quit being a religious person.

  10. Dearest KJ. Get to England and order a BIG cup of coffee! I am a real swinger! When it comes to “church” I swing this way and that way and every way. I have been told off for wearing summer shorts and showing my knees (by a three year old little girl and the glare she gave me). I have been encouraged to ask the “awkward questions”. I have found fellowship as powerful as the best of any “church” in this blogging world. And my faith has slimmed down tremendously. A core of love and little else. And I have a favourite Superman t-shirt along with an oft-running Batman theme zinging in my head.

    Church is not a place it is a state of mind. And if my lord is so fragile he cannot stand up for himself in the very place we call church – then how strong is he? And the keyboard is flying and my heart is singing and the words are bouncing.

    If my lord needs protecting – how strong am I in my faith? And when I see words and thoughts that say “my lord is strong but I have to keep him safe” I just want to climb through the keyboard, connect with each replying-typer, give them a gorgeous hug and say “I used to be like you”.

    Now I swing in church – and it is great!!

    And is it perfect? NO IT IS NOT!! And Nothing In My Life Is Perfect! So why should church be any different? And like the rest of my life – that does not matter a jot. Being alive matters. Being alive-full matters. Having a god who is strong enough, patient enough, loving enough to wait and wait and wait until I was ready? Who enjoys my swinging here and there? Who doesn’t sit there six days a week hoping someone turns up in Sunday – he is too busy having fund every day of the week everywhere.

    Now that is my type of god – and I want to take Him to church, not the other way around!

    PHEW!! got a spare coffee? 🙂

    • Well I’ve been watching the flights to the UK every day so its merely a matter of time before I come across a good deal and then i’ll be able to announce the dates. I’m still thinking it will be toward the end of the year…..

      I agree in part that the church is not a ‘place’ for sure. Technically we would say that the church is catholic i.e. universal/invisible…..but on the other hand just like we would say “home is where the heart is” we would also realize that you and your family live in a building that you call ‘house/home’…and so a church building is a symbol of the church universal. And when people at the church building treat visitors like s**t….well, it isn’t a very good representation of what church is supposed to be.

    • Live in a house/home? You should see this flimsy canvas structure we call home! Just joking.

      And agreed about the “behaviour.” Any examples of “good stuff” to even the playing field a little? 🙂

  11. There is so much misunderstanding in the Church about the church. Even you referred to the building as ‘the sanctuary’. When in fact, it is not. You are the sanctuary. You don’t “go” to church–you “are” the church. The building is nothing more than a convenient worship center. Chuck Smith, of the Jesus Movement fame, had a church leader rush up to him in obvious anger. He informed Pastor Chuck that “they are chewing gum in the sanctuary”. In typical Pastor Chuck fashion, he responded, “no, the sanctuaries are chewing gum”. Big difference. There is absolutely nothing sacred about the building where your friend was attending a funeral. There was, however, something very sacred about your friend. He is, after all, made in the image of God–disabled or not–but apparently the usher was never taught the difference.

    • Certain terminology, though they may be semantically incorrect, are used in modern vernacular to help communicate thoughts and ideas.

      Most people who live in the United States believe that the use of the term “American” refers to, well, people that live in the United States…. but having been to Central America countless times I know from first hand experience that people south of the U.S. get annoyed at the way people in the states have practically taken hostage of the use of the term ‘American’ because they call themselves “American’s” down in Central America and they have every right to the term as well!

      Thus, in reference to the term ‘sanctuary’ we have to understand that there is a macro and a micro view of the term; the micro view would be the room in a church building that congregants assemble in… and the macro level would be the way you are using it in your comment

      Chuck Smith was definitely much more laid back in these types of situations…. but in other areas he could be just as militant as the next person 😉

    • My concern Kenneth is that sanctuary should NEVER have been introduced on the micro level to indicate the room in a church building that congregants assemble in. That comes from the idea that the Church building replaced the Temple of OT fame. God does not dwell in temples made with hands, and though I agree that many people use the word sanctuary in the way you referenced, it is always, without exception, incorrect and even dangerous. It creates a mind-set that causes rude people to yell at men for wearing their hat indoors. Sloppy language will result in sloppy behavior. As a result, modern vernacular is not helping to communicate thoughts and ideas. Modern vernacular, in this sense, is dangerous and should be corrected sooner rather than later.

      I have no problem, by the way, in being militant where appropriate, just not for the sake of being militant. Where was Chuck’s militancy a concern for you? Fun dialogue, I assure you. Not looking for a fight.

    • Well, I have friends who helped Chuck Smith start Calvary chapel back in the day so I really can’t go into anything publicly as its not my prerogative to open a can of worms…… you’re welcome to email me but let me forewarn you, I’m probably a week behind on responding to emails at the moment 🙂

  12. The usher may have been one of the bereaved. I didn’t exactly fire on all cylinders when my folks died…….

    • You could be right, perhaps the usher was a grandson of the guy who died or had been very close to the guy….. although why he would be ushering in such a state of bereavement might seem a bit strange

  13. This sort of attitude goes way beyond church. Most people today lead powerless lives. Give them a little bit of power, and they abuse it. The young today also lack respect for the older generation.

  14. This reminds me of a story. A disheveled young man enters a church while the pastor was preaching. Instead of sitting in the back of the church, this young man starts walking down the aisle. The church members were shocked and appauled. They started commenting on the young mans long hair and dirty clothes. The going man reached the front and sat down on the floor so be did listen to the sermon. The head elder got up and headed to the front. The members were proud very happy that the elder would take that young man and send him back out to the streets. To their amazement the head elder sat down on the floor next to the young man.
    It seems to me that more churches need this mentality, and that experience your friend had would not have happened.

  15. Thanks for visiting my blog. Must say that your blog hit the nail on the head. I have seen many things in my days as usher and associate pastor that I let slide because the person was a visitor. Visitors ought to be treated with respect and given leeway under the circumstances. In addition my first book has been published by Westbow but i had to pay for it. I now have to work up a marketing plan so people will catch note of it and buy it. I was told that if i had a national ministry or was nationally known I could have been paid by the pubslisher trather than me paying. Only big names get bought. And yes though some of them are godly men and women, they do tend to hang out with the big shots in Christendom.

    • There’s a lot of discussion in the literary world as to new authors getting published. Your right, the overwhelming majority of big publishers are under the gun to make a lot of money on every new book they publish that they pretty much only want to publish the books by rock star authors (like John Grisham or Danielle Steele)….. on the other hand, there are so many millions of new authors who want to get published that publishers can’t simply consider every single query….. its a tough situation all together.

  16. Great piece. Great message. I wanted to share an excerpt from a children’s message I presented recently at my church. Thought you might appreciate it.

    “But when I read the passage that we just heard, and I thought about what it was saying, and I thought about what Jesus did when He was on this Earth and who He spent his time with, I thought, God must think we are kind of silly, just like the people in Central America think we are silly for not eating brown bananas.

    I mean, Jesus spent his time on Earth with the brown bananas – the Samaritans, the tax collectors, the people with icky skin diseases, the people everyone else called crazy. He saw past what others considered imperfections and ugly packaging and recognized that those were often the very things that made the people he befriended and saved so sweet on the inside.

    God sent us Jesus to tell us once and for all, you are all my children and I love you, no matter where you come from, no matter what you look like, no matter what you have done. All God asked in return was that we love Him back and that we love one another, just as we are.”

    • Yup, unfortunately not everyone realizes WHO Jesus spent the majority of time with….. its a strange dichotomy that pastors and theologians spend their whole lives reading about this poor Jewish Carpenter who spent 99% of his time with poor people…. yet does the average pastor or theologian even spend 10% of their time with the poor and neglected?

    • There are some truly great ones out there. But not nearly enough. I do think there are more doing the work than we realize. Unfortunately the ones we are often exposed to are the ones who are in it for the spotlight or their own ego. That’s why we are exposed to them. They want to be seen and heard. We often don’t see the others because they are busy doing the work rather than talking about it.

      Have you ever read the book Hole In Our Gospel by Richard Stearns? Great read. Right in line with the point you are making here.

  17. Wow love this post!!!! You definitely nailed it!

  18. taking of your hat almost sound Catholic. I think as you mentioned maybe to much politics has creped into church. as has been told when the church was changed by the kings in ancient times. and vice versa.

  19. I’m sorry for your friend’s experience. I second many of the sentiments above and will add that often times we do get caught up in how people are “supposed” to behave. When I was little, I said something about another person in the church, and all my mother said to me was it only mattered that this person was here – not the reason. So it goes with many people. Be happy they have come. Often we take for granted how much effort that took in and of itself.

    • “be happy they have come”

      Churches should print that phrase out on a pamphlet for ushers in training; “be happy they have come dammit!” …..okay, maybe it isn’t the best idea for the church to use the word ‘dammit’ but it does add a nice inflection to drive the point across to the ushers! 😉

    • I like it.

  20. I grew up in the south in a Holiness church. It seemed like I was in church everyday and especially if we had revival’s going on. I was constantly shushed or made to sit still for hours on in. Do you know how hard this is for a kid? All I wanted to do was run and play in the afternoons but that wasn’t meant to be. The rules of the church was very strict from what you wore to how you behaved in church and that included no talking of any kind unless you were saying “Amen.” Needless to say as I grew up I stepped out and explored other religions and found things I liked about each one. I would like to attend church more often but with a child with a disability that doesn’t happen too often but just because I don’t go does not mean my faith does not run deep.

    If you are able in the Kalamazoo, MI or passing thru would love to treat you to a cup of coffee.

    • I once spent a summer with my aunt and uncle who ran a apostolic church and boarding house, I too went to church day and night, and was told when it was appropriate to speak. I also saw things behind the scenes that lead me to believe that running a church is sometimes just a way of making a living and not having to pay taxes!

    • I do agree. It seemed the offering plate was always being passed around. Comedians joke about it but I never really understood what the building fund was.

      Sidenote: I was raised in central FL but moved to Savannah and went to highschool there and college in Statesboro, GA.

    • I’ve actually been thinking of adding Kalamazoo to my schedule….. interesting that you mention that city

    • I have a son with autism– I am very fortunate that my congregation has been very supportive. Nevertheless we do have some friends that aren’t comfortable coming because of their son’s special needs. It is definitely difficult.

  21. This post breaks my heart because I know it is a common experience. During a conversation with a friend yesterday about her disillusioning experiences with some other Christians, I urged her to remember that the church is comprised of broken people, including me and her. And I urged her to keep her eyes on Jesus, to follow a person, not a religion. Sadly we as followers of Jesus are still messed up, even though we are forgiven. But the more all of us keep our eyes on Jesus and become like Him, the more other people will be drawn to Him and not to a list of sad rules that are powerless to bring about change and true life.

    • I feel the same way. Christians should be full of grace, and often are, but being human sometimes fall short. I think we could pick any institution, focus on its failures, and mistakenly write it off. Politics, for example. Marriage. Sports. Automobiles. Ready to do away with all of these because sometimes they fall short?

  22. well said. My husband and I have pastored for many years (not presently) and we’ve learned many lessons. The “church” tends to talk a lot about separating one’s self from “the world” but they went to the extreme and even speak a church language – so when the people out there want to know Jesus they can’t even talk to them in their language…… there’s a lot we have to learn.. and Jesus is our best example. Thankyou again for sharing.
    cate b

    • Good point, the focus on ‘be in the world but not of it’ has gotten a bit carried away by a lot of Christians and unfortunately it is causing too many Christians to be altogether disconnected from the reality of the world they live

  23. “Welcome to our church. You’re in my seat.”

  24. This: “Somewhere along the line the Western Church seemed to have forgotten that Jesus came to help the poor, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and heal the sick……..and instead of modeling their lives after Jesus; it seems like the church would rather worship a bunch of rules and yell at disabled people who wear hats in the building.” I love this. Thank you.

  25. Reblogged this on PsychoSoAnt and commented:
    I would like to chime in from a different perspective. I was a Southern Baptist for many years, eventually walking away from the church because of just such hypocrisy between teachings and behaviors. I studied religion throughout my childhood and adolescence because it really fascinated me, and has carried over to adulthood. After leaving the church for about 6 years I began practicing meditation, and eventually practiced as a Buddhist for about 3 years, but there were still components of the philosophy that were lacking.
    Other life situations and challenges, including a divorce, came along further developing perspectives and thoughts on things. Eventually I met an amazing woman and her family and learned about a reformist sect of Islam called Ahmadiyya. After months of attending events, asking questions, and learning more about it I felt drawn to the teachings of peace and the motto “Love for All, Hatred for None.” I have become heavily involved in the community and find it to be one of the most loving and accepting communities, and we are constantly attempting to clear and dispel the myth and falsehood surrounding Islam. There are many who practice Islam in the same manner this article speaks about Christianity, but this is so far from the way that Islam is meant to be.
    In Islam, we believe that there is no compulsion in religion. You should do what you do for God, no other reason. Killing or hurting others is only advocated under extreme circumstances, such as when they are attempting to keep you from being able to worship God and get rid of Islam. In our community, however, even under these types of circumstances we do not advocate violence. Just read “The Wrong Kind of Muslim” by Qasim Rashid to see the kinds of things our community suffers in Pakistan. Further, the Holy Qur’an clearly states that if you kill even one person, of any faith, it is the same as killing the entirety of humanity.
    Just as Christianity gets a bad rap by many for being too hardline, or too rigid, Islam does the same. There will always be extremists or those that twist the words and ways of any faith. One of the critical components of Islam is the belief in all of God’s Prophets, which includes Jesus, Abraham, Moses, and many others. Why would you want to kill people who believe in the same people as you? We all believe in one God, that is the most important thing.
    As a convert, I make many mistakes or missteps, from both cultural and religions perspectives, but I am learning. Some of the cultural components I respect, but also respectfully decline to partake in as my focus is on Islam as the practice and not the multitude of cultural components that alter that.
    There will always be those things that get twisted by human beings, but our goal as Ahmadis is to keep Islam in it’s true form as God intended it, through critical thinking and analysis and academic understanding of the religions before and the teachings provided in context of when they happened.

  26. Religion has so failed the people it was to serve

  27. Sometimes the people in positions at churches act as if they are serving only the pastor and not the people!! They have a slavery mentality,as if the are looking to get a pass into the big house, by that I mean they hope the pastor will see them as a great servant and place them in a higher position? oh…I thought that was Gods protocol.

    • Savannah,

      Interesting point you bring up; instead of viewing their responsibility as Christians to serve the people at the bottom…. they believe they are supposed to serve the pastor! I’ve seen many examples of this

  28. it tough when a close acquaintance passes… the grief is difficult on those that remain… they need kindness… blessings.

  29. Is God really offended by hats, shorts, long hair, foul language, breaking the rules, what we eat, who we talk to, and all of the other garbage we say he is offended by? I don’t happen to be a god myself but that sounds an awful lot like people to me…

  30. The priest we had previously at my church would yell at everyone who was running late for the mass. I understand the interruption and attention that causes but the priest would also make a comment about it, offensive,ironic… where have you been? Partying till late? You wouldn’t be late for your date, concert,
    casino..on and on
    Made me hate going back to church.
    I remember visiting the church in Italy, Bologna, Milano at any hour of the day it was so welcoming and peaceful. Whoever steps in the church must be happy to see people around, if nothing else give them a smile.

    • If a priest yelled at me like that I would probably yell right back at him in front of all the people… probably a good thing I don’t attend your church 😉

    • I would like you to attend my church, but that priest just retired..😀 I know some people talk back at him, making sound like a joke, but the priest never changed his speech.. Lol

  31. We’re really in tune this morning. I posted something eerily similar on my blog just a few hours ago.

  32. Interesting article, as I am one to wear a hat. I have also been playing most Sundays at a nearby church. Out of respect, I wish to not offend, but I prefer to wear my hat most of the time.
    I asked the pastor what to do, and he said it didn’t matter to him.
    So, I wear it if I am cold, and take it off if I want to.
    I know God doesn’t care if I am wearing a hat, and that his presence is there regardless.

    I think some people, like you said, have their priorities all wrong. All wrong.

  33. I heard a quote once that your post reminded me of! “Church is not a museum for the perfect, it’s a hospital for the broken”

    • Thank you magpie1879 for my favorite comment on this post.

      The church is people, imperfect people. The church exists to teach the Gospel to imperfect people, and it cannot succeed until those people know themselves to be sinners.

      Jesus came to save sinners. That included Pharisees we so much malign today, many of which joined the early church. Remember Nicodemus, for example.

      We tend to be thoughtless. We act. Then we think. Then we regret. That thoughtless act shows us the state of our blacken soul; it shows us why we need Jesus. If we have no remorse for any of the things we do, no repentance because we believe we do not sin, then we have a far more serious problem.

      Consider the wisdom of 1 John. Did the Apostle John write what he wrote because the early Christians were already living up to the Gospel or to encourage them to do so?

      How many of us can live up to these words?

      1 John 4:20-21 New King James Version (NKJV)

      20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? 21 And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.

      When we read about the Apostle Peter, we see an impulsive, fearful man who slowly became wise. When we read about the Apostle Paul, we see a man said this of himself.

      1 Timothy 1:15 New King James Version (NKJV)

      15 This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.

      And yet which of us is not shamed by the faith of Paul’?

  34. For all the instances that Jesus rebuked people who put more importance on rules than being a living example, we as a “church culture” sure like to impose them at every turn. I have been told how to vote, how to dress, who to speak to and what music to listen to from legalistic church-goers and it saddens me that we have an institution that worships rules over the God who wants a personal relationship with us. Thank you for writing this.

  35. I am so glad you wrote on this topic. This has been my frustration with “Christian churches.” Jesus rebuked the law keepers, yet our church seems to think that keeping “law” or rules/regulations is top priority. It’s absolutely absurd! I, too, read about the life Jesus lead and it is no where comparable to our so-called “churches.” The church is to represent the body of Christ, but they’re none other than the modern day Pharisees. I quit going to church for this reason and won’t return until love is their main emphasis.

    • ” This has been my frustration with “Christian churches.” Jesus rebuked the law keepers, yet our church seems to think that keeping “law” or rules/regulations is top priority. It’s absolutely absurd”

      Exactly

  36. Great post, as always. It’s sad that very little of the “church” today resembles the heart of Jesus’ Church in the New Testament. As a senior pastor, I can attest so much is driven by marketing and numbers instead of spiritual formation and exporting God’s love to the world around us. I think that’s why a steadily growing number are leaving the institutional church, as George Barna, Frank Viola and others have pointed out. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing if people are finding authentic Christian community.

    • Barna has definitely influenced my thoughts quite a bit on topics like this

    • Mr. Mel Wild – I cannot believe a “senior pastor” just said that – not about Barna and his polls and all that – but can’t believe he said this about the institutional church….. “that’s not necessarily a bad thing if people are finding authentic Christian community…” 🙂 well said….

    • Yvette,

      Well based on all the comments Mel has made throughout the past year I’ve been figuring for some time that he must be an exceptional senior pastor… definitely not your average one for sure :=)

  37. I appreciate this, but I don’t like it. I pastored small churches for many years and then transitioned into chaplaincy. I prefer that kind of ministry. It suits me better.

    “Too often the church is not for the unchurched.” Thinking deeply on this. How can something that seems so wrong be so true?

  38. This hits the nail on the head. One of the main reasons why I left the faith I grew up in is because, for all the songs about kindness and forgiveness, I never saw those people do any good. I saw them judge the high school girls who got pregnant. I saw them judge the family whose daughter converted to a new religion when she married a man of a different faith. I saw them judge constantly. More than anything else, I saw my father judge. It started to disgust me. I didn’t want to be associated with that.

    It’s truly astounding to me, since I started to look at other Christian denominations, how hard it can me to find a Christian community without judgement. Is it really that hard to both believe that (for example) sex out of wedlock is wrong and also feel compassion for pregnant high school girls?

    • “Is it really that hard to both believe that (for example) sex out of wedlock is wrong and also feel compassion for pregnant high school girls?”

      Good question…. and sadly it seems like there are a lot of people out there who simply find it ‘too hard’ to be able to practice that type of compassion toward people they disagree with 😦

    • I think it can be hard to separate the concept of principles (i.e., doctrine) from the example of people who follow them (i.e. community, fellowship).

      I believe people are fallible– quite prone to mistakes. I should like to think that I could take many reasons to leave the church of my upbringing. Most of my siblings and the siblings of my wife already chose to do so. Yet, somehow, I choose to remain with them. My faith, and experience, is rooted there. Yes, I have been judged, scorned, and even mocked, by those inside my faith, as well as those outside it. But I do not go for them. I go for me, and for my little family. I learned over and over again if I put myself out there, and got lost in serving others, my needs would get met. When I pulled away and isolated myself, the worse things seemed to go.

      It is hard, especially with a son with autism, but fortunately, my congregation has been very supportive. I don’t mean to say I look down on others that leave. I deeply empathize with their reasons in doing so… some friends of ours also have a son with special needs, and they still believe, but they just don’t attend. We spent some time with them at RadCon the past few days, and we hope that maybe someday, they’ll feel more comfortable so that they can attend with us.

    • The last years I spent with the dogma I grew up in I spent thinking I could be an agent of change in the church. Eventually, it became too much. I didn’t believe the things the preacher was preaching. I felt like I was going through the motions instead of connecting with Divinity. Once I realized I had lost my connection with the God whom the religion celebrated, I knew it was my time to leave.

      Which isn’t to say there is anything wrong with the decision to go or stay. It wasn’t that I hated the people in the community or that I thought their views were hugely wrong. It was just that their views were not mine that that I no longer found a connection to divinity there. That being the most important aspect of faith to me, I decided to leave.

      You say yourself your faith and experience is rooted there. I think that is more than enough of a reason to stay. More important that the dogma or the community is the connection to God a person has.

    • Ah, TK, yes, I think I understand better now. Again, I am grateful to be part of a faith that respects the rights of individuals to believe and worship as they deem best. Maybe I said this before, but even one of our First Presidency leaders reminded us of this recently, that we should remain respectful of others’ search for truth, even if that search takes them away from our church.

  39. Reblogged this on LOLAXSHAY and commented:
    Good read! Really has me thinking.

  40. Great read! Aren’t Christians supposed to be beacons of Jesus’ love to others? All others, regardless of disabilities and religious, sexual, political and other orientations? I mean, from what we’re taught, Jesus loved even the lepers, the lowest of the low in society. Loving another doesn’t mean we have to agree with them and that people have to leave their precious dogma, but rejecting others only pushes them and progressive members of the Church away. I think it’s why so many young (usually progressive) people are leaving the Church today. Too often, the example seen and heard at churches and from Christians are not of love which makes it hard to see the reason for the religion and makes it hard to be taken seriously if you have progressive views, whether these views are “right” or “wrong.” Shouldn’t the emphasis be put back on love and WWJD (what would Jesus do)? I admire the Taize community so much because they welcome all people and focus on love and understanding (my post on Taize: http://quichelauren.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=1370&action=edit&message=1).

    • “Loving another doesn’t mean we have to agree with them and that people have to leave their precious dogma, but rejecting others only pushes them and progressive members of the Church away. I think it’s why so many young (usually progressive) people are leaving the Church today”

      Exactly!

  41. So upsetting!!!! Solid (and true) points being made here and I couldn’t agree more about the direction the Western (American) Church is headed. Although, I do hate to generalize. Obviously not every church in America has lost its focus! Two great books on this topic: Radical by David Platt, and And No Religion Too by Edward Goble.

    • It is upsetting unfortunately…. and I realize I run the risk of creating too generalized stereotypes but I believe its the best way to get more attention pointed to this problem… I’m familiar with David Platt, i’ll check the book out 🙂

  42. I am so with you on this one. Too many Christians are so focused on being right that they forget about being righteous–which includes being gracious!

  43. Most of this matters, only if you think it matters. The guy yelling was just being a normal human being in a crabby mood. Just being in a church doesn’t change your DNA. Yell back at him, or refuse, or ignore it, or take your hat off. It’s all the sort of stuff Jesus was sent here to deal with.

  44. By the way, are the pictures meant to be of anyone related to the posts? I like them. Just wondered.

  45. maybe try a synagogue next time. They agree with the head covering lol

  46. So sad that this usher, who is a representative of the church, displayed such a lack of manners, respect and compassion. I’m always disappointed when an individual “acts out” and throws the group in a bad light. This could have happened in a synagogue or mosque; it could’ve been people of any religion or age or color. And it still would have been hurtful and a very poor example indeed. Good post 🙂

  47. Religion is sorta like politics: you are making a mess of this church thing, let me go start one of my own, couple years into it and folks start hearing the same complaints as that of the churches you left. In my humble opinion, ask yourself, why do you do what you do in going to church. Me, I just love this relationship with that man they killed some thousands year ago whose name is still being lauded as a precious lamb. That usher might be me, it might be you, its anyone who started out with a desire to serve and got tired; who knows. W

    • Dude, I’m so with you..it annoys the hell out of me when people get pissed off at church and then just go start a new one that ends up having its own set of flaws; merely repeating a vicious cycle

  48. this is one of my favorite posts of yours —- really good stuff. 🙂

  49. There is nothing more that can be said except Amen. Thank you for posting this.

  50. Yes… ‘help the poor, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and heal the sick…’

    And, Jesus would have helped your friend without hesitation.

    Jesus would have even left his hat on in doing so.

  51. My biggest take away from this post: “Too often the church is not for the unchurched; it is often only designed for the people who know the rules and are willing to follow the rules to a “T”.” How very true! We are more concerned with following the rules and being socially ‘correct’ while in church rather than focusing on finding meaningful ways to help our brother or sister. Will God judge those who do not take their hats off in church harsher than those who fail to help others in need of a shoulder to lean on? Should we ask one of today’s powerful and famous Christian leaders? Maybe we should; the answer vs. the truth may surprise us.

    • “Will God judge those who do not take their hats off in church harsher than those who fail to help others in need of a shoulder to lean on”

    • I’m just glad I’m not a pastor or leader in the church cuz I’m reminded of that verse where leaders will be held to higher standard and judged more severely 😉

  • Didn’t even remember that! And how very very true.

  • I certainly see how frustrated your friend must have been! This experience is one of so very many that has taken Christ out of Christianity. We sent our sons to a Christian School and eventually withdrew them. When it was all said and done, we decided that the kids learned how NOT to be Christians there! I am very fortunate that my church is very unlike the one you describe. One of the hymns often sung is: “All Are Welcome.” Homeless and rich alike can worship freely without being judged (at least by the pastor, can’t speak for ALL of the people). My church is a jewel and I am happy to be a member!

  • Wonderful. There’s something I’ve noticed with so-called Christians that profess the bible, but only follow what they consider the easy laws. I say “so-called,” because they point their noses upward at others, yet are not following through with the actual laws in which the book teaches. This is hypocrisy. If you desire the path of following the laws of God, you cannot associate this path with only laws that are “easy” to follow (thou shall not kill). Nonetheless, I love the theme behind this post. Shame on the usher for his reaction–definitely out of line.

  • “The church is precisely that against which Jesus preached – and against which he taught his disciples to fight.” – Friedrich Nietzsche, unpublished fragment Nov.1887

  • Your an amazing writer!!! Thanks so much for reading my work!

  • Reblogged this on Christianity Simplified and commented:
    Jesus didn’t make rules, he spent time with those who broke rules!

  • “My friend is a Christian so the experience didn’t alienate him from believing in God,….but I can only ponder what it must be like for an atheist, agnostic, or person of another faith to encounter Christianity and see things such as a guy getting yelled at for having his hat on in the building.”

    This is a lot more common than you think. Also, almost every atheist I have ever listened to was at one time raised in a church and experienced things that showed them the hypocrisy of church people. Of course, this says nothing about the actual life and teachings of Jesus. If even ten percent of those who called themselves Christians acted like Jesus, the world would be a much better place.

  • Love how Jesus speaks so against the hypocrites who were so focused on external rules…his dealt so much with the heart. Also love how maturity, wisdom, discretion hopefully comes with age and experience. As I read this post, I thought of the story about a ‘hippie and the deacon’. Awesome illustration of how sometimes we miss it in church, but thankfully some, like the deacon, really ‘get ‘ the gospel. Here’s the link : http://www.thinkaminute.com/titledisplay.asp?CD=1141. As always, thanks for sharing! Love reading the stories shared (as I drink my coffee!)
    Blessings, Heather

  • Perhaps the usher needed a good cup of coffee too!

  • Curious – who was the more disabled person that morning? Was it your friend? or was it the usher? I would submit it was the latter. Of course, the usher should have offered assistance. But, at the same time, if the usher is the more disabled (at least spiritually) doesn’t the more mature spiritual person have an obligation to assist him, as well?

    If you are expecting perfect Christian behavior out of imperfect people, you will always be disappointed. Now, this particular situation is a bit different, inasmuch as it was likely a one time meeting between these two. However, a number of the posts have stories of some offense that caused that individual, or someone they know to have left a Church. This is tragic, it eliminates one of the opportunities and obligations Christians have to one another within the Church to pursue reconciliation and forgiveness. This is very hard work, and to be honest, our culture doesn’t have much stomach for it. By not pursuing it, needed correction within a particular church does not take place, the individual misses a chance to be obedient to his or her faith, and God’s grace does not have a chance to work maturing both the individual and the Church.

    As I said, this is counter to our culture – it is far easier to simply walk out of a church and claim that the hurt is too deep, or worse, one doesn’t want to harm the Church, and then, after leaving, bad mouth the Church to everyone they encounter. Both are a denial of God’s grace and entirely self-righteous.

    You claim that Jesus would have helped your friend with his needs as he went to the funeral, and he would have, totally agree. But Jesus also would have corrected the error in the usher’s behavior, most likely gracefully and with patience. Remember, Nicodemus in John 3, the Rich Young Ruler, the Roman Centurion’s daughter, the conversion of Paul, and even his own disciples frequently needed correction on the need for grace.

    Christians are in this together, and we need each other to grow and mature. Sometimes this will happen in happy times, sometimes through conflict and hurt feelings. But when one person removes themselves from the relationship, we are left with what Buddhists would call, “the sound of one hand clapping”. Which of course, is nonsensical and meaningless.

    • I have thought a lot of Nicodemus… how he must have grown as time went on. He is mentioned later as helping Joseph of Arimathæa prepare the body of Jesus for burial.

  • Kenneth

    As always a thought-provoking & much needed post. Just over ten years ago I wrote a poem about similar issues where churches can demonstrate split values, which I would like to share here:

    BREAD & SCORPIONS

    “Please give me bread,” pleads the beggar.
    “Why, what have you done to deserve it?”
    “What right have you to ask me for bread?”
    “Someone else will give you what you need.”

    “Please give me bread,” pleads the beggar.
    “I’m too busy at the moment, ask me later.”
    “I can’t afford to give you any.”
    “Shhh! Wait a minute; I’m doing something important!”

    “Please give me bread,” pleads the beggar.
    “Don’t sit outside our church.”
    “Don’t clutter-up the doorway.”
    “Go away! You’ll put people off!”

    “Please give me bread,” pleads the beggar.
    “Who invited you into the service?”
    “Sorry, you’ll have to move; that’s my seat!”
    “How long is it since you last washed?”

    “Please give me bread,” pleads the beggar.
    “How long have you been here?” asks Jesus.
    “Here, have mine!” says Jesus
    “Only bread?” asks Jesus. “Let’s go for a meal.”

    “Please give me bread,” asks Jesus.
    “Of course Lord. This is freshly made.”
    “It’s Jesus! Come in! Make yourself at home.”
    “What a privilege! We’re blessed to have you with us.”

    “Please give me bread,” pleads the beggar.
    “Is this man with you Jesus?”
    “He is? Bring him in. Your friend is our friend!”
    “Is there anything else we can do for you both?”

    Jesus wept.

  • Jesus commended only two of seven churches in Revelation – He rebuked and warned the rest. As the Bible states, judgment is now beginning with the church of God, and then what will the end be for the ungodly? The righteous are saved with such difficulty.
    We often play “church.”
    And we’re mostly half asleep.
    And also tares are among us, and wolves also.
    Mostly I’ve found love and acceptance in the loving but imperfect church of Jesus Christ, though I’ve suffered in the church (and also caused suffering to others). But the enemy has planted his bad seed in with the life-filled wheat. We can’t pull tares out without disturbing wheat, Jesus said. This will be how things are to the end of the age. So we must preach and warn.
    But Jesus’ warnings about tares and wolves aren’t only for the church in the west. Perhaps martyrdom purifies non-western churches. We in the west are in for that before He returns to rescue His children, His precious wheat He died for, and to judge the tares.
    He didn’t come just to help and heal people, but to die.

    • Greetings Kenneth–I couldn’t agree more. This guy who yelled at your friend missed the memo that day I guess. I’ve been involved with my local church in a variety of ways-Chair of Council etc–point being I was so astounded at what ‘Christians’ will get upset about. The length of the sermon–it’s too short–it’s too long–I didn’t get it and on they go. They missed the idea that services are for celebrating Christ being in their lives. Humility and service to others seems to be fading in the rear view. Churches have no more than bricks and mortar. It’s no wonder that attendances are waning and many churches are faltering. This fellow who yelled at your friend because of a hat hasn’t grasped the idea yet that all are welcome in the house regardless of where they come from or who they appear to be.–JIm

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