Church Cynicism

by - November 09, 2009

When Vintage21 opened the doors to a "what do you look for in a church?" group discussion in 2002, I was there. I moved with the church from a theater in Cary, to a school in Cary, to Harget Street, to Oberlin Street and then back to Harget Street. I've been with it as it grew from 40 to 1400 people and now is even larger. Early on, I viewed it as my church, the place for me to settle. There was tight interaction with the booming staff of two, my voice was heard, my opinions mattered, my actions were seen.

As we have grown and brought in new staff from other cities across the US and even the world, and as we joined up with the Acts 29 Network, I feel like I was part of a small town that was annexed by a booming metropolis. Sure, it has benefits such as switching from septic to sewer, but as the church adopts new jargon, new music, etc, I feel such resistance building in my heart. I look in the mirror and am reminded of the little old ladies at my home town church that raised up a cry when the carpet color in the church was changed, "Don't change MY church!"

I've seen people leave over the years, people who were deeply invested, people who were part of my church, people who made it feel like home. I recognize fewer faces. At times I want to resign onto the plush red couch in my living room, sit alone in cynicism feeling sorry for myself that I no longer belong - that I was somehow robbed.

I don't think this is an uncommon feeling. I think this is why people change churches so often. The root of the issue is that the church was never and will never be MY church. It is Jesus's church. The pastor is not MY pastor, but Jesus's man appointed to shepherd Jesus's people in Jesus's church. If the church were my church, we'd all eat twice-baked potatoes and fried chicken on Wednesday nights and share introspective conversation. The pastor would preach a little less on the gospel and a little more on God's will for my life. The staff would request monthly meetings with me to ask for my advice and to gain some of my wisdom. They'd probably even send someone out to mow the lawn every now and then.

If the church were my church, it would die.

The reality is, Jesus claimed Vintage21 long before I ever showed up. He has taken a small body of believers and grown it into a place where He is being made known, glorified, and worshiped. When I allow cynicism to grow in my heart towards the church and leadership, not only does it distance me from the church, but Jesus himself. Surely there are churches that do not love Jesus, and they should be criticized heavily, but Vintage21 is all about and only about Jesus. So when I harbor resentment towards the church, I am expressing a lack of trust in Jesus and elevating my own personal whims over His plan and purpose.

Church is such a messy place as it draws us in as people taught to worship ourselves and through Jesus transforms us into people who worship the most high God. This transformation takes a lifetime. I grow so impatient with myself as I take two steps forward and one step (sometimes three steps) backwards. I get ashamed of the darkness in my heart and my childish reactions to change. Fortunately, in a church that loves Jesus there is grace. There is room for repentance and restoration.

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9 comments

  1. Paige,

    I think this is one of the most helpful and accurate posts I've ever read. Thank you for the humility, the honesty and the helpful insight. Can I post this on "The City" and challenge our folks to read it?

    Funny thing about your post, I feel exactly the same way about our church and believe Jesus did take it long ago. This journey with V21 has been the hardest thing in my life and the best thing in my life. Thank you again,

    Tyler Jones

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  2. Thanks, Tyler. Use it however you like.

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  3. I am so there with you Paige! I often lament the 'passing' of small vintage and long for the community that I felt then. But, it's not about how I FEEL. It' does and always has belonged to Jesus and that's exactly the way it should be. Thanks for putting it in to words!

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  4. What she said!
    Sometimes I wish I could shout this at people but that's probably not wise.

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  5. Great post, Paige! Insightful, honest, and I could relate.

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  6. it's encouraging to see both you & others that are beyond me on this particular issue. i wish i were much closer to being on the other side of that rather than feeling the way that i do.

    God & I will work through it but it will definitely take time. thanks for inspiring me by showing me a view from the otehr side.

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  7. One more, Paige. Although not there from the very beginning, we did show up when it was still relatively small -- when I did know all, or at least most, of the faces in the crowd.

    I do think there seems to be something that has gone away for those who have been there for so long. I still have a hard time putting my finger on it, though.

    I'm thankful for my CG that does a great job of perspective for me, though, as I experience the feelings I do at times.

    Well said, Paige.

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  8. Thanks for the feedback, friends. This is an ongoing journey for me and I'm glad to have people in it with me.

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  9. Change makes me sad too. I try to be careful to guard against getting wrapped up in how *I* want it to be - that's when I get messed up.

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