Christian Living

Complaining about Church

What You Expect Forms Your Experience

When leaving church a few weeks ago, a man called out, “Hey! You! Come here!”

I didn’t much feel like interacting with another homeless man asking for a handout. He’d be unhappy with my solution, and my wife, fearing for our safety, wouldn’t want me to stop. I shook my head and kept walking.

“Seriously, do you go to that church?” He tipped his head towards the building I just left.

I took a few steps closer. A slight man, but he possessed a formidable force, complete with lip-sneer and eye-glare. Physically he was no threat, but his countenance urged caution. “Yes, I do.”

“Well, I just went to that church,” he snarled. “Not one person talked to me!” Given his aura of invective, I wasn’t surprised.

Yet, at the same time, as our church has grown, we’ve become less friendly. Even if he lost the attitude, there was a good chance no one would have greeted him.

“I’m sorry.”

“And all you did was ask for money—that’s all I heard the whole service.”

We seldom talk about giving. We don’t even take an offering. But today we mentioned money, briefly: “If God’s telling you to give, then give, but if you don’t want to, then please don’t.” It took thirty seconds of a 75-minute service.

“We must have been at different services.”

“Are you even a Christian church?” He snarled again, this time with more fervor. “You never mentioned being covered by the blood.”

I’ve heard the phrase, but never understood it. Since it’s not in the Bible, I don’t much care what it means. “Is it important for you to hear that?”

“Yes, I need to hear it every week!”

“It sounds like you want a Baptist experience.”

This confused him. “Well…I used to go to a Baptist church.”

I pointed to one nearby, but he shook his head. “I’ve been appointed to investigate all churches.”

I didn’t even care to ask who appointed him or why.

He continued his barrage. “And you didn’t even have an altar call!”

That’s when my wife piped in. I assumed she went on to the car, but instead she hovered about twenty feet behind me. “We have a prayer team. You could have gone up for prayer after the service.”

“There was a prayer team?”

“Yes,” I said, “but I think what you really wanted was a Baptist experience, so you need to go to a Baptist church.”

As he paused to contemplate that, I ended our conversation. “I’m sorry you were offended.”

What I should have said was, “I’m sorry we offended you.” I should have asked his name. I should have offered to pray. I should have taken time to learn his underlying angst.

But I didn’t. I just wanted to go home. Maybe I’m one of the reasons our church isn’t as friendly as it once was.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

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4 replies on “Complaining about Church”

Thank you for this raw story. Granted, this man was looking for something else entirely, but maybe God sent this angel unaware to stir some brain cells and induce a heart murmur. I won’t point at either of you, for there is a little of each in this human person.

You really put yourself out there for us to see, and in so doing catch a glimpse of ourselves. Thank you for sharing your experience. I’m provoked to think about this for awhile.

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