It's no secret that the flame of faith in our world grows dimmer with each passing day. People around the globe find it harder and harder to believe in a higher being and purpose. What cannot be seen, touched or heard loses validity in any argument. Many choose to walk away from their churches and their faith.
While every individual has a right to stop worshipping a deity or living a theology that no longer serves them, these doubt-filled times beg the question: Are there bad reasons to leave your belief behind?
That being said, the struggle between faith and doubt is real and often complicated. It's not something to be taken lightly. However, in these confusing times, it's important for us to be aware of the following five really bad reasons to leave your church.
1. Sinning is just so much more fun
It might surprise you that this reason to leave a church behind is actually a lot less common than you might think. Still, there are enough people who give in to this thought to make it worth mentioning.
The sin-filled road always appears to be an easy street. It poses as a glamorous thoroughfare with parades of laughing, easy-going, happy people. But experience shows that while the trip may be fun and comfortable for a moment, the path soon becomes a windy, bumpy highway. The traffic is fast, and it's hard to find a safe exit.
Lasting joy is much different than mere fun. Joy is eternal and filled with no regrets. The definition of sin is going against what you know to be right. Investments in joy are leading a life of integrity and honesty. Don't believe the lie that sinning is easier. Repentance and restitution, while always possible, are rarely painless. Choose the safer route.
2. The church members should be better people
Duh. But isn't that the point? If churches were for perfect people, they would be empty; not to mention pointless. We all should be better people, and that's exactly why we go to church - to try to improve ourselves. Just as you'd like others to give you room to grow and make mistakes, extend to them that same courtesy.
Church leaders and members will let you down. It's a fact. But true faith isn't based on people or reputations. It's based on God and His dependability. If someone has offended you, forgive. If a fellow church member is a hypocrite, remember you are too. None of us live up perfectly to what we preach, although we try.
This does not excuse acts of abuse, however. If members or leaders disobey laws of the land or do real harm to people, then their actions should by no means be brushed under the rug. You can still forgive them, but you don't need to trust them.
3. There isn't enough time
Life in the 21st century isn't slowing down for anyone. Time is a precious commodity. If your church seems to be demanding too much of your time, then take a moment to evaluate your entire schedule.
Are the things you place the most value in taking top priority in your life? Or, are less important tasks taking precedence?
Ask yourself these questions whenever you start to feel like attending church is just too much of a commitment. Think about if your services or other church activities bless or trouble your life. If they bless your life, then don't just scratch them out! Find balance, and remember that no workout routine, shopping spree, finished project or the like compares to growing closer to your God and becoming the person you wish to become.
We make time for what's important to us. It's OK to say no to things that are good but not essential, so that you have time for what's best and crucial.
4. I'm not good enough
Often, feelings of unworthiness make us think we are just too far gone to find hope in Jesus. But he asked ALL to come unto him. Just like reason number two, if you were perfect, you wouldn't need Him, let alone church. Don't let guilt push you away. The joyful news brought to the world through Christendom is that you are good enough because of Him.
If you are having a hard time obeying a commandment, don't walk away from a community that loves you and from an institution trying to help you find healing. Hold on. You are not as bad as you think. Your heart and your actions will change for the better if you keep believing.
5. Faith is too hard
Maybe your faith and your doubt have been battling for just far too long, and you are burnt out, ready to give up the fight. Faith is a hope for things not seen, so it's going to be hard to hold on to. But do hold on. When doubts ensue, as they always do, remember the moments of belief. It's easy to discredit past personal spiritual events. But if something was true to you at one point in time, there was a reason for your belief. Rediscover that reason and find respite in Jesus. His "yoke is easy and [his] burden is light." (Matthew 11:30)
To question is good. To work at your beliefs is worthwhile. In the words of Alfred Korzybski, "There are two ways to slide easily through life; to believe everything or to doubt everything. Both ways save us from thinking."
Be true to yourself and never stop thinking. Claim your right to believe what you honestly believe. In the words of a wise friend of mine, "The only bad reasons to leave a church are ones that could be worked out through time, effort, patience, charity and supportive membership."
Take courage. Be patient. Hold on to the faith.