Sturbuck Community Church. Address: 113 Front St. Starbuck, Washington 99359. Taken by Steven Pavlov.

This is 2012. I haven’t regularly attended a church since 2004.  Eight years. Eight years of being home on Sundays, watching NFL pregame shows and catching up on laundry neglected throughout the week. That’s been my life these eight years but it wasn’t always that way. I grew up going to church EVERY Sunday, Wednesday etc. All that’s changed now and people routinely ask about it. I’ll never forget the reaction my aunt had when she found out. She absolutely couldn’t piece together how a man who went to seminary doesn’t go to church. Long story short, even when I found myself embracing Jesus, I couldn’t embrace his house.

When I was younger the reasons were simple. Church just wasn’t very interesting. It was too long and often redundant. Why were we here? To sing songs? To listen to an uplifting speech? I can’t say that I ever really figured that out or saw any definite goals being achieved; unless the goal was for a few (predictable) few to “get happy.” As I’ve gotten older, however, the reasons have become much more thought out. Some are, of course, theological and others purely sociological. At the end of the day, they all boil down to one simple question: what’s the point?

People often say I should go to fellowship. I ask, when is the fellowship part? As I’m commuting alone in my car or sitting in my seat silently, watching the show? Others say to learn. Having paid (and still paying) for an advanced theological degree, I certainly don’t feel very informed after most sermons. No, there must be more, right? My thinking is that with the depth of human suffering and oppression that exists, the church should somehow be involved in mitigating or eradicating it. Perhaps I’ve always thought the church should be responding to the felt needs of people.

In some of our cities, black male unemployment can creep to over 50%. Only 12% of eighth grade black boys are proficient in math, compared to 44% of whites. 60% of black females are sexually abused before the age of 18. Should people show up to the church on a given Sunday, these are the questions they are seeking immediate answers to. Yet, they’ll very likely hear a sermon on being a nice person, being happy and shaking your haters off. So then, why go? If every core issue I’m concerned about you systematically ignore, you’re somewhat of an irrelevant institution to me.

So I sit home. I don’t feel that I’m missing much and on the rare occasions when I go, that theory is further substantiated. When faced with the proposition of getting in my car, spending gas money and several hours to sit, watch a show and hear absolutely nothing relevant to where I and my community truly are, I simply ask what the point is.

16 comments

Rick Wade

interesting…

Brooke Jackson

Maybe you can start hanging out with other followers of Jesus who are into eradicating social injustices and kick it with them on Sundays or Saturday's or whatever for organized or disorganized worship. It's kinda fun :) btw, are you going to CCDA this year?

Duane Terrell

First of Mr. Hopewell, the bible does say do not forsake the gathering of believers. In a sense, you are like a soilder who's "out there" with no direction what so ever. You can't fight evil by yourself. Also, its a much better experince to worship God with others than alone, but with that being said….

I can agree with your assessment. In a nutshell, The Church has no Power.

Here are some of the problems…

1. We gave away our right to free speech to keep our donations from being taxed because of a horrible income tax system. Speech is more powerful than money and the church gave up the former.
2. People do not believe the church should be prosperous. Why? They don't tithe and if they are told they should they are quickly told that the preacher is going to get all the money or thithing is less important than your house. People believe that God understands when they dont fund the kingdom.
3. People have limited "The Church" to a show every Sunday and "charity on monday". They refuse to believe the church should be at the fondation of business and politics.
4. They have limited "The Show" on sunday to instraments, dancers, and singers, some people don't even want the dancers or they do not want more than a piano. Anything more is "too much". What about fireworks (in outdoor locations). How about "magic shows" centered around the word the God? The possibilies are numerous but somehow they believe these extra things will distract from the worship experience. WHich leads me to point 5…..
5. "The Church" refuses to be pop culture. No, this does not mean the church should except homosexuality and things of that nature, what this means is that "The Chuch" and its institutions should be the "to go" place. What do you think is best for society? A bunch of people heavely influnced by the Church (the word of God) who only go to see a show or a bunch of people who don't even know what the word of God is? Everybody wasn't going to church in the 50's but even athiest then wouldn't have accepted some of the things Christians accept today. Pop culture has a greater impact on Church people than the Church has on pop culture.

Anonymous

With such a me-centered approach it is easy to cast stones at the church. But answer me this, why not take your insights and create the change and the opportunities that you so easily complain about? Are you making an impact on illiteracy or poor math skills by sitting at home and watching espn? Pastors are dying for people to step up and help.

Further, though sermons should be relevant they should not and cannot appeal to the felt need and desires of every pew sitter.

Your blog suggests to me that you can stand outside and throw stones, especially at evangelicals, but you won't get involved yourself. You sir, have not earned the right to speak from a platform yet. Perhaps you should stop writing and go do. Then after you've exhausted yourself doing you can tell us about it… Lazy Christian.

Duane Terrell

6. "The Chuch" does not understand the importance of fear. Even though someone pissing in your yard is only helping your grass, you still don't allow people to piss in your yard because it's disrespectful. Why did NBC or whoever it was even have the balls to put out a show called "Good Christian Bitches". It is because they do not fear us. This does not mean they believe we are going to beat them up, no, what this means is that they don't believe we have the resources to make them financially suffer for such a stupid act.
7. Christians are living no diffrent than other none-Christians. This doesn't even need to be explained. When the only thing you can say about yourself is that you haven't shot or raped any one that's just sad. And I'm not just talking about the sins we commit, because we have all fallen short of the glory of God, I'm refering to also the frequency we committ them.

I could go on, but I'm going to stop and there a many things I missed and looking back I see some such as "foundations of Business, poltics, and [charity]" but you get my point. If Christians fixed these 8 things I think we wouldn't have 1% of the social justice problems we have, at least the legitamate ones. You can always create "social justice" issues out of thin air.

I've said this once, and I'll say it again, If I wasn't already going to chuch, I wouldn't start. But its up to us to become the people God wants us to be so that people will want to come.

Duane Terrell

That's a point I missed. Christians are too busy with other things and not helping out at the church.

But yeah hopewell, he makes a good point. Have you tried to change what you see?

Rashad

Different people have different reasons for going and not going. Sorry to be so passive about this one, but at the end of the day, there's no real authority over human beings that governs going "to church" on Sunday. It's really an irrelevant question/issue altogether. Now…the part about expecting a church to be more socially-conscious and involved in addressing the concerns of other human beings, I kind of follow that. I take into account, however, that the "church" is not a building or a specific "church" congregation. I see the "church" as the body of believers. Each day they get up and do the work of their Creator, and truly seek to meet the needs of those around them, they ARE "at church". I don't think it's ground-breaking, or even unconventional in 2012 for people who legitimately see themselves as members of the "Church" (believers) to not go to a specific "church" building on Sundays… or ever. And not "forsaking the gathering together" in the bible wasn't about going to a church building. In fact, having or going to "church" as we know it in the 'modern' western tradition wasn't what was going on when those words were written (not to mention the many other things written, re-written, and re-translated in the bible for political and oppressive purposes. I don't see this very mundane comment as "convicting" people in any way). You and I will get together on Sunday and "fellowship", and in the process try to come up with more ways to make a legitimate difference in people's lives; legitimately address suffering peoples' needs. In other words, the "Church" will be getting together to have "church". That to me, brother, is church…AND it's on Sunday.

PS – Don't forget that Marketa and I are ordained. We will be having a pancake dinner at the "church" on Saturday night if you're interested. Amen.

D.M Hopewell

Brookie!!! No, where is it!?

D.M Hopewell

Thx for the read, "Anonymous." I actually stopped going to church finally after my last attempt of doing exactly what you suggested- trying to help pastors. In that conversation, I told the pastor I'm not terribly interested in "church stuff" but rather, the larger life of the neighborhood etc. I indicated my educational and professional credentials and that I'd like to, for free, help in that regard. He never did anything about it.

Actually, even though I don't go, I still try to help pastors. Problem is they never want the help. You would think so, right? I've routinely found that when I've approached pastors (even while attending their church) about doing something about anything…they don't bite. Thus, I'm working on those things outside of the church. Here and there, I go back to churches to get them involved in things and it's pretty much the same story…

D.M Hopewell

well said, Duane

D.M Hopewell

so…is there really a pancake dinner on saturday!?

Duane Terrell

Did you spend time to actually attempt to build a relationship with the people at the church before you start preaching your credentials? How often did you go? Did you go every sunday but not to anything during the week? Did you consider the level of resources at the church?

I don't know what you did or didn't do but if you went there with this gung ho change the world attitude and throwing around "what you know", it isn't surpsing you were turned away.

Summer

Well said, Rashad! And the work of the "church" is 24/7; not just Sunday.

Eric Williams

One of the unique characteristics of God's word is his preservation of it. Even when comparing our most reliable translations against our oldest extant manuscripts, there are found to be only little variation. If we have a problem with translation, then we must question the whole book, however, God promised that his word would be kept (if not the case, He could he judged a liar). The concept of the church congregating is definitely not a "western" concept. Hence the relationship between the terms church and preacher. The Jews of that were familiar with the traditional congregating in the Temple. The earliest Christians had no established building due to Christianity being illegal, (however they still congregated). All of the new testament writings support this concept. Also seeing that Christ instituted the church, there must be at least some validity to this gathering. Nowhere in the scriptures is the concept of the idea of not coming together in the body supported ("how can the…, have no need of the…". Church began to make more sense to me when I began to ask what can I do, instead of expecting something from the church. If they don't except your agenda, that's fine, you can always do that outside the church. You are a representative of the "church (the called out"). If this is the work that God has called you to do, ask Him where you need to be to get it established and then assemble your army. But go to church bro (I believe is much deeper then this article states).

GLW

Well Mr. Hopewell this is refreshing. I do not believe you were 'casting stones' as much as you were pointing out realities.
Sometimes it is hard to understand 'tone' via internet, but I understand where you are coming from.
I was born and raised in the church and contemplated going into seminary or theology at a private institution, finally opting for studying Religion at a public institution.
I wanted a broader view of the world and what I have learned is that suffering is everywhere and the church DOES have room to grow in this arena. Sometimes we ignore societal issues. Unfortunately we do not realize it though…
I agree that the sermons are redundant and there is more churches can do. Many churches do neighborhood and humanitarian work, but many also stand outside picketing at abortion clinics, focus energy on raising funds for events, ignore society issues, and more. These negatives overshadow the positive they do.
It is just refreshing to see a different analysis of the church body b/c many Christians do not believe or get defensive when they are made aware of the fact that 'the body' is failing in the being 'socially conscious' department.
IDK, sometimes I feel (not all) but some may get content in their own salvation and do not really think abt innovative ways to reach/help ppl as well as any ppl that do not think & act like them.
Sorry this was long, but this is something I discuss alot (being that I study anthropology)
All in all I KNOW there are churches that focus on helping society, but unfortunately I see more NOT helping and only concerned with whats going on within their own 4 walls. The only time something is rally worthy is if it is abortion or gay marriage:/
Good work. Keep it up!

D.M Hopewell

Thx for the read and encouragement. I'm still struggling with this and the entire question of deity and humanity…how it all relates…if it relates. I try hard not to center on the institution, however for that cannot begin to accurately portray God.

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