This is not church. What do I mean by that title? I feel that it is two-fold. First, this will be a discussion of things that I feel that the church does wrong or has failed at. This will cover quite a few topics ranging from tithing, women in ministry, racism in the church, homophobia in the church, the ignoring of mental illness by the church, and many more topics. Some of which, I am sure I have not even though of yet. Second, the title means exactly what it says. This is not church. I do not feel that these conversations can happen completely within a building of four walls that we sometimes call a church. Should these conversations happen in church? Absolutely. But for some reason that apparently god only knows, we ignore these questions and sit around and listen to another sermon that could have been phoned in by any number of television pastors. If the church has any hope of surviving it needs a drastic overhaul. It needs to recognize the burden it has put on its followers without the benefit of a safe place to talk about these same burdens. It has created a place where everyone pretends to be fine, but deep down very few are. Church has made prosperity promises that it cannot deliver. Church has set up standards that are unreasonable at best and are harmful at worst. The church has set up double standards when it comes to its purity culture. It has repeatedly put the burden of staying pure at the feet of women while at the same time it gives the impression that they are fine with the notion of “boys will be boys”. The church has made its members afraid to talk about mental illness. The common answer is to “pray away” your mental sickness. The problem is that when praying does not work the church members feel pressure to act as if it did. God forbid someone in the church finds out that maybe you lack the faith to “heal” yourself. Then there is the pain and grief that people feel as the church ignores their cries for help. The church looks at some of its own members as nuisances. The pain and grief of rejection after rejection for some is too much to handle, and they find that they must leave for the sake of their own sanity. As Sarah Bessey has said, people are leaving the church, because they did not have room for my grief.
That was a long paragraph of me bashing the church. I am sure I have angered quite a few people. But if you noticed I did say that it was time to overhaul the church so that it can survive. I do believe that the church has a place. I believe that it will be around in some shape or form. What will it look like in twenty-five years? Who knows? Definitely not me. I am a former church goer, worship pastor, and associate pastor. I have very fond memories from church. I can go on and on about wonderful youth group moments, awesome times playing music in front of the church, and plenty of heartfelt sermons that I loved giving. There is another side to this unfortunately. There are more times of hiding my issues, lying to friends, and “phoning” in musical performances. Church pretends to have all the answers, and does a terrible job admitting when it actually does not know, and maybe is not the best place for you to find help. Pastors try to be all to all, and many times fail to be anything to anybody. So, where do we go from here?
Good question. That is what I hope this blog series will work on. Talking about the hard things that church would rather shy away from. To tackle the difficult things that the church is good at ignoring. Why can we talk about these things? Because, this is not church. Will some of these topics be hard? Yes. Will some of these topics make you mad? Yes. Will some of these topics make you uncomfortable? Yes. Should we talk about them anyway? Yes! Yes! Yes!
I have taken on the title of The Unpastor. I have been asked why do I call myself that? There are quite a few reasons. The easy answer is because I never fit the mold of a pastor. I cuss too much. I like to drink. I would rather hang out in a bar than a church. Another reason I use the title is because I no longer feel that my place is in the church. My place is with the “used to goes”. My place is with the “never wents”. My place is with the “not on your lifes”. You see, I am more at home with the ones that Brennan Manning would call them ragamuffins. The ones he would call the bedraggled. These are the people I want to hang with. This is where you find the truest form of community. This is where you find the open arms, open hearts, and open minds. This is where you find the purest, and truest kind of love. A love worth fighting for. A love worth battling for. A love that calls us to look deeper into our faith and be willing to accept that we do not have all the answers.
I hope you are ready to go down the rabbit hole with me. Are you ready to leave the matrix? Are you willing to look beyond the walls of your church? I hope so. It will be a long strange trip, but I believe it will be worth it in then end.
One last thing. As with the RJ series, I will continue to write a poem connected to each week’s blog post. It has been an eye opener for me as I write them. I feel that in many ways I can explain my thoughts better in poetry than in straight forward writing. There is a freeing that happens as I write these prose that does not always happen in my other writing.
As always, thank you for joining me on this journey. It means the world to me that so many have taken the time to read my posts. I cherish every comment and look forward to connecting with you all in this new series.