After I posted on Facebook about my experiences with a local church congregation, I had several people contact me. Some to encourage me and apologize for the church in general and others to say, “Why do you put yourself through this? Why not just worship God in your own way? Why put up with organized religion at all?”
I thought about it a while and this is my response to both groups of people.
Years ago, out of curiosity, I picked up a copy of Bertrand Russell’s essay entitled, “Why I am not a Christian.” It intrigued me. To sum his argument up as my imperfect memory recalls it, he had rejected the idea of Christianity for three main reasons – A: most Christians have no clue what Christianity teaches and B: people in churches don’t tend to be very kind or accepting of new people and C: Many Christians have a crazy judgemental streak.
I enjoyed this essay. I agree with Mr. Russell's assessment of the church, but not with his logic. By the same token I couldn’t be an atheist because every atheist I’ve met has had a superiority complex and smelly breath. Does that mean that ALL atheists are this way? No, of course not…well maybe they don’t all have smelly breath anyway.
But should I be allowing others behavior (or breath) determine MY paradigm?
I am a Christian because I believe in Christ. I follow Him, I attempt to emulate HIM. Not Pastor Joe Bob or Mary Margaret, not the newest hottest apologist or theologian or contemporary Christian musician. But Christ himself.
Because of this, I am called to serve those around me – because, well that’s what Christ did. Part of that service is to gather with other believers and sharpen them.
I believe it is nearly a proven fact that single women between the ages of 30 and 50 are treated very unkindly in most congregations. For various reasons that I won’t speculate on here, we are avoided. Usually, if we are welcomed in a congregation it is because there is a shortage of nursery workers or Sunday school teachers and we are quickly shoved off to deal with the children.
So, for the sake of argument let’s agree that single women are treated unkindly in many if not most congregations. (If you don’t believe me, we can discuss that further later). So, why then, would I continue my endeavor to find a church home? Why not just go fishing on Sunday mornings? I love fishing. I am comfortable fishing. I pray while I fish. That’s KIND of like going to church and didn’t Jesus hang out with a bunch of fishermen? So? Sounds good right?
The problem is - those who are true believers in Christ are part of something bigger than ourselves, and we are called to serve one another.
Part of my service is to be there. To be present. To challenge people to accept me. To be kind and loving and polite and accepting.
We agree that the problem with non-acceptance of single women is their problem, not mine correct? Well how can they ever overcome that problem if single women stop going to church? How can they grow beyond this shortcoming and better serve God if I don’t give them the opportunity to do so?
My service to the church isn’t in child care. Although, should I find a church home that I decide to stay at, I’d be more than willing to work on a rotating basis in the nursery. But that’s not my main place. My place is in the congregation.
I was blessed with a solid background in Bible teaching from a very young age. Unlike the Christians that Bertrand Russell came across, I do know what Christ teaches and I am always eager to learn more. My place is in the adult Bible studies, learning and challenging and discussing. I also have a very strong desire to start a ministry for single mothers. To give them a place to get solid bible teaching, love and support.
Only by me being a part of things and engaging and being active can others learn to accept me. Yes, there is heartache involved in this. But this is not new to me. I’ve been here before and this is no longer difficult for me. This is my place. This is what I do. When I posted on Facebook about the treatment being so markedly different when I was with a man that they assumed was my husband – I was laughing. I wasn’t hurt any more than I would be hurt if Troy didn’t recognize me after I got my hair cut.
People are people. We are all flawed. Yes, 10, 15, 20 years ago these things hurt deeply. But I have come to understand that the church is there for me, but more so… I am called to be there for the church body – in whatever life circumstance I am currently celebrating.
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