You should totally tell everyone in your small group. If you’re not in a small group, post on Facebook all the ways that your church is doing church wrong. The best thing to do when you’re discontent with the church you attend is to complain until you can’t stand it anymore and then leave and start attending another church, but don’t forget the scathing email, disguised as “loving advice,” to the lead pastor as you exit. After that, start telling everyone how great it is and how they’re “doing” church so much better. At least until they do something that you don’t like. Better yet, instead of just attending another church, just across town, start your own “new” thing. But make sure it’s started on the grounds that you can do it better and completely based on frustration and anger at the “system” you left… is the advice that most Christian would never accept as “good,” but is actually the way that so many will leave their current church.
I know that for the last few years I’ve been an advocate for doing church differently, but I’ve never said that I had THE way or even a better way, just a different way. It’s the way that I feel God has called me to. It’s a model that is intended to serve and love people that traditional models would likely never reach. It’s the result of years of prayer, seeking God’s wisdom and collaboration with other believers. It isn’t built out of anger toward another model or a specific church. It isn’t even built out of frustration toward a model that others use. It was not built out of a discontentment, or dissatisfaction, with someone else’s model, but from seeing groups of people that other models, not for not trying, couldn’t reach. It was built out of a desire, that God placed in my heart, to see more people join us in the Kingdom and become disciples of Jesus, that make disciples of Jesus. It was built out of a God given desire to see the marginalized find healing in Jesus.
With that said, it wasn’t something that came easy. As I said, it took a lot of prayer and wrestling with what God was calling me to. At the beginning I did think, for just a second, that there may be a problem with the way “traditional” church was “doing it.” But, I had a great community of people that I was able to talk through it with. My lead pastor (at that time), coach and friend, Jeff Maness, helped guide me through it, wether he knows that or not (maybe I should make sure he knows). And, a lot of prayer and seeking God revealed that it had nothing to with the ministries that God had called others to and had everything to do with what He was calling me to. And that’s where so many, that are not happy in their current church, miss it.
If this sounds like where you’re currently at or potentially headed toward, I think there’s two main things that could be happening.
1: God is calling you to something else.
This was my situation. God had placed a desire in my heart that took years of cultivating and watering for it to develop. Being dissatisfied with something is a hard thing, especially when you don’t know what exactly you’re discontent with. Some of the most frustrating times in my life have been when I was discontent, but couldn’t pinpoint any particular area or thing that was causing it. Turns out that most of those times, it was a discontentment that God had placed in me because He was calling me to something new.
It’s so easy to misinterpret or mistranslate that discontentment and assign it to the very thing we’re being called away from. For me it’s because fear tells me I’m not good enough or equipped to do that new thing. So, instead of exploring and seeking where the discontentment is coming from and where it may be leading, we try to figure out how to change where we currently are, in an attempt to be content. In church that looks like attenders that convince themselves that their church is “doing” church wrong. All of the sudden, you’re more focused on what you’re not getting and why it’s your church’s fault, rather than seeking to follow Jesus well and being obedient to God’s call on you.
The truth is, if your church is teaching Christ and Him crucified, then the method they use isn’t wrong. If Jesus is central to the pastor’s teaching, chances are he is listening to the call God placed in his heart and the church model he is using is what God has called him to. You don’t get to influence that just because you feel like it should be done a different way. That leads us to number two.
2: You want something that you’re not getting.
This is going to seem a bit harsh, but it’s a very real possibility and potentially something that needs to be wrestled with. In some circumstances, there are people that perceive, for whatever the reason, that the church leadership is not giving them the authority or influence that they feel they deserve. Typically this is the result of the person having attended for a significant amount of time or having held lower lay-leader positions (small group leader, kids church class leader, etc.). Whatever the case, the person feels like they’ve gown to a level of maturity or leadership that their church leaders should recognize and reward with increased leadership. When that doesn’t happen, all of the sudden the church is “doing it wrong.”
This is a pride issue. If this is the case, then maybe maturity hasn’t been achieved in any great measure and maybe you haven’t gained the leadership traits you thought you had. When this happens and the person doesn’t seek God and wise counsel to deal with it, the result can play out in a couple ways:
1) The discontent member simply complains to other members. This just creates dissension, disharmony and disunity. This is no good. In fact, in Proverbs 6:19 God identifies “one who sows discord among brothers” as one of the seven sins that are an abomination. At the minimum it creates tension within the congregation. Worse case, if the person is someone that people will follow, it detracts from others’ relationship with God and that’s how church splits happen. I’ve seen churches that were started as a result of anger, pride and discontentment; they aren’t healthy and typically don’t last.
2) The discontent member stews in his/her discontentment until they can’t take it anymore and decide they need to leave. Typically they leave by sending the lead pastor a scathing letter/email written “in love,” but really it has no love in it anywhere. After that they leave and begin attending a new church that has an almost identical model as the one they left. In no time the person is discontent with the way that the new church is “doing” it and they’re looking to change them or they leave. Sometimes they get the idea to start a church of their own, but again, they typically aren’t healthy and don’t last.
So what do you do, then? Talk with others. But talk with them in healthy ways. Be honest that you’re discontent with something, but you’re not clear on what. Seek God. Pray, read the bible and journal. Let God clarify for you. And He will. He promises that if we draw close to Him, He’ll draw close to us. Continue to joyfully serve where you’re at. If you’re serving God and others, no one, not even you, will benefit from you being angry with something that you’re not clear on. If you just can’t get passed it, maybe consider stepping out of whatever roll you’re serving in and take a season of simply attending and seeking.
After that, if God is calling you to something new, awesome. It’s so exciting and scary and amazing and God is bigger than any of that. New things are God’s thing and you can leave a church well, with the church’s blessing. But remember, the most important thing you can do for God is be obedient in where He currently has you and the most important ministry you’ll ever serve in, is the one you’re currently serving in; be there joyfully.
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