Wednesday, April 21, 2010

From the Outside Looking In

Since I've walked away from the church I'm beginning to see many aspects about the church culture I couldn't see while inside. For years I've heard the term "Christian sub-culture", and I knew there were things about us that were a bit, strange, but the reality of it didn't really come into full view until I was out. I think being inside the cocoon of religion keeps you from seeing how we really look to others outside...there is no way to see how we appear to the outside world until you're out.

One of the most obvious and disturbing things I see is that the friendships I had within the church were rooted solely in the church culture. Now that I've left I find that most of the friends I did have weren't really friends after all. Our friendship was completely dependent on the church setting. Although I have many other things in common with these people besides church they're not enough to keep the friendships going. I tried to keep connected with people, but what I realized was that I was putting out all of the energy to keep the friendships alive. It just wasn't worth the energy - it made me exhausted and frustrated. I battled with constant feelings of rejection. Friendships consist of a give and take, and I felt tired of being the one dragging along a one sided relationship.

I'm learning that there are huge risks associated with leaving, and one of them is loneliness. The church provided a social setting for me that I felt comfortable in. There was always a Bible study, small group, invitations to the church only elite potlucks and parties. Leaving it meant leaving all of that behind. The hardest part of it is I realize that those friendships I had within the church weren't built on the foundation of Jesus' love. They were social friendships much like the cliques in high school. When you leave you fly off the radar - you simply cease to exist.

Now I find myself asking this question: Who is my social Christian circle? Answer: I don't have one. I have a few Christian friends who are like minded; people who I know I'll be friends with for a very long time. People who are very out of the box non-religious folks. I can say crazy off the wall things to them and they don't cock their head to one side and say, "Yeah, uh huh..." or give me the deer in the headlights look. I have a few friends, (I can count them on one hand), who are still part of the system. Sometimes I wonder why they put forth effort to remain friends with me...but I'm glad they do.

Then I have friends who are not part the church. I refuse to call them non-Christians - that just sounds demeaning honestly, doesn't it? The Non people from the country of Non....come on, really? I used to see these people as a conquest, but now I see them as friends and I love being with them. They show me aspects of life that I've never seen before...and the really amazing thing is that they didn't give me the time of day until I was out of the system. I don't blame them one bit. I used to be scared of them,, terrified! It was as if they had a lethal disease I could catch. Their sin was contagious. But now I'm seeing that I'm just as much a part of humanity as they are. They're God's people too, and I feel honored that they give me the time of day. I see in them a part of life, beauty, and even God that was obscured from me within the church walls. They have been one of the delightful unexpected surprises waiting for me to discover along my journey and I feel as though I have only just scratched the surface of who they are.


  1. Great post. I love what you say about Non-Christians being from the county of Non. You are so witty. But you are right, being on the outside totally changes your perspective about people and relationships.

  2. The term "Christian Sub-culture" always bugged me. But I can see why and how it developed.

    Very good stuff April! Know what you mean about "becoming invisible" and being "off radar".

    Brian dropped some books a while ago at our place for anyone to read (but I believe he had you primarily in mind). One is titled "Jim and Caspar go to Church" which I think you might enjoy. I have read it and found it revealing. Jim (a recovering pastor) hires Caspar (an open-minded athiest) to go with him to several different churches to get Caspar's input. What you said about "Nons" being a "conquest" resonate with Caspar's observations.

    Again, I think the folks who wrote "The Shack" captured it best in chapter 12 when Jesus spoke of "Loving without agenda".

    Shalom on the Journey!

  3. Thanks for the comment Mike! Would love to borrow the book too. It sounds great. Loving without agenda is a challenge. It seems that every friendship/relationship has some sort of agenda - either between Christians or not. I'm still trying to figure out how to do it with love - void of of myself and letting Christ resonate through this broken vessel...

  4. "I'm still trying to figure out how to do it with love - void of agenda"

    Me too . . . (sigh). It is a Journey of discovery . . .

  5. I hear ya. I got involved with a church to make friends here in Sac. I realized it wasn't really for me but I loved the people and since we now attend so infrequently it's laughable we never see these people.
    I shouldn't say never, every once in a while. But I can tell they wonder about us. Why the church wasn't for us? What we are doing for spiritual food?
    I tried to explain we're just living church as it comes, but they just nod and try to be a tolerant as possible.
    But that just it, no one wants to feel tolerated. We want true, lasting, committed friendship.
    My best friend right now hasn't moved into the Kingdom yet. She's committed to me. We talk almost everyday and make plans every weekend. She's an integral part of my life, because we chose to be community.
    I crave that from my Christian friends, because they share a love for things I love, but they are too wrapped up in the program and their struggling little church service to really build relationship.
    Yes, in partnering with the church-members I could conceivably build lasting relationships through the common goal of building a church-organization. However, what happens when I move on?
    I've been apart of churches and then left and gradually lost of those relationships I thought were so strong.
    Funny thing is - my best friend now, we're friends because we worked on the same paper. I don't work there now, but we try even harder to make sure we see each other every week.
    It's about commitment. We can't have two masters, church and each other. We have to be committed to one.

  6. Love what you said about not having two masters, church and each other. I'm finding that to be so true in my life. Isn't it amazing that we can have great friends who aren't Christ followers, (yet!) I hear you on the being tolerated issue. I'm so glad we've both chosen not to put up with that anymore. The cool and amazing thing is that God seems to bring us people who want to be with us!! Thanks for sharing Melody!