(image copied from http://www.stltoday.com)
It is quite an oxymoron to be an church absentee believer. However, some Christians have passed through this stage at one time or another and probably more often than one would care to admit. I have been absent from a physical church for sometime and this is to the distress or my parents. They naturally assume that my distance from the structure indicates a distance from God. There may be some truth to that but not the whole truth. My parents, like all good christians, believe that the strength of your connection to God is very evident in the frequency of attendance to church.
Therefore, my notable 2+ years of shoddy attendance is a sign of spiritual distress. However, the real reasons behind my absence from church is three folds. The first is what I call the case of the unbelieving believer. This describes me in the sense that I believe God exists, believe in the words of the bible but is having some struggles with not seeing God’s power in the world as much as expected. I guess there is a sense of disappointment of my expectation of God’s presence. As an unbelieving believer, there is the conflict of knowing and seeing. I am very aware of the bible’s caution against the deception of the eyes “No man has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwells in us…” I John 4: 12. “Eyes have not seen or ears have heard, neither have enter into the heart of man, the things that God has prepared for them that love him.” Is 64:4 & I Corin 2:9. (Side note: 1 Cor 2 is a very good chapter). However, it does not negate that this is the rut in which I am momentarily stuck.
The second part to the fold is people avoidance. No I don’t have a psychological phobia (I think lol)but my childhood personality is resurfacing. As a kid, I was shy and only interacted one-on-one or in very small groups with people. I did not like large groups and I was slow to warm up to people. As I got older and the influence of my choices in occupation required that I became more bold, outspoken, social, and pretty much the opposite of my childhood personality. After many years of ‘dealing with people and their stuff,’ moving to new places, meeting new people, doing many things, I find myself completly tired of people and reverting back to being more isolative. Churches are filled with people in which I do not care to have much of an association or relationship or small meaningless talk. Neither do I want to find a new church and meet new people. I keep joking with my good friend that one day I may become that person who lives in the mountains and only comes to town once or twice a year to fulfil my social interaction needs :-).
The third part of the fold is church boredom. I was raised on Christianity and the bible. I have been learning about the bible, bible verses and stories at church and schools all the way through college. There is not a whole lot about the bible to which I am not familiar. There is not a whole lot to which a preacher can babble about on Sabbaths or Sundays to which I have not heard (in different variations no less). Going to church and listening to a sermon does not provide any new information. I have sat through stories and lessons from Adam and Eve to the second coming of Christ and the symbolism of Revelations. One can preach that God is love and we are sinners in so many different ways before it becomes repetitive and therefore boring. There is nothing really new that anyone can lecture to me about God (at this time) that I was not taught throughout all these years. Please don’t be confused-God isn’t boring, church is. It could be that I need to be in some poor needy country somewhere practicing Christianity instead of in a nice building listening to what I should be doing. Who knows!
IMPORTANT TO NOTE: This is MY experience at this moment. This is NOT saying that anyone should skip church. The bible, on the contrary, does advocate for fellowship and its importance that “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them” Matthew 18:20. Afterall, it was at church where I learned everything about God and this reinforced my beliefs as an adult. This is not to blame the church but taking responsibility for where I am in my spiritual journey. I have my moments when I just can not get enough of all things God and other times when I seem like the antagonist to most things religious. There are times when it is all clear and other times when it is so cloudy it is hard to see very far. I do not always find the belief in God and the redemption plan to be very easy. However, the one part that is always unwavering is that I do believe God exists.