I can still feel the tears stinging my eyes. I can still hear the laughter and feel the shame. This was the day I hated church. I was 8 and I was as shy and awkward as a kid could possibly be. The girls my age didn’t like me….and I can’t say I liked them much either. We mostly just avoided each other. Until today. Today I stood in the church bathroom trying to get out the door but failing. Two girls had decided that it would be a fun “after church” event to pull my hair repeatedly until I cried. These were the cool girls, the girls you wanted to sit with in church and talk to afterwards. These were the girls that left a mark on me. And this was the day I hated church.
I can still see the tears stinging his eyes. I can still see him huddled in the corner of the playground. I was excited to bring my friend to church with me that day, he was excited too. I never excepted to return to the outdoor play area to find him crying. See my friend made a mistake…his mistake was being different. He didn’t dress like the other kids and they made sure he KNEW he was not like them. He was the odd man out. My siblings and I immediately confronted the kids that had ridiculed him…but the damage was done and he never came back with us. And this was the day I hated church.
I DIDN’T KNOW WHAT ELSE TO HATE AND NEITHER WILL THEY
Now don’t get me wrong. I was confused as to what I really hated. I blamed a beautiful thing for the ugly things I saw laying around it, THAT does not change the beauty of the church AS IT WAS MEANT TO BE. Again, hear me out- I LOVE church, it is where community begins. I love being with other people who love Jesus, people who admit they are messed up and need help. People who turn their eyes to heaven because earth doesn’t have all we need. I LOVE church. But as a kid, when I experienced cruelty and loneliness within church walls…I didn’t know what else to hate.
And neither will most people who walk through our doors! I wish I could say that it is only children that feel the scorn or often just feel ignored, but it is not. Teens and adults may not end up crying in the bathroom or in the corner of the playground, but they feel it just as strongly. Rejection or oblivion.
BRING THEM INTO FRIENDSHIP
So what do we do? I can’t give a bullet point list on how we should address this. I’m pretty sure there is no cut and dried method and each person is responsible for themselves and reaching out in their own way. I just know that we need to be aware that we are sitting beside people with insecurities and hopes and fears, we are walking by strangers with burdens, we are teaching our kids by our words AND our examples to either welcome or repel the new ones, the odd ones.
For me, taking action meant sitting somewhere different than I usually do on Sundays and making a point to not just greet but introduce myself to the strangers around me. God blessed me with new friends through this…which was cool. But many of the other times I was met with rigid hellos and goodbyes. It’s not about the reaction we get. People have been put off for so long, it is hard for them to be brought in. But that makes it no less important to try and do just that- Bring them into friendship & love!
CHURCH IS NOT THE PROBLEM BUT WE ARE
I don’t hate the church, although I did once. Kids can be cruel. Adults can be cruel. In church, out of church, in schools, in work places, and in homes. People are broken. Some don’t know any better but then some of us do! Church is not the problem but we are. This post is to the ones that know better. The ones that have felt the love of God and have no excuse not to share it with others. This post is not to say that if we love well, everyone will want to come to church or even that everyone will accept love. But if we pass people without looking them in the eye and we sit by people without saying a word and we NEVER even look above the heads of our friends to see who is without a friend, we then we are part of the reason people will hate church.
We can’t change everything. We can’t change everyone. We can only be changed ourselves, and if we each do that, it will change it all!