Monday, December 28, 2015

On Changing Churches

I've been a Christian only two and a half years at this point. I was saved two weeks after moving to Idaho. During this time I was loyal to the church I went to the day I was saved. I never considered moving to another church even though one was available to me. I liked my pastor's sermons and enjoyed going to the church to see a lot of familiar, friendly faces.

A few weeks ago, something happened to change my mind. I was at home, listening to the sermon which streams live over the internet. I wasn't at church because the woman who usually gave me rides there was sick. I do not own a car.

The pastor started talking about how many articles on the internet contain erroneous information. While this is true, the discussion of it from the pulpit gave me a heads-up feeling for several reasons. You see, I'm a person who makes a living by writing articles on the internet. I'm a blogger and affiliate marketer.

I wondered if he was talking about my websites. I don't know if he ever reads any of my articles, but he's so critical of things he reads on the internet, I realized he'd probably find something to criticize in my internet writing efforts too, if he ever reads them.

Even if it wasn't my articles being read, I thought it was inappropriate to cast doubt on all people who write on the internet, especially coming from a man in a pulpit. Then I realized that at a recent church meeting for seniors, I'd gotten up and introduced myself as a person who blogs for a living. Now were all those people going to think less of me because our pastor stated that internet writers can't be trusted?

I thought my reaction was ridiculous, but at the same time, I thought, "I'm tired of hearing this." I realized he'd said many things about what he'd read on the internet by other Christians whose work he didn't agree with or respect. I'd also heard before that he didn't like blogging.

This thought came to me: "I've sent my money into this church for months, for this?" Of course, the money is a donation to Jesus, not just to an individual church, so that thought is off base as well, in some ways. But it did make me want to re-evaluate what I'd been doing.

I seriously felt like someone who had just been through an earthquake. My paradigm for Christian living had just been shaken. I was unhappy with my pastor and my reaction was something I was questioning and re-questioning.

I went to the contact page of the church website and sent the pastor a very short email to let him know I'd been listening and wanted him to know I'm a professional blogger and that we all would like to have some respect for our professions.

I waited ... but there was no email response. This didn't surprise me too much. I'd emailed the church at least twice in the past without receiving a response. I wondered if my emails had gone into a black hole. I wondered if they had been read.

The next week, the pastor mentioned during his sermon that people who have their feelings hurt should just not feel that way, and that we shouldn't be offended and that's a trick of the devil, or something like that. Again, I wondered if he was talking about me or some other situation he was dealing with.

In case it was about me, I thought that was a shoddy way to answer an email. Instead of having a real one-on-one communication with this pastor, all I was getting was pot-shots from the pulpit, possibly directed at me, possibly at some unknown other. I realized I had no real relationship with this pastor. It was all about listening to him.

There are two secretaries in his office. If he doesn't want to answer emails, couldn't he delegate that task to one of the secretaries so that people wouldn't think their emails had been ignored?

I realized that a lot of the problem was that I was having negative thoughts about the pastor. I realized it could be time for me to think about going to a different church.

This is a problem for me, because this one church is the closest to my home, and is within walking distance - only a mile from my apartment. Transportation is an issue as I have no car.

I started looking around for other churches, using Google Maps as a guide. This took me to several local church websites and I got a good education on what's out there in case I wanted to switch churches.

Nothing seemed to be a good fit - except for one church I already had a history with - a small church in Washington, four miles away. I started attending their women's Bible studies a few years back because my church had almost no women's ministry. My church's approach to women's ministry was to have a series of three or four meetings once a year if we were lucky, at which the pastor's wife would get up on the stage and talk as if she was the pastor. Really, it was no different than going to church, but with a different speaker.

(Keep in mind that my church has about 1500 regular attendees, no consistent women's ministry, and no home groups. The pastor didn't trust others to speak from his pulpit so we listened to him three times a week, and guest speakers only happened if he was on vacation, or at a conference, traveling, or something like that.)

The other church was much smaller - only about 200 members, but they had a thriving women's ministry. There were evening Bible studies for women once weekly, and also a Bible study for women one weekday morning each week. They offered real friendship and support for the women of their church, and for others like me, who came in from other churches. They also had annual women's retreats - and I've already attended two of them.

The pastor at the other church supported women's ministry so much that he allowed two women in his congregation to improve their ministry skills by speaking to his congregation on Sundays once in a while. I noticed that he also allowed his wife to speak to him from the audience on Sundays in a conversational manner, and it was just like being in their family room at times. I liked that they worked together as a team.

My first pastor is almost never seen with his wife at church and I've always found that strange. All this made me wonder if women are being suppressed at this church I'd spent so many months at. Why almost no women's ministry, and why is the wife never seen standing next to the pastor? Why does the male worship leader do most of the lead singing when the woman standing next to him sings so much better than he does?

Why do I have so many bad thoughts about these people?

Something was not right there. I blamed myself for all my bad thoughts - after all - these are Godly people, good people, and followers of Jesus.

I realized that the problem is that I needed to go elsewhere, despite the distance. I was being transplanted from one church to another, from a large congregation to a much smaller one. I realized that a pastor with a smaller congregation naturally will value his people more than one with more than a thousand to care for. I realized I had no real two-way relationship with the first pastor. I was ready to try something new. Maybe the pastor at the church I'm now starting to attend will talk to me like a friend rather than just another warm body occupying one of the chairs in his church on Sundays.

I went to the smaller church last Sunday. They have a wonderful worship team. The pastor was awesome, and his teaching style was different, and somehow friendlier. I am finally ready to immerse myself in their church, their sermons, and their activities. I'm looking forward to this change and am happy to be transplanted into the place where I've found most of my friends, nurturing, and shepherding during the two and a half years since I became a Christian.


  1. Hello Linda. I found this blog post very interesting. I hope that your new church is a joy to your heart and a blessing to your life.

    1. It was a sad change for me, but I'm starting to get over it. I think this was God's way of letting me know I needed to change churches. I'm a relatively new Christian, and have never done this before. It was a bit painful.

  2. Hi Linda, I too have been going to church. Mostly in Happy Camp. I had a similar experience at one church, which only has about 20 people who attend. The pastor never spoke to me. At the "new" church he talks to me each time he sees me. I'm much happier there. I really enjoy it and feel really good when I leave. Good luck to you, R

  3. Thanks R. Thanks for your comment! I'm so happy you're in church now. Pastors should realize we want a two way relationship... not to just listen to them talk.