Church is one of those words that conjures up a lot of pain and anxiety for people. Many who once sat in a pew every week now find it hard or impossible to do. They opt instead to stay away. Some of these same people still have a belief in God, but are just yearning for something more than what church has to offer. Others just feel it is downright impossible to believe anymore.
This blog is dedicated to asking the question: “Is there life beyond the pew?” What is the afterlife of a person when faith in the pew dies? Can this experience be healing and liberating? I intend to write weekly on topics that matter. Whether you are believing or a sceptical, angry or discouraged, cringe at the mention of Jesus or rejoice, I hope this blog will be a chance to move beyond the pew.
Sometimes the reason for this loss of faith in the pew includes relationship breakdowns and being hurt by people who sit in pews. Sometimes its discouragement from the mismanagement or misuse of power. I know of many stories where people who used to sit in a pew weekly are now either atheist, agnostic or believe in something but have no religion (and the latest census data is showing a significant rise of the ‘nones’). Sometimes it feels as if the church has a monopoly on Jesus. However, this doesn’t seem right to me. What is leftover when we can’t sit in a pew anymore?
My goal in writing is to share a hope I have that we can move past the mistakes of the modern day church and find the real Jesus. So I want to start with something important. Sometimes Jesus followers do not follow Jesus very well. Actually most of the time they act opposite to the way Jesus would. Let me tell you the story of a woman, a group of religious people and a very clever teacher.
This woman comes to Jesus asking him to heal her daughter. Jesus is cold-hearted and rude to her, “I don’t deal with people like you.” She begins to beg. Jesus doesn’t give her any chance, “I’m not wasting my time on a dog.” Those words hurt. The religious people crowding around Jesus agree that she is worthless, “Get rid of her”, they command, “She is so annoying.” At this point she could’ve walked away. Story over. But she doesn’t give up and she replies, “Dogs get the leftovers of food when the master is finished.” At this point I imagine Jesus smiling and saying, “That’s it! You get it! Your daughter is healed because of your faith!”
On the one hand, these cruel words of Jesus were actually a valuable lesson for his followers. If we rewind the tape and look at the story carefully, we see Jesus acting out what the disciples were thinking. Jesus shows that the way we treat the vulnerable and how we look at people can actually push people away from God altogether. The religious followers of Jesus had a lot to learn (has anything changed?)
On the other hand, Jesus points out that the terrible way religious people act, even though it doesn’t excuse it, must never stop us from discovering Jesus’ message. Persistence is possible and necessary.
Maybe you have a personal experience or you know of someone that has been hurt. Please comment below.