Keep looking for Jesus even when your Church lets you down
What do you do if your church is not really following Jesus anymore?
What do you do if you realize the “Jesus” you were following is not the same Jesus that is actually in the Bible but is the Jesus created by man over the centuries?
Have you ever had a crisis in your faith and wondered if you even believed in God or Jesus anymore?
And have you ever openly admitted these things to anyone else?
It’s time to take a whole new approach to looking for who Jesus is. And I’ll come back to this in a minute.
If you keep up with what’s going on in the Christian Church as a whole, you may have noticed over the last several years a spirit of growing discontent with things going on in various churches. Membership is declining for many denominations, even those who thought they would be immune to such things, because they had the “true” version of Christianity (or maybe not).
It’s hard to admit you were wrong
Recently several well know Christian “influencers” have openly apologized for books they had written or things they had said and done because they now see things in a different light. They have even come close to renouncing Christianity as a whole because they saw the many flaws in what had been their only version of what it meant to be a Christian.
In a heartfelt TEDx Talk, Joshua Harris, author of best-selling book, “I Kissed Dating Good-bye” admitted he was wrong about many of the things in his book. He acknowledged that many young people were hurt because of the ideas in it and he openly apologized.
Here’s his TEDx Talk published in November 2017, “Strong Enough to Be Wrong,” if you missed it:
This summer, Harris has wondered if he is even still a Christian, because he doesn’t fit the term as defined by the religious community he grew up in.
Another influential Christian, Marty Sampson, part of the popular Christian music group Hillsong Worship, has said, “I’m genuinely losing my faith.” But he goes on to say, “I want genuine truth. Not the ‘I just believe it’ kind of truth.”
What an amazing thing for these two men to do: admit they’re wrong and question their faith.
In his TEDx Talk, Harris shares the struggle to come out and actually admit he was wrong. That is no small accomplishment. How many religious leaders do you know who have openly admitted they were wrong and actually apologized about something really big?
I have immense respect for the courage both these men expressed in publicly doubting the faith they at one point held so dear. Why? Because they are being honest with themselves. Let me repeat that: They are being honest with themselves. They are looking at what is being passed off as Christianity and realizing there is something hopelessly missing from it compared to what Jesus actually said and how he expected his followers to live.
Some Christians have bemoaned the fact that these two men are leaving the faith. I say, all they are really leaving is some church’s version of Christianity, history’s version of Christianity, tradition’s version of Christianity. This is actually very good. We all need to leave behind any version of Christianity that does not perfectly embrace what Jesus said and did.
What to do when you doubt your faith
I would love to sit down with these two men, or anyone for that matter who has been disillusioned with a particular version of Christianity, and hear their story. I would cheer them on to start all over again in their search for truth with a completely fresh and candid search for the real Jesus in the Bible. The problem is with many versions of Christianity today is that we just accept what someone else says about Jesus, or take things in the Bible out of context, or only focus on a few Scripture references to support our theories. And we let others tell us what we are supposed to believe–because if we don’t accept what they say, they say we’re going to hell.
When was the last time you read through all four Gospels–yes, that’s a lot of reading–just with the idea of figuring out what is said about Jesus, who he is, how he lived, and how he expected us to live? I admit, I haven’t done it in a while. Maybe a year ago I read through Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in one fell swoop. But it wasn’t with the focus on who Jesus is or how he wants us to follow him.
So for the sake of this discussion, let’s say you just read through these four books in the Bible. You noticed everything Jesus says about himself and his relationship with God. And you make notes on everything Jesus said we should do and how we should think and pray, individually and collectively. You will quickly discover this is not a short list.
Here’s where the light bulbs go on in your mind and your heart. You realize your church is not really following Jesus. You have not been following Jesus. The Jesus you did believe in doesn’t really exist; he’s just a caricature created by popular theological sayings. You try to share this with someone and they think you’re crazy or have renounced your faith. The fact is, perhaps you are closer to true faith than ever before.
Do we believe in Jesus just because someone at church told us we should? Do we just accept what others, including centuries of church tradition, say it means to be a Christian?
Or do we actually go straight to the Bible for guidance?
It must be the latter.
Several years ago, I sat next to a man on an airplane who had just read through the New Testament for the first time in his life. He had no religious training and no one to coach him on how to interpret what he had read. It was so refreshing to hear how he took in the message of Jesus without all the centuries of man-made doctrines and dogmas, theological baggage, and traditions that have crept into the church over the generations.
Getting back to the original Jesus
I am tired of defending man-made religion. I want to get back to the religion of Jesus, the original Christianity of Christ.
How do we do that? Sometimes, you have to take a step back and get away from the church or theology you have been involved in. It’s hard to be objective when you’re in the middle of something. Take a step back and try to get a bigger view of what’s going on. Be honest with yourself. Have you ever had those uneasy feelings that something wasn’t quite right but didn’t have the courage to admit it to yourself or anyone else?
A lady in one of my Bible studies once told me she grew up in a church where she was not allowed to ask questions because that showed she was doubting the faith. But she did have questions. There were things that didn’t makes sense to her. But the church authorities would not let her ask her questions. It was very discouraging and it turned her away from that church.
I welcomed those same questions and all of us in that Bible study group were enriched by exploring how to find answers to those questions.
In other words, ask questions. Hard questions. Questions you may be embarrassed to ask. Ask them anyway. If not at church, then find a friend. Go to another church and ask them. Or just be quiet and ponder things in your own heart. I find one of the best ways to get answers to deep spiritual questions is to write them down in a journal, as if I were asking a friend, or even God Himself. It’s amazing how the answers will almost fly out of my pen as I write.
As for myself, there were times when I just couldn’t swallow what my church was teaching. I grew up in a mainline Protestant church. The people were wonderful. I loved the ministers there. They were very sincere Christians. But I had problems with the “traditionalized” Christian doctrine they taught. It just didn’t go along with what I was discovering in the Bible itself. It seemed like they were defending certain theologians’ opinions about Jesus instead of Jesus himself.
Eventually, I ended up leaving that church and joining the Church of Christ, Scientist. One of the things I like about Christian Science (not Scientology, by the way) is that I was allowed to ask questions and wasn’t expected to believe anything unless I could put it into practice for myself. In other words, don’t just repeat Jesus’s command to love your enemies or forgive someone or say that God will heal. Don’t say you believe that teaching until you actually do it. I have learned to love my enemies, forgive myself and others, and I have experienced God’s healing power first hand. For me, Christian Science is all about getting back to the original Christianity of Jesus and putting his teachings into practice in my daily life. It has given me a God I can understand, a Jesus I can follow, and a faith that is practical.
Christian Science has been the answer for me, but there are folks who grew up in the Christian Science church and are now members of other churches. That’s fine. You should be a member of the church God directs you to. God doesn’t care what church label you paste on your forehead. He cares what’s in your heart. Your theological dogma and doctrines don’t get you into heaven; God’s grace does.
That said, if you’re dissatisfied with your church, your faith, or even have doubts about God and Jesus, I earnestly encourage you to keep up an honest search for truth itself. Just because the version of Christianity you were brought up in is woefully deficient doesn’t mean that Christ is wrong. It just means that, over the centuries, we have plastered the opinions of men onto Christ and can no longer see him clearly, until we get back to the original.
To repeat what I said earlier:
- Go back to the four Gospels. Take each idea and put it into practice in your daily life. That’s one of the best ways to see if Jesus knew what he was talking about.
- Visit other churches and listen to people with different ideas.
- Ask questions and write them in a journal.
- Talk to a friend.
- Email me if you need someone to talk to. I mean that. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to talk to you.
I did not intend this blog post to be so long. Whenever I hear of someone questioning their faith because of the way it is practiced or because of theological issues, it tugs at my heart. I can relate to the struggle and want to do anything I can to be of help.
Have you ever had doubts about your faith? Have you ever realized you were on a man-made path instead of a God-made one? I would love to hear your story, where you are in the process and any answers you have found along the way. As always, please feel free to share your thoughts below in the comment section.
Many blessings to you,
P.S. News Flash: In the next month or so, I’ll be starting a podcast called, of course, “The Bible Speaks to You Podcast.”
Update: The podcast is live. Check out the Podcast page. To sign up for email notifications so you won’t miss a single podcast episode or blog post, just fill out the little blue box.
Thanks so much for your support.