When I was a kid, we used to play this game called “Shame, Shame, Shame”.
You would find a partner and clap hands to a certain rhythm while singing. The goal was to stay on beat and keep the rhythm going. The better the partner, the better you were at the game.
It went like this:
Shame, shame, shame.
I don’t want to go to Mexico no more, more, more.
There’s a big fat policeman at the door, door, door.
If you pull him by the collar, boy he’s gonna holler.
I don’t wanna go to Mexico no more, more, more.
Sometimes, church is Mexico. And, that’s how we feel about it.
The policemen are large and overbearing, and always reminding us of the law, even when they don’t follow it themselves. And, if you pull them by the collar for their own sin, oh, do they holler!
People can make church attendance difficult sometimes, where you feel you’ve had enough.
Sometimes, it’s the Pastor. His sermons are about sin and only sin and there’s no balance to the Word of God. As though the only thing God does is watch for bad behavior and send hell-fire raining down on us. (I mean, God does get mad and put us on punishment sometimes, like any good Dad, but He is also merciful, yanno?)
Sometimes, you’re sitting in the pews silently counting down until it’s time for brunch. Sometimes, you’re stretched too thin by all the ministries you’re involved in. Perhaps you’re at the wrong church. Sometimes, you simply don’t know God because your church’s teachings haven’t lead you to Him.
Before these feelings breed deep bitterness and discontent, there’s no better time to take a church timeout.
Yes, I said it. Take a timeout. Play hooky. Call out sick.
What Does a Church Timeout Look Like?
I believe in pressing forward when we get frustrated; sometimes, stepping away is necessary for our mental, physical, and spiritual health. And, while you are on this timeout, press into GOD.
You see, sometimes when we are going to church, we go out of habit. We go because it’s social. Our friends are there. We go out of responsibility. We go because we think it will get us into heaven.
But in all the time that we’re going, we are so far away from God, we wouldn’t recognize Him if He came through the doors in a lime green Now & Later suit.
Clock in with God During Your Time Out
I recommend on that day of worship, that you get dressed and get in your car and drive someplace where you can sit in a quiet place. Maybe that quiet place is in your car. Maybe you can go sit by the water. Whatever you do, sit in His presence. You can play a song of worship while you sing your heart out to God. If you do stay home and you have a prayer closet, get in there.
Wherever you decide to go that day, share your concerns with Him. Tell Him about that person who is turning you away from church. Or, that you feel disconnected. That you’re getting nothing out of it. Or, that you feel overwhelmed. That it doesn’t feel like home anymore. Or, that you feel the pull to go somewhere else, but you’re pushing it back because your church is where you’ve always worshiped.
He is always listening. We get so consumed with all the goings-on at church that we forget that.
And, after we’ve shared our issues with Him, listen to what He has to say. He is an omniscient God. He knows what we need, but sometimes He has to get us to a place of asking so that we recognize the everlasting need for Him and the unchanging fact that He answers prayers.
The Church is Where You Are
Sometimes, we, “the church”, forget that WE ARE THE CHURCH. And if one member of the church is sick with discontent, it begins to spread. The person who may be causing you to want to leave could, in fact, be sick him or herself, suffering from the curses of their own disobedience to leave the church when the Spirit told them to. And so modern-day Jonahs infect and affect others with their mess.
And Lord knows if you’re infected, you don’t want to pass it around.
So, what’s the play call?
Pray. From the time you feel the consistent issue is not going away, ask the Holy Spirit to guide you. You may be surprised by what you are directed to do.
Rest. I didn’t say quit. I said rest. Take some time away from the house of worship. You may need a week. You may need a month. And in that time, continue to pray. Some problems resolve themselves in time.
Evaluate. Why am I feeling disconnected? What’s bothering me? Am I willing to pray? What or who do I need to confront to resolve it? Do I need to repent? To move forward to a new place? Is my ministry serving God, or my need to be seen serving God? Do I need to serve in all eight ministries? Am I here because the Holy Spirit lead me here? Or, because it’s what I’ve always done?
Ask yourselves those hard questions. The ones you won’t like the answers to.
Talk to a trusted person in the church. When I used to play the Shame Game, I used to play with someone I knew would keep up and challenge me. Sometimes, it would be with someone who I knew could beat me. But I wanted to get better.
Take action. What did the Holy Spirit reveal to you? How do you implement it? What is the first course of action? Do it!
Trust God’s guidance. He will not steer you wrong.