One of the things that I realized recently was that church has had very little positive impact on my life. (Not a lot of negative impact either, but probably more than the positive.)
- None of my personal spiritual revelations have been inspired by a church sermon.
- I have had MAYBE a handful of positive corporate worship experiences. Maybe. (Though most of the others are neutral, rather than negative.)
- I begin to feel the negative effect when I go too long without spending personal time with God. I have never felt that when I go a while without attending church.
- I have so many people I would consider good friends, but I have not formed a single real, lasting friendship with anyone I ever went to church with.
- My greatest spiritual mentors are people I didn't go to church with.
- Church was home to most of the loneliest moments of my life.
- I have felt true community many times. These times have all been outside of a church group.
- Nearly every time I have been vulnerable and opened up to someone in a church setting, I have left feeling not encouraged, but misunderstood. (I will say, though, I seldom felt judged. "Misunderstood" is exactly the right word. My church experiences were never malicious, just... unsatisfying.)
I cannot choose my classmates, my coworkers, or my neighbors. With any of these communities, it's a gamble whether or not I will connect with them, whether I will feel warm towards them or pleasant-but-distant. I cannot hand-pick the people who fill these communities. I must work with what I am given.
Surely, with all the other forced communities I face every day, I should at least be allowed to select the community that is helping me grow spiritually. Surely my support system should be something I can hand-pick to help me grow. Surely I will encounter enough difficult people I can learn from in my other social interactions that I can afford to be exclusive about who sees me in my most vulnerable spiritual moments.
So often when I chat online with any of my close Christian friends, I have encouraging, challenging, spiritually stimulating discussions and leave with a passion and desire to connect with God.
So often when I go to church, I am bombarded with social interactions I do not have the energy for, sit through worship and a sermon I am not challenged by, and leave early with a desperate need to recuperate from an experience that did not enrich me in any way.