Avoiding church

Hi friends,

One of the gifts that God gives us for spiritual transformation is the local church. In fact, we are the church — it isn’t a ‘place we go’ so much as it is ‘the people we are.’

However, many don’t feel like going to church.

For instance, here’s a recent comment that shares the sentiment:

I (20 y/o male) really want to go back to church, but I can’t bring myself to go to Sunday morning services. I’ve been a saved Christian for 8 years now, but the older I get, the more problems I have with going to church. The concept is great - you go to a designated place to meet with other Christians to worship God and be part of a communion. There’s just one defining problem that I see all the time.

The people who claim to be Christians are always the ones who are judging and putting down others. I can’t go to church knowing that there are people with “ holier than thou” attitudes and be part of that… if that makes sense. I hate to say it, but I get more out of my individual studies than I have at church.

Of course, there are other, worse situations: experiencing fraud, abuse, and other traumatic situations. Or realizing that the authorized teachers of a local fellowship are not carefully teaching the Bible, but something else.

Still, we need one another to grow to maturity in Christ.

I’m curious…

  1. What draws you to fellowship with God’s people?

  2. What barriers do you experience to participate in a church community?


Thanks @Carson for sharing this question. It tweaked my interest and I would be interested in others’ thoughts on it as well.

The scenario you quoted above is one of the reasons I hear from some Christians for not going to church. Others just don’t seem to grasp the importance of the community of believers in our personal journey with Christ. It’s funny because I often get distracted by non-believers’ reasons for not believing in God or our risen saviour. I forget about the many professing Christians who don’t live out their faith amongst other believers for similar reasons. Experienced or perceived failings of the church are often the reasons for both.

This makes me think. Similar to “love” and “forgiveness” being conscious choices we make in following Christ, being part of the body of Christ is a choice I make, regardless of the many and heinous crimes shortcomings which have been commited in the name of Christianity over the years. Of course, this does not mean that I won’t practice discernment when choosing a local church community. Choosing a particular community of believers is an important part of my growth and expression of my faith. For example, I would never want to join in a local church community which espouses false doctrines or whose leaders are in any way being harmful or facilitating harm to the people in their care. However, if I choose not to attend ANY church because of the failures found in some churches, I might just as well not believe in Jesus because of the many horrific things done in His name.

So, I guess, if I don’t agree with the way a particular church community expresses itself, it behooves me as a believer in Christ to find a church community I do agree with. Now, to be sure, there is never going to be a church where everything appeals to me. Like any friendship or even marriage, where people are involved there are going to be imperfections. The important thing, in my opinion, in choosing a church home is being certain that correct essential doctrine is taught and that the leadership is trustworthy to shepherd its flock. I could go on about the whole topic of “essential” doctrine, butbthat would be a rabbit trail and not relevant to this discussion.

As I understand it, being part of a local church community is something that Christ wants of and for me, so it is a non-negotiable. Which particular local church I decide to call home is up to me.


Thank you for raising this topic for discussion @Carson. I think its one that many of us are tempted with, in the course of our christian journey. I feel very burdened for believers who love the Lord, want to belong to a church and want to grow in the knowledge of God but are unable to for a variety of reasons in their church. @tara , I am so glad you took time to respond and you have covered many important issues and provided helpful insights already. I am going to answer the questions in the reverse order to hopefully end with possible solutions.

What are some barriers to participating in church community?

In the case above, it seems to be unmet expectations at church. If someone has experienced church hurt multiple times, then I can understand why they would resist church. Who wants to get hurt all over again? After experiencing church hurt, it makes you wonder why the gospel produces so little change in those who can quote chapter and verse numbers. You wonder about their salvation. You wonder if you have learnt enough skills to maneuver difficult conversations again. You may forgive but have fears and the temptation to avoid church.

I think another common reason apart from spiritual abuse to avoid church is dissatisfaction with church culture in general. There is often a divergence between the stated beliefs and the practiced beliefs. For example - the church can be too lukewarm about Christ but passionate on secondary matters, it can be biblically illiterate, too program oriented rather than people oriented , have competitive spirit for positions in church, it may lack a culture of transparency, may not have many service opportunities or have other growth restricting undealt issues. While a good church can solve some of these problems, they are not always easy to find. So online sermons would appear far more attractive than a local church body.

What draws me into fellowship with God’s people?

  • A few good experiences with genuine Christian believers.
  • Even people who hurt us sometimes are willing to repent if we discuss the problem in humility while taking responsibility for our own contribution to the the offense.
  • opportunity to grow in maturity as it leads to more reliance on God.
  • a desire for comfort and understanding from another brother or sister in Christ
  • You cant love God and hate fellow believer, an impossible situation!
    1 John 3:10 ESV
    whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.

While those are good reasons to go to church, how are we to deal with offense at church when in the midst of it? And how are we to deal with unsatisfying christian culture?

I think the answer is in going back to the basics - Forgiveness and grace for personal offense, overlooking minor offense, giving people time to change, bearing witheach other in patience and overcoming evil with good.

When it comes to taking steps toward transforming a whole culture, it may need conversations with elders, a lot of prayer and leading by example in love. This is an intimidating option but at least we would have satisfaction of trying to please God before giving up altogether. It may be worth making this decision after consulting older and wiser brother and sisters in Christ.

Looking forward to reading other perspectives on dealing with dissatisfaction at church. If someone has gone through such a situation, there may be a lot more practical wisdom to glean from.

Appreciate the clarity of the questions, Carson. Very helpful in thinking through it.


I’ve personally seen many people saying the same thing as the man above. I guess it would depend on the spiritual maturity of the person and their conviction. Nonetheless, they do have a point as well, people aren’t perfect but Christians are more susceptible to holier than thou attitude due to our beliefs.

I’ve have a friend who wanted to go on a ministry break due to the anxiety and panic attacks she experiences in ther church, be it at the influence of people or burnout. For others it’s a lukewarm attitude whereby going to church is a choice rather than a need. Some people I know feel left out and unequipped in the church compared to others. There are varying reasons but all of them are important to take notice of.
Different churches prioritizies different things and usually cater to different groups of people at large, thus it would also be good if one could find a church where they feel comfortable in and can grow spiritually.

Personally, I have to admit that there are many times where I do not want to turn up to church, what drives me is partially sticking to my conviction and being disciplined no matter what my flesh says. I would be lying if I said I always want to meet and interact with others as I’m an extremely introverted person and it would be difficult for me to maintain the necessary mindset and energy. However, I do understand that to a certain extend God uses the discomfort to mature and build a stronger character in us.
I’ve managed to be ther person I am today precisely because I put myself out of my comfort zone to pray and learn from my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Our relationship with God also extends to having a good relationship with others, thought not nearly perfect, it is good to find a balance. There are certain aspects of the Christian life that cannot be done alone, those are where fellowship is necessary for our growth.


I prefer to fellowship with Bible believing Christians. I no longer go to church. The church has become an apostate, all-inclusive institution. It is riddled with rules and tradition (legalism)
I left my last church because the Vicar believed that some of the Bible was made up. For example, “Jerrico was probably destroyed by earthquake. The destruction at the hands of Joshua walking round the walls with the Ark of the Covenant and horns blowing, can be taken with a grain of salt!” I shook the dust off my feet, left and never returned!.
I have found increasingly, the church adopting this style of worship. Plus the fact, most of the congregation couldn’t wait for the service to be over so they could go into the church hall and have their coffee and cookies!.

1 Like

Hi @paul1,

I understand how you feel. It reminds me of how Frederick Douglass opened his Life of an American Slave:

I find, since reading over the foregoing Narrative, that I have, in several instances, spoken in such a tone and manner, respecting religion, as may possibly lead those unacquainted with my religious views to suppose me an opponent of all religion.

But, of course, that was not his point. He goes on:

To remove the liability of such misapprehension, I deem it proper to append the following brief explanation. What I have said respecting and against religion, I mean strictly to apply to the slaveholding religion of this land, and with no possible reference to Christianity proper; for, between the Christianity of this land, and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference — so wide, that to receive the one as good, pure, and holy, is of necessity to reject the other as bad, corrupt, and wicked. To be the friend of the one, is of necessity to be the enemy of the other. I love the pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ: I therefore hate the corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of this land.

Indeed, I can see no reason, but the most deceitful one, for calling the religion of this land Christianity. I look upon it as the climax of all misnomers, the boldest of all frauds, and the grossest of all libels. Never was there a clearer case of “stealing the livery of the court of heaven to serve the devil in.” I am filled with unutterable loathing when I contemplate the religious pomp and show, together with the horrible inconsistencies, which every where surround me. We have men-stealers for ministers, women-whippers for missionaries, and cradle-plunderers for church members. The man who wields the blood-clotted cowskin during the week fills the pulpit on Sunday, and claims to be a minister of the meek and lowly Jesus. The man who robs me of my earnings at the end of each week meets me as a class-leader on Sunday morning, to show me the way of life, and the path of salvation. He who sells my sister, for purposes of prostitution, stands forth as the pious advocate of purity. He who proclaims it a religious duty to read the Bible denies me the right of learning to read the name of the God who made me. He who is the religious advocate of marriage robs whole millions of its sacred influence, and leaves them to the ravages of wholesale pollution. The warm defender of the sacredness of the family relation is the same that scatters whole families, — sundering husbands and wives, parents and children, sisters and brothers, — leaving the hut vacant, and the hearth desolate. We see the thief preaching against theft, and the adulterer against adultery. We have men sold to build churches, women sold to support the gospel, and babes sold to purchase Bibles for the poor heathen! all for the glory of God and the good of souls! The slave auctioneer’s bell and the church-going bell chime in with each other, and the bitter cries of the heart-broken slave are drowned in the religious shouts of his pious master. Revivals of religion and revivals in the slave-trade go hand in hand together. The slave prison and the church stand near each other.

It’s a powerful tirade against the blatantly hypocritical nature of slave-owning Christianity in America.

I also think of The Roys Report and its honest look at, predominately, the evangelical church in America. As a recent article quoted Diane Langberg, "We have utterly failed God,” she said. “We protected our own institutions and status more than his name or his people. What we have taught people is that the institution is what God loves, not the sheep.”

Still, I have a follow-up question for you: even as we lament the ways in which different churches have failed us, what hope (if any) do you have left for creating something different? Local (and online) communities where truth, love, kindness, holiness, and gentleness prevail?


Oh wow. I see you haven’t put me on the spot!. Lol…
Well, I have shaken the dust off my shoes while leaving so many churches. I was becoming disheartened. As a Bible-believing Christian, my search was going to be a long one!. But then something happened. Ideas were forming in my mind. Were they my ideas, or was I being influenced by the Holy Spirit?. I would like to think, the latter.
I asked myself what the ‘Church’ is. Is it a magnificent building full of riches, idols and massive stained glass artwork? Or, is the Church within one’s own heart?.
Do I need to fellowship with people who fail to practice what they preach except during the service on Sunday?. Even then, it is only paying lip-service to righteousness. Gosh, I sound like the ultimate cynic!.
I decided I needed to be involved with a dedicated community. A community that loves almighty God, His Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit that works through us and helps guide us. A community that can chuck ideas around in order to gain that all important precision needed to gain greater understanding of the Bible. A community that isn’t dogged by legalism, but understands the beautiful simplicity of redemption.
Being part of that community allows me to set up a small, local group of people that can meet face to face once or twice per week and read from the Bible, discuss the Bible and grow our understanding.

Ok, you put me on the spot. How did I do?.


Powerful words from Mr. Douglass! Thank you for sharing that excerpt, @carson.

And, @paul1, I hear your frustration! Groups of people can be frustrating enough. Add in a set of ideals and a spiritual component, and people can be downright infuriating. I don’t know what part of the world you’re in, but I pray that, in addition to this community, you will be able to find local people who also love God and abide in his love…people with whom you all can grow together!


Hi :wave: @paul1

I am afraid someone close to my heart is close to turning to such church aversion. I am praying s/he won’t. It will be a really deep spiritual struggle for me.

I’ve been trying to help her/him overcome the negative thoughts about the brethren. But s/he even voices out his/her “conviction” to transfer to another church in his/her prayers. Although s/he makes it appear that it was the traveling distance that s/he dislikes. It is no secret to me that there are brethren s/he is offended to. Even worse, s/he claims s/he is not offended, but is rather disgusted of their character. He/she has just recently started withdrawing him/herself from the church’s social-media group and fellowship groups.

I’m pleading for prayer of intervention among the UP community brethren that s/he might be able to overcome this unbiblical stance of church avoidance.

Why I can’t bring myself to resort to church avoidance? Why I will not settle for mere Christian fellowship?

I may not have a thorough and systematic answer, but below are some pointers.

I, myself, have some negative impressions about some of the brethren in our congregation. Some are even in the leadership position. But the Lord allowed me to get over with my offended feelings and continue serving Him in my childhood church without bearing any grudges or ill-feeling in my heart. I can deal just fine with other’s shortcomings, knowing full well that I might be offending someone else in some ways that I may not be aware of. I can say that I relate with them sincerely, without hypocrisy.

I was taught that distancing yourself from the church is exposing you to Satanic attacks and oppression as you would practically be out of the ideal fellowship that God intends His children to be, in the community of believers, the household of faith.

I don’t mean to persuade you, @paul1, to my point of view. I merely wanted to share my current prayer request.


Hi, @dennis!
I wanted to thank you for sharing some of your experiences with us as well as your heart for one of your fellow church congregants.

I very much respect what you’ve written above, and know, myself, the fear of isolation and vulnerability to attack that keeps one a part of group of people. But I would also counter-argue that it could be even more dangerous to remain in a “church” that spiritually oppresses people.

We do need to remember that distancing oneself from one particular, localized manifestation of the church is not necessarily distancing oneself from Christ’s Church-Universal. If I have learned anything over the past 7-or-so years it has been that some churches can be very unhealthy places and their leaders are unworthy of the congregants spiritual trust.

Now, I know nothing of the church you attend (and perhaps are a leader in?), so I am not saying that this applies to this situation. I merely wish to recognize that this person may have very valid reasons for wanting to no longer be a part of the fellowship there. (They also may not.) However, if they do not trust “the brethren”, then, to me, it would be worth “the brethren” hearing out why this is so. That is what is biblical.

Depending upon the church that is being avoided, I argue that church avoidance can be biblical, insofar as one is encouraged not to entrust one’s “spiritual oversight” to false teachers.

I suppose my question is what are these people’s “shortcomings”? There are degrees of bearing with shortcomings/offences that range from “forgive them” to “cast them out”. Sometimes – and, again, I do not know your church, so I am not saying this is the case – church leaders’ “offences” can be minimized by the congregation, when, in reality, they need to be seriously examined.