Have you ever had a “bad” church experience?

Okay now, everyone here who has had a bad church experience, raise your hand.

Wow, that many!

Is that why you stay at home and watch your favorite preacher on television? Okay, how many identify?

That many! Wow!

Let’s go deeper. How many have just decided you will not risk it again? Show of hands.

That’s about what I thought. All I have been doing is checking to see if my hunch was on it or not. Could this be the reason 52% of Christians do not attend a brick and mortar church?

A little switcheroo here. The “bad” experience, what are these? Go ahead, just stand up and shout it out.

I felt humiliated when I got a phone call asking why I hadn’t fulfilled my pledge.

I wanted to sing in the choir but I guess I wasn’t good enough.

There was a lady there I wanted to date, but she reported me to the pastor. That was enough for me.

My Sunday school teacher said I asked too many questions.

A deacon told me I needed to come to prayer meeting and get my life straightened out.

I wanted to ask questions of the pastor but he would not talk to me.

When I was sick at home and could not come to church for weeks, no one called me.

A guy at church took me aside and tried to correct something I believed about hell. He told me I was on the wrong track and that I needed to repent.

I got to church late one Sunday and I got a lecture from the usher.

I got pressured to be baptized and I said I already had been. That was not good enough for them.

All right everybody, I will tell you about my bad church experiences, and I have had so many I don’t know where to start.

No I won’t do that, but as a pastor I have had my share, more than my share. I wonder sometimes why I even do this. You wouldn’t believe some of the stuff that came my way. At times I would be so discouraged I seriously did not want to even show up on Sunday morning. I did though because it was my job. How many of pastors I have known over the years who simply resigned and moved out of town.

How do I survive? For one thing, I found out long ago that we have an enemy, the accuser of the brethren. You know that passage don’t you. “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).

It is a battle to be a Christian and if you are a leader in a church, watch out. Of course, the devil isn’t stupid: Satan strikes the preacher, the teacher, and anybody else he can get hold of. And such not in person but my means of some very fine people who ought to know better but, well, things happen. Christian leaders want to be super people, others expect this, but we are not and often struggle as anyone will.

That’s enough from me. Anyone else have something to say?

Can’t we just worship at home?

How about just go to church online?

Maybe come only on Communion Sunday and other special days?

It is just not convenient.

I have to arrange for rides to and from. Not always works for me.

I will run into people I hate to talk to.

It all takes too much time and energy.

I don’t like the choir, and worse, the preacher can’t preach.

You’ve pretty well summed it up. Each of you can find a reason to stay home. Indeed, it takes effort, strength, and courage for some of us to make it a worship service. I keep having that verse run through my mind, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” (Matthew 18:20). There is something different about being in a group of folks who love Jesus and want to serve and worship their Lord.

Also, Jesus makes a special promise to those who gather for worship. In a way we do not understand, He is with us in a special way. I think our hearts are softened, our fears relaxed, our burdens lifted. Not only that, but we get to encourage others, too. We never know the impact we might have just being present.

Then I think of the fact that Christians have gathered together from day one. Sometimes under the threat of death and mayhem by godless rulers, both in that day and this.

Last thing I want to say: There are at least five people I know who would love to join with us for Sunday morning worship but are unable to, and due to one thing or another. Some of these watch online, and that is wonderful, yet there are those for whom even figuring out the techy issues is too much for them. How they would love to be with us.

Might you have a bad church experience? I would be shocked if you had not. It just goes with the territory. For as long as we have life and breath, let us gather together as often as we possibly can.

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