Church: A Family Or A Failure?

Posted: May 28, 2011 in Love and Marriage
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Our move from Kansas to Missouri was a pretty amazing story of faith, adventure, and starting over.  We were floundering helplessly in Dodge City.  My parents had retired to Springfield, MO, and were getting older and starting to see their health deteriorate.  They kept encouraging us to relocate to that part of the country, so in the Summer of 2005, we did. 

I called a school district who was advertising a teaching position in a small town I’d never heard of, while I was teaching summer school in Dodge City.  I set up an interview over the phone, and we drove up over the fourth of July weekend.  Before I even went to the interview, we scoured the classified ads for rental houses and signed a one year lease on a home in the country.  Fortunately, I got the job.  Unfortunately, the place we rented was the ill-fated tornado house.

What still remained was to find a church.  I was afraid it would be a long drawn-out process, but it was exactly the opposite.  We decided to try a church in the town closest to our new house of the same denomination we were used to attending.  That first Sunday, we knew we were home.

When the tornado hit, we learned what a true church family was. It was people from the church who cleared trees off the road until after midnight to reach us at what was left of our house.  It was people from the church who gave us a temporary place to stay.  It was people from the church who came out and helped us find and salvage possessions, clean up the mess, and move into the rental we found a few days later.  These were people we had only known for few months, yet they treated us as one of their own.

Fast forward a few years.  Same church name and building, but a very different church.  Many of the leading families had left, and the attendees changed almost from week to week.  I was stumbling and falling, but no one seemed to notice or pay it any mind.   My wife became more and more withdrawn over time, but no one reached out to try to find out what was wrong.  More than once, we put in prayer requests indicating that we were having marriage problems.  I’m not sure if anyone prayed, but I know that no one from the leadership ever offered us any help.

We’ll never know for sure, but we believe that if there had been a support system there, if people had cared and gotten involved, things may not have gone so far, and so much damage might not have been done.  As it was, they not only didn’t reach out, but in many cases they pulled away from us.  My wife felt completely abandoned and alone.  People who we thought were true friends just disappeared once we went public with our problems.  The phone didn’t ring, and when we did still attend church, people avoided and ignored us.

After my wife quit going to church altogether, and once she had moved out, I took it upon myself to go to the pastor and tell him what was going on.  He pretty much told me to put on a smile, come back to church and everything would be ok.  I still attended a few more times, but it was awkward and painful to realize that people now knew what was happening and still did nothing to help. 

My purpose in writing this is in no way to bash any particular church or people.  It is simply to say that this should never have happened.  When that church was healthy, I don’t think it would have.  I don’t know what changed, or why, but there was no longer a family for us to be part of.  Where we should have felt loved and encouraged, we felt abandoned and rejected.  What should have been part of the solution became an aggravating factor in the problem.  My wife had already been hurt and angry with me.  All of this compounded her hurt and anger to include many people from the church and God Himself. 

God was not to blame, but at the time, she couldn’t separate Him from His people.  She lost her way when she lost hope in the people and the institution that should have been a refuge and strength for her.  It’s not their fault that either of us fell, but we wouldn’t have fallen as far had someone been there to catch us, or, better yet, pull us back from the edge before we went over.

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