Why Don’t We Just Quit?

church-clip-artI was twenty-two years old the first time I quit church. I had lived at home and been forced to attend my Dad’s church for more than nineteen years. At age twenty, I moved three hours away from them and began attending a different church. But at age twenty-two, I was seriously thinking about leaving church altogether.

What brings a lifelong churchgoing Christian to the point of wanting to leave The Church?

For me, it was betrayal and rejection.

Before I ever moved out of my parents’ house, I had already chosen a new church. Unlike the Methodist Church I had grown up in, this was a multi-ethnic, nondenominational church with contemporary worship and charismatic leaders. I moved to my new city, joined my new church, and dove headfirst into the ministry. I taught Sunday school, worked in the daycare, sang in the choir, danced on the dance team, and assisted with the youth ministry. I was in the inner circle and I was happy because I felt accepted and loved and important. I felt like I had a purpose.

Then, I made a horrendous mistake.

On two separate occasions, I witnessed my beloved church leaders behaving in ways that were extremely unChristlike. The first time, I went to the leadership and questioned what I had seen, only to be told that I should not question my leaders. The second time, the leaders didn’t wait for me to question them. Instead, they called me in and gave me two choices: ignore what I’ve seen or leave the church.

I walked away and never looked back.

For weeks after I left that church, I spent my Sunday mornings sitting on my bed with my open Bible in my lap. I prayed and told God that I would just stay home with Him on Sundays. Why did I need to go to church when my faith was really between me and God anyway?

If my faith is just between me and God, why don’t I just quit church altogether?

I had to face this question and lately, I find myself hearing this from church people all around me. I hear questions like: Why should I give to my church when it’s never appreciated? Why should I put up with self-righteous religious people? And loud music? And forty-eight sermons each year on tithing? And sitting on hard pews, in uncomfortable clothes, in a sanctuary that is always too dark and too cold?

Out of all of the Sunday school and Vacation Bible School classes that I attended as a child, one lesson stands out more vividly in my memory than all of the others.

“What is the church?” Mrs. Sasser asked us one crisp Sunday morning.

Little hands went up in the air, but eager voices began thrusting the answers at her before she got a chance to call on anyone. 

Stained glass windows and pews? Sunday school classes? Songs?

Mrs. Sasser smiled and shook her head. “No. None of those. Anybody else?”

I decided to take a chance. “The preacher?”

“No. Not the preacher.”

We were out of ideas. She looked at our blank faces for a moment, then reached out with a gentle finger and poked the white cardigan sweater that covered my six-year-old chest.

“Sarah, you are the church.” She turned and pointed at each little person. “And you are the church. And you. And you. And you. And you. And me.” Her hand came to rest over her heart.

“Jesus lives in our hearts. And when we come together, we make up the church. It doesn’t matter where we are—as long as we’re together, with Jesus in our hearts—we are the church.”

That probably seems a bit simplistic to be applicable to our lives today. But I have to disagree. That is a timeless truth. We are the church.

I love this quote from Worship Matters by Bob Kauflin (which I snaked from my friend Scott’s blog):

On Sundays, God wants us to do more than sing songs together and have wonderful worship experiences. He wants to knit the fabric of our lives together. For many, church has become all about me—what I’m learning, what I’m seeking, what I’m desperate for, what I need, how I’ve been affected, what I can do. We see ourselves as isolated individuals all seeking personal encounters with God, wherever we can find them. Sadly, this reflects our individualistic, me-obsessed culture. Rather than seeing ourselves as part of a worship community, we become worship consumers. We want worship on demand, served up in our own way, at our own time, and with our own music.

When I am tempted to want to quit church, there are a few things that I can remember to help me.

First, I need to remember that church isn’t all about making me happy and fulfilled. I’m not just there to be blessed, I’m there to be a blessing, too. I need to be more than a selfish pew-sitter. That will probably mean that there are times that I have to make sacrifices (which by definition are not fun). But faith isn’t about feelings. Sometimes, it’s just about walking in obedience even when I don’t feel happy or fulfilled.  

Second, I must remember that God never intended His sheep to wander alone. Instead, He gives us shepherds to guide and protect us and He gave us flocks to learn and grow with. If I am in a flock where the other sheep are biting and kicking me or where the shepherd is abusing or neglecting me, it doesn’t mean that I should stop being a sheep. It just means that I should ask God to lead me to a different flock.

James 1:5 says that if anyone isn’t sure what to do, they can ask God. He will give them their answers and won’t be angry with them for asking. So, when I am tempted to quit church, I need to stop following my thoughts and emotions. Instead, I have to ask God. He will never leave me in a situation where I’ll be abused and He will never send me in the wrong direction.

About Sarah Salter


  1. Very welll written, Sarah. So true, and very convicting, being that we have not been participating in a church body in a long while…for a number of reasons…but I believe we are at a point where it is time for us to stop making excuses and jump back in. Not sure how that is going to look, but I’m asking the Lord for His divine direction.

    Love you, sister!

  2. The reason “the church” is so difficult is because it’s made up of people. Jesus said to Peter, “Do you truly love me?” Peter replied, “Yes Lord, you know I love you.” “Then feed my sheep,” was Jesus reply. I think too often we’re more concerned with being fed than with feeding. We want our ego fed, our pride fed, and sometimes our pockets fed. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians concerning the church–The Body of Christ. He used the human body as an analogy. In our body are many different parts and not each part has the same function, but it is a part of making the one body. He alludes that this is the very same thing with the body of Christ, which is the Church. In THE CHURCH, We all have a function and purpose.

    Rick Warren in The Purpose Driven Life says that purpose is to get prepared to spend eternity with God. While that sounds symplistic, there really is a lot more to it, so Warren wrote a whole book attempting to explain it. For me, it’s been 38 years trying to help people understand connecting with the reality of God’s love shown to us supremely through the life of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus wants you and me to know Him and have a relationship that lasts forever. It cannot all happen in 60, 90, or even 120 minutes on Sunday morning. It’s day by day and minute by minute as I connect with Him and He connects with me showing me what He desires of my life. Relationships take time.

    It’s not the Church people need to quit, but those who have done less than present the honest love and Spirit of Our Lord Jesus Christ. We may have to quit them, turn them over to God and leave their fellowship. There’s not enough time or space, but Sarah, I do appreciate how you dealt with it in the past, worked through and found where God wanted you. You realized it’s about finding more than a building and a group of people to be with. Linda Sasser was right!

    Your DAD, a proud Papa Bear

  3. Wow Sarah, that’s awesome!

  4. Enjoyed your essay, Sarah. May we always keep our eyes on Christ and remember why we do what we do!

  5. I went through a very long phase where I stopped going to church. After awhile, the Lord touched my heart and asked me to come back home and I’m so glad I did. For most of my life, I never fully appreciated the value of connecting with other Christians in fellowship. All the while my soul was starving and I didn’t know it until I realized I needed Christian prayer partners and friends. But God is so good! He quickly led me to a great place to worship, friends, fellowship, and lots more. Whenever I’m tempted to quit going to church all I have to do is remember how much I missed connecting with other sheep and that will keep me clinging to the Vine.

  6. Sarah, what an awesome witness and reminder to us all as to why we, the church, must come together and what we are to remember when we do.

  7. This was wonderful to read. I too, stopped going to church for a period of time. I was a young adult of 20 and our congregation had gone through a nasty church split. There were people on both sides of the split that I had grown to love and respect and it was like going through a nasty divorce. I rationalized it, after all, I hadn’t lost my faith in God, but I had lost my faith in people. Who needed them anyhow? Of course, not having the fellowship and support, I started living by my own standards and that turned out to be a disaster. It was not until I was married and had two small children that I knew I needed to get back. My husband wanted to know why. Why was I going to church all of a sudden? I told him “I’ve been blessed. I’ve been blessed with you and with our children, and I have to give back – I have to show my appreciation to the Lord for getting me through the hard times, for giving me a family.”

    It was one of the best decisions I ever made. I love Jesus, and I love being around others who do too. To worship, to praise, to fellowship and to grow with.

  8. Sarah –
    I found your article when I was looking for an image for a flyer I’m making. I love what you say and I’m going to share it with others. How true that we would just like to give up goijng to church, but God calls us us to “give up” ourselves & follow Him.

    I pray that by now He has led you to a healthy body of believers and you are back to going to church because you want to!


  9. I love this post. I know I’ve read it before, but I don’t know where. It also makes me love the sacrificial, hard-working Sunday school teachers all the more. Thanks Sarah- honest and beautifully written.

Speak Your Mind