Written By Leslie Koh, Singapore
To the Church Elder:
I’ve been coming to this church for the last six months, and it has disappointed me deeply. It just doesn’t cut it. There’re many reasons, but I’m going to list the key ones and I’m sure your readers will immediately see where I’m coming from.
1. The pastor isn’t doing his job.
Let’s start with the head of the church. He’s just not doing his job. Look at the church—it’s a mess.
Case in point: the outreach ministry. Why does the pastor keep asking us to go for missions and do more to reach out to other people outside church? That’s his job. Our role is to come to church and pay our tithes; the pastor’s role is to take care of the church and ensure that it grows. What’s with all these calls to volunteer for missions and outreach events? If the church needs to do missions, we hire missionaries. If we need to run outreach events, get the teenagers and the retirees. They always have time; us working people don’t.
Same problem with the caring. When I come to church, I expect the pastor to give me proper attention and care. When I have a problem, he should be ready to listen and to pray for me. I don’t want to go to some cell group leader or volunteer. It is the pastor’s job to attend to each one of us in person.
2. The sermons are boring and discouraging.
Every week, we get constant reminders to read the Bible, seek God’s will, live by His Word, et cetera, et cetera. Then there’s the warnings: stop sinning, take God seriously, be prepared for Jesus’ return, don’t give up your faith blah blah blah. Enough already! Isn’t Christianity about hope and joy? Preachers must remember that people come to church to feel good; they need encouragement and uplifting, not reminders that they need to take God more seriously.
And while we’re on the subject, how about making the sermons more interesting? My goodness, it’s so hard to stay awake most of the time! Week after week, I keep hearing the same old stuff—lessons from the Sermon on the Mount, how to apply the parables in modern-day life, what we can learn from the life of Jesus, this OT character and that NT character. What about something more relevant to our lives? For example, how to manage our finances, raise children, and make more friends. Preachers must engage people.
Most importantly, sermons should be kept short. We all have short attention spans, and there’s no reason why you need more than 10 minutes to get your point across. Perhaps we should have some kind of professional judging panel to force preachers to improve. Sermons need be more positive, shorter, and pack more zing.
3. People are unfriendly, unhelpful, and judgmental.
Gosh, look at the congregation. Long, grumpy faces everywhere. Listen, if you have problems at home, please leave them there. How can you love someone if he or she just refuses to look happy in church? And why should I keep coming to church if no one greets me with a warm, friendly smile? It just tells me that if I ever have a crisis in my life, I can’t trust anyone to help me.
And look at the state of the volunteers. Week after week, the poor pastor has to keep asking for help with the smallest things—arranging the flowers, moving chairs, help to usher people, serve coffee. But no one responds; everyone looks down at their feet or at each other. Oh yes, I notice this because I observe them every time the call for volunteers goes out. Where are all the teens and the oldies?
And don’t even get me started on how judgmental people are. Squeeze into a reserved parking lot, and it’s like I committed a major sin. What’s that compared to the sins of you-know-who? Did you see his tinted hair? Tsk tsk. And that mother, whose son goes for pop concerts. What does the pastor have to say about that? People in church need to be more friendly and helpful, and less gossipy and judgmental.
4. The church is irrelevant and out of date.
The church really needs to get with the times. This is the 21st century, not the 18th.
Bible study, for instance. Yes, I know the Bible hasn’t changed. But why are preachers constantly harping on how we should memorize it and read it slowly and closely? That’s so yesterday. Bring in some modern methods of education, like engaging videos, mind mapping, and executive summaries. We simply don’t have time to sit down and read the Bible, line by line. And while you’re revamping Bible study, you could also cut back on the Old Testament history—I mean, that’s history, for goodness sake—and bring in more modern topics, like economy, finance, social issues. We need to stay relevant.
Same thing with the fellowship groups. Why do we need to sit around in circles and share our experiences in person? In a world of Skype, Google Chat and WhatsApp, surely this so-called fellowship can be done more effectively online? Or why not just email me the agenda, and I’ll reply when convenient and give my advice so that others can chew on it? You can’t expect me to give up my precious Friday evenings to sit around singing, studying, and chatting. Church activities must be convenient and realistic. That’s why I refuse to join a cell group. I believe it’s the pastor’s job to teach, encourage, and counsel; this shouldn’t be outsourced to a volunteer, for goodness’ sake.
5. No one appreciates me
In case you think I’m not volunteering my services and precious time, I’ll have you know that I’m an usher. Yes, that means a huge sacrifice once every other month, coming to church five minutes early while the rest of you sashay in late. And what do I get for it? Nothing! No official recognition—not even a reserved carpark lot or some luncheon to thank us. No personal notes of commendation from the pastor. Why should I continue to do this when no one recognizes my sacrifice or appreciates it?
So you can see clearly why I’m leaving my church. There’s so many things wrong with it. They’re just not getting their act together—from the pastor to every single congregant. Churches are here to serve their congregation, and if they fail to meet people’s needs, then people will leave.
Reply from Elder:
I am deeply saddened to hear of your decision. I note your reasons and acknowledge that the church is far from perfect. If we have in any way failed to be Christ-like towards you, we seek forgiveness. Perhaps you might also want to consider the following:
- This might be new to you, but sharing the gospel is everyone’s job. Shocking, isnt it? Jesus told us to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). If it helps make this “job” any easier, you’ll find yourself wanting to do it if you have personally seen the wonder of God’s love and grace, realized what it means to know Jesus, and can’t wait for your loved ones and friends to know it too.
- We would love to do nothing but encourage you and make you happy! Unfortunately, we can’t turn God’s Word into a textbook for positive thinking. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Our joy comes from knowing the Lord, abiding in Him, and doing His will, just as Jesus did. We hope that’s your joy too.
- I totally agree—people are unfriendly, unhelpful, and judgmental. I trust you’re completely different; I believe your smile, love, and grace will soften and change others’ hearts.
- Oh yes, I’m all for making Bible study relevant. That means applying God’s Word to modern times, not the other way round. God is unchanging, and so is His Word.
- Thank you for being an usher for us for the past, uh, two months. We trust that you’ve been doing it for God. “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people” (Ephesians 6:7).
I wish you well in your search for the perfect church—but I suspect you might never find it. Because the church is full of imperfect people . . . like you and me.