Mercy Christian Counseling
|Posted by mercycounseling on July 29, 2021 at 9:40 AM|
The Rule of Church
Recently a client expressed how phony and guilty she felt regarding her church experience. The gist of the guilt feelings had to do with expectations laid down by church leadership toward church members that my client felt herself at odds with. After more than a decade of membership, my client was feeling the toll of trying to live what felt like a double life. The situation was causing her to doubt her faith and affect her marriage and family. She was frustrated because she could not motivate her spouse to “keep the rules” when she herself was not able to crack the whip due to a new work schedule. It turns out that he disagreed with the rules and avoided them when he could. She came to me seeking answers and relief.
After a short discussion, I realized that my client was struggling with church culture, not biblical instruction. The particular “rule” causing problems for her had to do with the cultural value and expectation that church members would be at church every time the doors were open. She referred to this norm as “three to thrive.” Before she started a new job, she saw to it that her family met this expectation “religiously.” With Sunday work now required of her such that she could not always attend church, she tried to keep her family in compliance with this rule, but to no avail, leaving her feeling frustrated, anxious, and guilty. She was in terrible bondage to the rules of man!
We examined what the Bible says about attendance. Nowhere in the Bible does it lay down a commandment for the frequency of church attendance. It shows that Christians typically met on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7), and that we are not to forsake assembling with other believers (Hebrews 10:25).
Three to thrive is just one example of cultural norms that are not biblical; there are many others that one may encounter. Most are simply embedded in a particular church’s culture.
Every church develops a specific culture that makes a congregation unique. It is a function of both church teaching and group dynamics. Traditions of the denomination also come into play. Fitting in is important to maintain unity and peace, which are biblical principles (Titus 3:9; Ephesians 4:1-6). However, being fully grounded in the scriptures is needed so that you can understand what is truly biblical and what is merely cultural. With that knowledge, one can make a reasoned choice whether to continue in a particular church.
In my opinion, if non-biblical church expectations are leaving you feeling defeated, guilty, angry, frustrated . . . and if you find yourself feeling judged and rejected because of an inability or unwillingness to meet the cultural expectations . . . it may be time to move on. But before you do, I urge you to speak frankly with your pastor about what you are feeling. It may not be the pastor’s intention to have you feel that way at all.
You also need to ask yourself if your discomfort is grounded in truth or assumption. Many people with certain temperament types just naturally tend to see rejection but this is often only in their mind. That’s why communication is so important. Good communication can help you sort out perception versus reality.
Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection were meant to set us free from the old covenant law, sin, and death. Understanding the cultural norms of your church as compared to scriptural commands is paramount to experiencing healthy church membership. Armed with knowledge of both, you will find peace.
“Therefore, if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” (John 8:36)
Stand on His promises and truth! Blessings to you!