Why I gave up church for lent

Yes, it’s true. I gave up church for lent.

I love the Church. It’s a mess. It’s beautiful. It’s a mosaic of worship and personality. It’s an institution. It’s a body. It’s organic. It’s strategic. It’s an organization. And it’s family. It’s all kinds of things—seen as good and seen as bad. And I love it. I do. Even when it’s at its worst. I’ve worked at four of them, volunteered at two of them. I have never intentionally skipped church for more than maybe one or two Sundays for the first 3+ decades of my life.

Nonetheless, this year, I gave up church for lent.

And by church, I mean the weekly worship services. Not my faith. Not Christian community. Not small group. Not the institution. Not the body of Christ as it’s organized today. I gave up six Sundays of corporate worship. That’s all.

It was not exactly my goal when I entered this temporary season of stepping back from institutional worship. I’m transitioning out of vocational, full-time, church-based, ministry and into a new adventure of life, and that meant leaving the church where I both worked and worshipped. It was the appropriate and expected thing for me to do upon taking this next step.

For the first time in my entire life, I’ll be looking for a church and a place to worship not based on vocational or volunteer opportunities. It’s new, uncharted territory.

Seeing as before even wondering about my job, some folks inquired about my future church attendance, I pushed pause. I decided that after wrapping up things at my previous job, I’d create some space before jumping back into corporate worship.

I’m not frustrated or angry, and I have not been burned or hurt by the Church. I simply needed some space to process through what it would mean to attend and worship at a church as a congregant—not being on staff or involved with leadership. At least for a season, no matter how long or short this season is to be.

As I entered this time of not going to church, I made the decision to return to corporate worship on Easter. Seemed fitting, right? And it was only then that a friend (thank you, Julie) pointed out that my dates of pressing the pause button lined up with this season of Lent.

And I don’t think it was an accident.

Worship, to me, has been a job. I love it, and it’s not stale. But, it was still my job to participate in worship. If you’ve worked at a church for more than a short season, perhaps you understand the different perspective that this provides. It’s not bad at all! It just is what it is.

I want worship to be something that I crave, something that I enjoy and something that I chose to do even when I’m not required to participate. If you talk to me for five minutes, you’ll realize that I don’t think we should participate in our faith community only when we feel like it, so I’m not going down that road here. What I want is to want to go to church. I want that feeling of hunger, thirst and desire to lead me to worship, whether or not I get paid to be there. I want the Lord to lead me to a church home where He wants me to be—to participate, to serve and to worship—during this next season of life.

So I gave up church for Lent…

…and I can’t wait to return to it to celebrate Easter!

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3 thoughts on “Why I gave up church for lent

  1. Heather, you put into words the feelings that I have had for years, but from the opposite side: I love being an active part of my church community, but could not be an employee. Thank you for expressing it so gracefully!

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