5 Things People Blame The Church For…But Shouldn’t

There’s a lot of church bashing that happens these days. I get that. Some of it is deserved.

Like me, maybe you’ve noticed that a lot of people feel justified in dismissing the church as anything between a complete disappointment and otherwise useless.

Doubtless, people have been hurt in the church and hurt by the church, and for that, I feel terrible.

But it’s one thing to have a bad experience or a series of bad experiences. It’s another to hang on to them for far longer than you should, especially when you have a role in them that you refuse to see.

So in the hopes of clarifying a few things and helping us all move through whatever hang-ups might be lingering, here are 5 things people blame their church for…but shouldn’t.

1. The church didn’t stop you from growing spiritually

Most church leaders have heard this before from someone who’s new at your church. I went to X church for 2 years but I just didn’t grow there. Now I’ve come here. Hopefully, I’ll grow!

I’ve heard this so many times at one point I believed the logic. Until I realized that we were this person’s fifth church in 6 years, and they didn’t grow at any of them. Which makes you ask the question…is it really the church, or could it be them?

I came to the realization years ago that I’m responsible for my spiritual growth. Nobody can make me grow. And honestly, no one can keep me from growing because no one can actually control my thoughts, my heart and my mind. I can offer them to God in free surrender whenever I want.

Understand, the church can help, but it’s not responsible for your spiritual growth. You are.

The church can help you grow, but it's not responsible for your spiritual growth. You are. Click To Tweet

2. The church didn’t burn you out

You meet a lot of people in ministry, both paid and volunteer, who will tell you the church burned them out. As someone who has burned out while leading a church, it would be tempting for me to say “For sure…my church burned me out. You should see the demands people made on me as a pastor and leader!”

But I would never say that.

You know who burned me out?

I did. 

I am responsible for my burnout. I pushed too hard for too long. I didn’t deal with underlying issues. I burned myself out.

Now, granted, I think ministry can be confusing, and I think it’s easier to burn out in ministry than in other vocations (for the reasons why that is, read this post).

But I’m responsible. And so, honestly, are you. For more on burnout, start with this post.

3. The church didn’t make you cynical

I’ve heard many Christians say “I’m so cynical after working at/attending several churches.”

And for sure, any student of human nature can become cynical.

But the church didn’t make you cynical. You let your heart grow hard. You chose to believe certain things about people, about God, about life, and it built a crust around something that used to be alive and vibrant.

The biggest challenge in life is to see life for what it really is by keeping your heart fully engaged. God loves to help people do that.

I fight cynicism daily. And if anyone makes me cynical, it’s me…not you, not God, not culture, not the church. I want my heart to be alive and celebrating each day. That’s a choice I make with God’s help.

The challenge in life is to see life for what it really is and keep your heart fully engaged. Click To Tweet

4. The church didn’t cause your unforgiveness

It’s easy to hold a grudge. Get hurt (and yes, I’ve been hurt by people in the church too) and hang onto it long enough, and grudges will form.

Soon you’ll not want to hear someone’s name, let alone run into them in the supermarket.

Too many people in the church or who walked away from the church carry unforgiveness and blame the church for it.

What are you hanging onto from a bad church experience that you need to let go of?

Forgiveness is one of the most Christian things people can do. Yet it’s what far too many Christians withhold from one another.

I love how Mark Twain phrased it: “Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.”

“Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.” Mark Twain Click To Tweet

5. The church didn’t make you lose your faith

I hesitate to write this one. I’m a church leader. I do everything I can to help people find faith in Jesus Christ.

I also realize I’m far from perfect, that our church is not perfect, and that there never will be perfection on this side of heaven.

It breaks my heart when I hear people say “I went to church but it was so bad/so hypocritical/so shallow I lost my faith.” I realize we don’t always do a good job. In fact, sometimes churches do a terrible job. Sometimes I do a terrible job.

But as you’ve seen throughout this piece, nobody else makes you lose your faith. That was or is a choice you made. It is.

And it’s a choice I make every day. To believe when there are more than a few reasons not to. To love when people don’t love me back. To forgive when it’s easier to hang on to the hurt. To trust when there’s probably a few reasons to stop trusting.

So if you want to believe again…believe again.

Many people who have lost their faith want to believe again...so believe again. Click To Tweet

A Challenge

Now let me give you a challenge. I realize many of you have been hurt by the church. I realize many of you have grown cynical. And that’s true of people who have left the church and who are in the church.

Here’s the challenge: Be part of the solution. And the solution is not to walk away or be endlessly critical.

The reason I lead a church is because I believe Jesus designed the church to be the hope of the world. Churches are imperfect organizations, but they’re also chosen organizations. We’re on a mission given by Christ. We’re his chosen instrument.

I just want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. The world has enough cynics and critics.

We need people and we need leaders who deal hope.

Would you be one of them? Maybe get involved again? Or join a church and decide to work toward a better future? Or start a church of your own? That would be incredible. Really…it would! We need more optimists and more people ready to make the world a better place.

I’d love to hear what you’re taking responsibility for in your life, and how you’ve decided to make a difference.

What do you notice people wrongly blame the church for? 

Scroll down and leave a comment!

5 Things People Blame The Church For…But Shouldn’t


  1. Randy Magar on February 6, 2021 at 11:55 pm

    I told one of my relatives once, “ You’re the hypocrite! You expect those people at the church to live up to a standard which you are unwilling to to live up to and to obey yourself. You’re the hypocrite!”

  2. Albert Martin on February 6, 2021 at 1:11 pm

    It’s a difficult thing to say and even more to accept that “burn out” really is an out working of not “walking in the Spirit”. When we walk “in the Spirit” we do not fulfil the lusts of the flesh. These lusts are not the generally thought off. Desire for success, recognition, accomplishments, empire building and such like are also lusts borne out of inner pride. The Holy Spirit does not spend His time destroying His servants but upholds them. What is needed is to follow the gentle breeze of the Spirit and to move in His gentle rhythms. It’s equally important to recognise afresh that ministry is a vocation not a career.
    God Bless – Relax and Enjoy His Presence.

  3. Ross Bowerman on February 18, 2019 at 6:05 pm

    I am in my 50s and here is another reason for me not to become cynical. Younger followers of Jesus are looking to me to know what sort of life-of-following-Jesus they should aspire to. They want to see what enthusiasm plus wisdom looks like, which they won’t see without my enthusiasm. The next generation 9f leasers relies on me keeing my heart soft and my spirit excited.

    • Amanda Johnson on March 9, 2020 at 9:01 am

      Ross, Absolutely beautiful and accurate statement. I enjoyed the truth stated by Carey Nieuwhof. I honestly am just posting this because inevitably there is always that 2% that is quite loud. I just want to encourage you, keep going. Even when the 2% replies below 😀

    • Kevin Wicker on March 14, 2020 at 3:49 pm

      So it is apparent that it is you who keeps you. So when you don’t live up to this standard you’ve set up for yourself for others to see, you will find yourself guilty of “causing the little ones to fall”. Seek the Word about what Jesus said about that.
      The Christian life is not a badge, nor should it be a profession. It is lifestyle of humility and self-less-ness, based on the Words of Jesus.
      People become cynical when they see enough people who go around professing Christ, without possessing Christ. Look at what Jesus said first. Live it out. Then place your self-ish-ness on the back burner.

  4. Jenny on February 16, 2019 at 3:37 pm

    Carey, I wonder with the end of the attractional church if for a bit we will see more of the church didn’t do this for me etc. People become so use to being spoon fed or given everything on a silver platter it maybe hard for people to transition to the less attractional church and the more raw and real church we see popping up today. The unchurched seem to love the idea of a church full of real people acting that way so maybe our churches will be full of the unchurched (well hopfuly only unchurched for a short while) what a novel idea 😉. Good post and one I want my dechurch members to read.

    • Cindy on February 17, 2019 at 8:52 pm

      The reason I can’t go to church anymore is not these shallow expectations that church should be all things to me but rather that they did’nt help. The belief that everything that happens to me is in the plan of God, whether the death of a child, rape, misery, all of it is something God allowed. As though he is sitting in heaven determining who should be raped and which child should die. It’s all part of his Divine inscrutible will. Well I love God and have been doing church for decades and had to stop so I could have a relationship with him apart from the endless church guilt, never enough, all misery comes from God message. How about a broken world? Broken genetics? Economy that causes job loss? On and on. If you teach people that God created their mess in his plan, you’re never going to get them to look to God to fix their mess. We sing songs about it. “ I don’t know why my broken heart was a part of your plan “ Instead of looking to the lover of our soul as our help in my 40 yeats of experience I was taught he was the author of misery to teach me. Well no thank you. I will love him at home and spare my mind church.

      • Henry Pascual on March 14, 2020 at 11:03 am

        I agree with Cindy. The reason sometimes is bad theology, an understanding of God that tell people to leave their critical mind by the church doorsteps and to just absorb whatever the church teaches or the minister preaches.

      • Cheryl K. Davis on February 6, 2021 at 9:54 am

        Cindy, I hear you! When you’ve healed, you may want to try an entirely different place of worship and service. My soul found rest when I was able to leave the evangelical, non-denominational, authoritarian, “we’ve got God figured out” folks and move into a mainline denomination that the evangelicals decry. It has been almost 20 years of freedom and my heart has grown in faith, strength and joy. In fact, I was even able to answer God’s call on my life and become an ordained minister–something evangelicals told me I couldn’t do because I was a woman. There is something better out there than what you’ve known, and I trust the Spirit will lead you (when the time is right) to a group of Christians who are freed to love and serve God and others. God’s peace be with you.

      • Darlene Coker on February 7, 2021 at 10:14 am

        It’s never God’s plan to hurt anyone of us. Satin, the enemy of our soul, never plays fair, he seems to kill, steal, and destroy. Although his attacks come because of sin, from the time of Adam and Eve, God’s plan of redemption was also put in motion. ( Genesis chp.3) I used to be angry that Eve and Adam caused everything bad that happend, until I realized I wasn’t perfect, I had sinned. People are just people, no one is perfect. Not even church’s. I also was a wounded soul, and had to realize people can’t heal those wounds. Only God knows you well enough to know all your pain. Let people off the hook, they probably never experienced what you’ve suffered. But God was with you through it all, and He will heal and restore you, if you fully surrender it all to him. Let Jesus help you forgive those who hurt you. He will love you heal you, and never leave you.

    • Andaza on February 6, 2021 at 11:02 am

      I agree with this. Discipleship was what Jesus said we should do. When we grow towards maturity we tend to do way better in these matters.

    • Albert Martin on February 6, 2021 at 1:13 pm


  5. Dale Simmons on February 16, 2019 at 7:46 am

    Wow, what a novel concept. Put the responsibility back on me. That’s were it should start and end. Thank, Carey for stating it so plainly. What would happen to our churches if we just did what God asked US to?

  6. bev on October 23, 2017 at 2:25 pm

    what i have learned that people are people in the church and out of the church. i am in a domestic violent marriage. i was blamed and without all the facts. people persecuted me in this church and i am also shunned by staff and i have been gossiped about while being told i was a gossiper. i also find another thing very unnerving and hypocritical: ii am told to love my abuser while they are hating me all the way.

    i do think you are totally wrong because you do not blame the church for anything. yes it is all our decisions. but we make decisions based on how we are treated and what others do. the “holier than thou” group ARE SINNERS TOO. but they don’t see it. they preach that we all sin but they act and show their true belief: that they do not sin.

    it’s hypocritical. so you can’t say the church is right because people run the church. it is supposed to be God’s church but people still run it on earth. and people are sinners just as much as others who leave the church. there are clicks in the church. so tell me that these things aren’t sin. if i choose to leave, yes i will leave. but you are putting the blame 100% on me and none on the “holier than thou” click in the protected church. hypocritical.

    • Michael Neely on February 6, 2021 at 1:52 pm

      I’m deeply sorry you went through that. Im a male survivor of domestic violence and went through a similar experience. However I planted a church in 2004 and with God’s help created a welcoming environment for everyone. I have many survivors of abuse in my church from different walks of life. I hope you find a good church. They do exist. God bless you and keep you my sister.

  7. James Thomas Benedicktus on October 13, 2017 at 2:53 pm

    I both see the validity of what is said, and the fallacy of it. Per example: 1. The church stopped me from growing. I agree that ultimat4ely we are the ones responsible for our growth. But the congregations we are involved in doesn’t stop us; it also doesn’t for the most part help us either. The ordinary congregation is wrapped up in “we’re right; that’s why we don’t deal with anything else.” Conformty, especially in doctrine, is the cardinal rule and to think differently, or to ask questions, is signof a troublemaker.
    2, /the church didn’t burn you out, but the primary emphasis of the congregation is that you become involved (although the ones who want you involved don’t want to do anything themselves) so a few people take on the jobs and callings of many in a vain attempt to “make the church work” and become burnt out. And there’s nobody there to help put out the fire.
    All of these 5 points are putting the emphasis on the wrong thing, as people often do. The real question seems to be not what does the church “make us” do, but what it doesn’t do to make the individual people in it succeed as Christians.

  8. Ellen on August 13, 2017 at 6:45 am

    The church should take some responsibility for why people leave a church or don’t come back if they a first-time attender. The church is responsible for how their members carry themselves out to make an impression. If a church believes in pushing people by giving the ultimate lecture about what their church believes, that may be why someone does not want to come back The way the members of the congregation act every Sunday makes an impression on any first-time attender, so any congregation should beware of how their conduct impresses on someone for the first time,

    What someone cannot blame a church for is the doctrine or teaching in the church. If someone doesn’t believe in what your church teaches, that isn’t your fault. It’s no one’s fault. If visitors are to blame for not accepting the teachings in a church, then that is another problem that every church has. People are free to believe in whatever religion or Christian denomination that is out there, or none at all. Even though people in church believe that they have the only truth, no one can actually prove what denomination is truest. I think that the best way to determine what church or religion fits best depends on their heart, soul, and conscience.

    • Priscilla on December 31, 2018 at 12:26 pm

      1 Peter 4.17 Peter says For the time is come that judgement must begin at the house of God and if it first begin at us what shall the end be of her that obey not the Gospel of God. And if the righteous are saved with difficulty, what will
      become of the ungodly and the sinner? so hose who suffer according to the will of God must entrust their souls to a faithful creator in doing good.

      • Priscilla on December 31, 2018 at 12:40 pm

        We will all give an account in the end. If the church is mistreating members that need help and they fail those members that are weak….they will give an account to a God in the end. Those leaders in the church that think they are the head huncho ? James ch. 2 says that he who teaches their judgment will be greater. No one will get away with anything! Jesus Christ our savior has made the church complete through his death burial and resurrection. In Gods eyes the church is Holy. We need to be careful to look to our own selves and change through the Grace of God. Arrogant leaders in the church makes it difficult to teach the church about loving relationships as we are taught by Paul. This is Godliness if done through the Spirit of Christ. Paul says to the weak I became weak arrogant leaders don’t care because they are puffed up they need to grow. If that’s you out there please change quickly and repent time is running out. To the humble I say continue in he Faith and overcome. All Glory to him in his Church Amen

  9. Bob Hunter on July 17, 2017 at 8:46 pm

    “Most church leaders have heard this before from someone who’s new at your church. I went to X church for 2 years but I just didn’t grow there. Now I’ve come here. Hopefully I’ll grow!”

    It seems to me that the complaint isn’t that the church kept the person from growing, as its title indicates, but that it didn’t help the person grow. I’ve heard this complaint from longtime church members as they compare today’s church with yesterday’s church. And I think that it’s a valid complaint because, although the Holy Spirit rather than the church is responsible for Christians’ growth, Paul’s letters certainly indicate that the church has a role to play in its members’ growth. Like some other contributors to the article, I think that the church needs to take some responsibility for the lack of growth in its members and try to do something about it rather than just blame the members for not growing.

    • Kevin Wicker on March 14, 2020 at 4:08 pm

      People go to church to find God. Not be in some social club.
      Only the Holy Spirit can draw them. Jesus left us with the Holy Spirit, and often spoke of HIS Words. Do we follow them? Do we even know them?
      Did Paul die for our sins?
      When we exalt the Words of Jesus in our services and in our lives, we will see the dispensations of the Holy Spirit in our services. You will also see more people come to God.
      Is this being preached?

  10. Danny on July 15, 2017 at 12:02 am

    The paradigm of asking a church to cause me to grow is not a healthy one. There is a responsibility in the church and its leadership to help congregants to grow in their faith but I believe that when some church members/seekers ask this what they are really looking for is authentic community that fills in what they lack spirituality. But this a ‘Church as my Gas Station’ paradigm that is prevalent in our consumeristic culture where every building in my community outside the home is there for goods and services. I pay my tithe, I demand a good product. This is unhealthy.
    In all honesty I’m still looking for a better paradigm to operate out of but, whatever it is, there needs to be a way in which we bear fruit outside the church rather than keeping the harvest inside the church. The ‘Holy Huddle’ exists on Sundays in order to break and make a positive impact in the wolrd that has less to do with politics and more to do with genuinely loving our neighbor without pushing conversion but rather inviting them into the house of God. John 15, Matthew 25 and Luke 14 speak powerfully to these paradigms of fruit bearing, outreaching to our communities and the indwelling presence of Christ.

    • jacki on July 19, 2017 at 12:54 pm

      The church is more like a hospital. It is filled with hurting broken people trying to get better. There are only a few caregivers. When we expect the patients to help us we’ve expected to much. There is only one doctor… Jesus. He is helping us get better so we can help others.If we are not listening to him but counting on others to help us,they will fail us. Jesus never fails.

  11. Dave Emme on July 14, 2017 at 5:41 am

    I would add a sixth. A church, pastor, or institution did not cause you to leave the path to go into full time ministry, you did when you put faith in yourself and others who ultimately failed and let us down when our faith should be on God and his word. The same could be said of those who have left full time ministry which would be a seventh. I say this from my own experiences on the path to full time ministry.

  12. BObby on July 12, 2017 at 10:49 pm

    I think you are right on with every post I have seen from you. We have a staff of 70 at my church if you are ever in San Antonio Texas or would ever like to come to San Antonio let me know I would love to have you.

  13. Tim Truong on July 12, 2017 at 1:26 pm

    I’m sorry Carey but I’m completely disagree. I didn’t ready your whole article because I couldn’t stomach it, I only ready the 5 headings. Why I believe you’re wrong is because you haven’t given up the system you are in. So as long as you still see the system of the church is right you will never be open to why it’s wrong. It’s wrong because it days you have to do this. Your article basically is we are responsible for we ended up because of our attitude and not the church. But my rebutle to you is the church pushes everyone to be a certain way and because we didn’t agree we are kicked out, marginalized or labelled trouble. The church needs to own up to its responsibility that it IS the one that made us who we are today. Sadly, this has not and will never happen and if we are responsible for anything it is to find our own help and healing. It definitely isn’t going to come from the church.

    • Billie on July 13, 2017 at 2:30 pm

      I’m so sorry for your hurt, but you couldn’t be more wrong. I cannot control what others have done to me, but I certainly can control how I react to it. The church is a family. Families get on each others nerves, hurt each other, etc., but where the rubber meets the road, we are there for each other.

    • Dave Emme on July 14, 2017 at 5:33 am

      For me I think the point has been and yes have experienced bad people and bad churches- keep your eyes on Christ not people. When they are bad, it’s time to move on but stay faithful to the Lord

      • Andaza on February 6, 2021 at 11:10 am

        Very well said

    • Ted Larson on July 19, 2017 at 11:40 am

      I did read the whole article and I agree with the author completely. I have been burned by well meaning pastors who spoke without truly thinking it through. I have been hurt by people in churches who thought they were helping. Yet, in spite of those things and so much more, I still attend church (even now I am sitting under a pastor who I sometimes have personal problems with). If it doesn’t kill me, either spiritually or physically, it cannot help but make me stronger. How you deal with adversities that come up in a church is completely your choice. No one else can think or act for you.

      • Andaza on February 6, 2021 at 11:11 am

        Wow what a balanced approach. Someone once said the greatest need of the church is for deep people. Deep actually to my mind means disciples. People with problems like every human but who are committed to Jesus and what’s He expects of us.

    • Carolyn Dangerfield on July 20, 2017 at 7:13 pm

      What I have seen over the years…46 being in the church..33 leading is that people make choices to follow God or not… It seems the more you try to help with their issues usually it does not do much until they choose to change. It is wonderful yo see someone move from darkness to light and choose a right relationship with God and His church. But it is their choice and we are here to help, encourage, disciple and of course love, but it is their choice to avail themselves,

    • Barb Dwyer on March 13, 2020 at 5:34 am

      Tim, I met disagree with you. Exactly why I can’t say because I stopped reading your comments after the first sentence.

    • Andaza on February 6, 2021 at 11:09 am

      Unfortunately with all due respect you are not correct. How can you blame the church for everything that’s wrong with you? Your post appears quite angry at something or someone. You said you couldn’t even read the article to the very end when there could be other points on there that would have been valid for you. Carey’s point is biblical because the scriptures themselves place the responsibility of how we respond to something that is negative on us. There are good and bad people everywhere you go. But to dump on the church as a whole for everything you are experiencing right now that is negative speaks of something deeper that you are probably struggling with. Does the church sometimes hurt people? Yes Carey said so as well and I think if you had been patient enough to read to the end you’d have been blessed to find some common ground.

  14. Daniel on July 12, 2017 at 12:44 pm

    Hi, do you allow these posts to be reused ?
    I would like to narrate this along with some scriptures for our church, and possibly to pt on our website. I would narrate ver batem, but put my own personal experience and add some scripture.

  15. wraiththirteen on February 20, 2017 at 11:09 am

    1. The church is not a building, but the people in the building.

    2. Much of the new testament is very clear that the members in the church have responsibility to one another (I corinthians 12 is a good place to start a bible study on this matter)

    3. I think most americans christians have no clue as to what their responsibility is to each other in the church, and thus you have people blaming the church for stuff out of ignorance.

    • Stefanie on December 31, 2017 at 8:50 am

      Well said. I have been blessed by people and hurt by people. I have never been hurt by God. And I refused to let other people affect my relationship with my Creator who loves me and died for me. The whole situation only made me depend and look to God even more.

  16. Terry Jones on February 20, 2017 at 10:09 am

    Corey says “We need people and we need leaders who deal hope.” I say we need people who obey Christ and lead others to obey Him. That involves reading the Word of God and doing as it says. We need people who deal truth.

  17. Terry Hagen on February 20, 2017 at 9:01 am

    I agreed with you on all but the first point of your post “Five Things People blame the church…” I believe my spiritual growth was a gift of the Holy Spirit and not of my own doing.

    • Terry Jones on February 20, 2017 at 9:52 am

      Do you not have any responsibility Terry?

    • Ruth Pahl on July 12, 2017 at 1:49 pm

      Sorry you didn’t read the article.

    • Billie on July 13, 2017 at 2:32 pm

      We cannot grow without the help of the Holy Spirit, but the Holy Spirit does not force us to study the word and pray, serve others. That is our responsibility.

  18. Terry Jones on February 20, 2017 at 7:48 am

    1. The church is stopping you grow spiritually. The foundation of the church is the Word of God and in dismissing this the church has no basis to even exist. The church has become nothing more than a social club and a place to boost your poor self esteem. It will only tell you what you want to hear as opposed to telling you the truth. As long as you sit in your place and never challenge the nonsense that is spoken from the front you can enjoy being a meaningless member of a meaningless church.
    2. Being “burnt out” is not the problem, it is those wet blankets who lead the church and quench the spirit.
    3. The church will tell you that you are being cynical if you voice any concerns.
    4. Why does the church think it has the right to judge who has or hasn’t forgiven others? If someone stops going to church is it because they haven’t forgiven others or is it because they are unhappy at the way it is behaving?
    1 Corinthians 11:1
    Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.
    2 Thessalonians 3:6
    6 Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.
    2 Thessalonians 3:14
    14 And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.
    1 Timothy 2:12
    12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.
    5. Having faith is not having faith in the church, it is having faith in Christ. Unfortunately many lose sight of this because of the behavior of the church and the rubbish it preaches. It is hard to see the wood for the trees. The church is to blame for this and a lot more besides. The church has become a godless kingdom of its own making. It is not a place for anyone seeking God or wishing to grow spiritually, it is an empty tomb.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on February 20, 2017 at 7:57 am

      Actually, the foundation of the church is Jesus.

      I see lots of scripture, and thank you for that. But evidence of the presence of Christ in someone’s life is love, not anger.

      • Terry Jones on February 20, 2017 at 8:09 am

        Jesus is THE WORD Carey, did you not know this? You cannot separate them.Evidence of the presence of Christ in someones life is their heart towards God and not something God gave you the right or ability to judge, get off your high horse mate. You are right that I am angry, I am passionate about Christ and the Word of God unlike the church. Tell me Carey why it is the church believes it can cherry pick Scripture and even change it if it doesn’t suit it own self serving existence.

        1 Peter 4:17-18 King James Version
        17 For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? 18 And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?
        If the house of God doesn’t get it right what hope is there for anyone? The church needs to wake up and face its responsibilities instead of merely existing and blaming others.

      • Terry Jones on February 20, 2017 at 9:04 am

        Ephesians 2:20King James Version (KJV)

        20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;

      • Terry Jones on February 20, 2017 at 9:19 am

        John 1:14King James Version (KJV)

        14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

      • Terry Jones on February 20, 2017 at 9:43 am

        See above for the response to this.

    • Terry Jones on February 20, 2017 at 8:49 am

      1 Peter 4:17-18 King James Version
      17 For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? 18 And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?

      • Terry Jones on February 20, 2017 at 8:51 am

        In response to Corey’s comments below, I have to reply to my own post because Corey deleted my initial reply to his post. Jesus is THE WORD Carey, did you not know this? you cannot separate them. The evidence of the presence of Christ in someone is the fruit they bear not this vague notion of love that the church preaches. The heart of a man is known to God and not something you have the right or ability to judge Corey, get off your high horse mate. The devil knows Scripture so your claim to “see lots” of it is meaningless.You are right that I am angry, I am passionate about Christ and His Word.I am angry at the way the church cherry picks Scripture and even rewrites it to serve itself. There is nothing godly about the church in the slightest, it is an hindrance to the truth. People have been damaged by it and it will continue to damage people until the day it takes responsibility and follows what is Written.

        • Phil Morrill on February 16, 2019 at 8:24 am

          Terry, I see validity in some of your words. I’m glad to see passion, we need that. But I just have a couple thoughts… the church as an institution, may be flawed. I see many things that churches (the non profit organizations), do that do not honour Christ. But that’s what the church is. Maybe you already believe this, but you cannot confuse the two! Christ died, and rose again and then ascended to heaven, in order to start the church. He gave his life for it! The church are the people saved by grace through faith. And as imperfect as we are, as many mistakes as we will make, Jesus Died for it! He died so that this imperfect church could be a reflection of his love and since we are imperfect, it becomes so clear that it’s the Spirit who draws people in. So yes, we cannot ignore the mistakes that the institution of the church has made, but the church, the body of Jesus, is exactly what God started and exactly what Jesus loves. Not that we have attained perfection, but we are moving towards maturing together. Never dismiss the church that Jesus started and that he loves and died for. And don’t dismiss the organized church, though many mistakes are made, for it is a possible way for others to come to know Jesus, and can be corrected and made more to look like the body Jesus does to create.

  19. Denn Guptill on January 23, 2017 at 8:28 am

    Hi Carey, you hit it out of the park with this.

    Thank you

    • Terry Jones on February 20, 2017 at 9:25 am

      No he hasn’t. He talks nonsense.

    • Amanda Johnson on March 9, 2020 at 8:49 am


  20. HM8432 on November 25, 2016 at 12:14 pm

    Agree with the sentiment. However, the church itself doesn’t cause those things, but sometimes the people IN IT (including the pastor) ‘help’ an otherwise good Christian lose those things mentioned.

  21. Marlene Jiannino Daley on November 25, 2016 at 3:01 am

    WOW Carey, I have been saying that for a while now. Many people have left my church & also try to get me to leave, telling me how wonderful their new church is. My response has always been that I choose to be a part of the solution in my church, not the problem to which I get a blank look. Now months later I hear these same people say they are unhappy with the church they were trying to get me to attend. I find it sad that they spend so much energy trying to find the right church and, of course, it is always the Pastor’s fault. I guess the hardest thing is to admit that it could just be you.

  22. Doug Sevre on November 24, 2016 at 10:57 am

    I agree with the premise that the individual is primarily responsible for the condition of their heart and the relational disconnects and distorted perceptions that arise as a result.

    However,as Christ followers we are indirectly responsible for whether or not we provide an environment welcoming and conducive for the wounded to engage their hurt in a healing and relationally holistic manner .

    As leaders perhaps we are not to write 5 pointed posts that arise from our alpha characteristics but to model two open arms and two listening ears energized and informed from a broken and embracing heart secure and mature in the rich love of Christ.

    I have been able to overcome like Carey,everything he describes and have to fight against it on a regular basis.

    However as a leader that merely reflects the grace I have been given.

    I do not expect that others have been given the same measure of grace nor the same healthy family of origin benefits as I have.

    Instead we must agonize for the relationally broken in Christ’s church and identify with them to the point of sacrificing time, energy and strategic insight to address their pain,shame and struggles; to love them as a way of loving back their Savior who will not despise the smoking flax nor neglect a bruised reed.

    I think one of the key benchmarks Christ will apply to us is the degree we have intentionally embraced the broken .

    Christ’s mission involves us participating with Him in welcoming the broken and adapting our family values and practices in order that they might have a cherished place at the family table centered around Christ.

    • sisteract on February 19, 2017 at 11:55 am

      Absolutely! Your post nicely expounds on Carey’s. Thank you.

    • Terry Jones on February 20, 2017 at 9:40 am

      More pompous insidious churchy garbage. I’m sick of hearing this rubbish that all we need to do is love everyone. Try loving Christ first by listening to Him.

      John 14:15
      15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.

      1 Corinthians 11:16
      16 But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.

      Work it out for yourself.

    • Jody Shealy on February 20, 2017 at 3:11 pm

      now THIS I agree with.

  23. darelle4 on September 18, 2016 at 7:10 pm

    People really need to learn to be more mature. They will tolerate and endure all the drama in their work place but before they go through something at church they will leave. Come on people we need to endure, how can you make someone’s action control your life. Human beings will always disappoint you. It’s time to stop drinking milk and start eating meat

  24. Scott on August 30, 2015 at 1:36 pm

    I’ve NEVER read a more egregious example of blaming the victim; shame on you!

    • Terry Jones on February 20, 2017 at 7:52 am

      Well said Scott.

    • Billie on July 13, 2017 at 2:37 pm

      Carey didn’t say that the church has never hurt anyone. He himself has been hurt. He’s saying that it’s our choice if we remain the victim. Someone else may hurt us, but if we grow bitter, that’s on us. I think we should consider how much we have hurt other people or even Jesus, before we start blaming the church for our own unwillingness to forgive and move on.

  25. David on July 12, 2015 at 5:49 pm

    You’ve clearly never been in a spiritually abusive church.

    • Terry Jones on February 20, 2017 at 9:45 am

      He’s clearly been in church.

  26. Chuck on June 26, 2015 at 7:27 am

    I don’t wish to re hash anyone’s prior response but I would like to sketch a line between two ideas commonly shared in them. Those two very different words here are FAULT and RESPONSIBILITY.

    As your argument states, those five issues are not the Church’s “fault”. We are all accountable for our own growth and enrichment, and for our own sin and pride. I can cite many verses in Proverbs, in I Cor 12, and countless other places that we have all studied im sure. And i believe this was at least part of Carey’s thrust.

    What i want passionately to contrast this with is that while its not the Church’s fault, the Church is directly accountable for causing someone (albeit weaker) to stumble. See I Cor 8, and Romans 14 for starters. The millstone option is intimidating when you read culturally of how large those things were.

    JESUS put it to Peter after the resurrection In a way that i think the entire Church benefits from. He said if you love me, feed my lambs. (The lamb is responsible ultimately for eating well. But who must feed them? Peter. Now? Us.)

  27. Mike McLain on June 11, 2015 at 4:22 am

    I appreciate your goal for this post, I really do. People need to take responsibility for their walk with Jesus. A few problems, though.

    First, you don’t identify church. That word does not mean what it used to. You seem to be alluding to what we might call traditional churches, for example, those with a building, paid professionals, tax exempt status, etc. But Jesus would not define church that way, I doubt.

    Second, where is Jesus mentioned as the cure for what ails Christians? There is a lot of human wisdom here, but not much Jesus.

    Then, you call yourself a “leader”, which Jesus says we should not ever do in Matthew. One of the reasons institutional churches are filled with immature Christians is because the leaders do everything. The rest of the congregation lives vicariously through the educated guy they pay. Why would I fix the pipes when I pay the plumber to? So called leaders need to get out of the way, create some space and work themselves out of jobs more often. What if the congregation suddenly started doing everything themselves? Would that be so bad?

    Churches are not organizations, they are the living body of Jesus. Maybe if we treated her that way we might just start living again.

    Anybody will soon burn out that is put upon to be the all in all for the church-except for the all in all for the church: Jesus.

    • Food for Thought... on July 11, 2015 at 6:58 pm

      Goodness this kind of complaining is so tired I need a nap now… Please dear friend put down your Neil Cole book and/or other organic/missional books and maybe travel a little and see the Bride of Christ outside of your little context…

      No one who is in a position of leadership (And I don’t care whether or not the word is used or not, some people are, by God’s grace, just called to lead) would think of the Church as simply an institutional machine with a tax-exempt status… Anyone with half way decent Biblical theology would refer to the Church as His Body, the people of God, living out their faiths in community as the family of God…. Are their short comings and mishaps along the way? Sure… And I don’t care what way you do it either… I have been part of the missional community movement, the visible church or what people like you call the institutional church, para-church ministries and everything in between… There will always be flaws because we are sinners and those flaws point us to our need for the Gospel not away from it… We rest on Christ alone…

      Lastly, you are simply dead wrong when you say the Church is not an organization… It is. But more correctly said, it is not only an organization. It is both an organism and an organization. I suggest getting your hands on something like Abraham Kuyper’s Rooted and Grounded: The Church as Organism and Institution to get a better understanding of what the Church is and isn’t.

      But usually things like on line convo goes nowhere, so you probably won’t. Blessings to you anyways…

      • Mike McLain on July 13, 2015 at 3:52 am

        No idea who Neil Cole is. I do read a lot of Frank Vilola, NT Wright, Watchmen Nee and AW Tozer, as well as others. I try to read a wide variety of authors who ring true in their various areas of study. Or rather, when the Spirit rings true through them. Most of all, I read the Bible, spending a lot of time recently in the Gospels, as well as reading the entire book this year, currently in Proverbs. I am just a believer, not a super Christian of any kind. I hold no office nor do I receive any salary. The truths I have been led to are from the Spirit alone. The Theology I adhere to can be explained as follows. Jesus is the key to everything, on earth and in Heaven. He alone unlocks meaning in the Old Testament, the New Testament-nothing can be understood in the Word apart from Him. He is the Word. The other simple believers we meet together with throughout the week share life together and are trying to learn together to live by the divine life of Jesus. Many of us have come out of the institutional church, had good and bad experiences there, and are now in a simpler gathering. We felt, as do many of you, that there had to be more, that without freedom in Christ, the deeper life was all but out of reach, save for those ministers and theologians who devoted themselves to prayer and the word. We believe this life is attainable for all and that institutional church in general does little to practically help its members toward spiritual maturity in Christ. We are one body. But we are meant to move toward spiritual maturity. I pray that all believers become true disciples of Jesus and aspire to the spiritual perfection that Paul spoke of.

      • Brad on August 24, 2015 at 6:45 am

        Thanks for your comments and putting it in the right perspective. Chill pill people. Too many experts out there.

        • Terry Jones on February 20, 2017 at 9:48 am

          Yes, lets not get too passionate about Jesus and His church! That just wouldn’t do. Let us all go to church singing songs and waving our arms around instead.

    • Sarah Valintine on July 12, 2017 at 5:18 pm

      Mike McLean, I think you have some very valuable things to say and I agree with you. Thank you.

  28. Mar Komus on June 10, 2015 at 5:28 pm

    Point for point…

    1. No, no one can stop you from growing. But an environment hostile to growth can be introduced. The examples of those who have gone church hopping don’t negate the examples of those who just might very well legitimately have problems growing in the church organizations as we know them now. Why do others thrive? Likely the same reason we grow certain crops in temperate zones and only certain others will grow in dry climates–the organization model just isn’t for everyone.

    2. I don’t hear this one much, but it does sound like another dysfunctional environment where those in positions of influence hold an undue sway in the activities of those who serve them. As you mentioned to another commenter, some boundaries would be in order, but let’s not ignore the fact that those who draw boundaries receive flack–even to the point of being dismissed and made to look like the bad guy because they aren’t very “servant-hearted” or “teachable.”

    3. Indisputable. I’m one who could tell LOTS of stories, too, about why I should be cynical. And in many veins, I am. I’m working on that. The more experience we gain in working with people, the more we gain insight into the heart of God. Like, “Really, God?! I have to put up with THAT?!” And then He says, “Oh, child! Look at your own pathetic self for just a second. Multiply that times ~7 billion (give or take a few billion) over the course of several millennia. And you’re not the worst of them and neither is Joe or Susie. You’re just scratching the surface of my level of grace! Welcome to MY world, kid!”

    4. Pretty much ditto of #3

    5. Again, I agree. No one makes anyone lose their faith. However, if we can make Christ attractive, we can also make Him quite unattractive. That’s done by being harsh, hypocritical, compromising, and generally treating the faith like some aspect of life rather than what it is: life itself.

    Being A Part of the Solution…

    Sometimes the best and only thing you can do is move on. There’s no shame in leaving a dysfunctional congregation if the powers that be are clearly in the wrong, are clearly not going to change, and are clearly out to destroy you.

    ON THE OTHER HAND… The Christ-follower will ALWAYS seek out a new fellowship because our way is to not forsake the assembling of ourselves together. Whether that be with few or many and under the roof of a house, like in the early years, or in some building, as in later years, or even around a campfire singing kumbaya is entirely optional.

    • mattdabbs on June 12, 2016 at 12:30 am

      Environment hostile to growth…like the wilderness in Exodus. Or maybe like 1st century Palestine under Roman oppression…or take today…maybe communist China where Christianity is exploding. I know those examples are hostile environments “outside” the church but there are plenty inside as well. Acts 5 for one or how about Galatians 1 with Peter and Paul or maybe the church in Corinth…imagine the challenges there to a growing faith?!? There are so many examples….the 7 churches of Asia. Carey is spot on here people. I appreciate him taking the hard road on this one because these aren’t popular or easy things to say but it is honest and accurate. Thanks for speaking up Carey!

      • Mar Komus on June 12, 2016 at 2:51 am

        Environment hostile to growth…like none of any of the things you listed. I’m talking about poor leadership. Carey’s argument in this point is that “I’m” responsible for “my” own spiritual growth. OK. By extension, then, he’s really arguing that YOU are responsible for YOUR spiritual growth. And he’s just flat out wrong. The reality is, it’s a partnership. Leaders are responsible to be good leaders. An environment hostile to growth is when leaders become dictatorial giants with an overinflated view of their own authority. Under dysfunctional and/or abusive leadership, no growth will occur except the kind of growth where good people decide, “I’m not exactly being fed here,” and they go elsewhere to find a leader or mentor who can challenge them, grow them, etc.

        Huh…it’s been about a year since I posted that and I didn’t even read the whole of my original response before responding to you. Good to see I’ve held some consistency

  29. Ellen on June 8, 2015 at 5:29 pm

    If a church doesn’t burn people out, what does a church say to a person who says NO when asked to do a favor. As far as roles in the church go, whether it be a reader, or usher, etc., there should be a healthy rotation instead of making the same excuse week after week about how you need the same persons to take on a load of responsibility. Yes, each person is responsible for his spiritual growth, the church only serves as a guide through proper presentation of the readings and the gospel. My church does an excellent job of that. We are then told to carry the message through our everyday lives-Monday-Sunday. Spending all or most of your time in church doesn’t make you a better Christian or a better person. Going back to the point about the church (not) burning people out. How much time spent in church is enough? Are people expected to spend everyday or every time an event or gathering comes up in church? That isn’t very realistic. People have lives and responsibilities outside church, and they do not go away simply because the church thinks that they should be a priority. I know that most people on this blog will say that I am missing the point, and maybe I am missing something. But I know that when I used to go to a Lutheran Church with a school friend, I was being pushed into committing to every trivial thing in the church. To me this church was not really God or Christ centered. Most of the time they would treat the worship as a formality because the weekly activities were what was important to a significant part of the congregation. They have said that you need to make sure that you go to church once a month to be eligible for Youth Group or picnics or whatever else comes up.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on June 10, 2015 at 7:14 am

      Thanks for the question. No one makes you do anything. I think what you describe is a boundary issue. I’d encourage you to read anything Cloud and Townsend write on boundaries. Could be really helpful!

    • Mike McLain on June 11, 2015 at 4:30 am

      There is no life outside of church. The church is not a building or a time slot. The church, (as the presence of Jesus on earth (Body of Christ) is the answer for what is wrong in this world. You are not going to fix that one hour a week in a building locked away from the world. You are the church every moment of every day! Not realistic? Jesus left heaven and died a gruesome death to give his life so that His church could be born. It is not about being present in a church service. It is about being a light to a dark world, taking the Kingdom of Heaven to those who are hurting, alone and afraid. You can’t go to church: You are the church. Or you’re not.

      • Terry Jones on February 20, 2017 at 9:50 am

        Well said Mike. Shame more people don’t know this.

  30. Burn a Koran a Day on April 7, 2015 at 11:27 am

    Ironically, the church didn’t make me lose my faith, the church caused me to change my faith entirely. Now I’m a hardcore Zionist and I’m much more happy. If the church did anything, they created a new Israel supporter.

  31. iChilly on April 2, 2015 at 2:03 pm

    Thank you Carey. It sucks seeing people upset or jaded. Ultimately, a church didn’t hurt you, a person in a church did. We’re imperfect.
    — thanks again! Good stuff!

  32. Alex Thurley-Ratcliff on March 23, 2015 at 6:55 pm

    I can’t disagree with the statements above… But here’s a thought:

    1. The church can’t save you
    2. The church isn’t perfect – it’s full of people like me and you
    3. The church might reject you, abuse you or use you – but hey you’ve done that to others too; forgive them and yourself
    4. The church is an institution not a relationship – don’t confuse these – it leads to damaging expectations and pain of disappointment
    5. The church IS NOT the answer – but it is a place where you might find your Heavenly Lover and others who love him too

    We need a more grown-up view of the social dynamics of what church is and isn’t. We all know it isn’t perfect, but it’s what we ARE (not where we go). So BEING church is probably more use to God, the world, others and yourself than “going to church”, “running or leading a church” (strange concept in itself) or being “church members”. These are totally un-Biblical concepts!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on March 27, 2015 at 11:16 am

      Thanks Alex. Preached a very similar message to your last paragraph a few weeks ago. Well said!

      • Alex Thurley-Ratcliff on April 8, 2015 at 3:29 pm

        Cool 🙂
        At least I’m not raving then 😉

  33. […] 5 Things People Blame The Church For…But Shouldn’t Take responsibility for yourself instead. […]

  34. […] 5 Things People Blame The Church For…But Shouldn’t. This is an excellent article from Carey Nieuwhof. […]

  35. […] Read more […]

  36. Here & There (March 18) | Susan L. Stevens on March 18, 2015 at 9:18 am

    […] a challenge and a look at 5 Things People Blame the Church…and Shouldn’t –  “Here’s the challenge: Be part of the solution. And the solution is not to walk […]

  37. […] Read More […]

  38. William on March 17, 2015 at 6:42 am

    Find this to be very interesting…..find it also interesting that once again, the “church” very seldom owns up to her responsibility and her role in damaging the lives of those that may have been truly hurt. I also find it funny that when we talk solutions, most leaders will hear the solutions, but rarely implement them. From the perspective of one who served as assist pastor for nearly 20 yrs before my exit from organized religion, I have the perspective of both sides, and from that perspective, the church doesn’t want to take responsibility but only shift the blame to those who have become disenfranchised with organized religion. One thing needs to be noted, the building of course isn’t the church, the people are, so the article seems to emphasize the “place” of worship, and that in itself to me is a grave mistake.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on March 19, 2015 at 5:02 am

      Sorry to hear of your pain. While I didn’t write about it specifically in this post, much of my blog is about church leaders taking responsibility for their actions.

    • Terry Jones on February 20, 2017 at 7:57 am

      A disobedient child will always try to put the blame on others.

  39. Zoe on March 16, 2015 at 2:33 pm

    From Carl Trueman, August 2011:
    I am sorry that you have doubts; I am sorry that your Christian parents
    or schoolteachers screwed you up with their bad teaching; I am sorry
    that you can no longer believe the simple catechetical faith that you
    were once taught; I am sorry that the Bible seems like little more than a
    confused mish-mash of contradictory myths and endlessly deferred
    meaning. But that you struggle with doubts does not mean that those who
    do not struggle in the same way are simply weak-minded, in denial or
    bare-faced liars. Nor, more importantly, does the mere fact that you
    have doubts mean that those doubts are necessarily legitimate and
    well-grounded. Doubting on your part does not constitute a crisis of
    faith on mine.

  40. […] This article challenges us to avoid blaming the church for five things. […]

  41. GROW | 3.16.15 | the hub on March 16, 2015 at 1:11 am

    […] 5 Things People Blame the Church For… But Shouldn’t […]

  42. Pastor Wynn on March 14, 2015 at 6:33 pm

    Great article on on target. As a long term pastor, I’ve heard them all. I must also say that each time I hear one, I do some introspection to see if I, in any way, contributed to it. Thanks for taking the time to write.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on March 15, 2015 at 2:28 pm

      That’s really good check Pastor Wynn. Exactly. Thank you!

  43. The Saturday Post(s) | A Pilgrim's Friend on March 14, 2015 at 2:54 pm

    […] 5 Things You Can’t Blame the Church For. “Doubtless people have been hurt in the church and hurt by the church, and for that I feel terrible. But it’s one thing to have a bad experience or a series of bad experiences. It’s another to hang on to them for far longer than you should, especially when you have a role in them that you refuse to see.” […]

  44. Hangin’ With the Yalees | geezeronthequad on March 14, 2015 at 1:15 pm

    […] Hill says that it’s an American form of entertainment to blame everything in the Middle East on America and what we’ve done wrong. He goes on to say that’s not true. Reality in both world politics and faith is always more layered and nuanced. His expanded answer is quite profound. It’s also an American entertainment to whack on the church. While the church has many flaws all rooted in sin, the church also has many plusses. Many have been sadly hurt; some whackers just want an excuse since Jesus Christ seems a spiritual threat to their self-centeredness and a moral inconvenience to their lifestyle. But Christ’s church isn’t as guilty as some would like to make out. […]

  45. Paul S on March 14, 2015 at 12:21 pm

    This is a good article for those who blame the church and are in denial about themselves. But, it is a bad article for churches and their leaders who also are in denial about themselves. It is a big half truth. True but not complete.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on March 15, 2015 at 2:29 pm

      Thanks for that. For sure, this is not about abusive church leaders or blind church leaders. It is about members who are never satisfied and don’t take responsibility.

      • Kelly Rumsey Winther on August 14, 2016 at 10:28 pm

        Good to hear… I have seen and heard way to many abusive leaders and I choose to believe its not all leaders but its getting harder as you hear that such and such pastor embezzled church funds or cheated on spouse or used parissioners to serve him instead of offering to serve others or encouraged abuse women to stay in abusive marriages or hid child abuse or sex abuse in his family… I guess when I tead this blog, I think of all the others who’ve experienced all these things and am hearing you say…suck it up people when I’d like to hear…I’m so sorry you were hurt and disillusioned…you wanted to seek God but someone hurt and deceived you in the process. I’m sorry…but don’t give up hope…don’t lrt them steal your sweet heart for God.

  46. Mark Simmons on March 14, 2015 at 12:15 pm

    Given the recent number of “blame the band” articles I’ve seen I would add, the church is not responsible for your worship. Whether it’s traditional, contemporary or blended, the musicians are there to worship with you, not for you. It’s too loud, I don’t know the words, the guitarist played a solo (horrors!), I don’t like standing so long, etc etc etc. Join in, sing along, dance, it’ll do you no harm! It’s our choice to worship, not only musically but in all things. If you choose not to sing, please don’t blame the band/song leader/pianist. Whatever “style” of worship service your church has chosen, embrace it and participate. It might start something good.

  47. Marisa C. Hall on March 14, 2015 at 9:10 am

    I disagree with the first point. The church absolutely is responsible for helping people grow spiritually. The purpose of a church is to feed and grow people spiritually so they then can effectively go out and make more disciples. If the church isn’t helping people grow, then something is wrong with that church.

    • me on March 14, 2015 at 8:01 pm

      Funny he says that exactly, the church can help you grow. It is even in one of those silly tweet-me-boxes. His point is rather the church does not make people grow, as if there is something the church can do that undoes the actions of all members to make them grow.

      • Carey Nieuwhof on March 15, 2015 at 2:28 pm

        That’s right. The church can help…but it can’t make you. You’re responsible. The tweet box says it’s glad you think it’s silly btw.

  48. Jeremy on March 14, 2015 at 8:27 am

    Hey Carey, first time visitor here. Solid post. Though the Church has its issues, many are far too quick to point the finger.

    I did want to point out one thing though, that the wording of your five points should be adjusted. In the intro you said “here are five things people blame the Church for, but shouldn’t”, in which case your points should be something like “The Church made me cynical” (a positive statement, not a negative one as you have used, since you are aiming to disprove a point). Does that make sense? Not trying to be picky!

  49. Geoff on March 14, 2015 at 8:11 am

    What about: “I don’t have any friends at this church?”

    • christoph on March 19, 2015 at 12:16 am

      It took us a few years until we made friends at our church. Now this is the #1 item to remain at that church.

  50. Carey Nieuwhof on March 14, 2015 at 4:19 am

    You may! Thanks for asking and best wishes!

    • Tabster on March 14, 2015 at 9:49 am

      Thank-you very much! I’ll let you know when I get it done.

      Incidentally, I had forgotten I had an account with disqus, so I posted as a guest. Now I’m posting this way. 🙂 Same person, though.

  51. guest on March 14, 2015 at 12:42 am

    This article is really insulting; trivializing serious issues and placing fault on the victim instead of those actually responsible (the fellow brothers and sisters who in the church). Articles like this show how broken and faithless most mainstream churches have become.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on March 14, 2015 at 4:22 am

      Sorry you feel that way. I think when people finally take responsibility for their actions, they grow. This article isn’t about true victims (there are some for sure). It’s about people who think they’re victims. There’s a huge difference. It’s time to take responsibility and stop blaming.

    • bev on October 23, 2017 at 2:48 pm

      what i have learned is that in a domestic violent situation, the female is usually the victim. and in MOST CASES, churches do blame the victim. somehow it all gets twisted around and the victim gets blamed. i have seen enough and studied enough and am going through it myself. i think that for the most part, churches don’t understand the dynamics of DV and the abuser who is usually a male, can easily manipulate the sheep in the flock, including the pastor and staff. sometimes the abuser is on the staff. i can see to a certain extent the five items that are listed above, telling the person to look at themselves. but in a DV situation, it is a very different situation. usually female victims are re-victimized again in the church. that has been proven over and over and over and over. also the churches not sinless. in other words, people sin in the church and out of the church. so i think it’s a complex issue. yes we all make choices. but everybody is a sinner. not just the ones who leave. i say that because i believe it is a fact, not a biased fact.

  52. Uncle Pete on March 13, 2015 at 8:19 pm

    Cynical? Yup. Why? Because a prominent Evangelical Free church pastor during the 50’s and 60’s in SE Minnesota, systematically investigated girls private parts (age 8 – 12) for “signs” of pubic hair. The travesty was that each time he was confronted regarding his unusual interest in little girls, the “powers that be” chose to move the famous preacher to yet another small parish, where he repeated his offense. Until he finally retired and died, never paying for his perverted crimes.
    But hey, I guess if Jesus can forgive a murderer, his must also forgive a sordid child molester, that passed as a “man of god”. (Sounds like the Catholic Priest / alter boy scandals, no?) “Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely!” The Church, indeed…

    • Carey Nieuwhof on March 14, 2015 at 4:21 am

      That’s a horrible horrible story. I’m so sorry.

  53. Glenn Krobel on March 12, 2015 at 8:44 am

    Agreed. Personal and family devotions should be a staple of every Christian and/or Christian family. Yet sadly it is all too rare. The church is a community of faith to equip and encourage believers in Christ but they aren’t spiritual nannys. You are responsible for your own spiritual growth. Whether at home or in the workplace (or as many Christians throughout the ages–even in prison) you have a choice to spend time with God or not. To grow in Him or to fall on your sinful tendencies. To walk in the Spirit or by the flesh.

  54. David Dickson on March 12, 2015 at 8:03 am

    Lots of believers fail in keeping personal and family devotions, relying only on Sunday to carry them through. Christ needs to be your focus 24/7. Many do service work to pad a resume or look good. While doing so they lose focus on building the kingdom. These are hasty, unlearned observations I can share based on the insights I gleaned from your article.

  55. Frances Matteson-Briley on March 12, 2015 at 2:57 am

    This is so awesome,. I’m glad to see these kind of discussions. I have gone to the same church for almost 31 years, I have seen so many come & go. I think pride is a big problem for many. Instead of face it – own it, confess it, ask forgiveness for it (if to the shoe fits wear it) & walk the journey through tuff situations, take the 1st step, you feel better, dont be one who just leaves people just choose to leave, leave. It surely is important to be optimistic, & walk beside others to be their friend & become part of the solution by choice, as you have opportunity to teach & show how they can take steps to heal & build or rebuild relationships for life. Asking ourself, “how can I do a better job & be part of the solution?” One of my favorite things I quote with a bit of a change & borrowed from John F Kennedy is; “Ask not what my church can do for me, but ask what I can do for my chuch!” & “Jesus did not come to be served, but to serve.” I wonder if Kennedy borrowed it from the bible? Thanks for all the food for thought. It’s great! Feels like a breath of fresh air!!!

  56. Lots of Great Reading | Second Chance Pastor on March 11, 2015 at 3:47 pm

    […] 5. Five things people blame the Church for … but shouldn’t […]

  57. Teresa on March 11, 2015 at 12:51 pm

    Interesting read; it’s always easier to place blame than take the responsibility upon ourselves, isn’t it? ; )

  58. Lori on March 11, 2015 at 8:38 am

    Love this i need to know this thanks

  59. CHERRILYNN BISBANO on March 11, 2015 at 6:10 am

    This is a much needed article. I pray daily for many pastors and their families. I have heard many of these arguments. When the Lord gives me the opportunity to speak to a group of ladies I encourage them in the above practices. I was hurt by one of my churches and I did not want to go back. The Lord impressed upon my heart “You may not need them but they need your joy and love for the Truth of the Word.” I realized that I needed them too. The body needs to work together.

  60. Bro Tom on March 10, 2015 at 7:19 am

    Thank you. I have been in ministry over years now; most recently 15 in the same church. Sadly, I’ve observed that almost always those who leave because they are dissatisfied with something will, overtime, stunt their growth in Christ. I think this is because there are important lessons of faith that can only be learned by working through things with others–even those who have disappointed us.

  61. Shastorra on March 8, 2015 at 11:12 pm

    Thanks for this post. The church I attend has been undergoing serious growth (in size and spirituality and knowledge of the word) over the last several years. There were many times I was so hurt by leaders, members and attendees. I felt unappreciated and unseen. However, instead of leaving I asked the Lord to give me a heart of intercession. He did. I began praying constantly for the pastors, leaders and members who hurt me on a regular basis. In the last three years, I have seen God change the hardest of hearts, mend impossible relationships, and humble some of the toughest people I have ever met. And I got an added bonus…something not necessary, but a gift from the God who loves me- acknowledgment. Just this evening my pastor told me that he loves me and I have become a loving daughter to him and I have grown so much, it’s “been a joy.” This just confirms your point that I must have been part of the problem. My heart to forgive and pray blessings over those that hurt me made room for God to do a work in MY OWN HEART making it possible for me to build the relationships I had always desired. And God does new works in me and my church family all the time. I can’t keep up with the growth, love and unity. Its been an awesome ride and I wouldn’t change a thing.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on March 9, 2015 at 7:53 am

      I LOVE this comment…and the story behind it. Shastorra, you did what most people will never do…you took responsibility. That’s amazing. Wish this happened 1000x over among others every day. Thank you for sharing this.

  62. Robert Duval on March 7, 2015 at 6:37 pm

    Thank you for your post. I agree with and support what you say, both as one formerly in leadership at a church, and as a founder of a service ministry with my wife, and certainly involved at several levels. We are responsible for our choices, our spiritual and practical choices, which include at times saying “no” to further commitments. This is not always popular. Occasionally, those choices can can result in judgement by others (and more often within the church) by not meeting their expectations. So I understand both the difficulty in keeping ones heart soft, and the caution so many leaders develop in sharing and transparency. I have learned that lesson well myself and am highly selective who I share with. Thanks again.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on March 9, 2015 at 7:53 am

      Thanks Robert! I’m glad you can see it from both sides.

  63. moving on on March 7, 2015 at 1:50 pm

    Thank you for your honest and frank observations. I related to your post. I found I could grow without burning out, be more positive, forgive, and move on without attending church. I know church is important to many, but I have been asking myself, is the American Christian church relevant or even necessary today? I don’t want trendy church programs. I want Christian relationships and belonging in a community. I don’t think there’s an app for that.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on March 7, 2015 at 3:07 pm

      There’s no app for that for sure. But there’s a church for that. Hope you find it!

  64. Rev. Dr. Matthew T. Mangan on March 7, 2015 at 10:05 am

    My wife and I have been pastoring for 27 years. And your “5 Things People Blame The Church “… is sad however very accurate! Thank you! God bless you!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on March 7, 2015 at 3:05 pm

      Thanks for your faithfulness in ministry Matthew!

  65. Patrick on March 7, 2015 at 9:03 am

    God placed me in the church I have been attending for about twenty years. It has been a place where I have learned so much about who I am in Christ Jesus. However, over the years, having dealt with those in the leadership position, I know a couple of them to be insensitive at times and, in some cases, down right cruel in some of the ways they deal with the “Volunteer Workers,” of their flock. With that said, I had to deal with my own heart and to come to terms with the reason I was serving. Was I serving for mans approval or was I serving because I love my God? I still have much growing to do but, with God’s abundant grace, I will get there.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on March 7, 2015 at 3:06 pm

      Thank you for this clarification. You’re so right, this is not a condoning of abuse…far from it. It’s just our culture plays the blame game far too much. Appreciate the nuance. That’s not what this post is about. Thanks for your humility too!

  66. Keith Green on March 7, 2015 at 7:35 am

    As someone who has or is experiencing every point here, I can whole heartedly agree. After going through my situation, a number of years passed. I knew I still wanted to grow in spiritually, and fulfill what His purpose in my life. So in order to make sure my heart was right, me and my family started attending the church in question.

    Honestly nothing had changed, except cosmetics. The worship, unfortunately was the same. However, Pastors teaching was refreshing, but a few years later we are still there.

    I’ve always taken responsibility on my burn out, etc. I had to be “selfish” so to say, for a few years afterwards in my recovery stage. It is a very long story, and yes I too deal with cynicism daily.

    I have grown way beyond were I was, in this process, and looking at/ back, you can see the problems that have not been dealt with. Not just in yourself, but in other’s. You have to realize you are responsible for your life first, then your family. Pray for others (church leaders). They have to answer for their actions as well. It will not keep them from eternal Life.

  67. Harro Medema on March 7, 2015 at 6:08 am

    Thanks Carey for your 5 excellent remarks! What about adding an other one: It’s not the church versus the individual (you or me) but rather a WE – you and I are called to belong to a collective body to encourage each other to live in Jesus Christ. We simply need one another as members of the Church. And then the rest will follow.

  68. Derek Olson on March 6, 2015 at 10:08 pm

    Great post & great points! Thanx!

  69. Jon Stallings on March 6, 2015 at 10:45 am

    Amen Carey!! Thanks saying this so well. As a church we are broken people trying to minster to people who are broken. We get wrong a lot of times but there is also a lot of good. I get wrong a lot of times. Sadly it is the negative voice that seems scream the loudest. I hope we can lean to deal with negative with grace and mercy and then lead forward from the positive.

  70. Charles Hodsdon on March 6, 2015 at 10:17 am

    As a burnt out leader, I wholeheartedly agree, (though I might not have 18 months ago) One of the biggest steps in my personal healing process has been owning the fact that I let burnout happen.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on March 7, 2015 at 6:07 am

      Charles…love hearing this man. That’s PROGRESS. Keep going!

  71. PTMooreATL on March 6, 2015 at 10:02 am

    Carey – this is the best post I have ever seen on this. A very helpful balance between inconvenient yet loving truth and the convicting yet hopeful opportunity we always have to re-engage in God’s best plan for us to experience the blessing and responsibility of community. The Atlantic tribe is really looking forward to learning with you on March 20th!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on March 7, 2015 at 6:07 am

      Thank you so much PT! I’m incredibly excited and honoured to be with you. Nothing like talking leadership for a whole day…in Canada!

      • Karen Schulze on August 7, 2017 at 12:22 pm

        5 things the many church refuses to accept accountability (blame) for: 1) Creating a culture where hard questions are allowed and parishioners are expected to TRULY grow vs leading by example in terms of the desired behaviors: Tithe, attend, bring others, serve on a church club committee, talk the talk. CHeck! 2)

        • Kevin Wicker on March 14, 2020 at 3:56 pm

          I might add that we have gotten away from the Words of Jesus Himself.
          (1) Look at what He said about the validity of His Words. “Abide in Me and my Words abide in you…” “Heaven and earth will pass, but MY WORDS will never pass…” We could go on.
          (2) we have no business calling ourselves Christians if we aren’t DOING the Works of Jesus, and living out His commandments.
          When the Church returns to the basics, and the men behind the pulpit begin to exalt Christ, we will see things change. People come to church to find God. Not join some social club.

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