© 2011 John Casimir O'Keefe

Why I Left the Church and Other Points about the Failing Church in American

This move has been several years in the making; well, it has actually been a life time in the making. Over that time I have tried hard to fit into what we are calling “the church” these days, and each and every time I have either been ignored or insulted. After a certain period of time one just gives up, walks away and, to be honest, never looks back. I guess I am at that point. I have tried hard to reach out to all kinds of churches; you name it – conservative, liberal, open and affirming, missional, emerging, and denominational.

Why? Well, that is rather simple. You see, what I have seen, heard and experienced has caused me to wonder about the Jesus they speak about, his message as they preach it and those who claim to follow him. Those things just don’t click with what I have read and understand about Jesus. There is just too little connection to the teachings of Jesus and what the church spews from the pulpit. Here is what I am talking about.


I see Jesus as a Savior of all; they see Jesus as an Insurance policy

You see, I view Jesus as a savior for all people, regardless of who they are or where they are walking, no strings attached. Those in the church would say that they believe Jesus is also for everyone also, but they would put a condition on that salvation; not so much strings, but huge pieces of rope.

Now, you can tag me a Universalist if you like, I’m good with that because to be honest that is just another way the church tries to control people. The reality is, for the church, if you are not buying your insurance policy from the right church, you are just going to have the right coverage. In that, Jesus is seen as an insurance salesman, selling some kind of “after life policy” or “fire policy” or some kind of “get rich quick” policy to help cover your assets. I have actually heard pastors preach that following Jesus was an insurance policy against going to hell – fire insurance.


I see sharing my faith through making honest friendship that has meaning; the churches see it as a multilevel marketing game.

For me, the idea of sharing my faith is not based on the number of people I bring to the church, but it is based on making honest, open, lasting friendships that have meaning to me and the other person. I do not try to “convince” others to follow Jesus; I simply want to know each person God places before me and share my faith if they ask about my faith. But too many churches strive to get members to bring others into the church. At one church I visited the pastor actually told people that if they did not bring people to the church when they stood before God on judgment, God would want to know why they failed.


I see the church as an organic life form; they see the church as a Limited Partnership; “Church, LP”

The Church is a corporation driven by their By Laws, Constitution, Profit (call it what you like), and are driven by their 501c3 status and tax breaks. They see the church as a company, to be ran like a company. In the past, when something happened and the church needed to take a stance, I have been involved with churches that have said, “Well, it might say that in Scriptures, but our By-Laws say we have to do it this way…” Many churches fall on their by-laws as a way to be the church. Many of the churches I have consulted with have taken their by-laws from much larger church, many years ago, and simply replaced their name for the larger churches name. But more than the by-laws, the church is held prisoner by their desire to be a 501c3.

Imagine if your pastor told you that the board decided to give up its 501c3 and that your contributions would no longer be tax deductable. What would you do? Would you keep giving, knowing that the tax break was gone? Most of the mega churches would get hit hard, so hard they would close. But the 501c3 status requires the church to follow the rules setup by the government.


I see Jesus as the center of unconditional love; they place major conditions on love

The way I see Jesus, and his teachings, love is unconditional. Meaning, there are zero, none, zip, nada conditions placed on that love – none whatsoever. We must live out of faith journey seeking to develop that kind of love, but most churches place a condition on that love. One of the biggest conditions they place on love is their understanding of “sin.” The idea is that God does not love those who sin. But that causes a great many issues – the biggest is that they also teach that everyone is born a sinner. Given that, God would love no one, yet we know that is not true.  But it is a teaching the church uses to control those in the church and exclude those outside the church.


I see the teachings of Christ as life changing; they see the teachings as the core of a political party –

It does not matter which party you point to, they are all involved. Conservatives see Jesus as a Republican, Liberals see Jesus as a Democrat and Independents see Jesus as independent. The idea of seeing Jesus as Jesus does not work well with many who desire to place him in a particular political party. The idea that Jesus, or his teachings, would support a particular political party seems so outside my understanding of Jesus.



Putting Jesus in a box has caused me to rethink my desire to be involved with the church. The idea that the church seems to have missed the whole idea about who Jesus is, and why he came, seems to have driven out many people – and more to come. For this to change, the church needs to stand for the teachings of Jesus and not what they desire those teachings to be. We need to focus on love, grace and forgiveness and not connect them with an insurance policy.


  1. Rowlandville
    Posted 2011/06/09 at 11:07 pm | #

    Okay. I am a liberal, too. But I had to respond to this post.

    You say that the church is trying to make Jesus into what they want him to be. You then espouse your own opinion of who Jesus is and what his mission was/is; and, frankly, I think that you are simplifying his mission and placing it into a framework that is not, biblically-speaking, supported – at least not completely.

    Like I say, I am a liberal Christian, too. So I’m not here to condemn your beliefs. But when you allow the flaws in others to drive you from church and then announce and justify your actions to your readers, you are sending out a message that says sin should be allowed to triumph over Christ’s body, which is the church, which is instructed to gather together.

    Nobody is perfect. No Christian is perfect. No institution with Christians as members is perfect. We’re all flawed. We’re all failing daily if not hourly. Walk away for a while if you need to. But don’t condemn the body and its institutions because it has a proclivity toward sin. That’s why we need a redeemer. That’s why he came. And to give sin the power that you are giving it is to walk away from our mission to walk in unity in his name.

    Some Christians make it hard to embrace them. REALLY hard. As a liberal, there’s a whole group of people who I want to strangle because they twice voted for Bush and still vote for the wealthy and against the poor and the planet because they are so easily manipulated by men with ulterior motives. And, yes, it’s probably better that I don’t go to church with people who loudly proclaim that stance. But joining with others who come closer to my views, despite their own imperfections, teaches me humility and grace. And my views, which they disagree with, teaches them the same. (And maybe one day, I’ll attend a church where George Bush lovers attend and announce their stances so that I can learn even more humility and get bunches and bunches of grace.)

    Peace, Bro. Don’t throw out the baby (Jesus) with the bathwater.

  2. Posted 2011/06/10 at 6:46 am | #

    So many good and true points, John. I think in sharing our frustrations we can move toward reforming our ways and means.

    There have been many areas where the church in the U.S. has got it wrong. I have wondered quite a bit why God purposefully picks such flawed creatures to share his message of love, the Good News. Rather than push me to despair, it now gives me a deeper sense of God’s grace, and his Almighty power to put things to rights in the end. I wrote this post about 5 Mistakes ppl makes when they think about leaving their church. I hope it brings encouragement to you or others at the crossroads or crosshairs. peace, brother. http://is.gd/rEZLBs

  3. Posted 2011/06/10 at 8:26 am | #

    To respond to previous comment “sin should be allowed to triumph over Christ’s body, which is the church, which is instructed to gather together.” Nothing can triumph over the Body of Christ, which does not equate to the people gathered in churches on Sunday. We know there are people in church BUILDINGS who do not believe and people outside who do. We know that church is not a building at all, and believers could meet in a park, at a restaurant, at home and it is the “called-out ones assembled.” Another, more basic question-did Jesus come to start a RELIGION?

  4. Albert Coburn
    Posted 2014/06/26 at 10:10 am | #

    I too have give up on Church. I found the perfect Church in the Disciples of Christ,but there is none in my area where I am at now,since my now wife is a Baptist,I lied to My God and went back to a SBC Church.(Thank God I was not held to my vow like Jeptha). I have been very unhappy at Church,locking horns with the women,who run things,and their spineless Husbands,and the legalists and Pastor who keep telling me I am wrong. Jesus died for everyone,a belief sadly,some put on paper. The only solace that I have is teaching Sunday School to the Elders of the Church. I tried to follow the Lifeway publications,but am so frustrated that the authors of these things try to stretch the Bible around a doctrinal point. So I take their scripture references,research them and present what the Bible really says. I drove one legalist bat-crap crazy,he “got fed up and couldn’t take it anymore” and went to another class.Church talks about getting people in,if they don’t fit the mold they want you to conform,they try to run you off from there.I have to sit in the congregation with people.who I know HATE me and despise me,it justs makes me sad that people slap Jesus as he is dying on that cross.

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  1. By Card Jungle Blog on 2011/06/10 at 2:54 am

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