Help! I Feel Like an Outsider in My Church


One of the lessons that has taken the longest for me to figure out is that it's ok if you don't share all of the same opinions with those you go to church with. In fact, it's more than ok; I'd say it's a healthy sign if your opinions don't all align. We generally choose a church because we feel that we can truly fellowship with those people, and they share our views on how to honor God with our living. We want to feel unified in purpose with them. But sometimes that desire for unity morphs into wanting to be around people that look and think just like us. 

All Alike

I have had the privilege of going to multiple churches with very different sets of people. They are all unique in their strengths and weaknesses. One thing I've noticed though, as a trend, is that people within a church seem to develop a similar mentality of the best way to live life. This goes beyond any foundational principles of the faith, such as how we are saved. What I'm talking about are the grey areas. Usually, there is a favored way of schooling children, an assumption of how the members will vote, the best way to spend vacation time, etc. And there's generally a certain view within the church of what music to listen to, not to mention worship with. Some churches even start dressing like each other, or assume the use/non-use of alcohol. All of these are non-foundational opinions, and really shouldn't have a bearing on our decision to fellowship with each other regularly as the Body of Christ.

Ostracized

Sometimes, we start to notice that we don't perfectly align anymore with those in our church. After all, if we're human, we're going to change with time, and our opinions will develop at an individual rate. We see ourselves as ostracized at this point, and think we only have two options: either conform to the majority's opinions or find a church that shares our current ones. I'd say most of us choose to leave, and I don't completely blame the individual. If the church really is making you feel ostracized for a different opinion, then there is a problem in the church. But maybe the problem lies with you, in that you aren't willing to be the one that looks a little different, even if they are accepting you.

Why Do We Do This?

One slippery slope I've noticed of how a church starts to all be of the same opinions, regardless of the subject, is when there are not multiple generations present. We need old people and young people. We need children. And, beyond that, we need differing experiences. We need people that have been brought up in the church, and those that haven't. We need those that have gone to public, Christian, and home schools. And, I know this might be asking too much, but we need to be listening to an array of Bible teachers. Enough with the Piper-ites, the Sproul-ites, or the Washer-ites. We need a healthy dose of doctrine from them all, not to mention mainly from the Bible itself.

Allowing Ourselves to Be Stretched

Are you feeling ostracized? Are you feeling extremely comfortable? Neither is ideal. We need people to stretch us in our church community, and to think differently than us, but all while not making us feel unwelcome. We shouldn't feel the need to find a different church, just for the sake of differing views. Differing views are a good thing, and should be seen as healthy in the church-setting!

Some views are foundational, and if a church is willing to forego foundational truths, that is one thing. If your church is swaying from God-honoring doctrine, yes, please confront them, and then leave if that's what it comes to. But, more often than not, the reasons we start considering switching churches are differing opinions in grey areas. Jesus knew He was bringing together a random assortment of people when He instituted the Church. One of His last prayers, before going to the cross, is directly related to how we will interact with each other:

"I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me." -John 17:20-21

Being "one" doesn't mean looking identical, but loving each other, regardless, and moving towards a common goal together. Take a look around your church and try to appreciate the different backgrounds and ways of thinking that God has brought together, rather than expecting clones. It's in seeing this strange unity that the world will be inclined to believe.

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