Unlearning Church

There’s a common saying: “the more you learn, the less you know.” But I would say “the more you learn, the more you need to unlearn.” Such is definitely the case with being a “church-ian.”

A “church-ian” is someone who’s acclimated the way he/she does church. Dressing up on Sunday, being nice, trying not to cause trouble, saying the right church-ian cliches (“praise the Lord”, “I’ll pray for you”, etc.), and resisting change and always doing things the way it’s been done before.

But there are so many things we need to unlearn and relearn, especially when we get older. It’s ok to have doubts about your faith. It’s ok to be unhappy but emotionally heathly as a follower of Christ. It’s ok to talk to the pastor and give honest feedback instead of hiding your opinions. It’s ok to challenge biblical interpretations that were passed down from generations ago but are now being seen in new light (for example, I hope people mis-interpreting Revelation 3:20 as a passage saying Jesus is coming into an unbeliever’s heart, or using Matthew 18:20 to mean that God’s presence is somehow summoned by a group of people praying). It’s ok to be new and be renewed.

Stability is good, but don’t fall in love with stability. Look for sensible change. Look for unanswered questions. Look for unasked questions. Look for unexplored possibilities. Look for new ways to know God. Look for new ways to express God’s character and God’s glory. Look for something you don’t know. Look for someone you thought you know but should reconsider and reknow it deeper.

We need to be thankful for opportunities in life when we get to be new and innocent and to start things over. For example, my church is about to have a semi-big startover: changing our Sunday schedule around to start at 9:30am instead of 10:45am, and adding a Sunday school/training session between worship service and luncheon. Some people respond to this saying “It’s too early for me!” or “Why such a big change?” But all I think of is: I’m thankful for change, because big changes don’t come often enough in life. In the process of change, we get to unlearn somethings we know about church and to unlearn somethings we know about ourselves.

Ultimately, I don’t want to be a church-ian.


4 thoughts on “Unlearning Church

  1. good point Tim.  But just like falling in love with stability for the sake of stability, falling in love with changes for the sake of changes can be just as dangerous.  The only One we should be falling in love is with Jesus and His words.  If He wants me to change certain things, I’ll change for Him, and if He wants me to avoid changing certain things, I’ll listen to Him as well.  Don’t change because the world tells us, but rather by the “renewing of our mind” (Romans 12:2)
    There are nothing wrong with saying “praise the Lord” or be nice to your brothers and sisters, as long as they are coming from the heart and you clearly know why you are saying/doing them.

  2. Of course change for change’s sake is not a good thing.

    But what do you mean by “the world tells us” vs. “Jesus tells me”? Are they mutually exclusive? How do you distinguish between them?

    The main point I want to talk about, though, is “the church tells me”. And “the church tells me” may not always be right. We could hear certain things church-ians say stuff and do stuff in the church and we duplicate it without knowing why or without even knowing that it’s ok to question it. And that’s bad and that sometimes needs to be unlearned.

  3. oh definitely.  we are following God and His Written Words, not following the church, the church rules, or the church leaders.  The tricky part is, the Bible did teach us to obey our authorities.  We’d sometimes have to pray and decide whether sometimes some of the teachings and rules are unbiblical and whether they should be corrected in a loving way.

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