My Struggles as a Millennial Christian

The past three Sundays have been big for me – I’ve started going to church again. It’s been hard – I’m so excited to have taken this step that I want to tell everyone I meet, but it’s also so personal and nuanced that I don’t want to draw attention to it.

My struggels

When I do tell people I tell them the half truth: “Since I don’t work for The Mouse anymore, I am free on Sundays! It works out!” I don’t mention the panic attacks. The fact that stepping foot into a church on my own would have me paralyzed in fear the night before a service. The fact that I am so terrified that people will see that I don’t belong. That they will know that I  don’t agree with them on some key issues. That I’m a feminist. That I think gay people should be able to get married. That I’m a democrat. That I am afraid of The Church.

What makes matters worse is that I am so thirsty to be in community. My soul has been aching for Jesus. My need for the gospel has never been more evident to me than right now. But getting myself to a church? For the past year that has seemed impossible.

So I’ve entered this rock and a hard place situation. I need Jesus with every fiber of my being, but I’m so terrified to open up to people who claim to love him as well. The times I have opened up, it haven’t always been great. I’ve been told to buck up. Someone I trusted watched me in the middle of a panic attack, terrified to join her at a church service, and basically shrugged it off. I went with her a few times, but when the invitations stopped coming I was sort of relieved. And I secretly thought she was too.

I look online for some sort of guidance. I click the links that my Christian friends share and I’m told that it’s my fault. I’m too much of this world. I am swept up in sin. That is why I proclaim to be a feminist. That is why I care about gay marriage. That is why I’m a liberal. That is why I’m so tolerant – too tolerant. It’s all the sin that I love and it has nothing to do with The Church. It’s me and the rest of my generation. And that doesn’t sound right, but I don’t know. Because maybe it is my sin taking over my life. Would I be able to tell if that was the case? But if that is true, well where does it leave me? I’m still stuck needing Jesus and afraid to walk through the doors of a church.

I read that it’s The Church’s job to call me out in love. But it doesn’t feel like love. It feels like rejection. Someone on the other side of the internet with a keyboard and lots of opinions about a person they have never met. I’m told that I don’t believe enough of the right things, that I’m somehow not enough of a Christian, that I’m too tolerant (I still don’t understand this one). And all this reading gets me mad and sad and again I’m left knowing I can’t go to church because what if they look at me and they know I’m not good enough?

My friend recently shared this article on Facebook and I related to so many things.

“Church, can you love us if we don’t check all the doctrinal boxes and don’t have our theology all figured out? It doesn’t seem so.

Can you love us if we cuss and drink and get tattoos, and God forbid, vote Democrat? We’re doubtful.”

This author seemed to understand how I was feeling and I felt relieved. Until I clicked on a few “related articles” that told me I only liked this article because I was selfish and materialistic and that I was doing a horrible thing by sharing it and airing my dirty laundry with the church. I am supposed to suppress my feelings and stop expecting The Church to “meet my needs.”

But isn’t that part of what a church is supposed to do – help meet the spiritual needs of Christians? It’s not the only job of course, but isn’t it one of the jobs?

I want to love The Church. I know all the biblical reasons I am supposed to love The Church. I know I am supposed to accept the fact that The Church messes up sometimes and just go with it silently.

But I am scared of The Church. I am scared of being told I am not good enough. I am scared of being told I do not believe the right things. I am scared of being told that I am not a real Christian. I’m scared of being rejected – because if the bride of Christ rejects me, where does that leave me?

I want to be clear in this post: I have had the pleasure knowing and loving some amazing Christians in my life who have loved and supported me, who have tried to help me the best they could with this issue and others. I have been in some amazing bible studies with women who supported and loved each other. These people, some of whom may be reading this, these people are NOT what this post is about.

This post is about The American Church with a capital “C.” The Church is always admonishing me online because I’m a feminist, a liberal, a spoiled millennial. And The Church with a capital “C” is very ready to come at me and tell me all my faults in love.

I am still scared of The Church, but I crave Jesus, so I am praying for strength. I have found a church that I like. It isn’t too big to intimidate me, they love the bible, and I am going. I am getting in the doors. I’m not really talking to people yet, but I know that will come.

And after reading a few choice articles this week I decided to share this struggle because I doubt I’m the only one stuck in this weird nebulous space of needing Jesus so badly but being terrified of The Church. And if there are other people struggling with this, well then maybe knowing we are in this together will help us get over the fear and back in the doors of a church.

12 Responses to My Struggles as a Millennial Christian

  1. Olivia says:

    It’s like you’re speaking from my soul. I’m right there with you love, but you’ve gotten a few steps further than me. I still use The Mouse and his need for me to work Sundays as an excuse. Sure, there are day masses for me to go to, but I always have an excuse. Thank your for sharing this, take comfort in knowing you are far from alone in your feelings.

  2. Amanda says:

    I TOTALLY relate to this! I haven;t gone to a service in years before I feel so condemned and judged by the church community, even though I still have faith in God. It’s tough to see such hatred among Christians and still be strong enough to be a good Christian yourself when there are so many issues diving people these days and it seems impossible to just let everyone be who they are. I always say love eachother and let God be the judge, but it sure seems like I’m in the minority so often with that, and it’s awfully hard.

  3. I’ve already told you how much this post means to me. And how much I can relate. And how many people I personally know who can relate. But again, thank you for putting into words the tough feelings that come along with a situation like yours or someone who has once been hurt by The Church. I love you. A lot.

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  6. As a fellow millennial Christian who spent the first 18 years of her life in a very legalistic church, I understand your pain. The unfortunate truth is that The Church is badly broken, and will never be able to love you as perfectly as her Bridegroom loves you. There will always be those who judge and hate. But there will also always be those who shine Christ’s light into your darkness and help you thrive. The Church is far from perfect, but the body of Christ is where we find community, discipleship, teaching and growth. I’m so happy to hear that your thirst for Jesus brings you back each Sunday. I pray that you will be surrounded by true believers and that you will be part of the revival you wish to see in the church! Thanks for sharing – I know that I and so many others identify with what you’re saying!

  7. Dan Neves says:

    Liz, You remind me of my daughter.
    My fearful times were in my late twenties. As I listened to the Sunday sermon the Holy Spirit brought Scriptures to mind that severely limited or totally contradicted the Pastor’s take on it.
    I thought I was evil beyond reclamation or going insane. I spent my week studying the Bible to recover from the Sunday sermon.
    One Sunday I walked out to my car after the service. The driver’s door was wide open! The keys were still in the ignition! And the engine was running!

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