Leaving the Church and Loneliness

"Loneliness" cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward
“Loneliness” cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

Because I’ve experienced it, and because I’ve observed it in the lives of so many people I’ve helped through this painful process, I’ve concluded that loneliness is the greatest issue people face when they deconstruct and/or leave the church.

Loneliness sucks!

There’s an obscure verse that is always used by the church in such situations. It’s 1 John 2:19…

“They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.”

The truth is, that verse is, in my opinion, referring to divisive people who leave.

But that’s beside the point.

I’ve always said that community is the church’s greatest asset, and its most abused one. You can walk into many churches and friends are handed to you on a platter, with all kinds of volunteer work to keep you occupied, events, potlucks, small groups, and even babysitters! 

When we leave the church, we find ourselves in the barren landscape of post-church life. 

Like many of you, when I left the church I not only left a whole network of friends, but the means by which to make them!

But, the truth is many of us were already feeling lonely before we left. We weren’t known, understood,  appreciated, or accepted for who we are. 

For many of us, our departure was not the cause of our loneliness, but the natural progression of it. 

A symptom.

Our loneliness is a product of our deep drive for spiritual independence.

In fact, I encourage such people to understand their loneliness as a good, though difficult, progression into personal health.

I’ve learned how to make new friends. It’s hard work. But it’s happening. And it’s good.

You can make new friends too.

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6 Replies to “Leaving the Church and Loneliness”

  1. The covenant is not agreement, but relationship.
    We have our given family, which, sometimes, we must leave for our own health and sanity.
    And, we have our chosen family, those whom we are willing to be transformed by and who
    are willing to be in this kind of relationship with us.

  2. The key line in your article is” Our loneliness is a product of our deep drive for spiritual independence.” As Christians we should and do depend on God for everything.The church is a great social organisation and like families create and contain a great deal of tension which is inevitable in all relationships. It is not the primary reason we go to church. It is to worship God and this tension between worship and social activities is one of the many problems the church faces.

  3. Absolutely spot on! I discovered that I am an introvert and I do keep things to myself for the most part and would reveal to a few close-hearted friends. I am who I am by the grace of God (1 Coe 15:10). And your quoted verse of 1 John 2:19 is an unfortunate one where people used it more defensively than therapeutically.

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