How I Became a Troublemaker

paradise troubleMy life, my vocation, my identity, and the church have always been intertwined. I finally came to the realization that somehow these things had to be unwound. Being my vocation was just too painful. My emotions, sense of worth, and well being would rise and fall like the tide, depending on how things were going with me and the church. I loved it, devoted my life to it, studied it, was fascinated by it, and defended it. But it spurred my advances and rejected me, leaving me cold and lost.

I spent thousands of dollars to get an education that was only any good for being a pastor and quite useless in finding any other sort of job. I was taught about the importance of doctrinal purity that didn’t matter to people in the real world. I had decades of valuable experience that those outside the church completely disregarded.

A deliberate attempt to sway people to their point of view by well-meaning, but very mixed up people took me and an entire church down. My ideas for improvements in the church were only accepted as far as they fit into the existing structures and I always saw beyond those structures.

I still loved the church deeply, yet I was branded a troublemaker, someone angry at the church, someone who had some bad experiences and was now just a pissed off dude, trying to make his case.

My journey took me places I never dreamed, caused me to ask questions I had never thought of before, and led to changing my perspective on church and even my theology. Sometimes, I wished it had never happened because my life was so much simpler before.

Just a couple of years ago, it occurred to me that I was like a bird who had been set free from his cage but refused to fly around the house and out the open door into the wild and beautiful unknown. Instead, I kept trying to get back into the cage. The cage was the institutional church or conventional expressions of the church.

I wanted church leaders to listen to me. I wanted them to care about all those who felt disenfranchised by what should be the most accepting community on earth. I wanted them to make the necessary adjustments so the church could recapture a place of relevance in the culture. My ideas were full of common sense and were always sparingly shared in ways that were respectful of church leadership, but I never could get very far as a reformer.

Eventually, I became an outsider; because I couldn’t find a church I wanted to have anything to do with. I knew I would be a huge hypocrite to attend.

Church seemed like a game, a rather silly one. It involves spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to hire professionals and build buildings dedicated to insider purposes used only a few hours a week. It centers on a pep rally designed to get you feeling happy about your relationship to God and/or guilty about always falling short of his standard, and motivated to give money to the organization. The presentation was the main thing and was carefully crafted to illicit a desired response. The goals were to get you involved in programs and classes to help you learn how to be a better church member and to get you participating in things that would help to maintain or build the church organization. That no longer held my interest.


About Glenn

Glenn Hager is a blogger, former newspaper columnist, and author of two books, An Irreligious Faith and Free Range Faith.
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  1. Thank you for this post, as it really hits home for me. I have been struggling with church for quite some time. My beliefs are not affected, just what church has become for me.

    • Dale – We are a part of large and growing tribe. I think you will enjoy Finding Church, which is due to be published next month. I have a chapter in it entitled, “My Epic Ecclesiastical Adventure” and I am in the editing process for my first full length book entitled, Irreligious, which should be published in the next few months.

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