When Church Disappoints

March 16, 2023  - By Sarah Allen

When Church Disappoints - an article from Well-Watered Women

Jodie felt like walking out of the church building and never going back. Her life was pretty tough, and she expected church to be a place of refuge, not a battleground. When she got through the door, though, there wasn’t much peace. First, someone tried to pressure her into signing up for a new meeting, and then she found that the pastor hadn’t taken up her suggestion about children’s ministry. She sat on her own for five minutes as the people around her stood in groups chatting. The one person who came to speak to her somehow knew about her difficulties at home. Had somebody gossiped?

We’ve all had those Sunday moments of frustration. Thoughtless words when you’re struggling. Someone not turning up for their duties. Practical ministry you care about done badly, or not at all. Music you dislike or Scripture read badly. A sermon poorly prepared and delivered. Obvious factions or disagreements.

Experience a few too many of these disappointments, and you ask if it’s worth showing up at all. Why bother, when there are great sermons online and fantastic worship music to download? There might even be a Bible study you can join virtually or in person. And if that gets tricky, you can walk away again. As long as you’re walking with Jesus, reading the Bible, and praying, why bother with church?

Maybe you think these thoughts but don’t do anything about them because you don’t want to face the difficult questions if you stop showing up. Or perhaps you think them and allow yourself a Sunday off occasionally. You tell others that you’re too tired from your working week to join them, but what you really mean is that you’re tired of church. You still love Jesus, but church, not so much.

Don’t Drift Away from Church

It might be reassuring to know that these feelings are common. They’re so common, in fact, that Scripture addresses them directly. The book of Hebrews is full of encouragement for Christians not to “drift away,” “grow weary,” or become “fainthearted” (Heb. 2:1; 12:3). This book tells us how Jesus saves (Heb. 9:28), how he has great sympathy for struggling people (Heb. 4:15), and how he is gentle in dealing with them (Heb. 5:2). It also makes the connection between loving Jesus and loving his church. We might enjoy the call to “draw near to God with a true heart” (Heb. 10:22) given the amazing description of his forgiveness, but we can’t escape the next verses which call us to “stir one another up to love…not neglecting to meet together” (Heb. 10:24–25). They are perhaps familiar words, but ones we sometimes want to forget.

Because we are God’s children (Heb. 12:7), then we are brothers and sisters together. “Let us run with endurance” and “let us draw near” (Heb 12:1; 10:22), we’re told in the plural. There’s little vision of an individual Christian life here. We’re born again into Jesus’ family, and we’re part of it whether or not we show up on a Sunday morning. This is no mere optional institution but a living, breathing family of rescued sinners who have potential to hurt, but even greater potential for healing. And thankfully, Hebrews doesn’t just give us commands or even reasons to make us get serious about growing together; it provides us with great motivation and method for how to do this when times are tough.

How the Church Stays United

I played in an orchestra when I was young, and we had the privilege of going on tour. I wasn’t a fantastic cellist, but despite my wrong notes, we made a tremendous sound together. Performing in a grand hall in Belgium and hearing the audience applaud as we finished playing Beethoven’s 5th Symphony was thrilling. How did forty teenagers manage to produce such a sound? The key was keeping our eyes on our conductor. If we followed his baton, we played well. Take our eyes off him, even to look at each other, and we became lost. Hebrews gives a similar command. If we want to endure in the Christian life, which includes life in the church, then we must “[look] to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Heb. 12:2). He is the Lord of his church, and he knows exactly what he is doing.

The writer of Hebrews holds Jesus up to us as a jeweler lifts up a diamond ring so we can see the light shining from different sides. He reminds us that Jesus is the One who begins our faith as its founder. Jesus did this through his death and resurrection, which brought us into his family. And he is our faith’s sustainer and perfecter—the One who covered our sins, the One who holds onto us, and the One who will bring us to “the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem… the assembly of the firstborn” (Heb. 12:22–23).

How the Church Endures

As we gaze upon this wonderful picture of Christ, we see how his plans are always for community. As I’m connected to him, I’m connected to my brothers and sisters too. This means that if my love for my church family is growing cold and my frustration is running high, opting out of community certainly isn’t God’s purpose for me. Because Jesus is the perfecter of my faith, he can renew faith in me by his Holy Spirit, giving me a faith that looks outward to his people. 

Hebrews’ picture of Jesus doesn’t only show us his power to save and sustain; it also shows us the right pattern for living with others in Hebrews 12:1–3. The text reminds us twice that Jesus endured—he endured the pain of the cross, suffering for us, and he endured persistent opposition from sinners who attacked him, plotted against him, and rejected his words. And he did all of this “for the joy set before him,” which was to welcome his family into heaven.

Jesus gives us great strength so that we can endure like him and ultimately be with him. His strength empowers us to persevere in fellowship and resist the temptation to drop out when the going gets tough. When clumsy comments are made, or when we feel overlooked, or when it just seems like a lot of hard work, remembering how Jesus kept on going can make all the difference. And as we endure, we’ll encourage others who are beginning to flag.

What does this look like in practice? Here are five tips to help you endure—and even enjoy—life in God’s family.


  • Pray for your church with thanksgiving. It’s a surefire way to inspire love. Do you dare to pray each day, using specific names and priorities in your prayers?
  • Search your own heart, remembering you are a sinner, before you scrutinize other people. Can you ask God to show you where you might be wrong in your attitude or actions?
  • If someone has sinned against you, it might be right to speak to them about it. Will you approach them courageously and humbly, seeking reconciliation?
  • Listen to your leaders, and then talk with them about any concerns you have. Before jumping to conclusions, why not ask about the reasons for their decisions?
  • Find ways to serve. Perhaps you might bring change to others, but you’ll certainly grow in relationship together!
When Church Disappoints - an article from Well-Watered Women - quote

Meet the Author

Sarah Allen (MTh, Union School of Theology) is an English teacher and the northern director of Flourish Course (a Gospel training initiative). She also leads the women’s ministry at Hope Church in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, England.


Share this Post:

When Church Disappoints - an article from Well-Watered Women - story

share this post:

Post Categories:

Fix your mind on gospel truth

and apply God's Word to everyday life with our weekly articles. Sign up below to receive the full article in your email inbox every time a new one is released!

Leave a Reply


join the

helpful links

When you sign up for our emails you will receive encouragement straight to your inbox, shop discounts just for our subscribers, free gospel-centered resources, and Well-Watered Shop updates!


give me jesus journal

the well-watered woman book

free resources

back to top

affiliate program

rewards program


contact us

refund policy


what we believe