Disappointed With Jesus?

I just started reading the new Ravi Zacharias book Has Christianity Failed You. I have enjoyed Ravi as a speaker but I came away from the first chapter disappointed. I am not able to assess the book as a whole, since I haven’t finished it yet. But I did find myself wondering how you engage someone who is genuinely disappointed with Christianity. I know several people who fall into that category, some who are very dear to me, and have not yet discovered the secret to connecting with them on this subject.

The first step, I suppose, must be to at least acknowledge that Christianity can be profoundly disappointing. Unfortunately, we do not seem to be able to do this without adding some kind of caveat like: “Christianity may disappoint you, but Jesus never will.” I do not believe this for a moment. I find that Jesus often disappoints me. He is almost as disappointing as the church. He works out his plans without regard for my opinion of them. He has almost as much disregard for my plans. The suggestions I make for the advancement of my personal interests are frequently rebuffed. He does not rebuke me openly like Peter. Instead, my good ideas are treated, or at least seem to be treated, with silent disregard.

If I sound ungrateful, I do not mean to. It is not anger but embarassment that I feel. I do not attribute such treatment  to contempt so much as to dismissal. Like a child who has said something in the midst of adult conversation and knows by the ensuing silence that what they have uttered is foolish.

Maybe a book about disappointment with the church ought to begin with a chapter that says, “So you’re disappointed with the church? Me too. That’s not the half of it.” But I don’t know what I would say after that. Probably that I am even more disappointed with myself.

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Published by

John Koessler

John Koessler serves as professor and chair of the pastoral studies department at Moody Bible Institute. His most recent book is The Radical Pursuit of Rest published by InterVarsity Press.

12 thoughts on “Disappointed With Jesus?”

  1. I followed Ben here via facebook. I appreciate the honesty in this post. I think I fall into the “disappointed with church” category rather than disappointed with Christ. Though I try my best to be connected with the “organized” body of Christ, I find that much of my fellowship is on the fringes, among believers disconnected from the local church for a number of reasons. I remember talking to a group of dear church ladies and asking them if they’d experienced “the big no:” that prayer that was so important, the one obviously within God’s will, the eleventh-hour save that never came. They all looked at me in horror and said of course not, God would ALWAYS answer such an important prayer. Needless to say, I was shortly thereafter unwelcome there. The thing is, the deepest Christians I’ve known have experienced some really big no’s – and learned to trust God more through them. Maybe we sow the seeds of disappointment by trying to present Christ in a neatly manageable box wrapped in comforting notions and pretty pictures, rather than acknowledging the real depth of complexity of living in a fallen world – a war zone, a broken place where we’re called to faithful life, not a comfortable one. Expectations and assumptions can be cruel things if not consistent with reality.

    BTW, I’m a Moody alumn too (one semester 20 years ago, but it still counts :-)).

  2. And maybe some who are disappointed with Christianity are those who know that reality’s much bigger and wilder than what they’ve seen in Christianity. Such a shame given the true scope of the life Christ has called us to

  3. Sarah, I’m so glad you checked out the post, and I can really identify with what you wrote. That’s been a common experience and tension for me as well – Ben

  4. Honestly, one of my sons has mentioned that church is boring. This throws me into a “crisis”. Do I act in fear & rebuke my son, or do I be honest and agree with him that church is generally boring? Typically, I agree with him…although I do have fear that when he is an adult he will quit going.

    I think it is boring, to me, for several reasons. Here are a couple. I love to hear preaching (that gives us a challenge and of course is accurate theologically). However, I am bored of the church because our church does NOTHING to benefit anyone outside the walls. Our church are a group of rich people focused on our jobs, families, and sports. I can’t get anyone (except a handful of people) to help widows, feed the poor, help this poor guy rebuild his house after a fire, or to share the gospel with neighbors. I wish I could be a part of a church that was corporately on the front line, instead of worrying about the budget so much.
    However, we are about to hire a new senior who has a passion to take the gospel to the streets. I am, myself, engaged in this already & hope our church will join me.

    Anyhow, that’s why I am bored & disappointed with my church.

    Follow up question- if a church doesn’t want to do what it is suppose to, will God leave them that way?

    1. Alright Kaitlin, here comes my deluge. Post it all over the internet if you want.
      I don’t know if you are addressing me Kaitlin, but I am fairly disappointed with myself. HOWEVER, I am doing the stuff the Christian/Church is suppose to do. But my local church is doing NOTHING to help anybody. We have okay preaching (boring in my opinion, but that is more of our interim’s deal), we have a healthy youth ministry with about 100 attenders & 12 core, we have a growing kid’s ministry but that is it. We don’t care for the poor, don’t do anything for missions, when a widow calls or a homeless person, we tell them that we are unable to help, all the while a good percentage of our attenders (say 75%) drive newer cars that cost easily $40k and above. They have 2 story brick homes…huge, and in the shadow are people living on the streets. Our local church, for the most part (say 80%) are too busy to serve, too busy to share Christ. They are so self-focused that they cannot see that they are really poor. I preach on this every chance I get, I pray about this state continually, and I realize that I have my own issues BUT I have a hunger to grow. They are rich & have their kids involved in so many activities that they put God…and I’m being generous here, on the back burner of life. This is my local church.
      However, I would also say that there is a remnant of people who have joined The Cause of Christ and are sharing Christ, serving people, caring for the church, and those who have kids are training them well. I would say out of 500 people who go to our church, we have a remnant of about 60 who will serve at all.
      that is why I am bored and disappointed. If I was happy & joyful, I don’t think I would be much of a shepherd.

      Sorry to barf on this one. But it is grieving me. I love my church every chance I get, but it is a deep, tiring struggle.
      Input?

    2. I guess, all symptoms aside. I grieve over people’s hearts. They are so distracted, so unwilling to die to themselves. They think they are doing the right things, but are missing the greater purpose in life. And I do all that I can to teach, to reach, to challenge, to inspire, but it seems to do very little, if anything at all.
      When I do address the issue, I am seen as radical, out of touch, odd (except for those involved in The Cause as well). It is like I am speaking to a wall, or a foreign language. It is like I am ambassador in a county with much different customs and languages.

  5. The Pastor announced one Sunday that after the service he wanted to meet with the Church Board.After service an old lady was waiting to meet the church Pastor. The Pastor explained- ” Sorry I am meeting the Church Board” . Yeap she replied. ” If there is anybody who is more bored than I am, I would like to see him”

    I got disppointed with God a long while ago. He just seems to be so indifferent.Church Prayer meetings sounded more like shouting matches blaming Satan for everything.These days, I just read Our Daily Bread and leave it as that.No Expectation- no disappointment.Furthermore, as a Christian living under an Islamic flag, I have to hide my true colours- else myhead would end up on the chopping block- like all the others. And I am sure that he would not intervene in such a situation- because he chose not to intervene in John the Baptist execution.

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