How Great Thou Aren’t

By Reba Phelps

Just like people, churches come in many different shapes and sizes. Churches have evolved over the years to appeal to the many different styles of worship. Some newer churches have that unsuspecting curb appeal with a store front look and some even have a rodeo arena to appeal to the cowboys. Some older churches may have an impressive steeple with a historic look that says people have been worshiping here for decades or even centuries.

But, there is one thing that all churches have in common. Church folk. In fact, it is almost impossible to have a church without the church folk.

Being raised as a preacher’s kid for most of my childhood, I have had a front row seat (literally front row seat) to witness the many different kinds of church drama and have met a myriad of different types of church folk. I have personally witnessed countless forms church hurt on all different levels of seriousness.

There was the not-so-serious baby who kicked and screamed his way through Sunday Service every week because his mother refused to partake of the free child care available in the nursery. Surely this child has grown into a world renowned opera singer based on his lung workouts back in the day.

I kept silently praying the mother would leave but she hung in there every single week. I do not remember a single scripture or song from those services but I do remember not wanting children for many years.

There was the church scandal that involved some unholy hooligans who so mischievously carved their initials in most all of the church pews. A certain preachers child spent many hours scraping gum out from under the bottom of pews that bore her initials and some that did not. Some churches have now starting using chairs covered in cloth and if I had to bet the farm, I would assume it was because gum doesn’t stick as well to cloth as it does to wooden pews.

I have witnessed my dad leave his home church because he felt he was called to another church only to be let down by church folk who weren’t so well meaning. I have watched church members leave because they were offended at the messages being delivered from the preacher. I have seen people leave church because the parking lot was not paved or they didn’t like the new color that the walls were painted.

I have sat through too many Sunday School prayer list turn gossip sessions to count. Church folk mean well but can also mask a multitude of biblical misdemeanors in the name of The Lord. “Please pray for them… I heard they were……” is one of the most commonly used and accepted by most.

By far, the saddest of all of these scandals are the ones where the good church folk are run off by the not-so-great church folk. Church folk on church folk crime.

The church has always been blamed for the hurts of many people who swear they will never darken the doors of those buildings again. The truth of the matter is that it was church folk who hurt you not the church. When you are looking for reasons not to attend church you can always find one and it is easy to blame the church as a whole.

As long as we attend church for the people within those walls we will always be hurt. When we are setting our eyes on humans and not on the creator we will never have peace and will always be at odds with our fellow church goers over the simplest of reasons.

There is freedom to be found when we start attending church to renew our souls, to show love to others just as Jesus did and worship in our own way without caring what the person next to us is thinking or doing.

No matter how much we try and pray we will never be able to make the church folk sitting on the pew next to us great……but we can start with changing ourselves. We can love others even when we are not loved. We can pray for others when they do not even ask for it. We can be the church folk that we wish we could see in others.

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” – Mathew 6:33

13 thoughts on “How Great Thou Aren’t

  1. I wrote a book by the same name, available on and Kindle. It’s a quasi-fictional story about a choir director who is burning out on the “churchy” people he has to deal with on a daily basis.

  2. Spot on Reba. I was raised in a different faith as my husband. In trying to experience his faith, I tried a different church. I felt so uncomfortable. First off, we sat in a persons seat & was “told” to move. Then the pastor gave a dressing down on attire to wear. I left feeling so unworthy to ever return & didn’t. I’ve come to embrace our different faiths, but that experience has stayed with me.

    • Ann, that is so awful! It’s ironic too because I started to mention, “and God forbid you sit on someone’s pew that they have owned for decades”…..sad 🤭 But I’m so glad it did not deter your faith 🙏🏾

    • Wonder why they weren’t already there in their seat. Very rude for them to tell you to move. Not very Christian. And in church at that.

  3. Well said, Reba. Unfortunately, there are hundreds if not thousands who’ve sworn off of going to church because of “church hurt.” Some have even turned against Christianity because they encounter nothing but intolerance, not the love Christ commanded us to show. It seems like some preachers enjoy the attention they get from saying cruel things and ought to get back to spreading the message of hope through Jesus.

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