I can believe in God, I can’t believe in the Church


So many young people are like Kay Morgan Gurr’s brother who said ” I can believe in God, I can’t believe in the Church.” How we behave today as churches will significantly impact not just the children concerned but a whole generation that follows. Kay’s brother had a toxic experience of church and it lives with 40 years later. If we de-church our young people now – we are seeing less of them come back to church later in life even when they have children of their own. The above video was recorded at the Evangelical Alliance Council meeting where we discussed the vital topic “It takes a whole church to raise a child”. Kay’s talk was part of the scene setting for the day’s discussions.

Show this video to your youth leaders and sunday school teachers. Make sure your church leadership team has seen it – because if we get this wrong we cripple this generation and the next to come.

Would love to hear your suggestions about how we make church less toxic for childhood faith – drop me a line.



12 thoughts on “I can believe in God, I can’t believe in the Church

  1. Claire says:

    Maybe we need to lower expectations of what it means to be church.

    Quite a bit of the time, people are bothered by the contrast between what we say about church and the actual experience of church. If you go to church expecting above average levels of community and support, and what you get is the usual behaviour of any group of humans when they are together, you will be disappointed.

    Church is a place where we TRY always to be loving and supportive but frequently fail because we are HUMAN. We should talk about church like that. If we talk about ourselves as if we are this amazing loving perfect community, we will only disappoint.

  2. Maybe the idea of church being toxic could be thought of as a little strong. None of us is perfect and as church we are merely a group of people fumbling towards knowing Jesus better. However, as a family we need to reflect on how we treat all the members of our family. If we cause any of them to stumble then that is serious. We need to learn grace together and to be his family, warts and all in a way that accepts and loves rather than criticises and excludes. In this way we can all learn to serve together and make a difference where we are places and no-one needs to feel that church is toxic.

  3. Nathan says:

    It’s true people love Jesus, it’s his wife they’re not to keen on. The more I think about church in the West today the more I believe we need to simply get back to basics. We have gone so far down the avenue of trying to be culturally relevant, inoffensive, socially acceptable etc. that we don’t really know who we are anymore and if we don;t how are other expected to know. If a church is doing what it is supposed to be doing (see Acts 4)then suddenly a church becomes a church again and not a social club or the like. If a church understands that the Great Commission is not go and make converts of all nations but disciples then the church has a strong power base from which to work from. If a church is also devoted to one another, devoted to God, putting the gifts of the Holy Spirit into action and giving people a genuine experience of God then suddenly it becomes extremely relevant to everyone, young and old alike. If the church concentrates on what it should be doing and does it well then the church shows society something of God rather than being a barrier between society and God.

  4. RiaD says:

    Firstly, I agree with Kay in principle on every point mentioned. She is a gifted communicator.

    However, my frame is somewhat different.

    The church is not a structure, a building or a collection of programs. It is a living breathing organism – a collection of people.

    So perhaps in addressing the church from an organizational point of view is part of the problem.

    While I do believe children need sound theology, again, it is first and foremost the parents responsibility to provide that primarily.

    Secondly as deeply unfortunate as it is that people like Kay’s brother (and my sister) exist, at some point if they are Christians, they need to take ownership of who they are and how they relate to the Body of Christ.

    As someone who has often found church toxic, it is part of my responsibility in my walk with Christ to not allow experience to shape my theology, but allow my theology to shape my experience.

    There is much healing that needs to take place in the church (ecclesia), and often we are wounded healers. I am cautious of shaping future directions on the disengaged wounded. This can be as great a mishap as any other.

    However seeking to heal and reconcile, learn from each other, and seek Gods direction for the day head, is of utmost important for modeling authenticity, forgiveness and reconciliation to the next generation.

  5. John Hillman says:

    Far too often we ignore the need of our children and youth to be involved in a prophetic community. My experience is that children and young people immersed in a holistic prophetic community where their gifting is encouraged, developed and utilised both in youth and children’s meetings and in other meetings, bless and encourage the whole community.

    My own children were once very involved in prophetic worship, both in their own youth meetings, at home and in ‘normal’ church meetings, now that they are in another church senario, they feel disengaged, and disqualified, as this is no longer the norm.

    Having said this I understand that many churches and communities do not experience the prophetic, but those that do seem to regain most of their youth and see them grow and prosper spiritually in their relationship with God.

    (Having checked this out with my 17 year old non attending daughter before I post this she is in full agreement with the above statement).

    1. RiaD says:

      Couldn’t agree more, the longer we wait to engage children with their spiritual gifts as part of the wider body, the more disengaged they become.

  6. Fiona says:

    Agree with speaker, love and acceptance the key. Or unconditional positive regard in today-speak!

  7. Dr Chris Wooff says:

    Krish, I really enjoyed being a part of the seminar series which you and Rachael led so well down in Minehead last week. In the intervening week I have been thinking about what we get right/wrong as “church” and in particular the issues around the church building.

    Many Christians would define the church as the body of Christ. Yet in reality we often think and act as if it is the building in which we meet. Has the time come to use better terminology viz “church building” vs “church”?

    Resourcing Implications
    I understand that in many cases ~90% of the financial resources of individual churches will be spent on the building! In addition much of the evergies and time of church members is spent on maintaining or replacing the fabric. This plays a significant part in moving our focus away from mission and outreach into our local and global communities.

    Maybe it is no coincidence that Christianity is flourishing in those parts of the world where, because of poverty or persecution, there are no expensive buildings to maintain and God’s people are leading the sorts of lives which He intends.

    1. krishkandiah says:

      thanks for your comments Chris – great to connect with you at Spring Harvest, agree with you on over emphasis on the building – but old habits die hard…

  8. P says:

    Hi Krish, I could email you about this but I tried to contact you not too long ago… has your email address changed? Anyway, I had to enter my address here so please let me know if you’d like me to get in touch and read/watch anything first!

    I think this is a normal experience of church. To be honest I’m surprised churches ‘suddenly’ want young people around after some YPs probably adjusted to the idea it can’t work out at church. If churches fail to encourage or welcome a YP it doesn’t mean they won’t be Christian or God won’t able to save/encourage them. I’m used to feeling my faith is completely independent of any church, working it out myself. I’m not afraid of a world where YPs don’t go to church, or where any person feels they couldn’t face church. Maybe some YPs keep going despite not having a church to attend or to help them witness to their friends/collegues. Maybe some YPs ARE Christians and they have to figure out how to do all of it themselves feeling alienated from church. Why does church ‘suddenly’ want to interefere again?

    The reason for saying this is the implications are:
    – Don’t worry God isn’t able to work around mistakes.
    – There’s hope.
    – Yes, if church now wants it all to be different then please go for it. I don’t think it really takes much dissecting. No one expects church to be perfect but that’s different from “does church care about putting right mistakes”. Endless talking doesn’t really come across the same way as changing and trying even if it all goes wrong the second and third time as well. Many people would say “church is toxic” I expect, and maybe their experience was “no we don’t want to be seen as being wrong even if this has damaged you”.
    – There’s hope.
    – No, if it’s just a reaction to low numbers rather than a reaction to “I’m worried how these people will be encouraged” then church is probably not necessary. It’s possible to ‘get by’ without having to face going to church and please don’t be afraid of this future.
    – There’s hope.

  9. Iain Strachan says:

    Yes, the evangelical church was “toxic” to my daughter’s faith, over the “big issue” nowadays of homosexuality. Though my daughter is 100% “straight” she had many school friends who were gay, and who had desperate struggles trying to resist the admission of their sexuality. She has been very supportive of them.

    And yet the church youth team impressed upon her the traditional evangelical line about homosexuality quite forcibly (youth pastor’s wife saying things like “you go and read what it says in the bible about it – if you don’t accept that then you are rejecting the bible”).

    She eventually became convinced that she wasn’t a “good enough person” to be a Christian, and to my great sadness, now self-identifies as an agnostic.

    It seems to me that many thinking young people are of a similar opinion (and indeed, the majority of my Christian Union friends from Uni back in the late 70s are also accepting of homosexuals).

    Until the Church has a radical rethink on this issue it will be seen as bigoted and prejudiced against gays, and will drive more and more people away.

    I myself still retain some connection with the church that destroyed my daughter’s faith, but have increasingly found that Quaker meetings contain more “kindred spirits”. I regret to have to make this move – in my beliefs I am probably more evangelically orientated than many Quakers.

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