Today I find myself in Anaheim, CA hanging out with the in-laws. When I woke up in the hotel this morning I decided to go check out Saddleback Church started by Rick Warren. Saddleback is the 8th largest church in the USA with just over 19,000 people in attendance. I have not heard a lot about the church, just that it is large and that Rick wrote the Purpose Driven Life book, which I have not yet read. So, at 11:00 I hopped in the mini-van and headed to church.

The thing about Saddleback is that it is a multi site campus church, so there are a few different buildings. The building I went to was at a hotel in Anaheim approx.. 5 minutes down the road. When I pulled up it was like all large churches I had been to. There were direction signs, parking attendants and lots and lots of cars in the parking lot. I parked the car and found my way into the sanctuary. There was a band on stage singing praise music and then a dude who I’m assuming was the campus pastor came up and lead a closing prayer before speaking. It was at this point that I got up and walked out.

I have been a follower of Jesus since I was 10 years old, I am now 39. I love Jesus and I love church, so why did I walk out of Saddleback? Was it because their theology was off? Was it because they asked me to drink the KookAid? No, none of these things. I walked out because I just couldn’t relate, I felt like I was out of my world and interest. I thought about it for a while before I left and I even felt bad for walking out. I asked myself “if you love Jesus why would you walk out of church?” “If you are a Christian why don’t you enjoy this?” Then a thought came into my head.

I love music. I always have loved music and I love going to shows to hear others play music, yet even though I love music so much you would never find me at a Mariah Carey concert. This is how I felt at Saddleback, I felt like I was at a Mariah Carey concert. This is not a bad thing, or a slam against Saddleback, it is just a great representation of the church. The church is a bunch of  people with different tastes, colors, styles and methods all trying to serve Jesus and make him known to the world.

I didn’t like Saddleback, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are serving Jesus and their community in the best way that they know how. It also doesn’t mean that I can judge the church and Christians by this one experience, which I feel that a lot of people do. If you don’t like your church don’t complain, just find a place that you connect with. Find a place that you can get involved in and that is good for you, your family and the community of believes you chose to do worship with. I thank God for Saddleback, I also thank God for the church that we are involved in, a church very different than Saddleback, but still a group of people loving and serving Jesus in the best way they know how.

Picture by Turnback To God

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2 comments so far on “Why I walked out of Saddleback mid service

  1. Alice says:

    Phil, I appreciate your honesty here, but must admit that I find your response pretty discouraging. While I appreciate you affirming that there was no fault with Saddleback, you made a couple of statements that concern me.

    First, you equated churches to music genres, as though worshiping God was just another consumer option among many. While this might be true in how the culture functions, you commented on it as though it was an acceptable dynamic. I find that to be tragic. Sure, there are different expressions, but the “genre” differences should not be encouraged.

    Second, and more importantly, is that you walked out. Sure, you didn’t connect with the worship, but it was just that- worship of God. Like it or not, it was about God, not you. You couldn’t give up an hour to honour God (and those who DID resonate with that context)?

    I don’t want to sound judgmental, but I simply was surprised to read this from you.

  2. philter says:

    Good morning Alice, thanks so much for reading the blog and for posting your thoughts. I guess I am a bit taken back, but in reading my post again I can see where your thoughts come in. I in no way was trying to come down on the church, I was just wanting to point out the different styles of worship and bodies.

    As far as equating church with music genres, I am not saying in any way that God is just another consumer option, I was saying, in all humility (i hope) that there are different styles and bodies of worship within the church. I do think it is true that different churches reach different people with the same gospel in different ways and see this is good.

    The fact that I walked out I don’t think is bad. I sat at the back as I arrived late (got lost on the way). I said hello to people and stayed for the worship/praise time. I walked out when they were asking people to greet the people beside and around them. I was very sensitive in this as I didn’t want to distract. I also didn’t walk out angry or frustrated, i walked out for a few reasons. One is that, as I said in the post, it was a different style and way of church than I am used to. I went out of curiosity and wanting to be at a service on Sunday.

    I don’t want to defend myself, I just wanted to clarify. I don’t like to bring strife and conflict, I just wanted to post what I see as the diversity in the body and that if you are not in a body of believers (in a church) that you feel you can relate to, or feel that you want to give to then you should pray and find a place that you can call home. I also understand that it is about God and not me, I appreciate your comment on that.

    Thanks Alice, I would love to hear your response to this.

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