Why I Can’t Do Church Anymore

by | Nov 20, 2013 | Uncategorized


Whenever they see me among the crowds, they call out to me by name, greet me with a knowing smile and wrap their arms around my shoulders. Satiating a growing curiosity, they ask about recent trips, inquire about the kids; ask what they can do to help me. While others wait patiently for a personal portion of hospitality, they remain steadfast in their genuine interest,  eyes locked through each of my sentences. Women who have learned the fine art of pastoring, and I’m not talking about Christians greeting newcomers on Sunday.

I’m talking about the women who wear sophisticated black jackets and stand on their feet all day behind makeup counters. They tell me that they know more about eyeliner and hydrating lipstick than they know about Jesus.

Our interactions have become more than sales transactions. I can’t shop anymore without seeing the way Jesus loves people standing beside cash registers.

They don’t know it but I’ve prayed through each of their hardships as they’ve revealed them. For one of them: the brutal season of walking through stages of healing from a recurrence of cancer, wearing hats to cover up the baldness framing a beautiful face. For another: the slow recovery process and finding new rhythm after hospitalization from a heart problem.

Last week, I was asked the same question in separate private conversations over glass cabinets. “What does your husband do?”

After I repeated, my husband is a pastor who is the equivalent of the CEO for a church planting movement in North America, one of them admitted to knowing very little about Jesus or religion while another asked me what I do in the church.

I had to think about that before I answered.


For me, doing church is an illustration in slothful living, not laziness but mindless busyness, a check on a list for your week. Something expected while the heart has become detached, like the child’s art hanging on your refrigerator door for months that is now commonplace and invisible to your senses. Upon first glance, it took the centerpiece of daily living and then you became numb to the transcendent beauty every time you opened the door and fed yourself.

I told her that I don’t do church anymore, I try to be the church to people. I write words that help people think differently about life, offer consolation to people who are hurting through expectant prayer, mentoring, coaching, and speaking. And I go to church because I need to experience Jesus in community to understand the riches of his presence.

In essence, I told her I change the artwork often because my soul needs perspective.

I handed her a business card when she asked me for it. She held it up between each of her forefingers perched underneath her chin. With a grin on her face she commented, “I always knew there was something different about you, you have a presence about you that I couldn’t quite put my finger on, but now I know what it is.”


It is often in the moments you least expect, like accepting change from a sales clerk in your cupped hand, that God reveals the mystery of himself. If we’ve only known His presence in the posture of praise from the pew, we have condensed his power into the constraints of our own thinking and made him as small as the contents of our experience.

As I stood behind the counter at the pharmacy last week, the car idling with my son scrolling on his phone in the passenger seat, the pharmacist began telling me his story of heartbreak while he was scouring shelves for my prescription. He admitted he is reinventing himself when he should be retiring because someone was unjust in their decision making. As he handed me a white paper sack filled with precious contents, he asked me a question, “What does your husband do?”

I can’t do church anymore because I am compelled to be the church to a world who needs the hope of Jesus.

Linking with Jennifer and Emily.


Subscribe for Shelly’s stories and free resources here: https://shellymillerwriter.com/free-resources/


  1. Laura Boggess

    She was right, you know. You have a presence that just oozes grace, Shelly. Beautiful.

    • kelli woodford

      yes. my thoughts exactly, Laura.

      • Shelly Miller

        Love you Kelli, thanks for believing in me. Your friendship is one of God’s blessings in my life.

    • Shelly Miller

      You are so good to me Laura, such a dear friend. I think we would be best friends if we lived in the same town. Love you!

  2. Caryn Jenkins Christensen

    Mmmm, mmm, mmm. This really speaks to my heart Shelly. We were never, ever intended to do church. We ARE the church. So many nuggets here. This one made me pause and read it over and over…”Upon first glance, it took the centerpiece of daily living and then you became numb to the transcendent beauty every time you opened the door and fed yourself.”
    I love how those folks over the counters and behind the registers are seeing the real face of Jesus…because you are being Jesus to them. Simply beautiful.

    • Shelly Miller

      You know, when they asked me that question, I really wasn’t in the mood to answer it if I’m totally honest, but I was trying to listen and be attentive to the Spirit. I’m glad I didn’t push it off now.

      • Caryn Jenkins Christensen

        I love your honesty Shelly. I think being Jesus to the world is often inconvenient. But listening and obeying the tug of the Holy Spirit…that’s when God uses us most effectively. 🙂

  3. Glenda Childers

    Being the church is so much more rewarding than doing church.


    • Shelly Miller

      It’s one of the most, if not the, most fulfilling things I do in life. I have a hard time gong through the motions of a church service without being expectant.

  4. Nannette Elkins

    My husband has preached for years “the Church isn’t a building, THE Church is YOU, it’s ME!” And thank God when people we come into contact see that in us! If we do not take Jesus with us outside of those four sanctuary walls we are sorely missing the point of Christianity and the Gospel. Jesus most definitely wants us to gather together for fellowship, community, to hear the preached Word which is able to save our souls. But the rest of our week we are to be LIVING the Word, BEING the Light that He has put within us.

    Your post is the opposite of one I wrote a few weeks ago titled “We Don’t Do the Church Thing”, when I ran into a lady that said those exact words. She said she she believed in God, her kids were privileged to be able to still say the pledge of allegiance in school and even attend an off-sight Christian education class while attending a public school. She said they had Bibles in her house, they don’t read them though because “we don’t do the church thing”. Broke my heart because I wondered what causes many like her to stay away from the Church? Hurt? Abuse? Laziness? Hypocrites?

    As a former pastor’s wife I have seen all of those things but I can’t allow people to keep me from the benefits that the Church has to offer. I pray we can BE the Church again and give hope where it is needed in this dark world! Thanks for a wonderful and encouraging post! ♥

    • Shelly Miller

      There is a trend of people choosing not to go to church for many reasons as you know Nanette, but I think as leaders we have to press into hearing his voice about why that is, not because we are here to meet the needs of everyone, but because He is moving differently than what we have experienced in the past. And I want to be part of what he is doing among his people, not stuck in my own ways of seeing Him. May we always have open hands and hearts to hearing his voice and following.

  5. pastordt

    Well, exactly. YES. “Be” the church, not ‘do church.’ Beautifully said, Shelly. Thank you.

    • Shelly Miller

      Thinking about you this morning Diana and praying for you. That’s how I’ll be the church to you today.

  6. Lynn Morrissey

    Amen, Shelly. Amen! We *are* the Church. We *are* His Body, living and breathing in the highways and biways and make-up counters of life. I have this sense that if I am with someone for more than five minutes, it is not a chance encounter, but rather, it’s because God has given me a privileged opportunity to share Christ’s love. I’ve done much of my sharing in the hydraulic chair of a beauty salon. One day, after many years of getting my hair “done,” my stylist called me at home to pray to receive Christ. I had talked about Him routinely (is there any such thing?!), whenever she cut and styled my hair. I’ve shared about Christ in ck-out lines, on airplanes, and even recently on a walk around our block, where I met a neighbor, originally from a foreign country. She had not yet met Jesus. Somehow, when we don’t “do” church, as you say, but *are* the church, no one remains foreign from each other. We’re all in this life together, all somebody for whom Christ died. Thanks for your wonderful example, Shelly. You are such an inspiration!

    • Shelly Miller

      This doesn’t surprise me Lynn, I can easily imagine you sharing your exuberance for living life for Jesus in every place you frequent. Your joy and generosity is contagious. I’m so thankful to have experienced some of it in my life.

      • Lynn Morrissey

        Shelly, after I posted this, I thought it might be misunderstood (I didn’t think that when I posted–just sharing my heart). I’m so glad you heard me in the way that I intended this–NOT boasting in me, but boasting in the Lord. I am so blessed to have you in my life!

  7. Kathy Schwanke

    Beautiful Shelly. You have a beautiful heart evidenced in its overflow here. Glory to God!

    • Shelly Miller

      It’s not always so beautiful Kathy, especially on mornings I can’t get my teenagers out of bed for school. Ha!

  8. Michelle Soto

    It is often in the moments you least expect, like accepting change from a sales clerk in your cupped hand, that God reveals the mystery of himself. If we’ve only known His presence in the posture of praise from the pew, we have condensed his power into the constraints of our own thinking and made him as small as the contents of our experience.
    ….This. This is why I just can’t ‘do’ church anymore either.

    So beautifully written. Thank you.

    • Shelly Miller

      My prayer is that we will remember those we make eye contact with across counters as hungry for Jesus breaking into their lives as much as we are. Thanks for visiting Michelle.

  9. Amy Young

    This encourages me … The fragrance of Christ spreading. And has me hoping people sense Christ in me too.

    • Shelly Miller

      I don’t even have to know you face-to-face Amy, to know that you ARE the fragrance of Christ to people. You share Him well.

  10. Mary Gemmill

    I’m right there with you, Shelly- being Christ to people is also my way to ” do” church, so I am honoured to be in such esteemed company 🙂
    BTW your blog is one of my all time favourites.
    I think that those who suffer the most somehow have the most to offer.

    May The Strong God—may He give you His blessings,

    Blessings tumbling out of the skies,

    Blessings bursting up from the Earth— blessings of breasts and womb.

    May the blessings of your father exceed the blessings of the ancient mountains,

    Surpass the delights of the eternal hills.

    Genesis 49: 25-26 (MSG)

    love, Mary, New Zealand.

    • Shelly Miller

      Mary, I’ve sensed a bit of the prophetic in your comments. I’m grateful for the way you “see” and for the way you bless me with encouragement. This one feels like an extravagant gift I don’t deserve but will gladly receive. Thank you. (And my son is over the moon about New Zealand btw, he talks about wanting to go there at least a few times every week at the dinner table.)

      • Mary Gemmill

        Shelly- you and/or your son are welcome to a bed in my home, and I am quite used to helping international people to find their way around NZ. Many come to go on the Lord of the Rings tour, but there is so much to see and do. Which state are you in? We are into our first week of Summer and I am loving being in the garden. I will keep you in my prayers. email me any time for some extra prayer- or for any other thing I might be able to help you with. gemmill.mary@gmail.com. You absolutely deserve to be loved, honoured, and lifted up- your ministry stretches the globe-it’s lovely to able to encourage someone who has blessed me so much and so often.

        I have borrowed the following blessing as I love it- funny if you first wrote it!






        You are not alone.

        Love, Mary.

  11. Amy Hunt

    When we Be, as we are, fully and completely, we are worship, we are love. This is truth, it is powerful, it is transformative . . . humbling and sometimes heavy, yet light and life.

    • Shelly Miller

      It’s why comparison and perfectionism are so NOT a part of God’s character. He made us the way we are for reasons we must trust and lean into.

      • Amy Hunt

        Yes to this.

  12. robinluftig

    Beautifully said.

    • Shelly Miller

      Thanks Robin, lovely to have you visit here in my comments. I noticed you often at Heather Kopp’s blog, Sober Boots. I miss her there don’t you?

  13. Lisa notes...

    Yes, yes, yes. Love this truth that we aren’t to do church, but be the church. It’s how I want to live as well. Thanks for this, Shelly.

    • Shelly Miller

      May we all remember that we are the church, we don’t have to DO anything but be who we are wherever we go and allow God to speak and live through us.

  14. Leah@embracingrace

    Love this, Shelly! REAL connections are what ministry is all about, especially outside of the church building. And for the record, I don’t do church anymore either. Isn’t it so freeing?!

    • Shelly Miller

      It is Leah. I know you get this as a pastor’s wife. Sometimes it feels more painful to be sitting inside the walls of the church than outside. We were made to proclaim His goodness, not hoard it for our overstuffed appetite. Lovely to see you here friend. I’m so thrilled about the rejuvanation of your spirit since Allume. It’s inspiring.

  15. Jillie

    I know the benefits of being “in” the church. I know God’s Word concerning that. Yet, I still cannot return. It seems the church I attended, preaches more to the choir and keeps “busy, busy, busy” taking care of its own. We are like a holy huddle, guarding against the effects of “the world”. I want to be the fragrance of Christ “out there”, rubbing shoulders with the many I know who still don’t know Him. Somehow, for now, I cannot seem to reconcile the two. Is there any hope for this rebel?
    I absolutely love this post, Shelly. So beautifully said.

    • Shelly Miller

      I think that the church needs you more than you need it. Maybe if you could muster up some courage to bring some of your awesome to shake up the slothful. I get what you are saying, I do. Sometimes it is painful for me to go to church because of the exact reasons you give here, but I go because I want to meet Jesus and sometimes the uncomfortable place is where he does his best work in me. We don’t choose pain, but we can choose to allow it to shape us for His good. I love you Jillie, so thankful for the way God made you, that he saw fit to make us friends.

  16. Mia

    Dear Shelly
    Oh, you are so right! The church is Jesus’ Body and not something that we do, dear one, but something that we are!! When we have stopped being parts of that Body that resembles love, grace, forgiveness and compassion to others, we have nothing left except the lifeless shell of religion!
    Blessings XX

    • Shelly Miller

      Amen Mia. I think that is what people are sensing when they leave church, that lifeless shell of religion. But not all churches are like this, many cultivate a safe place of transformation. We grow in the sand paper of community, remain stagnant without it.

  17. Sheila Seiler Lagrand

    I’m picturing a world where a common first question upon meeting someone new is, “so, who are you?” [Answer: I’m the church] instead of “So, what do you do?”

    Thanks for this, Shelly. It’s so lovely.

    • Shelly Miller

      I know, me too Sheila, great point.

  18. CindeeSniderRe

    Amen! This is absolutely BEAUTIFUL!!

    • Shelly Miller

      Thank you sweet Cindee.

  19. ro elliott

    We have been on a long journey with “the church”… Oh yes … Let’s not do church any more…may we be so present with each person we encounter …Jesus is there…sometimes when people ask me where I go to church I say…well it’s different everyday…let’s not forget…where 2 or 3 are gathered in my name, I am am with them”. I feel this is my heart …like Abraham …for His church/Body….For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. Not a building of brick and mortar …but built in the hearts of His people…yes…bring the hope of Jesus!!!!

    • Shelly Miller

      Just to be clear Ro, I am not advocating not going to church. Studies have shown that those bricks and mortar churches, the new ones being built, are the most effective way to bring someone who doesn’t know Jesus to him. We definitely need them, yes we do. But its when we become numb to the beauty and presence of Jesus in them that it becomes dangerous. We are always among two or three gathered, he is always with us, but the church is set apart for intentional worship, and we need it and desires what we bring him there.

      • ro elliott

        Yes…yes…it’s about the transformation of our hearts…filled with the love of Christ…whether we sit inside or outside brick and mortar….God encompasses it all!!!

  20. Mary Bonner

    Being church… much better than doing church. Shelly, you do have a presence and I am not surprised that the clerk at the counter recognized it. I knew you had a presence before I ever met you in person at Jumping Tandem. Thank you for being a light for the rest of us.

    • Shelly Miller

      Mary, I’m grateful, thank you. It makes me bow my head in thankfulness. I pray that what people see in me is Christ, my children might have a different opinion on days when my patient is short.

  21. Shanyn

    Yes! Yes! LOVE this.

  22. Debbie Keady

    I love your heart! Thanks for sharing. My husband is a pastor too. I agree with your thoughts. Would you “like” my facebook page and help me share the mission of ViBella? Thanks. https://www.facebook.com/VibellaJewelryByDebbieKeady

    • Shelly Miller

      I thought I already liked it Debbie, I’ll go over and check.

    • Debbie Keady

      Maybe you already did! Thank you so much! I appreciate it!!! :O) <3

  23. Amy

    I am so blessed by how deeply you “get” this. The Church, TRULY being the Church has been one of the most precious things in my life. <3

    • Shelly Miller

      Amy, love seeing you here, thanks for letting me know your heart on the subject.

  24. DeanneMoore

    oh yes, my sister….we are on the same page on this one….go figure 🙂

    • Shelly Miller

      Go figure. Are you sure you don’t have a long lost sister? ha!

  25. Paula

    Beautiful post, Shelly. And, btw, that “special countenance” spoken of has ALWAYS been there. Don’t you remember Fran and I referring to you as an ANGEL…………well, just maybe…..you truly are!

    • Shelly Miller

      I think you might be biased. Just sayin’.

  26. Nancy Ruegg

    Oh, yes, how I want to join you (and other commenters below) to BE the church, to bring the hope of Jesus to those who are hurting. Worship of God isn’t just singing and praising, praying and meditating. It’s blessing other people and being an encouragement. It’s fulfilling God’s purpose for our lives, giving generously, radiating God’s glory, and serving others. Thank you, Shelley, for your inspiration!

  27. Kelly Greer

    Yep! Church Shelly! I love your being…..

  28. Heather

    You are lovely. I appreciate how God has given you the gift to lean you ear to hear the heartbeat of His beloveds.

  29. Sharon Brobst

    I could cry…seriously cry. This is it! Yes and Amen!! I am SO tired of DOING church! I have been tired of it..I want to be the church, I am the church. I want to be Jesus with skin on so that others might see Him in me.

    So encouraging to hear others feel the same.

  30. Elizabeth

    Shelly, there is such gentle truth and strength in this, this body of Christ as it should be walking, ministering, breathing, touching, loving outside of walls. Thank you for this.

  31. Barbie

    Oh this is my heat’s deepest desire. As a women who has been on staff at her church for about 7 years now, I “do” a lot of things in church. All good things. But how often am I really “being” the church? Thank you for waking me up today!

  32. Don Hamilton

    Reading your post on a cold Saturday morning sure did warm my heart.

  33. Tereasa Mansfield

    I’m right there with you. This last year, this year of returning to ministry, has been life changing. Again.

  34. Kris Camealy

    In so glad you shared this again. There is such truth here and you are a beautiful example to me.

    • Shelly Miller

      Thanks Kris. You are such a faithful friend to me. I’m going through the archives and this is one of my most read posts. Thought I’d give it a whirl again!!

    • Shelly Miller

      Right back atcha Kim!!

Pin It on Pinterest