ep. 88 What To Do When Church Gets Hard

Kristie Anyabwile

ep. 88 | What To Do When Church Gets Hard with Kristie Anyabwile

On today’s episode of the Journeywomen podcast, I chatted with Kristie Anyabwile about what to do when church gets hard. Ya’ll, we ran the gamut on what kind of stuff makes church difficult and why it’s important that we press in, even when it’s challenging.

So you’ll know her a little better, Kristie is a pastor's wife, mom, Bible teacher and author of His Testimonies, My Heritage: Women of Color on the Word of God, which will be released in September. She works with the Charles Simeon Trust as the Associate Director of Women's Workshops, helping to equip women Bible teachers. She joyfully supports her husband of 27 years, Thabiti, as he pastors Anacostia River Church in Washington, DC.

  1. Can you tell us a little about who you are and what you do?

  2. What are some examples of things that make gathering together with other believers difficult? Which of these have you experienced?

  3. Scripture is clear that we should not give up the habit of meeting together. If that’s the case, why does church often feel unnatural and forced?

  4. Why is it important that we do pursue local church involvement and membership, even when things are awkward or difficult?

  5. What is it that unites us even in the midst of the hardship?

  6. What lengths did Jesus go to in order to make us a part of his family?

  7. Practically, how can we embrace a gospel-centered approach to navigating difficult seasons and/or difficult relationships at church?

  8. What encouragement do you have for the woman who is having a really hard time even considering plugging into a local, worshipping body of believers because she’s experienced hardship or betrayal?

  9. How do difficulties and hardships within the church shape us and mature us as followers of Christ? As the Body of Christ? What does it produce in us?

  10. What is the joy in pursuing local church membership and involvement, even when things are really hard?


  1. What 3 resources would you recommend for someone who is having a hard time with church right now?

  2. What are your 3 simple joys?

  3. Who has had the greatest impact on your own journey with Jesus?


“Personal sin has been the number one reason I start to see people falling away from the church.”

“Shame, guilt, and indulgence can keep us away from the gathered body or make it difficult for us to show up.”

“Fractured relationships in the body can make it difficult to be a part of the gathered body.”

“With personal sin it is important to find someone you can confess your sin too and who can encourage you to confess your sin to the Lord and be working towards reconciliation.”  

“Whatever kind of issue might be making it difficult to be with the gathered body, you need accountability and a person who can help you walk through it.” 

“Sometimes church can feel unnatural and forced because our hearts are hardened. Pray that the Lord would reveal our hardness of heart and release us from it, so we can enter our places of worship eager to be with the saints.”

“We don’t wait for the worship service to start for our communication with God to begin.”

“Something amazing and miraculous is happening when we gather together: we get to hear from God.”

“It’s worth it to work through things because God is doing something supernatural through the church. He is making his wisdom known. We get to practice through the church our heavenly vocation.”

“This life is just a rehearsal. This is not our home.”

“The church is also a place for us to be cared for spiritually. Involvement in the local church is where you will receive spiritual care and accountability.”

“We need the church for our growth as disciples of Christ.”

“We are called to keep the spirit of unity through the bond of peace.”

“It’s through the gospel that we are a family.”

“Jesus has taken on himself those things that would hinder or separate us and he has nailed them to the cross. We get to live in freedom from those things from now on.”

“We can live in more freedom and more fully in the context of the local church. He has made us to be a kingdom of priests and imaging forth all that God intended for us. We just need to be reminded. We can live in freedom.” 

“Start with love for God and love for neighbor. Whatever difficulty we face within the church, we are called to love God above all and love others. ‘How can I love my brother or sister well in this hardship?’”

“What does love look like? I don’t get a pass on that.”

“James tells us to, ‘Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.’ Our difficulties and hardships are producing steadfastness and strengthening our faith in a way that probably couldn't come any other way. God doesn’t trifle with us. He doesn’t toss out random trials and suffering to us, and see what we do with it. There is purpose in it.”

“Our trials are producing for us the kind of steadfastness and perseverance that we need and that he will use in the lives of others around us.”

“My trial or suffering or pain is not merely my own, but God means for me to steward that well so that I can minister to others out of the pain that I’m currently in or out of the victory that I see on the other end of it.”

“We need to see whatever season we are in as a stewardship that God means for us to use for the benefit of others for his glory.”

“God’s wisdom is on display through the church.”

“Not participating in the Body of Christ is depriving yourself and others. But participating in the Body of Christ you have the joy of contributing to the unity and care of the body, making sure that the body is functioning well.”


What Is a Healthy Church Member? by Thabiti M. Anyabwile

The Compelling Community: Where God's Power Makes a Church Attractive by Mark Dever

Discipling: How to Help Others Follow Jesus by Mark Dever

Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands: People in Need of Change Helping People in Need of Change by Paul David Tripp


Earl Grey tea




Hebrews 10:25

Ephesians 3

James 1

1 Corinthians 12



  1. Use 3-5 words to describe your personal experience with church over your lifetime.

  2. What would it look like to engage in church while working through the things that can make church hard?

  3. How can you exhort and encourage those in your circle to engage in church when it is hard?

  4. How have you seen God’s provision for you through hard times? What role did the Church play?

  5. How have you seen God use your pain and hard times to minister to others?

  6. What are you going to do or implement as a result of what you’ve learned this week?


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