So, it’s happened. Whatever IT is, you have dropped out.
Why? You have your reasons. And while some people may simply be habitual quitters, maybe you are not. You have had something go wrong in the ONE place where it should not: God’s house. The “safe,” “welcoming, “accepting (no matter who you are)” place turned out to be dangerous. Maybe it’s happened to you more than once.
Now you are disillusioned. Wounded. Dis-engaged. Maybe even angry.
So now what? It’s nice taking Sundays off, isn’t it? Maybe you’ve taken up fishing, or hiking, or watching those boring talk shows on Sunday morning television. Maybe you have discovered that there are entire crowds of people who stay home or go to the local park on Sundays…and they’re not all weird, sad, or worshiping Satan (we Christians can be dillusional, I confess). Maybe you are enjoying an extra morning with your family NOT scrambling to make it to the church on time for Sunday school, that 10:30-why-couldn’t-it-be-at-11:00 service, or the setup that begins at 6:00 a.m.
That has been me. It was an eye-opening experience to get in the car on a Sunday morning and drive ANYWHERE that was not church. I would drive up to a state park. I’d hike a trail and I’d meet people who were so happy about being outside they would actually talk to me. “Great morning, isn’t it?” they would shout out! (On a side note, I think many “greeter” teams at churches should spend an hour one Sunday hiking in the woods to learn what it’s like to be greeted by people who actually LOVE what they are doing, but I digress).
If you have been engaged in church your whole life, it’s a strange feeling to discover that there is actually a second day in the weekend. And it is refreshing – even freeing – to feel that you have gotten that day back. It can easily become a new “sacred time.” And because of the feeling of new found freedom, coupled with the pain that drove you away from church, you may never want to step into a church again.
And it would be unfair to blame you.
Or maybe you haven’t completely dropped out. You’re not ready to completely give it up. Maybe you still go to church somewhere. But unlike before – where you were involved by teaching Sunday School, playing an instrument on a praise team, or running sound or lights – this time you have made a decision not to get involved. At all. You will GO to church. But that is it. No more serving. No more leadership teams. No more “work.” It’s safer to be just another anonymous face in the crowd – away from the drama that too often accompanies church “leadership.” You have decided to experience church from a safe distance.
And it would still be unfair to blame you.
But I want you to go back. We need you to go back.
Scratch that. Forget I said it.
I do NOT want you to go back to church. You may have tried that already. That would be insane to ask you to open yourself up to the same kind of wounding again. If church has been a source of pain for you, do not go back. And do not be guilt-driven by others to go back just because you “should.” Do not let leaders full of blame and shame lure you back into an unhealthy environment.
BUT DO NOT GIVE UP ON CHURCH, EITHER!
If church has hurt you…
If you have become disillusioned by leaders…
If you are tired of jumping through hoops to convince people you’re “on board” with the vision…
If…whatever your “if” is…
…THEN GO AND FIND ANOTHER WAY TO BE THE CHURCH.
Do not give up on the bride of Christ. He is the groom; the Church is His bride:
For the time has come for the wedding feast of the Lamb,
and his bride has prepared herself (Revelation 19:7)
Do not give up on the body of Christ. We are still called to be His hands and His feet.
All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it (1 Corinthians 12:27)
Do not pretend that faith can exist in a vacuum withdrawn from other people. We are not only designed for relationship and fellowship with others, we are COMMANDED to engage it. We are commanded by our Lord and Savior to build the church upon the foundation that he laid.
You are coming to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God’s temple. He was rejected by people, but he was chosen by God for great honor. And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are his holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God. (1 Peter 2:4-5).
To choose to remain disconnected is to deny the bride that Christ died for. It is to try to exist as a severed limb of the body of Christ.
But even more, it is to deny ourselves the power of what the church could be again:
Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful. (Colossians 3:13-15).
So go back. Seek those people out who still believe in the church, but want to see it become a community of love and grace all over again. Seek out those willing to confess the sins of the church and are willing to repent and BE the church we need to be. Do not let your wounds keep you away from church, but let them forge wisdom in you to seek out the right things. Ask around – IF you have to, because healthy communities should be seeking you out, too (more about that in part 2).
Test the waters, if you have to.
But find a way to dive back in.