This is a response to a post written by Melanie Redd, entitled: An open letter to my friend who has stopped going to church. The article is inspiring, heartfelt, and encouraging. So, what is the reason to respond to this post? It is not merely the post itself, it is also the comments posted and responded too that is interesting.
The post starts off acknowledging the lack of commitment to check up on an individual, and the very responsibility the Church community has in reaching out to those who are struggling, or in need of some form of encouragement and fellowship. It also recognizes the reality of the insensitivity shown toward those who the church community ought to have reached out.
The article continues to implore the individual reasons they consider returning back to church. These five reasons come with biblical support and justification.
Let’s look at this from the perspective of the reason the individual may have stopped attending Church, in the context of the five reasons they are being implored to return and become reunited with their community of faith.
Reason One: You were created to worship God corporately and publicly
Yes, I agree. God has called us to be part of a community and fellowship. He created us as social beings. He also created us to experience a range of human emotions. Whenever I have attended Church services, I always feel the presence of God. Much like when I worship him in private and seclusion. However, I’ve attended Church and always felt I worshiped God alone. I felt no one offering any fellowship or encouragement for me. I have made attempts to be part of the community, to do service work and have not had any positive responses. I walk in and people move around me, not taking any time to say hi, introduce themselves, or even invite me to sit with them. I sit alone, in the back and there are usually empty seats around me.
How is it that I am able to worship publicly and corporately when I feel isolated and alone in a congregation of people who are not sociable?”
Reason Two: The need for support and accountability
This is the whole issue here. I have attended Church for support. As I have personal struggles and have made several attempts to reach out, to ask for people if they have a moment to sit with me in counsel. All I have gotten, on numerous occasions is – pray that God will provide, God bless.
How am I able to find support when I am constantly feeling no one is willing to lend an ear, to sit in counsel with me, to take the time to allow me to share? How am I willing to find support when the answer is merely to pray and God will work it out? Do you not believe I am not praying to God and that He has called me to come into Church and trust in Him that he will place people in my path that will help me?”
Reason Three: We need you and your gifts
If this were true, then how is it that I am not able to serve in the Church, or have asked to step down from serving because I am not what “God wants” in that particular ministry? I agree with the concept of spiritual gifts, however, if I am not allowed to serve, or have no fellowship with fellow believers within the community, why do I need to continue to be part of the congregation and be ignored, or passed over?
Reason Four: Your family and friends need your testimony
How am I able to share my testimony when I have not been able to cultivate any authentic relationship with fellow believers? I have no real family around and the only people I am able to call family are those that I have attempted to build relationships with.
While it is true that we ought to not isolate ourselves and live in isolation, I am isolated, and not by my own choice. I am isolated because I feel unwanted whenever I come to Church and am ignored by people, not even being acknowledged.
Reason Five: The Bible instructs us to gather together in groups to worship
Yes, and the Bible, specifically the teachings of Jesus Christ, show that we are not to be exclusive in our worship. Christ taught, sat with, and counseled those who the religious leaders and pious religious Jews considered marginalized, and unwanted. The Church, today, is full of people who are more interested in those doing well, those who are not struggling, those who seem to have a “perfect Christian” lifestyle. I know I am not perfect and I know that I in Christ. However, if I feel unwanted and unwelcomed, how is it that I am able to still come to Church and be part of a community of believers when I have shared how people have consistently ignored me every week, not willing to take time to meet me and get to know me, and provide encouragement and support?
Here is the reality:
Many people have various reasons for no longer attending Church. If you take the time to listen to them share their reasons, you will find a common theme among those stories. They have felt disappointed, let down, disconnected, judged, criticized, ignored, and felt they never belonged when people pass them by and not offer a hand of fellowship.
And, before you comment: The Church is not perfect and if you base your reason not to attend church, then you are doing it wrong – Understand this:
The Church is the people. We are to be an extension of Christ. We are his servants in the Kingdom. We are called to fellowship with one another. We are to extend the love of Christ without judgment, criticism, or biased perceptions. We are not to ignore them, to distance ourselves from them. Yet, this is the major reason your friend may have stopped coming to Church.
Instead of sending an open letter to them inviting them back, show up to their home, call them on the phone and meet up with them. Talk with them and listen to what they are sharing, pray with them, be there for them, and through that – you may have greater result in encouraging them to come back to Church.