We keep talking about Church. What it is, and what it should be. Why we stay, and why we leave. I’ve shared with you the stories of many who have left, but today I want to share the story of somebody who stayed. I’m so grateful to Abbi for sharing her perspective. Make sure you connect with her on Twitter, and visit her blog for more of her story.
I’ve called four churches “home” in my thirty-three years.
When I was small, it was a local Presbyterian church in my hometown. There’s where I began following Jesus, when I was eleven years old. When I was fourteen, my parents decided to start attending a Vineyard Church. It’s where I was baptized two years later, and it’s been the church I called home for more than eighteen years now.
During my college years I became a regular attender at a Church of Christ near the University of Cincinnati. For about three years I attended there with my boyfriend – who later became my husband. My last year or so living in Cincinnati, my husband and I decided to attend a different church (for a variety of reasons that seem unimportant now). The fact is, we decided to go to a different church, and we went there until we decided to move back near my family and my home church ten years ago.
Though I’ve never left “the Church” for any length of time, I have attended more than one church and I’ve had my share of negative experiences in the church.
Why do some experiences cause some to leave but not others?
Why do some walk away from church while others find a different church to attend? Why do some walk away from God forever, but some return years later?
Who really knows? There are as many reasons as there are people.
And what sparks change in one person may have no effect on another. Maybe some resist the Holy Spirit where others don’t, and maybe some are ready when others still need time for their hearts to heal or soften to God.
When people ask, “Why didn’t you leave the Church?” I haven’t really got an answer.
I have lots of little reasons why I want to stay, but I’m afraid some of them might sound judgmental or condescending to Christians who, for very real and legitimate reasons, don’t currently attend church. But these are two reasons that I continue to attend church:
I stay because I haven’t had a good reason to leave.
As a Christian, I’ve been blessed to have found a church where I feel loved, respected, and where I want to be – a place that feels like home.
I also stay because of Jesus.
To be clear, I know that many people still follow Jesus in spite of not being part of a church body. But I believe that to be near Jesus, I will have to be near other Christians at some point, even if we don’t always see eye to eye.
I can follow on my own, but if I’m going to be a Christian for any length of time, I don’t see how I can do that on my own, with “just me and Jesus.” I can’t isolate myself from other Christians. Jesus, in his time on earth, was rarely alone with only one other person. He always had a few of his Disciples with him, wherever he went to teach and heal people.
There are times for solitude, but when it comes to living out the Christian life, I think he showed us that we can’t stay by ourselves and remain in fellowship with him. I firmly believe that everyone in the world is wired to be in community. Our families are our first communities, and for Christians, the church is our ideal community.
I know that many people have had their hearts broken by the Church.
I want you to know that these words aren’t meant as condemnation of your decision to walk away. This is my very personal experience. I’m not asking you to go back to church tomorrow; I want you to get the healing you need, and I pray that you will know when God is calling you back into the church.
This is my heart for you – that one day you’ll find your way back to a good church, a place where you will be able to worship in community and feel loved by other people.
[ image: Jeff Smallwood ]
published February 6, 2014
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