To Those Who Quit the Church
This post is part of a discussion on Craig Groeschel’s book, The Christian Atheist, covering chapter 12: When you believe in God, but not in His Church. You don’t have to have read the chapter to add to the discussion and you can do so in the comments or add a response post from your blog to the link widget here. Also check out my co-facilitator and friend, Sarah Salter’s post over on her blog.
The church does not exist for us. We are the church, and we exist for the world. –Erwin McManus
I know some and maybe most who read this will already agree that the Church was and is God’s idea. It’s a powerful agent of change when functioning properly. As Pastor Groeschel pointed out in this chapter, “The church needs me whether I think I need it or not.” I’m not sure how you can study the Scripture and not see the beauty and mystery of the Body of Christ.
Still many would not belong to a church community for anything. Itâ€™s even in the news with author Anne Rice’s announcement that she is leaving Christianity, but not Christ. The problem is that without true community, we can’t be the Church and the enemy effectively isolates us and renders us ineffective as a whole or at least partially.
A pebble by itself can be an irritant or simply swallowed by the landscape, but put together with a million others, that pebble can provide a great path on which to travel.
The reasons people refuse participation are as diverse as the people who do sit in the pews and chairs every Sunday.
You don’t like the time commitment. You think there are too many hypocrites. You think the pastor talks too much about money. You believe the music is too loud or maybe not passionate enough. The leaders aren’t spiritual enough. They don’t do it like your last church. The programs being emphasized are not what you like… The list goes on and on.
Those people I can advise to look again to Jesus and see what He said about His Church, His Bride. If we could feel a fraction of what He feels for us as a community, we simply will not have the ability to give up.
Still there’s another category. Some have been so wounded and hurt by those in the church. The risk of getting involved in a new place feels too overwhelming, too much of a burden. We may have been broken by community (or a false community), but we will never be whole if we refuse true community.
One thing Craig Groeschel wrote in this chapter that stuck out vividly to me was this: Be the change you want to see. I would like to attempt that today.
If you’ve been hurt to the point that you’ve rejected the Church all together, I want to do something about it. You may have never received so much as an “I’m sorry” from the one who wronged you, but that is simply not right.
I am both a leader and pastor of a church as well as being involved as a churchgoer for the majority of my life. As such, I hope you’ll allow me to stand in for whoever committed this sin against you and I pray you can receive this in all sincerity today.
Dear saint and beloved of God,
You never got the apology you deserved from me. I truly am sorry that you have felt the sting of rejection all this time and it has caused you such pain. I’m sorry that you have not been able to trust others in the Church because of my selfishness and negligence.
I did not represent God as I should have in those moments. It was not His will that you go through this. It was not His plan that you be separated from His people though I understand your reaction.
I should have loved you as Jesus loved you and cared as He did. Instead I tore you down and talked maliciously about you. I verbally abused you. I robbed from you monetarily and other ways. I physically and emotionally abused you. I sexually abused you. I spiritually abused you.
It was wrong and evil and I can’t take it back. All I can do is offer the humblest, sincerest apology and ask your forgiveness.
It may not feel like enough. It may seem too little, too late, but I pray you don’t wait for something that will never come or may not even be possible. I know many out there are searching, trying to figure out what’s missing, wanting to move on. Maybe those who have been wounded will even stumble here and experience some peace. I pray for that, in fact. If it touches just one person to see the depth of God’s love and care for them, I will be overjoyed.
We can cut ourselves off from community and it does indeed hurt and handicap them, but we are still hurting ourselves even more and being cheated from the freedom Jesus died for.
Why are you active in community and being the Church? Or why not? Do you have a story of leaving and/or coming back to the Church?