I’m Not Sure I Can Go Back To Church
This is a typical response when talking with someone who has left the church. Perhaps they were ostracized because of something they did or how they looked. The church may have fired a pastor they liked, or the church split over some insignificant issue. Sometimes, the reasons are more profound and stem from a grudge against God. For example, when a family member dies unexpectedly or tragically, they may vow never to return to church again.
Then, there are some cases of slowly getting “out of the habit.” The time becomes filled with other activities. Finding time to go back seems complicated, and quite frankly, we’re not even sure it’s worth the effort. Once the relationship is broken, for whatever reason, stepping back into a church building can be a challenge.
Why Go Back?
Is church attendance really that important? Can’t a person believe in God and have a relationship with Him without the trappings of the traditional church? Well…yes and no. The Scripture often compares our relationship with Christ to marriage. If you don’t spend time with your spouse, people might wonder if you’re still married. And although you would still be technically married, you would not have much of a relationship, would you? Your love would most likely fade, you and your spouse would grow apart, and you would be tempted to be unfaithful.
A relationship with God is much the same. When we don’t spend time with Him reading His Word, worshipping Him, and enjoying His presence in the company of other believers, our relationship with God gets stale and loses its warmth. An “arms-length” relationship has replaced the close bond we once shared, so we call out to Him with intimidation.
I once heard a story about an old country preacher who visited a man who had been absent from church for quite a while. The older man invited the preacher to sit with him in front of the fire. Without saying a word, the preacher took the poker and pulled a glowing ember from the fire onto the hearth. After a few minutes, the ember turned black. It was cool enough for the preacher to pick it up and throw it back on the fire in a few more minutes. It quickly became red hot again. The preacher got up and left without saying a word. The following Sunday, the older man was sitting on the front pew.
Steps to Take
Perhaps you desire to be close enough to the fire again to feel its warmth. If so, there are a couple of different paths to take. First, you can start fresh. You can find a new place of worship where no one knows you. This way, you can step into the church experience once again without carrying a lot of baggage. Try to avoid comparing this experience to your previous disappointments. Enter expecting to meet with God.
Second, you can always go back to where you lost your faith or at least where you lost your desire to attend church. Sometimes, part of the healing process is to retrace your steps and figure out what happened. Maybe it wasn’t completely someone else’s fault, or perhaps it wasn’t as terrible as it seemed at the time. In that case, you may be able to step back in without much fanfare. If not, at least you’ll know to ask God to help you forgive and heal past wounds.
Either way, you’ll be one step closer to coming home.