Why I quit going to church and what they did about it

Why I quit going to church and what they did about it

I quit going to church for nearly a year. Go ahead, raise your eyebrows, I’ve seen that look before. My friend who sits across from me every Tuesday morning over coffee is a pro at that look. If she had known she would have busted down my door and dragged me out of the house by the ear. So don’t scold me, she took care of it already. But we go to different churches and she didn’t know. Besides, I had my reasons and I still contend they were valid.

My church is truly family. Enough food to feed the entire state flowed into my kitchen during my surgeries and chronic illness. When I was diagnosed with myasthenia gravis, text messages and voice mails flooded my phone. The cards stuffed into my mailbox are now stored in bulging manila envelopes. They love me well. The church I’ve attended for the last 20 years is one of the most biblicaly-sound, mission-minded, discipleship-focused churches I’ve known. So what happened?

After years of involvement, not casual involvement but committed involvement like teaching adult Sunday school, weekly attendance and mission trips, I quit going.  What did they do when I quit going to church? Nothing, they did nothing.

2 Corinthians 7:3, “I do not say this to condemn you; I have said before that you have such a place in our hearts that we would live or die with you.” NIV

Yes, it’s a big church. Of course I was involved in a small group/Sunday school class/life group/whatever you want to call it. And I’m quite familiar with the Bible’s command:

Hebrews 10:25, “not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” HCSB

Many Sunday mornings I put on my dress then cried off my make-up in the bathroom before I gave up. God looks at the heart and He knew I wanted to go, I just couldn’t. Plugged in to Bible study and fellowship with strong believers, my walk with God didn’t derail because I failed every Sunday morning. But did the church fail me?

Deuteronomy 22:4, “If you see that your neighbor’s donkey or ox has collapsed on the road, do not look the other way. Go and help your neighbor get it back on its feet!” NLT

Did the church fail?

The answer looked at me from the mirror. Yes, the church failed. You see, I am the church. The Holy Reminder nudged my memory of a godly woman who was suddenly absent. I knew her well enough to know the color of the wallpaper in her kitchen. She attended regularly without her husband who worked long hours. Until she didn’t. Wondering what happened, I did nothing. Guiding me further down the rocky road of memory lane, there was the couple in my Sunday school class who took on leadership roles and sat on the front row every week. Until they didn’t. I joined everyone who asked, “Have you seen the so-and-so’s lately?” But did nothing.

Genesis 4:9b, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” NKJV

Guilty

I’m a little curious, did you miss me? Did you ask about me? The interrogation was interrupted by the guilty party’s reflection in the mirror. You see, I did nothing and I am the church. By the way, so are you.

Church is not a building; church is you and me #church #fellowship Click To Tweet
Weak excuses

I am fresh out of excuses, but I am sorry. Perhaps it was none of my business. Maybe I assumed they moved to another church or went to the other service. I knew he worked long hours/traveled/went to the lake/fished/played golf/attended ball games on Sundays. Worse, I thought she was backsliding! Gasp.

Growing up, if we missed church we received a stock postcard saying, “You heathen, you weren’t here this week.” Okay, that’s not exactly what it said, but at least the absence was acknowledged. Of course when you returned, people said, “Well look who’s here, stranger.” Nothing makes you feel more welcome condemned.

DEAR CHURCH FAMILY,

I love you dearly; thank you for loving me. When I returned, tears welled in my eyes as an old man vigorously embraced me. His voice said, “I’m so glad to see you here,” but his eyes spoke louder. It meant the world to me when a dear lady grabbed my hand and refused to let go until I was seated right in the middle of her family’s regular pew. My one friend who knew my secret struggles fielded a few of your questions without telling my story. And there was one text message, “Are you okay? We’ve missed you.” No, but thanks for asking.

My pastors’ doors (both office and kitchen) were always open. No, of course they did not approve my absence either. My church probably prayed for me too. They’re like that you know. I guess mentioning it seemed awkward. And it’s okay anyway, I have a support network strong enough to hold an elephant tiptoeing across a swimming pool cover.

Although I haven’t talked to everyone I’ve talked to enough women in my situation to know not everyone is thick-skinned. Sorry about your toes, maybe now I’m talking about your church. I’d like to give you us another chance. I’ll be there regularly now, so please don’t worry about me, but look around and see who isn’t. Give them a call or text. Send them a card or one of those tacky postcards. Because together, WE are the church and it’s a family business.

Proverbs 24:11, “Rescue the perishing; don’t hesitate to step in and help. If you say, ‘Hey, that’s none of my business,’ will that get you off the hook? Someone is watching you closely, you know – Someone not impressed with weak excuses.” MSG

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  1. Loved it and Shared it…So glad you are open about sharing the “hard” things that need to be talked about, but aren’t! Thank you for your candidness and willingness to share Vickie! Conviction is a good sign we are walking with the Lord and I welcome it gladly! Thank you, your are a Blessing!

  2. Vickie I remember I went through a six month stint when I was having a hard time going to church. I was teaching 12-13 year old Sunday school class. Most were challenging boy and I had no experience raising children. I fought each week to put on my dress and go!! I prayed and asked God to help me find something in our Sacrament meeting or ladies meeting that would touch my heart and help me. Each week some little thing do happen and I was happy I didn’t miss it. After the first time, I said to myself if I don’t go I will miss that little something just for me. It helped me know God understood my struggle. Eventually I was asked to teach Adult Sunday school class which I struggled with much less as I had many more responsive as we shared together. Hopefully for you you will find something similar that helps you.

    • I actually returned in September and am very happy. The reason I quit going had nothing to do with church. I just hate going alone, but I’m used to it now. Thanks so much for your encouragement. I think people need to hear this kind of honesty

  3. Since I began having serious medical issues in 2005 my attendance at services hasn’t always been consistent. I’ve continued to play acoustic guitar on our church worship team when I was able. The worship ministry leader has encouraged me to continue on the team whenever possible. That’s been quite an encouragement given that I’ve been part of the worship team over 35 years now. I’ve served as a worship leader, worship ministry leader and an elder. Since the medical issues began I’ve limited my commitment to serving only as a musician. It’s often hard to attend but I do try to meet that commitment, especially since it’s really a commitment to use the musical gifts the Lord gave me for His glory.

  4. Come on with it sister, great wake up call. It is so easy to think, oh, so and so wasn’t here, well, I know so and so will make a phone call or stop by … WE, the church, need to call and stop by and stop putting it off on so and so! Thank you for this amazing post. Praying you are feeling better. I am visiting you today from Cheerleaders of Faith link up