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
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
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
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