An article popped up in my newsfeed this morning and the title immediately saddened my heart. I know there are plenty of articles in the world that do not bring me joy but I sometimes find I must click on the story to read more. Or maybe I am not just curious but drawn in by my pastoral heart that is going out to hurting individuals. This particular title was, “People Are Revealing Why They’ll Never Go To Church Again, And I’m Curious About Who Feels The Same.”
To be honest, there was no new information the article presented that I hadn’t heard before. However, what was revealing, or I should say “sad,” was that this article was about 75% of quotes from people who spoke of the pain within their hearts about what the church had done, what the church had said, how the church had responded, or neglected to respond to different life situations for people. Who knows if these quotes were fabricated, stretched, or actual individuals revealing their hearts, but what I do know is that these people were hurting, and the one place where hurting people should be encouraged to go to feel the love of God, and by God’s people, they had learned to avoid.
You don’t have to be around the church or church members for too long before you begin to realize that we are not perfect by any means. It’s run by imperfect people who are finite and fallen. It was Martin Luther who prayed this prayer; “May a merciful God preserve me from a Christian Church in which everyone is a saint! I want to be and remain in the church and little flock of the fainthearted, the feeble and the ailing, who feel and recognize the wretchedness of their sins, who sigh and cry to God incessantly for comfort and help, who believe in the forgiveness of sins.” A19th century clergyman and reformer Henry W. Beecher said, “The Church is not a gallery for the exhibition of eminent Christians, but a school for the education of imperfect ones.” Yes, I believe this because I, too, am imperfect.
I know the church has always been on display and scrutinized by society. We are held to a different standard, and we should be, but I also realize pain follows humanity even if you find a safe haven within the church. For anyone who has experienced pain, hurt, embarrassment, or abuse from the church, I am sorry! Truly sorry!
Perhaps this article struck a chord with me for a different reason. Suppose I were to put down the philosophical pastor’s hat of why “people” are leaving the church or not coming back and be honest and vulnerable to you. I would lament that there are people within Restoration whom I have not seen in over a year, and my heart misses them, and I know their church family misses them too. My big fear is that they have moved on in life and the church has become something insignificant or irrelevant or just a recent memory. But, we are better together!
The church is a place for the broken. It is a place where we come TOGETHER and encourage one another and lift each other up. We come TOGETHER and sit at the foot of the cross each week to be reminded that we cannot save ourselves. We need a Savior. Please, don’t be alone. Don’t wait until you feel isolated and like you are living life apart from the body of believers who want to walk with you and join you in the restoration of all things.