The exodus of Christians from church has become epidemic. There have always been Christians who, for whatever reason, never joined church, but this is something different. This exodus is comprised of long time faithful church members who are now giving up on church. I’ve read the Relevant Magazine articles and the ex-church bloggers who recount all the reasons that church, or “organized religion”, detracts from their relationship with Jesus. These writers post their 95 theses of the failures of the church on the virtual wall and walk away.
I’ve heard a litany of reasons. The list is usually different with a few similarities emerging as writers on the subject have provided the language that justifies the trend. The language is catching on. I read a blogger today describe “the organized Christian Church.” He didn’t describe any church I’ve ever been a part of. He also threw in a complaint about mega-churches for good measure. The blogger had real dissatisfaction with what his church experience offered. I’ve heard many frustrated people both in and out of the church give their reasons why church is no longer for them.
I can give a Scriptural argument for remaining joined to the church via a local body of believers, but it won’t help. I’ve even heard people say these arguments are just how pastors keep people trapped in church.
There are two things I can offer to the subject. One is that when a person becomes disjoined from the Body by being absent from the local church they forget what it was truly like. The thoughts that keep them away become more real than the experience they actually had while in the community. The reasons change from one conversation to the next because it is not about any of the reasons. Their judgement becomes clouded and murky. They think their thoughts and feelings about it are good reasons to keep their distance, but they have no experience by which to compare them. Old memories can often solidify into a stronghold as the emotions keep us bound and the reasons are just out of our grasp. We use ready excuses to keep us from exploring it because the emotions are too strong to go there. They overpower our reason and prevent us from the freedom of the truth.
Many times taking the scary step to return to church will be the thing that breaks the bondage. In these cases, the freedom to go won’t come until after you go when you don’t want to. Maybe there was a legitimate reason that caused one to break with the community, but that does not mean all communities. There is a local church for each of us to be a part of. When we know God has called us to it, no reason becomes good enough to leave. But while outside, every reason is good enough not to go.
In keeping with this first item, let me offer a word of caution. Whatever occurred that drove a person away from church, will almost certainly occur again once they return. It does not matter how much time has passed, or that it is a different church than you went to before, the same matter will come up again. It is a test. Passing it means staying the course and navigating the issue without leaving. Don’t worry. No one fails God’s tests; we just keep taking them until we pass.
The second thing I can offer to this subject is of a prophetic nature. I believe that there is a godly dissatisfaction with church, as we know it, because God is shifting everything. He is shaking things up and preparing His Bride. He is pruning His house. My theory is that these faithful believers are picking up on this shift in the spirit, and are acting on it in the natural. Instead of getting excited in anticipation of what God wants to do in our local church, we are accepting the dissatisfaction as our own feelings, and leaving. The problem is that there is not anywhere to go. The ones with the spiritual alacrity to sense the shift, and become those that help the church make the transition, are abandoning it right before the winds of change.
There is a spiritual tsunami that has been mounting for years now. Before it hits, the waters pull back away from the shore. Then it raises, peaks, and pushes into the shore. This tsunami is a huge wave of the presence of the Lord being poured out on His Church. If we left the beach during the retreating tide, we will not be in position to receive and dispense the maximum level of the outpouring. God’s blessings are reserved for His people as a joined Body. They are too great for one sheep by his or herself to receive.
We can continue to nurse our offenses, or we can create ideology that supports our absence in the Body. We can rest on the assurance that salvation does not require church attendance. To be clear, we do not have to be joined to a local church to be saved. This is true. But we will miss something huge that God has in store for His Church if we remain disjoined. God wants to position each of us to ride the wave of His glory to see the greatest Harvest this world has ever seen. He has given us a mission to see this world transformed by His glory. The mission is too large for scattered sheep; it needs whole flocks working together. We can quibble semantics on the terminology of the Body of Christ and the Church, or we can sign up and see God work His wonders through our willingness to say YES to Jesus no matter the costs.