An Open Letter to the Christian Who Has Left Church and Is Hanging on By a Thread

Yes, church can be messy, sloppy or even hurtful. But there’s grace in that beautiful mess.

I know there are some of us who are barely hanging onto the “Christian scene”—it was part of your youth, you like Jesus, you like some of the music, you find many of the teachings and verses to be inspirational, you’re into grace and humility, and you understand that not every screaming Westboro picketer represents the movement of Christianity.

But mostly, it’s not a part of your life. You haven’t been to church in a while. You feel largely removed from your former Christian friends. You don’t care to go back, and you feel like you’d be judged if you did.

Sometimes you miss going, but you’ll see some horrible news headline about another group of crazy church people or you’ll see how the drama is destroying your friends who still attend—and you remember why you left. You’ll remember the old wounds, the hurtful things the pastor did, the way the church gossiped, and those one or two opinions that really bothered you.

My dear friend: I’m sorry it’s gone this way. I’m sorry the church as a whole has been so awful. Speaking as a pastor and your friend, we’ve done a poor job and there’s no excuse for that.

Yet—I know you still think Jesus is pretty awesome. I know you’re thoughtful enough to still be attracted to God somehow. And you have some decent Christian friends who don’t act all uppity nor pretend they have it all together. You occasionally check out some Christian blogs, and they’ve even been a big encouragement sometimes.

I know this is a huge leap here, but I’m writing this for you to say, Please don’t completely write off the church just yet.

Please consider that there is still one out there, just for you, that isn’t perfect but is still very passionate for the truth and love of Jesus, and one you could possibly call home.

I’ve been to many, many good churches that are still faithful, loving and kind. There are still many churches that really care, where you are free to be yourself, where it feels like God is actually in the house. They still exist. I’m not saying that drama never happens there, but they’re honest about it and they love one another through it all.

Sure, church is always going to be a messy, sloppy place. But the most gracious ones are also absolutely beautiful in the mess. It’s because they meet each other where they are, like Jesus does. Deep down inside, some part of you wants to be a part of one of those. It probably scares you like it scares me—but it’s much like the moment when you take a chance on love again. It’s terrifying, but you’re right at the edge of adventure, and it could be something incredible.

Please think about just asking a friend to attend a church event, or even this Sunday. If it goes bad, try a few more times. Keep an open mind. It’s a lot to ask considering all that has happened—but certainly we’ve invested far more time into things we had less faith in. I’ve seen so many people come back to church and find healing again. Maybe you’ll find a new safe place where you can reconnect with God and start once more. At the very least, you’ll know where not to visit again, and perhaps you can try elsewhere one more time.

I’m excited for you. I’ll be praying for you. If you’re excited, don’t hide it. Tell your friend. Get your hopes up a little! Enter with the anticipation of Jesus welcoming you with wide open arms.

God loves you and so do I, my friend.

This article is an excerpt from What the Church Won’t Talk About: Real Questions From Real People About Raw, Gritty, Everyday Faith by J S Park.

J.S. Park
A former atheist/agnostic. A recovered porn addict, skeptical Christian, loves Jesus. Have a fifth degree black belt and I can eat five lbs. of steak in one sitting. Have a B.A. in Psychology and M.Div from SEBTS. Both degrees negate each other, i.e. I’m still a dummy. Have a mixed German shepherd named Rosco, have two toenails growing out of one toe, and I’m addicted to coffee, ginger ale and tomato juice. I'm the author What the Church Won't Talk About.
  • Ricky Painter

    Thank you soooooo much for writing such an honest and great book. You are so right about just like with any Family it is not always perfect and as in every Family including your Church Family you are going to have problems. I am 47 yrs old and my Mother took me through the dooors of my Church when I was just a few days old. It is a small Church and that is the way that I Like it because if I am hurting the whole Church knows It and they hurt with me as I do with them. for me that is what makes me go to the Church is feeling the Love of my Church Family and knowing that they have my back with LOVE and PRAYERS. If you don’t feel that Love at the Church that you attend then I would suggest people to.find another Church and not just give up. God Bless you in all that you do. Amen 🙂

  • Ada

    Thank you so much for writing this post. It’s like this was directly speaking to me. Especially when you said, “It’s a lot to ask considering all that has happened—but certainly we’ve invested far more time into things we had less faith in.” You are completely right! I thank God for your blog and pray that God continues to use you. Your words have helped me and my family heal. Please keep Diaz Family in your prayers. God bless you!

  • Joe Rigodon

    Thank you for this Pastor Park.

  • Nadine

    I appreciate this message because the pain caused by our church family can cut really deep and send you to the edge of no return sometimes. Thanx…

  • Nicola clayton

    Great article….depicting the experiences no so uncommon. I do think as we are the church that we should all take responsibility and allow our faith to guide our behaviour rather than the act of walking through the door finding a pew and that being the be all and end all of church. But allow the experience of church to show kindness, love and patience ultimately having fellowship with one another.

  • I too was hanging by a thread and I let go. Best thing I ever did. I found true life and it wasn’t in the traditional interpretation of Jesus but in the soul. I learned that the soul is what is referred to in John 3:16. The story of Jesus had been trying to tell me that I am one with God because of the substance of the soul. God has placed a part of him in each and every one of us. I could not see that because like everyone else I was taking the story of Jesus literally when it is mostly symbolic of the soul. Born pure of a virgin, miraculous, rejected and buried yet still lives. I rest my case.

  • Amanda Lisa

    One does not need to attend church to be a Christian. One need only read the Bible themselves with the guidance of the Holy Spirit and give their life to the Lord Jesus and follow His teaching. Hence, “Follow Me”. Please visit my blog at pagesuntold.weebly.com

    • Josue Ayala

      19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:19-25

    • Michelle

      Not true Amanda! The Bible says do not keep yourself from assembling together. Better read it again

      • Amanda Lisa

        I don’t follow Paul. I follow Jesus.