I know there are some of us who have left church and 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.