In my early 20’s I moved away for college. In 1996 I moved back to Ohio after living most of the early 90’s in Virginia. There was a point where I remember thinking I did NOT want to come back to my home town in Podunk-USA. But God wanted me here and through a series of circumstances I came home.
And so I began attending my home church again, but I felt alone. I can remember standing in that long hallway between the auditorium door and the way out of the building longing to leave. I didn’t feel like staying there. I had spent most of my life in this church and it had gone through various changes over the years and so had our family. After being away most of the previous five years I didn’t have any close friends there that I can remember, now thinking back. I now felt the need for new faces, a new church and so I left. That is, for about three Sundays.
After running into some teaching I questioned at one church I had been visiting- the church I felt I might want to join I came back to my own.
You see, there was nothing doctrinally wrong at my church and they were doing the work of the church- teaching the bible verse by verse, they were involved in missions and discipleship. Just like Jesus says to do in Matthew 28:19, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. …” I didn’t have any real reason for leaving other than I was…
But these are all “people” problems that can be found anywhere there are “people” present. And not just “other people’s” problems but problems within our own hearts. Mine in this case. I say that because – whether or not anyone at that church really cared about me or at least was willing to show that care, my response [to how I perceived my surroundings] was still my responsibility.
Personally, I think you can overcome these obstacles if you are willing to have patience, seek God’s perspective through his word, and have the right attitude- and oh yeah, be willing to humbly work on having good relationships with others. There’s no way around it. That last one is a two-way street.
Leaving a church that is right-on-the-money doctrinally and doing its God-given job is a treasure to have. Especially as we are living in the last days. If the foundation is right there is hope for the rest to be fixed. That is, if everyone is willing, of course. Even Christians fail here; you see it when one spouse chooses not to fix a broken marriage or one person is not willing to forgive another and clings to a grudge. Pride is one big nasty crowbar. It will tear apart anything it can.
So I decided to continue attending my church. But, then.
Really, Lord, do I need this? Now the Lord wanted me to do more than that. There was something else .
…to be continued.
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“But these are all “people” problems that can be found anywhere there are “people” present.”
True, true words. Yes.
Sorry, but I am one of those who are estranged from the church. And I’ve been this way for 4 years. My husband, also, goes only on those Sundays when he’s scheduled to usher. He wants to keep his ties there because he heads up Men’s floor hockey on Monday nights, and plays slo-pitch with the church team in the summers. Our experience has been that people only invite you over in order to make use of their ‘gift of hospitality’ but are not interested in real relationship. In the over 10 years that we attended, I had one REAL friendship and he had one. That’s it. Our church had real lines ingrained for the ‘social classes’ and we didn’t fit in the ones that really mattered. So now, we are very hesitant to go elsewhere. We both know this isn’t good, but we’re a little tired of playing the game.
I think we all feel at one time or another discontent with our ‘home’ church and feel like the grass will be greener somewhere else. Sometimes we just need a break to get some perspective, and then we realize we have to do our part as well. Friendships really is a two way street, you can’t always wait for someone else to make the first move. I’ve learned this over the last couple of years myself.
I loved that you were asking yourself what YOUR responsibility was. I’ve often heard people say “I left this or that church because no one was reaching out to me.” I often wonder, who were THEY reaching out to? One gal complained because only three people came up to her to greet her one day, and yet our family visited a church once and not ONE person came up to greet us. So we went and greeted THEM.
Once someone left our church because they said they weren’t connecting. I pointed out to them that on several occasions people invited them over to dinner but they never went. I also pointed out that we invited them over several times and they never came. I said “How’re you supposed to connect if you won’t meet anyone halfway?”
You are right, so often things can be overcome if you’re patient. When we started going to our church I felt that people seemed a bit cold. But we gave it time and tried to appear friendly and invited a bunch of people over once and the “ice” started to break. Can’t wait to read the rest!
Now I am on the edge of my seat waiting for the next part … just sayin’
I can attest to the fact that there is no perfect church. Even the church that I dearly love (and miss at this point–had to move three hours away) is imperfect because it is made up of imperfect people. Lately, I have been dwelling on “Ask not what your church can do for you, but what you can do for your church.” So many people are looking for a church that they can benefit from socially. No one wants to help grow churches anymore. They want the benefits without the sacrifice. I am so glad that God brought you back to “homebase” : )