You know who I am talking about. That family member, parent, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, cousin, friend, best friend, youth minister, preacher, elder, deacon, Sunday school teacher that walked away from the church. They were your role models, your friends, your family, your source of encouragement, the reason you came to know Jesus. One day they left, for reasons you are unsure of. Have you ever just wanted to ask them, “Why did you leave?”
Was it because you didn’t feel included?
Maybe you felt left out, or you felt that the church has become too impersonal. This was not how it was meant to be. It is supposed to be a body where each member has a place and a sense of belonging (John 13:35; Gal. 6:1-2; Heb. 10:24; I Cor. 12).
Maybe you never found your place. You felt like you were never asked to teach class, never asked to lead in worship or never invited when families or friend groups went out to eat after services. You never really felt that you belonged.
Was it because you felt judged?
Who wants to be a part of a church that constantly is judging and looking at the negatives? Christians should never look down on others, but look up towards God and be thankful for His grace and forgiveness in our own lives. But sometimes we fail and become judgmental.
You’ve seen it first hand. Someone commented on how you were dressed. Someone thought you led that song just a little too slow. Someone decided your friends are too worldly. Someone confronted you because they thought you were too “conservative,” or maybe someone thought you were too “progressive.” You always felt like people were waiting for you to make a mistake—and you could not measure up to their standards.
Was it because you saw hypocritical Christians?
You saw an elder screaming at his wife in the car after church. You heard the youth minister tell a dirty joke. You heard of a preacher who committed adultery. You were hurting financially and no one reached out to you and your family. You got involved in a business deal with another Christian and they ripped you off. You always heard people worked up about being scriptural in worship, but nobody seemed to care about helping the poor or visiting widows (Matt. 25:46; Jam. 1:27). The church is supposed to be a people who have been called out of darkness and into God’s light (I Peter 2:9), yet you see “Christians” sinning all around you.
Was it because you were discouraged?
One day you woke up and looked around and realized that this road is hard! The Christian life isn’t easy. Forsaking every thing and following Jesus is not a simple task. It is called the narrow way for a reason (Matt. 7:13-14). It is easy to be discouraged. You saw so many rejecting Jesus and His church—it was overwhelming. You became stressed and depressed. You didn’t feel good enough to be a child of God.
Was it is something I have said or done?
Did I say something discouraging? Did I say something judgmental? Did you see me watching a movie I shouldn’t have? Did you hear me say a dirty joke? Did I wear something that offended you? Did you catch me in a moment of anger? Did you hear about my past? Did I push you too hard to be involved? Did I not reach out enough? Did I say or do something that has caused you to leave the church?
When you first left, I asked all of these questions and more. I even began to ask myself if I was to blame. “Was it my fault that they left?”
Then I realized what was really going on. You didn’t leave me, you didn’t leave your church family and you didn’t leave the church. You left God.
Why did you leave? Was it because of hypocrisy of others, the judgmental attitudes of others or discouragement? Was someone from the church to blame? No. It was your choice.
You let Satan in. You fell into his trap like so many of us have. He began to play with your mind. He influenced you to feel resentment against the church. He led you to a different church, one that is more focused on pleasing yourself rather than God. Or maybe he led you to leave the faith altogether, not even believing that there really is a God. He convinced you to leave—not your friends, your family, or the church. He convinced you to turn away from your Creator.
It is not too late. God loves you. He wants you to come home (Luke 15:11-32). Come back to Him. Return and become involved in His church once again.
To the faithful: If someone you love has left the church share this with them. Talk to them. Do it gently and with love, but address their sin. Remind them how much God loves them. Let us all pray for those who have left—that they will come home.
by Noah Icenhour