Numerous articles are published and posted listing reasons why Christians should go to church and the lousy excuses we make for avoiding church attendance on Sundays. We all pretty much know the reasons people leave, so I won’t list them here. Pastors and others in church leaderships make lots of assumptions about what happens to us Christians when we leave church. For their benefit, and for the benefit of those of us who do, I wanted to set the record straight.
1. We have the freedom to establish our own relationship with God without having to follow a pre-established, denominational set of rules.
In solitude, we are able to develop our listening ears for His voice without the stumbling block of anyone else telling us how we’re supposed to listen. We have the freedom to step outside of rules without the construct of an organization telling us what we’re supposed to do or not do in order to have God’s unique attention. We finally have the comfort of talking with God with ease, and telling Him everything we’ve wanted to say. We can talk and listen anytime, and simply be with Him any time of the day.
2. We ask the questions we’ve always wanted to ask.
Without being rebuffed, we have the opportunity to ask stupid questions, deep questions, and questions that relate directly to our own circumstances. We are finally at liberty to bring up questions of doubt, of contradiction, or lack of understanding and have them answered fully without regard for time. We can choose our own study Bible and look through it to help us understand God’s Word, going at our own pace.
3. We find other believers across the nation or world who are exactly where we are, establish relationships with them, and grow and mature our faith with them.
As we join in exploration of our faith together, we open our hearts and minds to different ways of perceiving and receiving the heart of God. We are able to allow more of His Spirit to work in us because we allow ourselves to know Him more deeply. We see a bigger God than we ever imagined, and begin to understand the amazing ways in which He lives and works through others across the world.
4. As we increasingly know God, we increasingly show more of Him.
Our heart and mind transforms. No longer do we live in the fear of doing the wrong thing. Instead, we live in the love of our Father’s embrace. We live in the knowledge there is no more condemnation, and nothing can separate us from the love of God as we live in Christ’s Spirit. We allow the light and love of Jesus to shine through us; this is the glory of God.
5. We begin making disciples.
The more we know God, about His heart for us and about His lavish love and grace, the more we desire to share it with others. We want to make Him known to those whose only experience of God is through those who would present Him as a God of wrath and condemnation. The more we understand the vastness of God – that He isn’t only for one country or one denomination or one people group – the more we want to shout His name and glorify and honor the immeasurable height and width and depth of Who He is.
6. (Bonus) Some of us actually return to church.
When given the opportunity, without judgment or condemnation, to spend a season outside the confines of church walls, some of us are moved by the Spirit to come back, perhaps in the hope we can make a difference in the lives of church leadership. Perhaps we return as a way to touch the lives of people in our former church. Maybe we come back because we miss group worship or Bible study. Conceivably the Spirit has sent us back to contribute in a way our gifting will benefit the church.
Either way, returning or not, I would ask you who write about those of us who leave church to open your outlook a bit and see it from a different perspective; rather than abandonment, view it as a season of growth.