So maybe you don’t attend church anymore? Perhaps because you had a bad experience? Maybe you didn’t say to yourself… “That’s it! I’m done. I’m just not going anymore…” Maybe you just let fellowship slip away or wanted to avoid the emotional pain somebody caused you? In any case, you no longer go because something went wrong. Maybe after that you started to have some doubts about your faith too?
Whatever happened I’d like to share a few words with you. First, I understand. It really does hurt when we are wronged. It’s especially and keenly felt when it comes from a trusted brother or sister in Christ. Or, when something goes awry within your church family that hurts you.
So let me ask, where does that leave you now? Presumably I’m speaking to a previous church goer so you are familiar with the Scriptures pertaining to this subject such as Hebrews 10:24-25. The Words in the Bible that encourage you to fellowship haven’t mysteriously disappeared after all. Yet, an old wound prevents you from seeking out spiritual fellowship with other believers.
May I beg your indulgence? Can you bear with me for just a little while? I’d like to share with you a few thoughts that just might be applicable.
First, I’d like to establish something. That is strictly speaking God and religion are not the same thing. You may already know that. In fact, I’d guess you do if you are a Christian. Yet, it bears repeating. There is nothing the devil enjoys more than causing confusion and having people wrongly blame God within the reasoning processes that occur in their mind.
God is, of course a person. Not a thing. This includes the Holy Spirit. Tuck that over to one side of your brain for a moment will you? I know that it is obvious. But, I ask your patience. Now, on the other side of your mind ask yourself “What is religion?” See how many thoughts come to your mind. Essentially , what comes to my mind is that religion is a process by which we work out what it is God expects of us now that we acknowledge that He exists. It’s sort of like us asking “What’s next?”
In addition , of course there is the established dogma, rules, teachings, tenets, and much more of religious institutions. All of these, I suspect can be thought of as prior attempts by others who preceded you within your particular denomination in earnest to answer that simple basic question of what comes next.
Notice I haven’t mentioned Scripture in that list above. That is because I wanted to make a clear distinction that Scripture is infallible. Even if our understanding of it is not. Scripture is God’s Word.
I believe that to correctly understand what Scripture says we must rely on The Holy Spirit. We can read the words and understand some Scripture quite easily. After all, it’s not that hard to understand the ten commandments is it? Next, there is a sound principle that teaches us to compare Scripture with Scripture when evaluating what all of the Bible says on any given subject. This will produce a balanced viewpoint and aid in its practical application. Finally, by opening your heart to the Holy Spirit while using the methodology described above you can be guided by His Spirit to God’s truth.
So why am I bringing all of this up? Partly because man is not infallible. Many a person has wrongly interpreted a Bible verse because their mind was already made up and they did not seek the Spirit’s guidance in understanding God’s Word.
Secondly, I tell you all of this so that you understand whatever went wrong that affected you so much that it caused you to fall out of fellowship didn’t happen by chance and that it wasn’t God’s fault. Something went wrong. Now, I cannot presume to specifically tell you myself what that something was. And, I am not prepared to tell you specifically according to your religious persuasion if or what tenet of your faith was in error or even if that was the case. Most often I suspect the problem would be a failure in some relationship within the fellowship itself. But, that is not always the case.
Now, I understand I have gone the long way around and I am most certainly not attempting to attack anyone’s denomination. My points are simple. People go to church to learn how to follow God. Individuals there vary in knowledge, skills, and wisdom. People do make mistakes. God does not. The point is part of going is to learn. Religion can be thought of as the practice of your desire to answer that question of what comes next, and how do I act upon my sincere desire to do whatever God asks of me. (That also requires prayer of course.) We as fallible humans can and do make mistakes. Even sometimes within the body of Christ.
May I posit to you that if you left a church and fellowship with other believers perhaps the feelings of rejection that you suffer from may have been caused by the misapplication of religion as I have defined it? And, if you feel the need to assign any blame may I suggest you lay it at the foot of religion as I have outlined it to you? Again, I am using the term “religion” more as if it were a verb than a noun! Whatever ” religion” you are, I speak no particular evil of it. Could we agree that it is most likely that within any man made organizations mistakes can be made. (We are not discussing the over arching body of Christ here, but obviously even the apostles blew it and made some mistakes.)
Let me illustrate. Suppose there was a time you were taught to pray for others and especially the sick and so you did. Let’s also suppose you were a new Christian and the much loved person you prayed for was terminally ill. Sermon after sermon seemed to say if you prayed for that person they would recover and if they didn’t it was because you didn’t have enough faith! You might erroneously conclude God had rejected you and your prayer and walked away from church. You may have been critically disappointed.
Nevertheless, such a scenario could have most likely concluded differently had the sound principles of Biblical interpretation been applied such as comparing Scripture with Scripture and Hebrews 9:27 had been applied. Wherever and however it came to be, a mistake was made. And, so it is when people are so greatly hurt emotionally that they walk away from their church home and fellowship with other believers.
In addition, relying on The Holy Spirit is crucial in such circumstances.
I’m going to boil this down in a nutshell as the saying goes. Something bad happened and it hurt. That “something” most likely happened within the context of you and others in your church or fellowship acting out the practice of “religion” while all of you were seeking to grow in God.
Please reconsider your decision to be out of fellowship with other believers. As, it does you more harm than you may otherwise think.
Notwithstanding the fact that it’s possible in theory that whatever events transpired could have been so sinfully atrocious you simply can’t stay in fellowship at the place of offence, you can and should in that case find another church home.
I once knew of a Pastor who claimed to have received a message from God to divorce his faithful wife and marry the church pianist! And, believe it or not, he got away with it. I would have been out the door and shaking the dust from my feet as I went!
No matter what happened, no matter what misapplication of religion occurred, no matter who sinned and what the sin was, the devil delights when a Christian leaves fellowship and God grieves. Rationalize it however you must. Think of us as mere mortals humbly stumbling at times mostly in earnest seeking to practice our religion as best we can, but hopefully growing and maturing towards becoming more Christ like as we continue in our efforts. But know this, God has not rejected you and he wants you to come home and be part of a fellowship of believers. Won’t you seek Him and ask Him to lead you to your new church home today?