Church attendance is an important issue to address, as I see many mature Christians attending church less and less. Before you go and point any fingers at me and accuse me of judging people, I want to put my hand up and tell you, I have been one of those mature Christians.
So, I am not judging people for not attending church regularly, or for those who perhaps have stopped attending at all. I am saying maybe I understand you.
If you are anything like me, you love God and want to serve him but there is a huge big wall in the way of you attending church.
I want to help dismantle that wall.
You may not have had the same walls as me, but I am guessing they may be just as looming, just as strong and just as hard to scale.
In my reading on this topic and in discussions I've had with many other christians, there are a range of reasons why mature christians have stopped going to church.
Hurt By The Church
Maybe you have been hurt pretty badly by people in the church. Please let me state, if someone looked at you the wrong way, forgot to offer you a cup of tea after the service, or sat in your favourite chair....you probably need to let that go and keep on love, love loving (and still attend church, ok?).
Some of the articles I have read talk about people leaving church because they have been hurt and are saying to pretty much get over it. Comments such as, "Everyone has been hurt in church sometime," and "Church is made up of sinners so of course you will get hurt." There was an element of "Suck it up, princess and keep attending church."
Well, I find that very dismissive. If you have been hurt by a church, can I just say, I am so very very sorry. I don't think it is wise to run away from any problems but sometimes it is actually a very healthy choice to take a step back. When your heart is hurt deeply, sometimes retreating and spending time alone with God is the precious healing balm our hearts and souls need.
So don't just retreat to avoid and hide. Retreat with intention to spend time with God to let him heal you and guide you. Share with a christian you trust, what you are doing and why.
Then return to the church community.
Mature christians do not stay mature christians outside of Godly community.
It's Not The Right Fit
For many years I attended a great church. It established many activities and minsitries for the community. The church community's heart's desire was to reach the wider community.
I agreed with the vision, I loved the heart it had to reach the outside community and the teaching on a Sunday morning was educational and informative. But it was such a hard church to form relationships in. Crazy, right?
I understand these things can take time so I was prepared to pray and be patient and keep trying. I attended women's nights and I joined a bible study group. Yet, after five years I was not known by the pastor and I had one person I could call a friend. Someone who would notice if I was missing. Someone who I would do things with outside of church. I promise you, I do not have three heads and I am someone who makes friends easily.
Eventually I decided to leave that church and look for another one. No one noticed. No one followed up. I wanted a church community for myself and for my family where we were known. Where people noticed if we were missing. Where we could share the ups and downs of life. Where we could share our love for Christ and what we were learning each week.
It has taken me a year to find a place to worship. I visited churches some Sundays and other Sundays I stayed home.
Again, it is important, if you can, to share with a christian you trust what you are going through. We were not created to walk alone. God created us to live in community.
What Not Attending Church Taught Me
Not attending church, for longer periods of time than I expected, taught me that God is still Sovereign and He is still Lord of my life. He never left me, never stopped speaking to me, never stopped guiding me, providing for me or teaching me. In some seasons, I believe my time away from a church community actually strengthened my faith in God and helped develop a deeper relationship with him.
When I stayed away from church because of hurt, I experienced the loving hand of the Father. I marveled at the way God provided beautiful Godly women to cross my paths in other ways.
I met my dear friend through a community mother's group. The group wasn't a christian one - but she was. Another friendship started with the chaplain at the school I worked at, as well as a new teacher who started working next door to me.
All christians in a non-christian school, all placed to work in the same building of the school. All placed by the divine hand of God for each other to encourage and support.
However, there is a season for everything. Through everything, I have learned, staying away from God's church for long periods of time is just that. It is a period. It is meant to come to an end at some point.
There is so much more God wants to teach you about Himself and His church that we simply can't learn if we are sitting at home by ourselves and shutting ourselves away from Christian community.
So if there is a wall that is stopping you from connecting in a real way in a Christian community, I encourage you to start talking to God about it. Pray for a breakthrough.