Drifting from church

(Photo: Unsplash/chuttersnap)

My wife's phone rang last week, a friend from a recently attended church calling her to organise a catch-up. Being someone we had also known from other church-related activities in the past, my wife took up the offer for a catch-up.

The conversations were targeted at why we were not going to church lately.

Around the same time, I received a Facebook invite from the pastor of the same, recently attended church.

The fact is, we had not been to this particular church for quite a few weeks. After failing to really blend in with the systems of this church, we had just kind of ... fallen away.

After my wife's catch-up with our friend, we discussed with each other why we had actually not been back – we had not done this prior.

I reflected on the churches we have been to and even helped establish over the years, and the ones which really felt like home were the smaller ones, with non-judgemental people, just happy for you to be there with them and to worship and discuss the things of God together.

One thing I really feel is a fair measure is to look at the fruit being borne - the fruits of the Spirit as stated in Galatians chapter 5, verses 22-23 - love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

I consider the week nightly Bible studies to be at least as important as a Sunday service; a real time for people to learn, share, create connection and ponder the things of God; a time to be more informal, be real and allow God to minister to us through others.

So why did we drift from this church we had attended for about one year?

We looked for the fruit and, honestly, there was not a lot to be seen. There was no adult weekly Bible study, after-church programmes, just the Sunday meeting, which felt to be honest, more of a light and sound show than church.

Several times, I spoke with the pastor and asked if we could catch-up for a coffee to have a chat, just to get to know them and I was told to enroll in the church's learning programme, which would explain everything going on and fit you into an appropriate area to help out.

I felt this lacked a personal touch and we were just seen as numbers to be 'inducted' into their church life and to boast how many people come here.

At a previous church we had been to - which incidentally closed down due to building issues and the pastors being moved interstate - every week the pastors would open their house after church for people to join them for a meal, have a chat and connect, and it was terrific.

One thing we look for in a church are the fruits of love and kindness - the church's and individuals' willingness to help people and the community as a whole; we didn't see any of this either.

My wife noted that for several months last year, when I had my knee operation and could not walk without assistance, not one person was interested, let alone asked if we were ok and needed any help. Fortunately, our personal friends, both Christian and Christian-to-be, were there for us to help on several occasions when we were stuck, but this really struck her that not one person asked, let alone offered any assistance.

"People we hardly knew at the kid's school were more forthcoming than the people at our own church!" she stated.

Sure we can still worship God at this church, sure the message preached is usually good, which is why I was just happy to go along in the first place, making me not all that worried about how cold people were towards us, but we can also do this elsewhere and I don't feel we should be made to feel guilty because we chose out of good reason not to attend a certain church.

So with the exception of a small local church we sometimes visit (albeit with no kids' area, which makes it difficult with three young children!), we are homeless.

Or are we?

It has been on my heart for some time to start a home group bible study at our home, and to invite local Christians to it, for a night of prayer, study and chat to see where it goes. Church at home.

Don't forget, we bring the church into the world with us every day, don't limit yourself to what you can do for 2 hours on a Sunday morning. If something feels wrong, you have a right to use your God given discernment and take appropriate action.

Courtesy of Press Service International