“I’m not going to go back to church again! She was talking about me behind my back. I thought Christians aren’t supposed to gossip!? “
“Can you believe!? I can’t imagine why the Sunday School teacher made that statement about Jesus being ‘a good guy.’ He is a lot more than that! There’s no way I can go back to to that church!”
“Where do I go to church!? Bed Side Bible Worship Center. The last organized church I went to had a big fight over the color of the new carpet when they remodeled the sanctuary and half the church went to start a new church somewhere else. I quit!”
Sound silly? Maybe real because you’ve heard something similar somewhere? Ever been hurt by someone or some group in your church and you didn’t want to go back . . . ever again? . . . maybe to any church . . . anywhere??
George Barna* has released a report stating that 40% of those who don’t attend church attribute it to a hurtful experience at the hands of a church member, or because of a disappointing situation in the church body.
Perhaps this is the result of some oversensitive people. Or maybe it’s because some of those not attending are looking for an excuse to justify their absence, but they still want to remain in good standing with God. Or maybe there are times when it really is the result of a genuinely hurtful situation that has been experienced. In the latter case, it seems to be a sad condemnation of the way Christians treat each other. In the earlier situations, there’s room for question about how concerned church members might be about the absence of one of their own.
Make it your commitment to be aware of the people in your church who have disappeared.
- Express concern without being invasive — I sometimes encounter someone whom I didn’t see the previous Sunday at church. Maybe even for a few weeks. I may say something like, “I missed you last week,” or, “I haven’t seen you for a while.” It’s not unusual to hear a reply that explains why they haven’t been there. I will interrupt and tell them that they don’t owe me an explanation, I just want them to know they’re missed. Frequently I see an initial look of surprise, then confusion because they haven’t encountered anything like that before, and finally a look of relief and a thank you for having been missed. I think it’s vital that people know they’re important to the body of Christ, not because we are trying to micromanage their lives.
- Stay in touch:
- Phone — It’s old fashioned, but it still works. Voice-to-voice contact makes it more personal.
- E-mail — E-mail, though some say it is going the way of the pony express (hard to believe, huh?), it’s still a viable way to get a message to someone you haven’t seen for a while, or for whom you want to express a concern.
- Text — Texting is the quick, cool way to connect with youth and young adults, especially. Messages are short and frequently “cutsie.” Sometimes they can be an, “I hope you’re O.K.” message that invites a reply.
- Snail Mail — A nice card conveys concern, sympathy or congratulations. An, “I miss seeing you at church,” card it very encouraging.
- In Person — The usual custom for young adults, and maybe everyone in general in today’s society, is to call before coming by. Face-to-face expressions of concerns let others know of your concern because the communication includes a lot of non-verbal communications that can
- Be sensitive — The person(s) you are talking to may not be comfortable talking about the problem you may have heard about. Don’t push the issue, and don’t be invasive.
- Be genuine – Be yourself, don’t try to impress. It comes across as phony. Act with concern for the people involved and be sincere about investing in your brother or sister in Christ.
- Be positive – If the reason for contacting them is because of a difficult situation, be encouraging and honest. Don’t promise what may not occur; e.g., “God will fix everything.” If the reason for the contact is for a joyous occasion or being missed, casual joking and a light topic of discussion can make for a bonding experience.
When someone is hurt by what happened in church, including not being missed by others when sick or out of town for a while, the best opportunity to keep them connected to church is to be their friend and allow Jesus to use you as His envoy. Loving the wounded of church hurts is the way to encourage them to become reconnected with church. Be one of the ones to let others know He cares by acting as His voice to reach out to those He loves when they’re hurting. Let’s not lose any members of the family if it can be helped.