Several years ago my family and I attended a church in another town. We were very active in the church. I coordinated and/or taught in many of the children’s programs. We also attended Sunday school and services regularly. My children were in classes on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights and they grew into the youth group when they became teens. We attended there for about 8 years before circumstances made us leave very suddenly.
One would think that as involved as we were that people would have noticed that we were not there. Although this was a church with about 200 regular attendees, our absence at small groups and Sunday school classes should have been noticed. However, no one called us. No one emailed or reached out to us at all.
Four years later, I needed some political advice, so I contacted one of the members of that church. We were mid conversation when he suddenly realized and stated that he had not seen me in 4 years. How can you miss it when we always sat in the same seats in the same Sunday school class as you, and I had taught your children in other classes?
After a while, we found a church closer to home. Once again our family was quite involved with church activities. We even helped to remodel the building that they would rent as the church grew. We attended regularly and actively participated. When we realized, after a year, that the pastor was mostly a narcissist who was incapable of teaching anything we really needed to learn, we decided to find somewhere else. Again, no one called, no one emailed, no one reached out at all. I didn’t bother reaching back either. I simply could not call anyone at the church a friend. People rarely spoke to me at all while we did attend there, so it just wasn’t worth my time to pretend they were friends.
We had become foster parents by this time and really wanted to stay involved with a church. We visited a few and found one with a newly hired pastor. There were about 250-300 members and, most important to us at the time, there was an outstanding youth group for our son. Once again, we became very actively involved with a Sunday school group and even attended Bible study on Wednesday nights. There was a dinner each Wednesday before the study time. My son, the foster baby we had at the time, and I all attended dinner and Bible study every Wednesday. Every week we sat at a table and ate by ourselves. No one joined us and no one encouraged us to join them. During the coffee/social time on Sunday mornings, no one approached us to chat and when I approached others to join in their conversation, it was clear that I was unwelcome. But we liked our Sunday school group and they appeared to like us.
The foster baby we had at the time had some developmental problems since his mother was a drug addict and the father was an alcoholic. I worked very hard with him that year we had him and he was able to overcome all of those issues. The nursery staff at the church loved him and when I announced that the baby was to be placed with an adoptive home they were sad to see him go. I was devastated. He left our home the last time on a Friday. Sunday morning I was still lying in my bed grieving my loss. I knew that placing the toddler in that home was undoubtedly in his best interest. Up to this time, this was probably the lowest point in my life. Yet, no one from the church reached out to us. No calls, no emails, not even a card came.
I completely understand why people call Christians hypocrites. Christians are supposed to be the ones who lift each other up in trying circumstances. Christians are supposed to be the ones who help friends in times of need. Christians are supposed to be the people who comfort others in times of loss. Christians are supposed to reach out to people and show the love of Christ in their actions. But they don’t. We don’t.
Just when I had about given up on people in general and the church specifically, God blessed me. I was done with church, but decided to try one more time when we found a Bible teaching pastor. He is incredible! He teaches exegetically, one verse at a time, in order. I wasn’t worried anymore about making friends and bonding with people, I just wanted the spiritual food each week.
The work I do requires that I miss at least two Sundays at my own church each month, sometimes even more. That’s okay, I really miss my pastor when I’m not there, but I really didn’t think anyone else would notice. This week, I received an email from the pastor’s wife. She asked about us. I explained that work had kept me away and that we’d be back this Sunday. She replied immediately and said that she loved us and missed us being there. This church might have 25 members, but this time at least one person missed me.
I’ve seen several articles lately about why the church is failing, why people who have been long time members are leaving, and why the church is shrinking. These articles have offered up many reasons why this is occurring.
Well, I have another answer: perhaps people are leaving because no one there actually gives a flip about them. If the church body doesn’t start actually caring about people, I see a very dark and diminished future in store.