For years, I was one of the unchurched. I had excuses to justify staying away but at the heart of my decision was something more personal. When I needed the church, the church was simply not there. Looking back, I know part of the reason was my fault but I didn’t think the church cared.
Our family moved to a new area just as I entered the seventh grade. During the first week of school, I decided to try out for the chorus. I grew up singing in church, so singing at school seemed like a great way to make friends. After class, I went to the music room. You could hear lots of singing and laughter, as I timidly opened the door but immediately, the room grew quiet as everyone stopped what they were doing to check out the new kid who dared to join them — me.
When I told the teacher of my desire to sing in the chorus, she frowned, reached into her file and handed me a piece of music. “Sing this,” she said and immediately started playing the prelude. Reading unfamiliar music while trying to sing is difficult at best but I gamely tried. Based on the looks and snickers of the other children, I was not doing well. Half way through the song, the teacher stopped playing and said: “I’m sorry. You are not qualified to sing in our school chorus.”
I remember timidly walking out of the room, going home and crying but I recovered from the initial hurt quickly enough and went on to other interests. I still made my share of friends and enjoyed a normal childhood. “So Larry, why are you making such a big deal about singing now?
Looking back, I’m amazed the effect those words had on me. The teacher was someone who understood music. If she said I can’t sing. I can’t sing. Therefore I won’t sing. I quit the church choir and when singing during worship, began to lower my voice so no one would actually hear me. Eventually, I asked: “why attend church at all?” I volunteered to work more on Sundays. Then, I simply wasn’t attending church at all.
Looking back, I realize there were many poor choices made on my part. But — at any time someone could have stepped in and offered encouragement. Someone at church could have and should have asked: “Why wasn’t I singing with the choir or attending youth? Why was I working on Sundays?” They could have checked up on me but most didn’t, so I quietly slipped away.
Does this sound familiar?
There seem to be two groups who do not attend church. One group never really attended. But another group like me chose to stop going to church. Somewhere, somehow, something happened. While reading this were you reminded of a time when someone said something that hurt you deeply? Maybe there was a time when you needed God and/or your church and for some reason, you were deeply disappointed and hurt.
If you are in the group that left the church or if you’ve ever been disappointed or hurt by your church or if you just simply want to help your church do better – keep reading.
Remember what Mike said at the beginning of this article? “We (the church) need to go back to the basics. Give me people who “know” God and desire to see others come to this knowledge. Let us then go and “live” the word through our actions daily, integrated into a lost world, loving it.”
- We need to go back to the basics of being the church.
- We need to “know” God and desire to see others come to this knowledge.
- We need to go and “live” the word through our actions daily, integrated into a lost world, loving it.
Next: How and why I came back to the church.