Many of you have experienced this slippery slope. You miss 2 maybe 3 weeks because of sickness, job responsibilities, vacations or whatever else seems to pile up over the course of a month. Before you know it, one month has turned into 6 weeks and then 8 weeks. After a while, it gets easier to miss and harder to get back. Even worse, it can feel awkward when you think of coming back. “What will people say?” “Everyone will ask where I’ve been.” Those are the thoughts many people think as they weigh coming back to church.
My Intended Audience
I am not writing to those who intentionally walked away from church. People leave over anger, frustration, offense and many other issues, but that is an entirely different conversation. Rather, my aim is for those who unintentionally fell away. Those who look back and think, “What happened? We were faithful. We were consistent. We were plugged in, and now we don’t know how to get back.”
I also have another audience in mind, and it is those who do not realize they have fallen out of church. I was at AutoZone one day picking up something for my car and right beside me was a lady who once attended my church. I had not seen her in over a year. The employee helping her was asking her where she attended church. The lady proudly said, “I attend Preaching Christ Church where Chad Roberts is the Pastor.” I was shocked. I was right beside her!
According to Hebrews 13:17, I will have to give an account before the Lord for the people I pastor. How can I give an account of her when I have not seen her, worshiped with her, fellowshiped with her, prayed with her, or even talked to her in over a year?! Like this lady, some of you do not realize that you have fallen out of church. Weeks have turned into months and for some, months have turned into years.
Consistency is the Key
Peter gives a serious warning to God’s people in 2 Peter 3:17. He writes, “You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability.”
Notice the pastor’s heart in Peter as he writes this verse. He first say, “You therefore, beloved.” He is speaking directly to God’s people. He is writing with a tender compassion that a Shepherd has for his sheep. This is the goal in my writing of this article. I am not wanting to condemn those who have fallen away nor scold them. In fact, I think most of those who have fallen out of church are not content with their state. They would rather be with God’s people, enjoying God’s fellowship and walking closely with the Lord as they once did. So my aim is not to condemn you, but to encourage you to get back on track. You are God’s “beloved” and you belong with God’s people!
Then he writes, “Take care.” I love those two small words. I always think of my diabetes when I read this verse. Because I am a diabetic, I must take notice to what I eat. Diabetes is very subtle and can be quite deceiving. I can feel good for a while and think to myself, “I’m getting in pretty decent shape.” Before I know it, I’m back to eating fast food, drinking soft drinks and going about life 100 miles per hour. Then after a while of not paying attention, everything catches up with me. I hit a wall. I feel terrible and I begin to physically feel the effects of not taking care of myself.
The same thing happens to us spiritually. We are not designed to take in junk and go nonstop. We are designed to take care of our souls and feed it the proper nourishment. When our souls are not fed properly, believe me, after a while, you will begin to feel the effects. You no longer have a desire to pray, your desire to please the Lord will fade, your desire to be in God’s house will go away and before you know it, you are in a bad place spiritually…an unhealthy place.
Notice the last phrase, “…and lose your own stability.” This fascinates me because Peter did not say, take care that you do not fall into a terrible sin. Instead, he said, “take care…and do not lose your own stability.” Can you see the danger in this? The danger is not that you will commit some horrible sin, but that you would simply fall. The word “Stability” also means, “Firm footing.” Peter is saying that when you begin to slip away…you will fall.
Have you been slipping away? Have you fallen out of church? If so, I do not condemn you, but I do warn you…shake yourself, awaken yourself and get your family back into God’s fellowship.
Your Kids Pay the Price
The most important factor in this equation is your children. If you are a parent who is raising kids, your most important responsibility to ensure that they are around the things of God. While most parents would never think of removing their children from school, many parents do not think twice about removing their children from church. If their education is so important then how much more important is their eternal soul?
So if you have children or teenagers who are growing up outside of church, then you should ask yourself some very tough questions. If you do not place your children around the things of the Lord at 5 and 15, what makes you think they will want to have anything to do with Godly things when they are 25 and 35? Will they raise their families in church? Probably not. They will raise their families to do what you are modeling to them as they are growing up.
Some Good News
Certainly, this has been a difficult article to both write and read. Now, let me give you some good news. You can get back in church. Yes, it may be awkward at first. Yes, you may have get over some pride…but you can do it! So how do you get back into church after you have been one for so long? Here are few steps:
#1. Talk to your pastor
If he is a true Shepherd, he is not going to look down on you. He is going to welcome you back with open arms. He wants the best for your family and that means he is going to be incredibly excited that your family is coming back…trust me on this!
#2. Make a Plan
You know the old saying, “If you aim at nothing you will hit it every time.” You can’t casually get back into church. Satan will ensure that won’t happen. You must be determined and resolute about it. Don’t let anything stand in the way! Plan your next 6 – 8 weeks. Even if your work schedule only allows you to attend twice a month, make those 2 Sunday’s a part of your 6 – 8 week plan. Whatever “weekly” looks like for your family, make sure you stick with it.
Christians are not designed to sit…we are designed to serve. If you get back into church and just sit around, you’ll most likely fall out again. Why? Because you’re not doing what you’re designed to do. Get on a team…volunteer…engage…serve! It is important!