In the last few years, I have come into contact with many Believers who have left local assemblies to pursue God in an environment conducive to their comfort zones. The reason for “structure” exodus involves a plethora of explanations. On one side of the equation are those who claim they are not being spiritually challenged. Their quest for Biblical understanding has been hampered by weak preaching and disappointment with others Christians who are not exhibiting “Christ-like” behavior. At the other end of the spectrum are the exiled that have been wounded by words and actions of Pastors, Teachers, and other Believers. In between these two alienated groups are those who are looking for any excuse to be part of the “revolving door syndrome.” They are the fault finders, who are looking through tinted glasses at whatever they can find as a justification for discontent.
What I have noticed is that whatever the reason for absence, it centers on self promotion. It is an attitude of being served and not serving. It is demanding what can the “Church” do for me, instead of asking what can I do for the Kingdom? It is expecting the Pastor/Teacher to feed them, instead of learning to feed themselves. It is expecting others to treat them with acceptance and love, instead of learning to accept and love others. It is looking and judging programs or lack of such, instead of volunteering to help make things better. It is looking for a way out, instead of finding a way to get more involved. It is spreading gossip about their offenders, instead of seeing the goodness in others and expressing it. It is punishing another for their carnality, instead of forgiving them. It is being a warrior, instead of a peace maker.
Whatever has caused the Believer to step away, they need to be a bridge and get over it. I have yet to find an assembly of Believers that exemplify perfection. What I have seen is the potential for the Body of Believers to become what God wants them to be. No matter who hurts us, either intentionally or unintentionally, we must forgive them. We cannot afford the consequences of not forgiving. We must not let anyone take our joy and hinder our relationship with our Lord. When we go to Sunday worship, are we there to give or to receive? Are we there to people watch, or to set our eyes upon Him? Are we there to hear the Word of God, or to hear the gossip of the past week? Are we there to be entertained, or to be a participant in praise and worship?
I challenge every AWOL Believer to reconsider a return to their place of worship. Whatever was wrong when you left, it can be fixed. If you were wounded, let the Healer mend you. Oh, one more thing. If you never left the church, and you see someone who did leave return, welcome them back and encourage them. Tell them they were missed. If you are a hugger, hug them! AMEN?
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