Facing rejection as a church visitor is tough enough. However, if you don’t see the value of attending church in the first place, it’s nearly impossible to face something as unpleasant and alienating as being the lonely visitor standing with a cold cup of coffee in the lobby while everyone else cheerfully chats with one another.
When I stopped going to church, I didn’t see how I could ever make church work for me again. However, as I prayed about it, God sent a little nagging thought into the back of my mind: “Never say never.”
I didn’t, but it was hard to believe.
My time isolated from Christian community was tough. As I struggled to find a new Christian community and faced the possibility of rejection or getting tangled in an unhealthy church, those seven years in the wilderness away from church reminded me what was at stake.
It’s really, really hard to be a Christian without the support of a community. For a few years, we hosted a few Christian friends at our home for a morning prayer meeting before work, and that was a lifeline for me.
We only had about 30-45 minutes, but it was just enough to provide me a safe place to share my struggles and to find the support I needed so desperately.
Belonging to a Christian community is not about just stamping your timecard each week and relieving your Christian guilt. In fact, the obligation of attending church is an empty mirage of Christianity. Attending church weekly is not a way of avoiding sin in and of itself.
Belonging to the life-giving Christian community, which can be found in church, is how we are sustained and kept healthy. We need to be with people who are facing the same challenges in life or who have worked through the same stuff as us.
We need to know we’re not the only crazy ones. We need to receive prayer from people who face the same doubts, fears, and temptations. Belonging to community is not always the same thing as “attending” a church.