This post is part of a short series based on Jeremy Myer’s (from “Till He Comes“) book project “Finding Church.” Jeremy asked for contributions in the categories of Changing Church, Leaving Church, Reforming Church, and Returning to Church. As I worked through my own contribution, I realized that my story could fit into any of the categories. So, I’m writing a post based on each category.
This post describes my experience “returning to church.” This is the hardest category for me to write about, because my story fits into this category less than the others. This is how Jeremy describes the category of “Returning to Church”: “These are stories of people who returned to church after years of being away.”
Why is it difficult to fit my own journey into this category? Well, as I wrote in the other posts (“changing churches,” “leaving church,” and “reforming the church“), I have left the idea of church as organization, institution, or hierarchy – I’ve left any “church” other than church as God’s people gathered together. I am not returning to this kind of “church.”
Also, as I explained in the other posts, when I was saved by Jesus Christ, welcomed into God’s family, and indwelled by the Holy Spirit, I became part of the church that is the gathering of God’s people, the body of Christ, the temple of the Holy Spirit. I cannot leave this church, which means that I cannot return to this church either.
So, how is “returning” part of my journey at all? Well, there is one way…
While I am not returning to the organizations and institutions that are often referred to as “church,” I can return to the believers who remain part of those organizations. As I’ve written previously, these believers are my brothers and sisters in Christ just as much as those who are not part of the organizations and institutions. When I share my life with “one another,” that must include them, or I am the one being divisive.
Of course, there’s always the chance that those brothers and sisters in Christ will not want anything to do with me. They may not want to fellowship with me. They may decide to separate from me. There is nothing that I can do about that. Instead, it must be my desire to fellowship with them and live in peace with them. And, I must be ready and willing to “return” to them at any point they may be ready. Or, if I find that I have been the one separating from them, then I must be willing to humble myself, admit my own divisiveness, and “return” to them.
All who are in Christ are part of the family of God together. We are all part of the body of Christ. We are all indwelled by the Holy Spirit. Too many things historically, culturally, organizationally, etc. separate us from one another. It’s time to “return” to one another and, as Paul wrote, be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit.” (Ephesians 4:3 ESV)
Let’s return to our brothers and sisters in Christ… all of them.