Coming home to a church you left…
I was in a conversation the other day with someone who had previously chosen to leave Four Rivers Church. He asked me if it was ‘acceptable’ for him to return and be an active part of the church.
Honestly, I was a little surprised by the question. We at 4RC work hard to be inclusive and welcoming. I would have thought he would have automatically known he was wanted, welcome and that everyone would hope for him to return.
But that wasn’t clear to him.
So I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how someone returns to a church or any other service/volunteer organization that they have previously left…
Here are some thoughts…
1. Come home. There is no reason to stay away any longer than you already have. If you are considering returning to a church it is most likely because you have missed the love and friendship you find there. Maybe a conflict that pushed you away has been resolved. Maybe something has changed. But regardless of the reason, now you hope to return. So do it.
2. Ask yourself if there are any relationships that need healing. In leaving, it is possible that you did harm relationally. Or maybe you were harmed in the process. I encourage you not to just sweep that under the rug. Do what all Christians should do… seek relational healing and renewed friendship. That will require you to be intentional, admit when you were wrong, ask forgiveness, etc.
3. If you feel you were wronged or hurt… forgive quickly. But don’t let the pain cause you to stay away. Our lives are too short to miss out on the relational and spiritual blessings God has for us just because someone hurt us. So forgive quickly. You may ask, “What if they don’t even ask me to forgive them or even understand that they hurt me?” I say… forgive anyway, return, renew, start over. We should not require someone to ask forgiveness in order to grant it. (But I will admit that it makes it easier when someone does ask forgiveness…)
4. Learn from the experience. Ask yourself why you left in the first place. Seek to find out if you made a mistake. Pray. And learn from it. That’s one of the primary reasons we go through things like this… to learn, grow and develop. You can be closer to God and your Christian brothers and sisters by learning through moments like this one.
So in closing, I just urge you all to return, renew, revitalize and start over. God has big plans for the churches of the world. Don’t miss out on them because you left the church and are unwilling to return.