15 reasons why I came back to the Church

Earlier today, Rachel Held posted 15 Reasons Why I left the Church. She got me to thinking about this, and why it is important for us to listen to people who leave the Church. But it is also important for us to understand why some come back to the Church. I serve as a pastor of a Lutheran congregation and president of a Lutheran Seminary. As I reflected on her post, I realized some similarities, despite the fact that I am a generation older than her (I have grandkids closer to her age than I am to her age). Please note: this is not an attack against Rachel, rather these are my own reflections on the same issues she raises, because they are important.

I came back to the Church  when I was 27. I am nearly 63 years of age and have lived in many places (28 moves in 41 years of marriage). I have served as a lay leader, then as pastor of several congregations, and as mentor for other pastors in the past 20 years. Each time I have moved into a new congregation, the challenges, while specific to a context, share many of the same issues. The people are broken sinners, just like I am. They need hope, help, and encouragement of the Gospel like I do.

Let’s begin with fifteen reasons why I came back (parallel to Rachel’s):

  1. I came back to the church because Bible study and worship were both important.
  2. I came back to the church because we talked about sin, without pointing a finger at someone else, because this was about my sin.
  3. I came back to the church because my questions were seen as encouraging others to ask.
  4. I came back to the church because it finally didn’t feel like a cult or a country club.
  5. I came back to the church because I believe the earth is young. I was not told that I was stupid for accepting that view.
  6. I came back to the church because sometimes I doubt, and some in the Church allowed me to doubt, knowing that they had been there, too.
  7. I came back to the church because I couldn’t be someone’s “project.” I am the focus of God’s heart and desire, not someone’s notch on the spiritual belt.
  8. I came back to the Church because it didn’t matter whether one was Democrat, Republican, Independent. And I didn’t need to feel guilty about helping the poor even if I wasn’t Democrat.
  9. I came back to the church because I was troubled by stories of violence and misogyny and genocide found in the Bible, and no one told me not to worry about it because “God’s ways are higher than our ways.”
  10. I came back to the church because I discovered something better than pat answers.
  11. I came back to the church because I knew I would not see a woman behind the pulpit; but I also saw that God equipped men and women for service in God’s kingdom, which is most important.
  12. I came back to the church because I wanted to help people in my community because I was Christian.
  13. I came back to the church because I had learned what the Bible offered is true compassion for the hurting, for injustice, etc. And I learned that those in the limelight (regardless of background) often don’t know poverty and injustice except by a one week journey in some videoed publicity tour. I learned from those who lived in the trenches of poverty and injustice and who brought more than temporary help. The Church I work with wants to end abuse of all forms, not just the current fad abuse.
  14. I came back to the church because there are days when I’m not sure I believe in God, and someone told me that “dark nights of the soul” can be part of the faith experience.
  15. I came back to the church because the church doesn’t put signs out in the church lawn and never demanded a vote in either direction.

Rachel, while we may disagree on many of these points, I appreciate your openness in sharing where you are. I hope that you can understand where I am coming from. My passion comes from Paul’s letters:

[that I] may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith (Philippians 3:9).

For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2)

To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all people, so that I may by all means save some. (1 Corinthians 9:22)

I am glad the Church is on that path, however incompletely, indirectly that occurs. In our Lutheran Confessions we have this statement by Martin Luther:

For, thank God, a child seven years old knows what the Church is, namely, the holy believers and lambs who hear the voice of their Shepherd. (The Smalcald Articles, III.12)

The Church, because it is inhabited by sinners, can be lonely, demeaning, abusive, uncaring, etc. But Church includes broken sinners being made whole, forgiven sinners who learn to forgive, poor sinners who are rich in Christ, lonely sinners who have found a place of security and comfort, inadequate sinners who desire to receive all that God gives, here in time and there in eternity. And I find that today as 36 years ago many young people are looking for that kind of Church.

I’m glad I came back to the Church 36 years ago.

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About exegete77

disciple of Jesus Christ, husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, teacher, and theologian
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16 Responses to 15 reasons why I came back to the Church

  1. jen says:

    🙂 thanks for giving me ammo for my post tomorrow.

    very nice message.

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    • exegete77 says:

      Hmmmm, “ammo”? Not sure I like the implications of that. 😀 I thought my post rather peaceful.

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      • jen says:

        i think “fodder” might be a better word. 🙂 (ammo was what came to mind this morning when i had a two year old pelting me with cheerios.)

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      • exegete77 says:

        LOL. That is priceless: “pellets of cherrios” as WMD!!! Oh the images! 😀

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  2. Joy says:

    I’m glad you found a church more welcoming and appreciative of diversity, questions, and criticism. I hope to find one like that one day soon – I’m still looking.

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    • exegete77 says:

      Howdy, Joy. I was thinking about you as I wrote this response, because I know in some of your posts on your blog and here, you have hinted at the search you were going through. May God direct your steps as you consider this.

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  3. Fantastic post. Well done.

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  5. Erma says:

    The last paragraph of your post is a good summation of where we all are for the most part. It is such a comfort to know that we are so loved no matter where we are on our faith journey; even though we may not always feel that love we are assured that it is always there. God is willing to wait for us as we find the handle of the door where he is knocking.

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  7. I came back to Church because we were (I was) away too long God had troubles in my life and wanted me back, Thank you Lord, I am an infant and am enjoying the growth. I will never be able to replace the time I have lost, just the opportunity to do what I can in the time that You oh LORD have alloted me. For all my worrying cannot add another hour to my life.

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    • exegete77 says:

      Welcome back to Church! And thanks for posting. I look back sometimes and I think, “What if…” But then I realize that God can use all my experiences, even the I-don’t-want-to-reveal kind of experiences.

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