by Heidi Ashe
“We’ve left our church.” Never have those words been harder to say than to my precious 86-year-old granny. She loves our church. She’s been our guest on many occasions and she always tells me that she just feels the Spirit there and “Oh, I just loved that song your choir sang!”
So when my husband and I felt the call to leave our church, I couldn’t bear to tell my granny. So I didn’t, until she asked about our sweet country preacher and I had to fess up. My explanation was rushed and I remember shuffling my feet and looking down a lot, even though I was talking to her on the phone. She didn’t scold me as I expected. The line was quiet on her end as I explained that quite some time ago Chris mentioned that he felt the Lord leading us elsewhere. “I fought him on it for a while,” I told her. “It’s our home, we love it there,” I explained, “I brought my babies to that church.”
“But then I felt my heart changing too,” I mumbled not quite as confidently. “It’s been hard but we’ve been visiting lots of places,” I said. And it was the truth. Every word of it. It has been hard. But as hard as it’s been, it’s been right.
I can’t say that I understand God’s plan at the moment, but I’m learning to lean more on Him. If that is all I gain from this, that will be enough. My husband and I were active members at our small church so this change has been drastic. We firmly believe in the local church. The Bible says “where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (Matthew 18:20) We long to be with Jesus’ people, with fellow believers. We know that’s where He wants us and where we’ll grow the most. We’ve talked to our kids about why we’ve made this change and while I know it’s been hard on them too, they’ve been amazing. Walking confidently into each new place of worship, shaking hands, and being on their very best behavior.
I remember one Sunday evening telling my husband that they’re all just so different, referring to the many different places we’ve visited and he said something that resounded within my soul. “Well of course they are, so are all of us,” he said, “God made us all differently and we don’t all worship the same.” Dang. How perfectly right he is.
It’s been a year now and we’ve learned a lot in the leaving. A lot in the visiting. A lot in the shaking hands, smiling, reciting our names over and over and over again. We’ve been to many sanctuaries, many fellowship halls, and many Sunday school classrooms. More times than not I stand in awe at each service. Hands raised all around me, choirs joined in song.
God’s people are still out there. Still praying on their knees at the altar each week. Still singing songs of hope and redemption. Still welcoming sinners into the fold. Regardless of how different each place has been, God is still there. If you watch the news you see the desperation of the world. You see the hurting all around. Maybe it’s time we got off the screen and into a pew. Maybe it’s time we got on our knees. Maybe it’s time we held the hands of those beside us and felt the hope that only God can give.
If you’ve been out church for a bit, go back. I promise you need it. It’ll be hard. The schedule may be weird and the people may be a bit overwhelming. Forgive them, they mean well. Just go, find your people and soak them in. Join hands and then roll up your sleeves and get back to the kingdom work.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you.
1 Peter 1:3-4