A Letter To The Tenuous Christian Who Has Left Church and Is Hanging On By A Thread

I know there are some of you who are barely hanging onto the “Christian scene” — it was part of your youth, you like Jesus, you like some of the music, you find many of the teachings and verses to be inspirational, you’re into grace and humility, and you understand that not every screaming Westboro picketer represents the movement of Christianity.

But mostly: it’s not a part of your life. You haven’t been to church in a while. You feel largely removed from your former Christian friends. You don’t care to go back, and you feel like you’d be judged if you did.

Sometimes you miss going, but you’ll see some horrible news story about another group of crazy church people or you’ll see how the drama is destroying your friends who still attend — and you remember why you left. You’ll remember the old wounds, the hurtful things the pastor did, the way the church gossiped, and those one or two opinions that really bothered you.

My dear friend: I’m sorry it’s gone this way. I’m sorry the church as a whole has been so awful. Speaking as a pastor and your friend, we’ve done a poor job and there’s no excuse for that.

Yet — I know you still think Jesus is pretty awesome. I know you’re thoughtful enough to still be attracted to God somehow. And you have some decent Christian friends who don’t act all uppity nor pretend they have it all together. You occasionally check out some Christian blogs, and they’ve even been a big encouragement sometimes.

I know this is a huge leap here: but I’m writing this for you to say, Please don’t completely write off the church just yet.

Please consider that there is still one out there, just for you, that isn’t perfect but is still very passionate for the truth and love of Jesus, and one you could possibly call home.

I have been to many, many good churches that are still faithful, loving, and kind. There are still many churches that really care, where you are free to be yourself, where it feels like God is actually in the house. They still exist. I’m not saying that drama never happens there, but they are honest about it and they love one another through it all.

Sure, church is always going to be a messy sloppy place. But the most gracious ones are also absolutely beautiful in the mess. It’s because they meet each other where they are, like Jesus does. Deep down inside, some part of you wants to be a part of one of those. It probably scares you like it scares me — but but it’s like that moment when you take the chance on love again. It’s terrifying, but you’re right at the edge of adventure. It could be something incredible.

Please think about just asking a friend to attend a church event, or even this Sunday. If it goes bad, try a few more times. Keep an open mind. It’s a lot to ask considering all that has happened — but certainly we’ve invested far more time into things we had less faith on. I’ve seen so many people come back to church and find healing again. Maybe you’ll find a new safe place where you can reconnect with God and start once more. At the very least, you’ll know where not to visit again, and perhaps you can try elsewhere one more time.

I’m excited for you. I’ll be praying for you. If you’re excited: don’t hide it. Tell your friend. Get your hopes up a little! Enter with the anticipation of Jesus welcoming you with wide open arms.

God loves you and so do I.

— J.S.

8 thoughts on “A Letter To The Tenuous Christian Who Has Left Church and Is Hanging On By A Thread

  1. “41% of the formerly churched said that they would return to the local church if a friend or acquaintance invited them. Younger adults are even more influenced by the power of the invitation. Approximately 60% of those 18–35 would consider returning to church if someone they knew asked them to come back.”

    “Four percent of formerly churched adults are actively looking for a church to attend regularly (other than their previous church). Six percent would prefer to resume attending regularly in the same church they had attended. The largest group, 62 percent, is not actively looking, but is open to the idea of attending church regularly again.”

    “The issue of affinity also surfaced in the responses. Thirty–five percent indicated that they would be inspired to attend church if ‘I knew there were people like me there.’ ”

    — Lifeway Research


  2. Interesting post. I absolutely can’t stand my church right now. I’ve been doing everything I can just to hang in there. But, every week is just such a struggle. Thankfully, I just happen to be moving away in two months and will have the opportunity to start looking for something better!


  3. Unfortunately, the congregations I’ve attempted to be a part of have lacked evidence of Jesus’ love. They talked about him and knew stuff about him, but didn’t live in a relationship with him that is apparent to others. This could just be the area I live in (conservative Bible belt), but I’ve found more of the church in the gathering of 2 or 3 than I’ve been able to find in the Sunday morning congregations.

    I’ve attempted going to the gatherings on multiple occasions, but it’s like being a battered spouse returning to a mate that has promised to change, yet after some time, the external pleasantries give way to the same internal corruption as before and my hopes get dashed again. There is only so much abuse and broken promises of change one can take before walking away from the institutions for good.


    1. I agree. I think there are too many churches that don’t get it. By now, I’ve probably heard every terrible thing there is about the church. At the same time, I do think it’s like finding the right spouse: there are still good ones out there, and they’re doing great things. Not perfectly, but at least passionately. There’s definitely a “bad kind of hurt” in church where leaders are abusive and people are judgmental, but there’s also a “good kind” where it’s part of being a family, being vulnerable, and learning to work with each others’ flaws. I’ve been part of churches like that, and even when it’s rough, we get through like family always does.

      I think one of my own hardest things to get over was to stop being a capitalist consumer, expecting the church to meet my every whim, and instead be a provider, where I’m contributing in spite of the complaints. Unfortunately the Westernized model of church has turned church attendees into people who will leave at the slightest inconvenience (though of course they can leave for legitimate reasons), while church leaders have become businessmen. So it’s really no one’s fault if they can’t find a church-family — it’s rare to find one. I have hope they exist, and I know they do.


  4. Wow thank you! I needed this… both as a churched person who’s mad at the church and a friend of people who would probably come back if only I invited them. Thank you!


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