Lately, I’ve heard a song on the radio that has really touched my heart. It seems to play every time I get in the car. At first, it was a catchy tune, and I quickly learned to sing along, but as I drove this afternoon I had to pull over in a parking lot and just listen. The song hit my heart so hard that tears were in my eyes, and I couldn’t keep going until I looked up the lyrics and talked to God about it.
The song is Church (Take Me Back) by Cochren & Co., and the first verse and chorus go like this:
There was a time that I swore I would never go back
I was blind to the truth, didn’t know what I had
I was running, I was searching
But every place I turned for healing
Left me more broken than the last
Take me back
To the place that feels like home
To the people I can depend on
To the faith that’s in my bones
Take me back
To a preacher and a verse
Where they’ve seen me at my worst
To the love I had at first
Oh, I want to go to church
Church as Family
Why did this song impact me so deeply? At first I couldn’t figure it out. I’ve never really been away from church. My dad was in the ministry, and when I was only a few days old, my name was added to the cradle roll. I grew up in church, went to a Christian college and married a pastor. I haven’t had a time in my life when church was not important to me. When I look back over the many churches I have been a part of, I see what each of them contributed to my spiritual growth. Even the difficult situations that hurt me to my core were used to grow my faith.
My church family is just that, family. Every day I meet people who have no idea what a true church family is. They are living their lives without Jesus, without a church, without hope.
Three Forms of Disconnect
Unfortunately, there are many people who have been deeply wounded by the words or actions of the people of God, those who are supposed to love them like family. They are too afraid to be hurt again or too angry because of the pain to ever seek out another church. We must reach out to these who have been wounded with unconditional love and truly connect and understand them. Like in the lyrics to the song, many have sworn that they will never go back. What are we as a church doing to help them find peace and accept the truth of the Gospel despite their past experiences?
Many have fallen away because other things in life have become more important to them. Jobs, hobbies, exhaustion from a long work week have replaced church on Sunday. It’s easy to make one excuse after another until church becomes nothing more than a visit every once in a while. This is heartbreaking because it means that these followers of Christ are missing out on opportunities for spiritual growth and for much-needed fellowship with other believers. What is the church doing to show love to these families? The time is coming, if it hasn’t already, that they will seek healing in other places, and they will not find it. They may one day wander into your church seeking the peace and love they once had, but more often than not, the church must be outside of its own walls seeking for them. If they don’t come back to church themselves, their kids will never know what a church family is. The generational gap in faith will steal another family.
Of course, there are also those who have never known what it means to be part of a church. I talk to people all the time who are in their 60s or 70s and have no idea what we even mean when we talk about living life with Jesus. My heart breaks for them. How do people do life without Jesus? How do people go through life without a church family to love them and support them? I honestly don’t know. There is so much pain in this broken world. I think that is why the words to this song penetrated my heart so deeply. Each week I go to church and hug the necks of my church family. The more difficult life is at the time, the more important those moments become. The church is home, and there are so many people wandering alone.
Getting Outside the Walls
Romans 10:14 (NLT) says, “But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?”
Get outside of the walls of your church. Take your church family with you! Find those who have been hurt in the past, those who have slipped away, and those who have never known what faith, hope, and love really look like. Be Jesus to them. Put aside judgement and just serve. There are hearts crying out that they want to go to church. Be the reason that someone finds their way to the family of God.
Kimberly Barnes is online at Radiant Wild Ministry.