Why I Almost Left My Church…

Hello World, church shopping

With a church on nearly corner, it can be tempting to think that choosing a church is akin to choosing a grocery store…I can get some of this there and some of that over there and if I keep on sampling, I can find everything I need…

I’ve been going to my church since I was six years old…Yes, For 36 years, I have been either been taken to or driven to Central Christian Church in Southwest Atlanta every Sunday…I began going to the church because my father Dr. Denzil D. Holness was named the new pastor, and he has continued to be the pastor of Central ever since…When I was a little girl, our church was my second home and felt like it…There was lots of love and laughter and lessons about Jesus…I made some of my best friends there, traveled all over the country with various church groups and sought out the consoling of my church when the outside world was too painful to withstand alone (It’s hard to be a pre-teen and teen 🙂 )

However, as I got older, things began to change at my small church…Friends that had grown up with me at the church either moved away after college or explored other churches and never came back…In the beginning, it hurt me, but I eventually learned that adulthood warrants making new choices and sometimes those choices include people moving in and our of your lives…When I returned from the University of Georgia in Athens back to Atlanta and began attending my church again, my church was not the same…New people had come in and others had gone…

In addition to noticing the changes within my church, I noticed that I had also changed…I began living as a Christian in a way that I wasn’t willing to before college…And being the adventurous and curious person I’ve always been, I wondered what Christianity looked like through the lens of other churches…I was able to explore the mores of different Christian communities initially through a journalism internship with the Georgia Baptist Convention…I had done some of that in college as I wasn’t able to attend my home church since I was hours way, but this time, I was more intentional about my discoveries and open to what God was saying to me…I went to various conventions at different churches in a variety of denominations and I met Christians from diverse backgrounds and locations…Yet, I remained attending Central faithfully every Sunday….I must confess I felt obligated to do so as the pastor’s daughter…And I secretly wondered what it would be like to not just visit another church but to actually become a member of another church…

church hopHowever, about a decade ago, Central began experiencing some difficulty…The neighborhood around the church had changed and many people had moved away…People got busy… People died…I’m not sure what else, but church attendance sharply dipped for a while…And I got very discouraged…Although I’ve never been a pastor and have no desire to be a pastor, I had lots of advice for father…I finally declared that I was tired of feeling like I had to attend Central and told my parents to consider themselves forewarned…I was church shopping and not hiding it…It was what I needed…I went to megachurches, medium-sized churches and small churches throughout the city of Atlanta and satisfied my curiosity about “greener pastures.”

And then one Sunday morning, an elderly woman called me and asked me to bring her to church…The first Sunday, I did so and thought nothing of it…And then the next Sunday, she called for another ride…By the third Sunday, I realized that God was speaking to me through that woman…I was needed at my church…And in spite of my church’s shortcomings, there was more for me to do there…So I returned…However, I came back with a new approach to being a member of Central…I decided that I would attend Central every Sunday, but I would not feel internally pressured to do something because I was the pastor’s daughter and I would feel free to attend another church on Wednesday evening for Bible study…It can get weird after a while if your father who has been your father for all of your life has also been your pastor for all of your whole life (at least as far back as you can recall)…And this approach works for me…

While I believe that you should receive a lot by attending and being a member of your church, being a part of a church is just as much about what you give…And sometimes, you can give in ways that you may have not considered…One of the ways I hope I give to my church is being an example to some of the children at the church who are from a disadvantaged background…I want to inspire them to dream big and allow God to bring them to heights they only thought possible for other people…

And over time, more people began coming again, and Central was on longer “The Valley of Dry Bones.” We returned to life…As the population of the church changed, I didn’t think it was possible to meet a potential husband at my church…And then one day Robert showed up…He came up with one of my friends who I grew up in church with…This friend was one of the friends that had moved away from Central and then he returned with a handsome friend to boot 🙂 And you know the end of the story…

Anyway, I’ve said or written all of this to say that deciding to leave a church is a serious decision and should not be done haphazardly nor without prayer to know God’s will…I’m not mad at or resentful about any of the childhood friends that have moved on to different churches…I trust that the same God who leads me to Central each Sunday leads them to wherever they go each Sunday…

Here is Pastor H.B. Charles Jr.’s perspective on “When It’s Time to Leave a Church.” Thanks to the TheOldBlackChurch.blogspot.com for the post idea…

Any thoughts?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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