From your earliest recollection, you remember the church.
You remember the preacher, the piano player, the deacons, and your Sunday School teacher.
You remember the youth group and all the fun activities.
You remember getting saved and baptized.
You remember being in church every time the doors were open.
You remember everything in your life revolving around the church.
You remember praying and reading your Bible.
You remember the missionaries and the stories they told about heathens on the other side of the world.
You remember revival meetings and getting right with God.
You remember . . .
Most of all you remember the people.
These were the people who loved you. You thought to yourself, my church family loves me almost as much as God does.
You remember hearing sermons about God’s love and the love Christians were supposed to have for one another.
Your church family, like your blood family, loves you no matter what.
But then IT happened.
You know, IT.
You got older. You grew up. With adult eyes, you began to see the church, God, Jesus, and the Bible differently.
You had questions, questions that no one had answers for.
Perhaps you began to see that your church family wasn’t perfect.
Perhaps the things that Mom and Dad whispered about in the bedroom became known to you.
Perhaps you found out that things were not as they seemed.
Uncertainty and doubt crept in.
Perhaps you decided to try the world for a while. Lots of church kids did, you told yourself.
Perhaps you came to the place where you no longer believed what you had believed your entire life.
And so you left.
You had an IT moment — that moment in time when things changed forever.
You thought, surely, Mom and Dad will still love me.
You thought, surely, Sissy and Bubby and Granny will still love me.
And above all, you thought your church family would love you no matter what.
But they didn’t.
For all their talk of love, their love was conditioned on you being one of them, believing the right things.
Once you left, the love stopped.
Now they are praying for you.
Now they plead with you to return to Jesus.
Now they question if you were ever really saved.
They say they still love you, but deep down you know they don’t.
You know their love for you requires you to be like them.
You can’t be like them anymore. . .
Time marches on.
The church is still where it has always been.
The same families are there, loving Jesus and speaking of their great love for others.
But you are forgotten.
A sheep gone astray.
Every once in a while, someone asks your mom and dad how you are doing.
They sigh, perhaps tears well up in their eyes . . .
Oh, how they wish you would come home.
To be a family sitting together in the church again.
You can’t go back.
You no longer believe.
All that you really want now is their love.
You want them to love you just as you are.
Can they do this?
Will they do this?
Or is Jesus more important to them than you?
Does the church come first?
Is chapter and verse more important than flesh and blood?
You want to be told they love you.
You want to be held and told it is going to be all right.
But here you sit tonight . . .
Alone . . .
Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.
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