Staying Close to God When You are Disenfranchised From the Church
There are so many reasons why believers distance themselves from a body of worship. It is often the result of wounds left by brothers and sisters in Christ, a struggle with doctrine, or perhaps it is a result of the times in which we live. After all, there is a pandemic going on, and while many churches have adapted to social distancing, others have chosen to rely on technology and close their doors for a time.
Whatever the reason, not belonging to a church can be an isolating experience. Even worse, some belong to a church community and still feel isolated and alone. Again, the reasons vary. Today’s mega-churches take intentionality to become plugged into a community of believers. Even in small and mid-sized churches, believers can often find it hard to draw close to others.
What the Word Says About Corporate Worship
Hebrews 10:24–25 (ESV) “and let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but in encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”
The Christian life was never meant to be a solitary endeavor. The church, which is the body of Christ, indicates the need for community, of coming together and working together. Without the support of a spiritual community, we are in danger. Backsliding, apostasy, a lack of accountability, and the inability to learn from other Christians can erode our faith over time.
So, does that mean you have to be part of corporate worship to be a Christian? No! Though being an active part of a church can help us grow as Christians and conveys many benefits to those who attend church, it is absolutely possible to remain a person of deep and abiding faith without belonging to a church.
Spending Time in the Wilderness
If you have never struggled to find a church home, then consider yourself blessed. Most Christians, at some point in their lives, will be disenfranchised, at least temporarily, from a church. It might be by choice or because circumstances such as a divorce or a move have forced you to look for a new church family. Whatever the reason, that time alone in the wilderness can be frightening. However, it can also be a time of great spiritual growth.
Escaping the politics and judgment that is far too prevalent in today’s churches can often lead to a time of spiritual awakening. When you no longer have the routine of church attendance and formal bible studies, you are forced to seek God on your own. It has a way of stripping away complacency when you are forced to define your relationship with the Lord without a church’s influence.
Throughout the Word, the Lord has used journeys into the wilderness to bring about spiritual obedience or breakthroughs. Joshua 5:6 (NIV) “The Israelites had moved about in the wilderness for forty years until all the men who were of military age when they left Egypt had died since they did not obey the Lord.” The time in the wilderness was a punishment, but it was also meant to bring about obedience and trust in the Lord.
In Matthew 4:-11, Jesus spent forty days in the wilderness. As he is the Son of God and without sin, it was not a punishment. Nonetheless, the Lord deemed that trial necessary for him to be tempted by the devil. Why did he need to go to the wilderness for this vital part of scripture to come to pass?
The answer, as is so much of God’s Word to us, multifaceted. Jesus needed to be alone to show us that we are vulnerable when we are alone. Without a spiritual family around us to hold us up, we are weaker.
The wilderness was also a place Jesus sought to be alone with the Father. As true as it was in the time when Christ walked the earth, it is even more true now. We can become so entrenched in the business of “doing church” that we forget the reason we are there. A church can easily become where we socialize and serve others, but out of habit and comfort instead of the heart.
If you find yourself in a spiritual wilderness by choice or circumstances, remember God does not reside within the walls of a church. Jeremiah 23:23–24 reminds us of God’s presence in every place we can be — “Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him, declares the Lord. Do I not fill the heavens and the earth, declares the Lord?”