Because I don’t think whether someone is a Christian or not has anything to
do with my answer I am going to answer this as it would apply to anyone.
We all need supportive communities that offer us support and give us
opportunities to exercise our faith. Those communities are not always
churches, although churches should always be such communities. When we
have a church home we have a place to belong. We benefit from knowing
we are accepted there. We benefit from being able to contribute to the good
of the greater whole. Giving of ourselves is a great anti-depressant. A faith-
based community allows us to fulfill our need for purpose in life as we
contribute to something beyond our survival needs.
Recognizing the benefits of being involved in a supportive faith community, I
think we also have to take into account the various reasons why someone
attends church infrequently or does not have a church home. For far too
many the church has been a place of pain. In a place where our greatest
vulnerability can be exposed, we can be hurt the deepest. For others the
priority of values is skewed. We don’t see spiritual self-care as the anti-dote
to anxiety or ennui so we put it on the backburner. For still others there
may be a yearning for some place where the heart can call home, but there
is no hope that such a place exists.
As a pastor all this is telling me the importance of the invitation to come,
belong, and participate that the church needs to offer. The idea that the
non-attender knows where we are and so should find the way to our door is
like expecting a drowning person to teach you how to teach them how to
swim. It doesn’t work well, to say the least. We who know the benefits of
having a church home and being involved in it need to recognize those
whose needs can be met by having a faith-based community and being
involved in it.