I will rescue the lame and gather those who have been scattered. I will give them praise and honor in every land where they were put to shame. At that time I will gather you; at that time I will bring you home. Zephaniah 3: 19-20.
Coming home sounds so warm and inviting , yet for fifteen years I could not or would not find a church home. My wife and I tried many different churches, many different denominations. There were many reasons why we didn’t stay at any. They weren’t friendly, didn’t like the style of worship, and didn’t like the music minister so mostly we didn’t go. These were all excuses because my main reason for not going was I just didn’t trust the church anymore.
I knew during all this time that God expects us to worship and fellowship with other believers. You are fooling yourself if you think you can grow in Christ without having relationships and worshiping with others. I did not like the church, but deep down I always knew I should be there, that the problem was me not anyone else.
And then God rescued me, he changed my heart and soul with his unfailing, overwhelming love. The year prior to the rescue I had been thinking about trying out a certain church. During that wonderful moment with God I knew we were suppose to go there. My wife agreed to try it out. The next Sunday we went and enjoyed it.
Old habits die hard but the incentive to overcome them is greater when you believe that God wants you to. Then small things began to re-appear. This person wasn’t friendly; no one talked to us much today, they think they’re better than us. But you know what I found out? God had given me a thicker skin. And with time we discovered that for most of these people they were just uncomfortable meeting visitors. The more we attended the more comfortable they were with us and we with them. Breaking out of a comfort zone is difficult and should not be taken personally when it takes time to happen.
I have been a citizen of my city for twenty-four years, and this church is a large church. In my church I discovered three former employers were also members. Two I had enjoyed working for and had been treated well. The other had not been so. I had not been well suited for the job. The workplace was an office environment that I had not any experience in. While being corrected on many occasions I would go into his office and be reproved in front of three or four other people besides himself. I was humiliated many times and in front of others. That was ten years ago.
One Sunday I followed my wife into the sanctuary and took my seat. In front of me was seated my former employer and his wife. We shook hands exchanged pleasantries and the church service began. I knew that God had arranged this, that God wanted me to worship with this man. Even though at first it was uncomfortable it was God who was at work. I remember thinking; Lord you are surprising and wonderful.
About a month later my son and I were going to a restaurant after church when we came across an elderly man whose car had broken down in the middle of heavy traffic. He was outside his car trying to get someone to help him. I thought he was going to get himself killed. I didn’t want to but I parked, told my son to stay in and went out to help him. I was joined by one other man; I jumped into the broken vehicle put it in neutral and we began to push the car out of the road. Soon we were joined by others, one of whom was my former employer. Again I knew that God had arranged this and that he was bringing about the verse in Zephaniah that said he would give them honor in the land were they were put to shame. I began to see my former employer in a different light. I saw that he had the love of Christ. That even though our experience with each other had not been the best of times he too is trying to follow Jesus and do his work. Maybe he sees me differently too.
God has brought me back to the lands where I had been put to shame. I have a wonderful church home. I love my church and am excited about what God is going to do there and what work he has for me and my family. I look forward to watching my son grow in Christ and the love he will receive from other believers. His Sunday school teachers are wonderful. It seems that every Sunday the Pastor or my Sunday school teacher is speaking directly to me or God uses them to reaffirm something he has taught during the week. But most of all it is so wonderful to hear other Christians as they share their experiences at work and at home and to realize that I am not alone.
If you have had a bad church experience I believe he wants you to go back too. He will honor and bless you for it. He is calling you home. He does not want you to be scattered anymore. He has a place for you to worship and to serve. And in the end you will be closer to Christ than you ever have before. You will be stronger and better prepared to do his work. Isn’t it time to come home? Isn’t it time to; “forget what is behind and strain toward what is ahead”, to “press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3: 13-14. I pray that my story will help.