Updated: Sep 8
Working as a nurse in the ER, I tend to people's physical needs. There is no escaping the fact that when there's a missing finger, chunk of skin or a tooth, it doesn't belong to their body anymore. Even if it's carried in on ice or a glass of milk, it's been separated.
Paul uses the metaphor of the body all throughout his letters to describe the unity of believers in Christ, as we serve others with our gifts for the purpose of building up the church. Severed fingers no longer function, they must be connected in order to have strength and purpose.
Have you been struggling to return to church?
After pandemic restrictions eased, online church became a convenient, cozy alternative for many. No chasing kids to get ready, no early alarm and you can sit in the comfort of your home with a cup of coffee in your sweatpants to hear the Word taught.
Then, in a random, maybe hopeful, gesture, you went to a service, only to find your church has changed. There's new faces, so many new faces, that you felt overwhelmed and awkward, unsure of your place. People watching you became too much, your heart thudding loudly in your chest, your breathing shallow, sweaty palms uncomfortable, and you retreated back to the safety of your home.
Or there's been hurt. An offence taken to heart, a sin done against you and reconciliation, like a lighthouse on a distant shore, seems too far to paddle through the tumultuous waves.
Whatever the reason, you're not alone.
Ericka Andersen writes, Reason to Return to help women understand why they need the church. In the book, she highlights reasons women leave the church, what should cause us to pause and reconsider, and why church is worth pursuing. There's 27 chapters in total, and each is fairly short. The style of writing is more like a memoir, as she shares her personal experiences in the church and stories from others.
I know there's a lot of baggage when we sort through our own emotions, hesitations, and struggles when it comes to attending church. But we can't allow our feelings to dictate truth. The Christ-follower places God's Word at the front of the line when deciphering how to live and why.
It may mean taking some time to talk it through with a trusted friend, mentor, elder or pastor – or with a counsellor about how you're coping.
Remember, just as we're a body to serve together, we also walk alongside each other, encouraging, comforting, and suffering side by side. So, if you've not missed a beat, I'd invite you to seek out others hesitating on the fringes and take time to connect meaningfully with them.
Returning to church is such an important conversation in the wake of the pandemic, the surge in online church, the publicity of those deconstructing from their faith, and ongoing reports of church scandals. In the midst of all these events, some of us long to reconcile our faith with what's happening, and if we isolate ourselves, we’ll just come up short.
If you're looking for a practical book, this isn't it. There's stories to illustrate her points. But, unfortunately, the message I hear when reading this is, "go to church because it's good for you."
I can't argue with that, church community is good for us and our families, but not because the data tells us that, rather because God does. He’s given us His Word to remind us of His goodness, of the Gospel as our hope and how He’s created us to dwell in community for His glory and for the good of others. More than anything, when we're taken aback by hurt and confusion related to church, we need a grander vision of our gracious God and understanding what He's doing in and through His church to solidify our "why" of returning.
I think our opinions are important but if I'm a Christian woman wondering what reason there is to go back to church, opinions won't suffice. Biblical teaching is needed to point us back to God's Word so the Holy Spirit can teach us, correct us, reprove us, and train us. So, as much as I value this conversation, I'd not recommend this book.
I also noted that instead of using the term husband, she refers to a woman's spouse as their partner. I don't know if that's intentional, but in a book written to Christian women it would seem simple to refer to a spouse as husband...unless it meant something else.
So, in light of that, here's three books I've read that provide biblical teaching and practical application for the believer needing some wind in their sails when it comes to believing God's design for the church.
# of pages: 256
Level of Difficulty: Easy
My Rating: 2.5 stars
*Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the ARC and the opportunity to post an honest review.