Reconnecting Through Prayer
By Nancy Canwell
You’re sitting in church one Sabbath and a group of elders pull you out of the pew and drag you up to the pastor. In front of the entire congregation they tell the pastor all about your sin, and ask what your punishment is going to be. How would you feel? Ashamed? Afraid?
Michael* knows what it’s like to be a sinner in front of a congregation. But he went up front by choice.
It had been a couple of years since he and his family had been to church. When his wife left him because he had failed to overcome an addiction, Michael took a look at his life. Being a single father on the weekends, he knew that he wanted to raise his children with the consistency of church. So he made the first attempt to come back. What brought him back again and again? The members of the congregation weren’t holding stones.
On one of his first Sabbath’s back, he walked down the long isle of the church with his kids to hear the children’s story. Walking back to his pew, a family invited him to sit with them so they could help with his kids. A few weeks later, a couple that often sat near Michael took a special interest in his children, and showed them how to quietly make crafts during church. They invited Michael and his kids home for Sabbath lunch several times. Those were very welcomed invitations for a single dad! And still another family in the Children’s Sabbath School wing befriended him with an invitation home for lunch. Other members visited with him after church and during the week, showing care and concern.
Michael recently told me, “Sometimes, when I’m sitting in church and singing praise songs with the congregation, I cry because I feel a part of the church family again.”
Imagine how Michael’s life—and the life of his children—would be different if the church hadn’t welcomed this sinner back. What if, on that Sabbath when he walked up front, people looked at him and thought, “Why is he here?” or “The nerve of someone like him coming back to church!” or “He needs to stay home and get his act together before he comes to church!” And then, what if they started throwing stones?
Throwing stones by a disapproving glance.
Throwing stones by not making eye contact.
Throwing stones by making some kind of self-righteous remark.
Instead, the members of Michael’s church dropped their stones. They chose to help heal, rather than kill. Michael himself told me, “When I first started coming back to church, I wondered how many people knew about my sin. But then I realized that everyone struggles. My sin may have been made public, but we have all sinned. We all need Jesus.”
“At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ ‘No one, sir,’ she said. ‘Then neither do I condemn you,’ Jesus declared. ‘Go now and leave your life of sin.’ ” (John 8:9-11)
Prayer Focus: That we would daily be reminded what Jesus said: “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her”—and that I would drop my stones and walk away.
Recommended Resource: “Survey of Former and Inactive Adventist Church Members.” You can order through the Center for Creative Ministry store: http://bit.ly/1so3V57
*Name has been changed