Posted November 29th, 2011 at 08:20 AM by Lois
"If you really believe that, then you should go back to the UPC." Did I say that? Yes, I really said that to a friend. There was a time I wouldn't have considered it.
Earlier on, after leaving my former church, there would be times that a friend would return to the group or someone I knew via the internet would. It used to upset and puzzle me, but that changed after awhile as I gained more knowledge. It was replaced with the realization that some people need to return for a period of time, in order to remember why they left in the first place.
This even happened to one lady, who during her time back, wrote a book about returning to the group. It was an attempt to help bring in the 'backsliders.' She worked in a ministry to get people to return. And then she left again, with no intention of returning.
There are different reasons people return to an unhealthy church. They may have left before being fully persuaded in their own mind that it was abusive, unhealthy and/or that error was being taught. They may return due to fear. Sometimes the pull from family and the desire for their acceptance is overwhelming. However, in this post I wish to concentrate on one aspect.
My focus today is what can happen after a period of time. The one who left may start having nostalgic feelings or may be craving the fellowship and excitement they had in their former church. They may not have gained many new friendships since their exit or they may not have yet found a new church to attend. During this time, they sometimes temporarily forget why they left, or may downplay the reasons, or the other feelings seem so strong that they convince themselves things will be different. They may even be fighting the "what if they are right" thoughts mentioned in an earlier post.
During a time like this, it isn't good to make decisions based on emotions or longings for the past. But sometimes it happens and they find themselves back at their former church or another in the same organization. There is lots of attention and hugs and welcome backs and invitations of fellowship. Things feel sooo good! But as time goes on, and the initial love bombing subsides, they start to see once again why they left in the first place...and at times even see and experience worse things. They walk away once more.
If someone you know returns to an unhealthy church or group, pray for them. Sometimes they simply need to be reminded of why they left. God is more than able to keep them and see them through this time in their life.