My Opinion & Experience
My Opinion and experience in going to church when you have not gone, nor been a member of any church for a long time.
So many long-term church goers-especially those that have been members of a particular church that dates back for generations-can, and sometimes without realizing, make a potential new member, as a new walk in, feel so out of place, so ignorant, and so unwelcoming. As if the one does not deserve to be a member of their church or any other, as far as that goes. Then have the nerve to wonder why more people don't attend church. When often, that person is just looking for a church home to give gratitude to God and to worship him in a church setting and then are treated as if that person is underserving of God's grace or that person having absolutely no idea of whom Jesus is and that person needing to be saved. When many times, that person may have already been baptized and studying the Bible and well understands Christianity.
My Experience: I grew up in a Baptist church, that is until my parents fail out of church, I was around 14 years old when that happened and two years later my parents divorced and I got married under my then future husband's family's Presbyterian Church. I had no problem with that religion as I was just thankful to be getting married in a church setting. For a while me and my new husband attended that church, then we fail out of church for various reasons; which I will not get into here. As a child of nine, I was lead to the podium in tears and gave my life to the Lord. As life took hold, me and my husband divorced and I became a single mother of two boys; however, he retained full custody of them. How this happened, I will not go in detail here; but, as life happened I ended up a single mother of four children, outside of marriage, that I raised on my own. My children and I went through some very hard times; some, due my fault, but mostly not. I still believed in God and Jesus as His son, and my children and I did attend one church from 2001 to 2004 where I was baptized in a Church of God. It was a submergent baptism. Eventually, as I moved from place to place due financial reasons, that church became to far for me to travel. At this point I was so focused on raising my children under the struggle we were going through, that I did not even think about attending church; although, I still believed and occasionally talked to the Lord. Then my life took a turn for the worse, for reasons I want say here, but I ended up somewhere were I needed to hear form God and I picked up my Bible and started reading. Once out of that situation, I tried to stay in my reading and praising God, but did not go back to church; why I didn't I don't know. But then, an experience that threw me for a loop brought me back to the need to read and study my Bible on a more daily bases. I joined an on-line Bible study course and found what they were teaching to be what I believed and could relate to. I then looked for that denomination in my area so I could go praise God in a church setting, learn more about God's word, and possibly fellowship with like-minded Christians. The first one was very welcoming and treated me with respect and not as a newbie to Christianity. The only thing that bothered me about that church, which now when I look back, is silly, is that the pastor being a very heavy man, would get up from his seat shinning his but crack to any one in the congregation that was seated behind him. I don't believe he was doing it on purpose, he was heavy and did have a hard time keeping his pants up around his waist, but it seemed indecent for a pastor to be aware of that and not doing anything to correct it. That was very uncomfortable; as always wondering why. However, the people there were great and welcoming and did not treat me any different than any other member of the church. Then, I moved and had to find a church of that denomination closer to home. I did find one that was less than five minutes away. Although, this church did teach the Bible, in particular the New Testament, they weren't very welcoming to new people attending their church. Oh, they said hello, but that was about as far as it went. Then another move, and another church less than five minutes away. This church was welcoming enough, but more in the sense of pointing out visitors as in needing saving, like they know nothing of Christianity. The deacon, while ending his prayer, once said, "If there are any visitors that need saving, please make your way to the podium and we will pray." Well, my question here is why visitors, why not the whole congregation? In addition, I was working weekends at the time and could only attend on Wednesdays. So, this church had a Wednesday night women's study group that I decided to attend. It was nice, at first, and I was fellowshipping with like-minded (so I thought) Christians and other women where I could relate; at that. Having never in my life joined a church ran Bible study group, I was very silent in getting a baring on how to do this. But then, I was asked to join in the conversations, as I guess, they wanted my input or thoughts on the Bible topic we were studying. However, every single time I did speak up, I was told I have it wrong. Now, I may have had some of it wrong, which I can accept and gladly, but not every single thing that I gave my input on. The older women of the group and the one's that were a wife of the deacons or pastor, ran the group as if what they had to say was more wise and important than what anyone else had to give as input. I couldn't take that discrimination no more and decided to quite the group. I did continue to attend that church off and on, on Wednesday night Bible services. However, although I was welcomed in a way of the church displaying the need to be friendly to visitors; and it was obvious. I stopped going on Wednesday nights. After some weeks pasted, I transitioned to night shift through the week days at my job. I then decided to give it another shot and went to that church for Sunday services. It was basically the same, welcoming, but treated as if I don't belong or as if I know nothing of Christ and the Bible. I eventually stop going. Now, I am hesitant to attend any church.
My Opinion: If churches would quit treating visitors as if they are not on the same spiritual level as others that have been attending church for a lone time and or as if they know nothing about God, Christ, and the Bible, maybe more people would be willing to attend. We are supposed to be brothers and sisters in Christ; not in a competition to see who knows more about Christianity, nor, to judge each other in who is more spiritually mature or closer to God. We are equal in God's eyes!
Note: Where I work, church members often pass through. I decided to ask one of the deacons of their opinion on the necessity of attending church and of his opinion on why do some churches that have a congregation of family members dating back for generations treat visitors as if they don't belong. He first showed me in the Bible where we are to fellowship in order to learn and to gain support; which I agreed. Then when I mentioned then why do certain churches treat visitors as outcast or like they know nothing of Christianity. He said, "You know the devil can make people feel that way". Wow, really dude! So, now your saying I'm filled with the devil? Really! I mean, I know when a Christian is making progress towards spiritual maturity, that the devil will place road blocks in one's path. But, don't blame the individual for the actions of the church. Nor, in judging in assuming that person is not spiritually mature enough to tell the difference in an attack of the devil and in the unnecessary actions of church members, just because, maybe you've been attending church all your life or maybe for a long time. I'm not against churches, nor attending church. I do firmly believe that fellowship is greatly helpful for all Christians. But, I have yet to find one that treat visitors on the same level as those who have been attending church for a long time and that is comfortable in attending.
And, some Churches wonder Why!
In my opinion, the best thing any Christian can do is read and study the Bible; church or no church!