He continued, “Do you see how this story works? All my stories work this way.
“The farmer plants the Word. Some people are like the seed that falls on the hardened soil of the road. No sooner do they hear the Word than Satan snatches away what has been planted in them. And some are like the seed that lands in the gravel. When they first hear the Word, they respond with great enthusiasm. But there is such shallow soil of character that when the emotions wear off and some difficulty arrives, there is nothing to show for it.
The seed cast in the weeds represents the ones who hear the kingdom news but are overwhelmed with worries about all the things they have to do and all the things they want to get. The stress strangles what they heard, and nothing comes of it. But the seed planted in the good earth represents those who hear the Word, embrace it, and produce a harvest beyond their wildest dreams.” (THE MESSAGE)
Many of us know people who once were part of our Christian gatherings, who spoke of faith and seemed intent on living out that faith. But now, they seem to have given it all up. This can cause us to worry not just about their faith or lack of it, but the very nature of our own faith. Were we all mistaken in those “good old days” of Christian fellowship? Might we be still forming wrong conclusions?
We need to keep a few things in mind. One is that we must never pronounce judgement on such people, or use terms like “they are no longer Christians”. Only God truly knows their spiritual state. Outward appearances and spoken words can be deceiving.
Nor need we conclude that just because they have left the visible church they have left the faith. Christians who no longer participate in a church are a growing statistic. Just as going to church doesn’t make you a Christian, not going to church does not make you an unbeliever.
We simply may never know why some with whom we prayed and sung and served no longer profess the faith. Have they rejected Jesus, or just the local church? Have they given up on faith or given up on apparently futile and wearying church work? Have they changed their hearts and minds as a result of personal setbacks or intellectual considerations?
Only God really knows. We can only pray for and love those whose common faith gave us so much pleasure in the past and trust that pleasure can still be found in the future.