You’ve stated in your book Heaven:
The fact that countless professing Christians are not part of a local church testifies to our over-individualized spirituality. Scripture teaches that we need each other and shouldn’t withdraw from fellowship, instruction, or accountability. It’s unbiblical to imagine that we can successfully seek God on our own.
What about the chronically ill who are unable to attend any services? I’m also too ill to even have someone from a church come to visit regularly for fellowship and prayer.
I am truly sorry for the physical issues that keep you away from church attendance. Of course there are good reasons why people are not able to attend church regularly. I’ve been traveling and speaking elsewhere lately and have not been at church regularly for that reason myself. My appeal was to those who are able to do so, but choose not to and have actually given up on churches.
And I understand their predicament as well, because like everyone, I’ve been hurt by church people. But it’s also true that I have hurt others because I too am a church person! In the same way we don’t give up on family because families always bring hurts, I don’t think we should give up on the local church family, though in this case we can explore other church alternatives. (Of course, even by saying that about the family I’m not saying people should continue to carry on normal relationships with families that bring danger and harm or physical or sexual abuse.)
There are always legitimate exceptions to general principles, but it’s not always possible to state them, often they’re just assumed. To say that God hates divorce is true, but that doesn’t mean that a woman abused by her husband should continue living with him in the same home. I, in no way, intended to bring hurt or judgment to you or anyone else who is chronically ill. It would have been better for me to include the words “of course there are exceptions to this for those physically unable to attend or for other reasons.” God knows, I am no one’s judge—rather He is the Audience of One who sees and knows all. I was trying to reflect what I see in His Word.
This is also a great reminder that those of us who know chronically ill individuals in our churches need to do what we can to reach out to them. One woman shared this helpful advice:
So often those of us with chronic illnesses feel left out. There are meal trains, greeting cards and visitation ministries for those who have been hospitalized, had surgery or had a baby, but those of us in this category of always-being-ill aren’t always remembered. Of course, that’s not always the case, but from my reading and conversations with others who are chronically ill, it happens more than it probably should. So please remember those of us with chronic illnesses – a card, a phone call and/or a meal would be so appreciated.