When the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) finally "came to himself" he headed back home. His father was of course looking for him "afar off" and ran to meet him and celebrated his return. I find it most interesting that the Prodigal needed to come back home - his father did not go into the "far country" to find him and bring him back or reason with him why he should return. When the son finally realized his error, he knew where to go and he knew he would be welcomed home. His father was expecting him and welcomed him home.
In our current "me first" culture that we live in, people who have left always expect others to come get them. If a family begins to get sporadic in their church attendance and eventually stop attending church, it seems more often than not that when questioned about their absence they assume someone should have come to them and encouraged them back.
The church is right where its always been. It is up to those that have left to come back when they are ready. It is not the churches job to hunt down those that have become disenchanted with church and have stopped attending. Remember the parable: the father stayed home, kept hoping and praying and expecting the wandering one to come back.
It appears to be the same way in families today. A young person gets upset with their parents and takes off to make their own way. After not talking to their parents or family for a period of time, they begin to develop a mindset that the parents need to track them down and call them back home. The parents however, are right where they've always been. The wandering child is welcome home at any time.
Now, we also have the story of Christ the Good Shepherd who leaves the ninety-nine sheep to go and find the one that is lost. How about that principle you ask? In that story Jesus went to find the one that is lost.
The key is the fact that the lost sheep was LOST. It had not left voluntarily, but had become disoriented or injured and lost the rest of the flock. The Prodigal Son LEFT home voluntarily and the Father waited for him to return. The Lost sheep was indeed LOST and the Good Shepherd went to find it.
If you are wandering - head back home. God is waiting for you. Your church family would love to see you. Your family is missing you.