Since 1997, I have been involved in the church, in various ways. These include, but are not limited to being: a youth leader, a church member (pew sitter), associate minister, pastor, Sunday School teacher, janitor and grounds keeper. Over the years, I have had my seasons of being detached or distant, due to multiple reasons. However, I never found a justifiable reason to leave the church I was attending or altogether. I’ve always found myself compelled to press through whatever issue there was, and there have been some doozies, to say the least.
I have, over the years, heard people call their church, “family.” This has, at times, caused confusion within my spirit on multiple occasions. I have watched as people stood and testified of how they were closer to their church family than they were to their biological families. I’ve listened to their stories of how their biological family forsook them when they got saved or became serious about serving God. Ironically, I have also watched them walk out the door when they have “had enough.” Some have been preachers, some teachers, while others served in others capacities, but they all had a few things in common…they all, without exception, claimed to be Christian. They had family members that were exceeding sinful, yet spent time with them, asked prayer for them and practiced forgiveness toward them over and over. They all claimed to love their church family.
Why is this important to write about? It’s simple, their leaving the church brought confusion to their pastors, their church leaders, the membership and etc. My question is, “Were they ever really invested,” or rather were they there until something happened? Some professed nothing would cause them to leave the church, while others claimed an undying loyalty to the church family. Before I continue, I feel a disclaimer is necessary. Since 1997, I have been in multiple churches, spoken with multiple church leaders, including pastors. This is a problem in every single church I have visited, attended or preached at, so this is not pin pointed in any way. I guess you could say this is a revealing of experience to maybe help someone, or challenge.
As a pastor, I have performed more than one wedding ceremony. In doing so, I usually require 6 sessions of premarital counseling. During the sessions I ask a probing question, “What will make you leave this marriage?” I have been given all kinds of answers, but very few times have I been told, “Nothing.” Everyone seems to be prepared for a way out, if it gets bad enough or if “that one thing” takes place. Usually it’s due to the past mistake in another relationship, sometimes it’s just they way the person feels. Sadly, I believe this is how most people view their church relationship. They will be loyal and committed, until….
In Ephesians 5, Paul instructs the believers at Ephesus that the marriage relationship and the relationship between the church and Christ are to mimic one another. This cannot happen, if the body of Christ are only involved so long as things don’t get bad. Some may say, “Well, Paul says the church and Christ, not to one another.” Well, that is simply an excuse to not practice the teachings of Christ. Jesus taught the disciples in Matthew 18:21-35, a very powerful lesson on forgiving one another. Paul instructed the believers at Colosse to forbear one another, which means to put up with one another.
Maybe I should explain my remark earlier as to the confusion it causes when people claim one thing and then leave the church. It has never ceased to amaze me how these people can be so forgiving of outright, blatant, sorrowfulness sinners, yet reach a place of no mercy and no grace for someone who is saved. Think about that for just a second, shouldn’t the church be demonstrating to the world the power of forgiveness, so that they might come in and trust Christ? Some may say, “Well, a Christian should know better,” to which I would agree. However, I would also site what Paul wrote in Galatians 6:1-10 and remind the reader of how it is still possible for the believer to be overtaken and make poor decisions. I would also remind the reader that it is then the responsibility of those which are “spiritual” to restore such a one, not forsake them.
Jesus stated in Matthew 16, that the gates of hell would not prevail against His church and He was right. However, He never said it would not falter from within. I have a question for the reader, if a Christian has done wrong, have they failed their responsibility to their family, the church or God? Another question, if the ones surrounding this person do not practice biblical principles such as forbearance and forgiveness, have not now failed “their” responsibility? One more question, is a person that has served quite strongly and now acting contrary to what they have been doing for years, now in the right frame of mind? spirit?
We each could probably think of a situation involving someone we know or even ourselves that all this pertains to. My reason for writing this evening is to simply bring to the reader’s attention and even offer a challenge to consider, “Are you invested in your church or are you simply indifferent?” Many come to a church with this mindset, “What is in this for me?” That may be the case for a season, due to being hurt, lack of knowledge and etc. However, at some point, the individual should make the step of saying, “What can I do for the church?” It’s not always a physical action either, many times it is the practicing of what one professes.
I have been a bit longer than normal, so I’ll conclude with this thought. Have you ever considered Christ was never interested in what others could do for Him or did to Him? Have you ever considered how the Apostle Paul would pray that something would not be laid to the charge of those who had hurt him? Have you ever considered that God expects you to act and react based upon what He says and not how people have treated you? I know, it can be difficult…but not impossible, for with God all things are possible and through Christ we can do all things…amen?