Family or Filling Station

It’s come to my attention…as a reminder, really…that people often leave churches for really stupid reasons. I mean…do you mind if I am just totally frank about this for a minute? Stupid reasons. People will leave a church because they flake out, get uncomfortable, are afraid of confrontation and unwilling to ask questions, go off the doctrinal diving board, don’t want to come under correction, love the world, love the worship (at another church), love their Sunday morning tee time, refuse to change, prefer to feel sorry for themselves, feel the pastor is too old/too young/too funny/not funny enough/too strict/too lenient, the music is too loud/too quiet/not their style/too “me-centered”/too scripture-centered, the usher didn’t open the door for them, the greeter didn’t give them a bulletin, their coffee was cold, their donut didn’t have enough jelly, the pastor’s wife spelled doughnut “D-O-N-U-T”, someone didn’t hug them, someone DID hug them and it was annoying, the air was too hot/too cold/too damp/too dry/too fresh…you name it, we’ve heard it. The strangest thing to me is when someone leaves who’s been there for several years, has been fed, delivered, changed, healed and really blessed in and by the church, made great friends…and then, hmm. Something happens. “I’m leaving. And so’s my family.” I mean, my jaw hangs open… STILL…after 7 1/2 years of doing this. I just don’t get it.

Offense, of course, is the root of most stupid church exodus excuses, but it’s certainly not something anyone would like to admit to…especially those who have been Christians for any length of time. No, it’s usually that “God has something else for us”…and usually they don’t know what that is yet.

It also strikes me that, at least in American churches, people come and go very freely. Not only are their reasons for leaving ridiculous, but they really USE churches and ministries to their advantage. I know a lot of people could site many ministries that seem to have used people in their churches and on their mailing lists (and I don’t doubt that at all…I’ve experienced it to some degree myself), but it seems to be the American way-or maybe the Western way–or maybe the human way. Whatever it is, it’s silly.

A lot of people see church as a spiritual filling station, where you can sort of gas up and go. Come in, have a good time, get what you need, and leave whenever you feel like it. Who cares about the people you’ve left behind? Who cares about the people who’ve invested their time, energy, love, wisdom, and other assets in you? Who cares about the people you called friends in that church?

Thankfully, God cares. I was sort of ranting about this to Patrick the other day. He reminded me that God knows, and our reward is in heaven. And he’s absolutely right. But sometimes it just irritates me that people don’t get it!

A church is meant to be like a family. In evangelical circles, we talk about our “brothers and sisters in Christ” and “spiritual mothers and fathers”…but the implication of that is just lost a lot of the time. We don’t choose our flesh and blood family, and we don’t choose our Christian family either. John 6:44 says “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.”

So can’t we all just get along? It takes so little effort to make peace with someone…at least most of the time. Just a little dying to the flesh, which you can get used to. And we are commanded to pursue peace with all people, “without which,” the Bible says, “no one will see the Lord.” It’s so easy to just walk away, instead of facing our giants. But you’ll never have peace that way…and you’ll always live as the conquered, instead of the hyper-conqueror you were meant to be.

So if this is YOU, I have one thing to say to you…

Stop it!

I say that like a mother, when her kids…for instance, two rambunctious boys…will not relent in a petty GameCube dispute. So you get this? It’s not, “STOOOPP IIIITTT!” or even “STOP it!” It’s sort of like the “o” isn’t even there, there’s a hard “t” at the end of “it” and the two words run together in utter exasperation…”Stp’it!” ‘Kay. Just so you’ve got it.


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