This is profound.
The comment below was made by a Christian in Mexico. It was made concerning a post entitled When is it time for a church to call it quits? I’m posting it unedited.
“Here in Mexico, we dont have notices of evangelical christian churches
who have to close their doors for any reason. I had lived in the United States some years ago. And I remember a lot of baptist churches with
just old members. The youth and children runed away to another more modern temples, with different kind of liturgy, with young pastors,with
modern music instruments.So they just left, I understand that our culture and american culture are different, but we had never think in
left back our elder brothers. I really believe that God not like this
american christian costume. We have to show love to every think that we are thinking to put away, and I talking about temples, furniture, our
elders, our old pastors, and our parents, our old parents. Can you imagine they singin alone Victory in Jesus?What victory we cheer with
out our loveones? My fellow american brother in Christ, you have to think about this…”
“But we had never think in left back our elder brothers. I really believe that God not like this american christian costume.”
I pastor a church that is experiencing a significant exodus of people. All of them are younger than the leadership. They aren’t abandoning their faith – rather, they will all turn to other churches, other families, they believe will be better for them. They will experience the positive sensations associated with a new start, and feel like it was good to have made the change.
“What victory we cheer with out our loveones?”
I live in the west, a land full of transient people. We’re those who for centuries have abandoned families in pursuit of other things. Most people I know live geographically separated from their biological families. Why did they move? Good reasons … to go to a school, or follow a job, or to live in a nicer climate. It’s rare, but occasionally I’ll meet someone who has made their life decisions based on the priority of protecting their valuable family ties. For the majority of us, though, our most natural experiences of relational depth are strained by distance, which can’t help but breed some relational fragmentation.
So, new networks are pursued, by which we can experience the “love one another” realities that we sense and know are so essential to our lives. And churches should provide this, right? After all, the church is supposed to be a community that embodies – not figuratively, but literally – the reality of being a family. And it does for many. There are those for whom their church is truly their family.
What’s sad is that these, who are the most willing to invest their hearts and souls into being a close-knit community, are the most damaged when others sever ties. “I thought this was a family,” they say.
As I get older, I feel this more acutely. When I was younger, I couldn’t possibly understand the value of long-term relationships like long-term people can and do. With each passing year, the pain I feel when people family-hop is more pronounced. As they seek out a better song to sing, with a newer, nicer family than ours, our song turns to lament…and ultimately may be silenced altogether. “What victory can we cheer?”
“My fellow american brother in Christ, you have to think about this…”
We do need to think about this. But we don’t feel the need to talk about these issues until they’re staring us in the face. And then, it’s too late. The political correctness of our day demands that, because people are free, we must let people do whatever they want to without saying anything negative about their intentions or choices. So, when we’re in the midst of being abandoned, and we cry “foul”, we are chastised if we say anything about it publicly. We’re just seen as pathetic, selfishly clinging to something for your own benefit. Or worse, we can be taken as manipulators, trying to deny people’s freedom of choice. It’s perceived as just so much sour grapes.
It’s true … I can’t be subjective about this, not these days. But I’m trying to be. And in my most clear-thinking moments, I can’t help but come to these conclusions:
1. Church-hoppers are hurting themselves.They will never know the wonderful reality of long-term relationships around Word and Sacrament. They will miss the glories that come through the hard side of love – reconciliation, endurance, perseverance, forbearance. They will forfeit blessings God promises that are associated with subjection, selflessness and servanthood. They think that different leadership style, that shorter drive, or that alternative program is a good trade-off for their relationships. But, if we have a better communicator, or a deeper doctrinal understanding, or more “Spirit-filled” worship, or incredible social programs, but have not endless patience, contentment, humility, deference, forgiveness, hope, forbearance, endurance (cf., love), nothing is gained. When you cash in your relationships for whatever else, is it ever a good deal?
2. Church-hoppers aren’t aware of how much they are hurting others. Others who value family bonds more than they are devastated by their departures. Those who leave not only rob themselves of the inestimable value of growing up in a lasting, united church community, but they also rob others. And they rob their children. Then, as explanations are made to others in the church as to why people leave, other families – and particularly their children – are schooled by the hoppers’ examples to see church participation as disposable (this is exacerbated by those staying not being able to openly challenge their departures, because that is seen as inappropriate). We’re stuck with, “that’s what’s happened, and I guess that’s just the way it goes.” We’re all the worse for it, and the pattern continues.
3. Church-hoppers damage the advance of the gospel. If we don’t love each other in a way people can see it, they won’t believe in Christ. Jesus prayed that we “may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me” (John 17:23). We don’t choose to persevere with each other primarily for our sake, or our kids’ sake, or for the sake of other people in the body – we live as a “love never fails” family for Jesus’ sake. Because every time we leave, we might be able to justify it in our own minds, but the world doesn’t get it. Why should they? “If those people who talk about God and His love all the time can’t get it together, why should I think that their so-called ‘born again’ lives are any better than mine?”
Fresh eyes from south of the border have eloquently pointed out our condition. I fear my ramblings may have diluted the simplicity of his message. Will we rethink these things? Will our trends continue? And what can one orphan do?
For now, we lament, cling to the love that remains, and pray that God will have mercy on our generation, and build His church among us afresh.