It hurts when people walk away from fellowship with a local church (or house church, or circle of friends) without saying anything. Or worse, when they plant seeds of falsehood in the minds of a few so as to sow doubt based on innuendo. Either way, one day they are present; the next day they fade away. Bewilderment abounds. Yet, who knows the reasoning of the human heart? Who knows, but God?
Maybe they think it is easier this way. But is it really? Do they think they are that unloved and forgotten? Or is it that they wish to be chased, like Lassie who would run back and forth until someone followed him? Indeed, who knows the reasoning of a heart colored with false beliefs or selfish motives? The belief that God is out to get them, or doesn’t even care if they exist. The belief that the church should help justify sinful behavior, rather than recognize that grace and truth operate hand-in-hand to deliver from the bondage to sin. Sometimes it is simply the belief that there is something (anything) else out there better able to meet their needs, not taking into account that God is the only one who can satisfy the deepest longings of our hearts. Wherever we are.
The exodus of disenchanted evangelicals from local expressions of the church is well-documented in the Western hemisphere. Maybe you are one of those who has given up on the “institutional” church. Or maybe you are thinking about it long and hard. I understand the frustration with some of the things that can happen in a church family, which I would hasten to add are no different than what could happen in a house church, a blood-related family, a multi-site church, or some other form of missional church. We are human. Humans sin because of the first sin of Adam. If you find the perfect expression of fellowship or church, don’t go. It’s an illusion. Your presence will burst the bubble. So will mine. With you and others like me present, it is flawed due to our sinfulness, so long as that is the basis of our evaluation.
I implore us all to remember our Redeemer, Jesus Christ. He is the Head of the church. He is the Great High Priest. In him there is no sin. In him we are made righteous. We are saints. Not some quaint notion of do-gooders who follow long lists of culturally expedient rules, but saints whose righteousness is imputed to them based on the righteousness of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God. Indeed, we are saints who are called to live as God originally intended for us before the foundation of the world. Together, not apart. Whole, not broken. Reconciled, not estranged. Authentically pure, not secretively sinful and outwardly self-righteous.
I know. Church stuff can hurt. And sometimes God does move people out of one situation and into others. I get that. But it will remain an endless cycle until we all commit to this ministry of reconciliation with God and each other through Jesus Christ. Hard stuff. Heart stuff. But necessary if we are really to grow up and become mature disciples of Jesus.