My Reins, Your Horse.

Reading over the comments on a local news thread regarding the shrinking of Christianity (or, in their words, “the tradition”), and am struck again by those echoing the sentiments of others with “This is why I left church” or “This is why I don’t go to church.” So often when these discussions come up, they cite hypocrites, imperfect people, fake people and even mean people.

What I don’t read from these same folks is anything similar to “I *am* the church, and I am also broken” or even “This is what I’m doing to pursue Christ, beyond what I see others doing.” Nothing really about how people are showing the love of Jesus to others and continuing to pursue a relationship with Him, beyond the constrains of a third party’s religious perception. “The Church” is not some objective entity. You can’t diffuse blame to some ambiguous heap of bricks (hoping those inside are buried with it) and wash your hands of it. You just can’t, because 1 Corinthians 12:27 says, “All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.”

The posts I see claim folks abandoned ship, gave up and now justify *their* lack of faith/action (because they go hand in hand) with what they see in, or have experienced with, others.

Am I alone in feeling like this is…well…lazy? Un-ruffle your feathers. I am calling out my former self as much as I am anyone else. For years,I wanted to blame my stunted growth on someone other than me (“Every time I go, it’s a sales pitch. No one wants to talk to those of us who are already Christians”). Could it be something else? One theory I read stated, “…they’ve sat for years wanting to be entertained. They have NOT in any way bought into the mission of the church. They have remained consumers and have NOT become Kingdom producers, sharing in the ministry and allowing God to use them. So, yup, they’ve gotten VERY bored.” I don’t know. Maybe. I’d say it’s also likely they got their feelings hurt at some point, and threw in the towel.

It’s so much easier to be scarred and ambivalent, than it is to reconstruct what one perceives as broken. Whether we admit it or not, there is complacency found in believing one’s self to be helpless, or a victim…or a helpless victim. “The problem is too big, so why not devote my time elsewhere? This is Goliath, and I’m certainly no David.”

We left *a* church because of our honest belief that what we were fed no longer lined up with the word of God, that the message wasn’t fueled by the love of Christ and that there was another place for us. I didn’t retaliate when I was lied about, I didn’t yell back in public when I was confronted by said leadership with hate and aggression in a restaurant (though, I calmly corrected his sentiment) and I certainly don’t entertain passive aggressive Facebook posts about “silly reasons to leave a church” because **I don’t believe in shaming folks into staying where God doesn’t want them.** Period.

I did, and do, pray for that same church.

Most people have no idea why we left at all. My feeling is that our conviction let us know our season had ended there, and it was time to move on. My season is not your season.

What I do know, is I didn’t just throw up my hands and say, “Well, I guess since that wasn’t for me, I’ll just sit here and circle my thumbs until Jesus gets back. Surely, He’ll understand.” Matthew 25:14-30 tells me that’s probably not the case. We didn’t wait until we had a red carpet rolled out that lead to a certain church’s front door. We actively sought our place, and (by grace) we found it.

If you’re one of these people, let me tell you- I understand your heartbreak. I get it. Hurt, abandonment and doubt are devastating. Job said, “If I go to the east, [God] is not there; if I go to the west, I do not find him. When he is at work in the north, I do not see him; when he turns to the south, I catch no glimpse of him.” (Job 23:8-9) He also said, “But [God] knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.” (Job 23:10) You are not forgotten and you are priceless (“Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” Luke 12:7). Please, whatever you do, don’t let your bad experiences or perception of others’ shortcomings be what guides your relationship with Christ. You have so many talents, and are capable of being the positive influence you wish to see in the church. Please don’t shortchange the world by keeping that to yourself. It’s not about laying bricks; it’s about laying a foundation of encouragement, hope and redemption.

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