Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Rise Above

“What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun..” (Ecc. 1:9)

You could read King Solomon’s words, and conclude (easily): nothing changes, and that’s just a little depressing. Solomon’s phrase is a bit more poetic — “all things are wearisome” — but he means the same thing.

Today, we might employ a different slogan: “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Wars and rumors of war, corporate greed, political intrigue, church intrigue, betrayal — “saying me ‘yes’ but doing me ‘no’” — and the list goes on into infinity. All things are wearisome, indeed.

There are (at minimum) two possible strategies we could choose as a response to these Ecclesiastes moments:
  1. Give up. “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” (Isa. 22:13)
  2. Dig in. “Let us not become weary in doing good…” (Gal. 6:9)
It’s been fifteen years since I wrote a little article entitled ‘Detoxing from Church’. I was blown away by how many people contacted me to thank me for writing it. That short article spawned several follow-up blog posts over the next couple of years, and was later the genesis for a book by the same title.
The original article was, at one point, included as a link on another website that warned readers to “brace” themselves before reading it. I took it as a compliment, although I’m pretty sure that was not their intent. (Insert smiley emoticon here)
Fast-forward fifteen years.

There are still a lot of people who are disillusioned with, and often wounded by, the church. People crushed under controlling leadership and willfully-blind church boards. Leaders savaged by agenda-driven back-stabbers in the congregation who would throw their own mothers under the bus.

Ecclesiastes moment: Give up, or dig in?

Recently, on separate occasions, I have heard statements made about “those people” (who have left a church) that need serious reconsideration.
  1. “They’re disobeying God’s Word by not being ‘in fellowship’. Jesus loves the church, but they don’t.”
    (wincing) We need to be really, really careful about judging the hearts of those who have left. Honestly, whenever I hear this statement, I wonder how people can be so defensive and un-reflective that their go-to answer is dripping in merciless judgement. Disillusioned people are in pain; don’t add to it.

    (Yes, there are unhealthy people who leave churches because they couldn’t control the leaders, but even so, our words — and attitudes — need to be grace-filled and not defensive.)
  2. “They’ve been disillusioned by the church, and so they chose to leave the faith.”
    Seriously? Leaving a particular church = rejecting Jesus? That’s an equation with zero connection to reality. It actually sounds much more like an excuse than an explanation — ‘yes, there’s a problem, but it’s 100% on them, not us’.
This is where we need to reconsider how we approach the topic — a ‘rise above’ moment, if you will.

Jesus is the kind of guy who would go out searching for one lost sheep. He wouldn’t sit in the synagogue and blame the lost sheep for leaving. He would go and look for it, and throw a party to celebrate once He’d brought the sheep home (Luke 15:3-6).

And if the synagogue church is behaving in ways less than God-honoring, His solution would be the same as it was throughout biblical history, Old Testament and New: REPENT.

Ecclesiastes moment: Give up, or dig in?

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