Check out Tim Woody's story about what happened when he finally met the pastor of the church that so many of his new members had fled from. Here's an excerpt.
"We've all seen it happen. A neighboring church is going through a crisis. It could be financial challenges, moral failure, theological conflict...you name it. When this occurs in another church, it's easy to smugly sit back, shake our heads, watch the hemorrhaging, speak a few religious condescending words about the pastor, and warmly consider the people who might be in your pews over the next few weeks who are attempting to escape the pain. Is it church growth?? Yes...but at the expense of a bleeding church." read his entire June 20th post here.
The story is all too familiar. The church hopping, and church-bashing that goes on sickens me. Mostly because our church has been the church lately that some have left to go to someplace else. I don't have to engage too much imagination to know what they say about us. A lot of their criticism I would agree with. In fact, I know a whole lot more that's wrong with our church than they do. But that doesn't make it worth leaving.
The hurting, rejected side of me says this quickness to leave too often stems from pride and arrogance. "This church isn't spiritual enough for me. I'm so mature I need to go deep." Deep into what? Obedience? Humility? Service to the down and out? Integrity?
No, what they usually mean is deeper into the intellectual pursuit of biblical study. I'm all for increasing biblical literacy, but let's keep it in perspective. I see so many conservative Christians today who worship the Bible more than they worship Jesus.
Who ever learned to ski just from reading a book? Who would want a doctor who had learned everything from he knew from a book? So why do so many think what we need is more Bible study when we haven't even begun to put into practice what we've learned thus far?
Unless what we read and study in the Bible affects our homes, our attitudes, our relationships--until we put into practice what we've read, we are only repeating the patterns of religiosity that led Jesus to be so critical of the Pharisees.
Now that I've vented my spleen, let me continue. Maybe they aren't Pharisees. At least, no more than me. Maybe they just felt disconnected. From me. From the past. From the new members. From what was familiar and easy and safe.
We're going to continue to focus on connecting people to God and one another. We'll do better at connecting with people in our community who don't know God. We'll do better at connecting our resources with the needs of the world.
That's about all I know to do.