There is a lot of talk about people leaving the church. Attendance and giving are down and seats go unfilled on Sunday mornings. The reason though seems to be up for debate.
If you ask the local pastor or hard core members you will hear tales about congregants being lured away by “the world.” Those who choose to leave are painted as faithless and turning from God. Those who stay are the chosen, the only true believers. Staying put provides an assurance that if one offers their time, talents and treasure to the institution of the church they will be rewarded either in this life or the next.
Question those that leave and you hear stories of conflict between what Jesus taught and what the church is today. Kindness, compassion, sacrifice and helping others are core tenets of the ancient church yet today these things are set aside for things like patriotism, personal rights and privilege.
Let me share an example of what I mean. A friend of mine noticed a man experiencing homelessness lingering around the building he lived in. My friend got to know this man and offered whatever assistance he could—food, clothing, respect and a friendly ear. As time went on my friend invited this gentleman to church. The man was interested. The kindness he had received was enough to motivate him to visit the small church nearby.
When the man arrived at church things were awkward at best. Church members seemed to avoid him. During the music at the start of the service, the man moved to the front of the room and obviously enjoyed the singing. At the break he was escorted out of the church.
Apparently one of the elders was afraid that this guy was going to find his way into the children’s area and do something “bad.” The elder new absolutely nothing about this person and had never even seen him before that morning. The decision was purely based on appearance. Kicking the visitor out was endorsed by the pastor and other leaders present as well.
Heartbreaking. Why did no one come to this visitors aid. Where was the compassion, the love.
This happened at a church I belonged to. I wasn’t there that Sunday. I heard the story from my friend—who did not return to the church. He shared the story with me after I left.
As one who has stepped away I look back and feel shame for being part of an institution that would boast about what they do for those in need, but when somebody unexpected shows up in their midst there is no tenderness or care to be found. Only judgment and disdain.
Honesty I’m still assessing where I stand in regard to organized religion. I know denominations differ and there are loving groups of Christians doing amazing things in the world. I also see those who claim Christ do things that are very unlike him.