I’m finishing a book titled Church Refugees. It’s a sociological look at various reasons people have left the church. The tagline is: Sociologists reveal why people are done with church but not their faith. If you’re a reader and care about the church’s future ministry, I recommend you read it.
If I didn’t have a Bible passage I was focusing on today, I’d most likely end up talking about a lot of points. For example, one of the reasons many people finally decided to leave church was the sense of judgment cast upon them. People were quick to offer judgment without any sense of concern or care. If you made a mistake, it was because you were that kind of person.
We’ve talked about that in different ways. People are willing to listen to correction if they know it comes from a place of mutual love and care. Too often, we’re too good at neglecting the real work of nurturing Christ-like community.
Today, though, I want to consider another reason highlighted in the book. For most people, leaving their church is a hard decision. Many of them have served their church for many years. They love the people that make up their church. But many have felt the burden of serving the church over serving God.
That is to say, the church does a good job at keeping Christians busy. They follow the lead of the pastor or church leaders who make all the decisions while everyone else is kept busy doing menial tasks. In this all-too-common scenario, church members are cogs, not Spirit-led disciples.
Do you want to know if your church has this issue?
Think about what it would take for someone to initiate a new ministry. How many committees would they need to address for permission to proceed? What determines whether a ministry is worth pursuing? Is it finances? Whether another group likes the idea? Or is it whether someone knows God has led them?
For many churches, the gatekeepers aren’t focused on kingdom ministry. Instead, there are other institution-focused agendas at play.
When Mary anointed Jesus with perfume, the house filled with its fragrance. Judas also filled with rage. For Mary, it was an act of worship that pointed to the reality of Jesus’ kingship. For Judas, it was a waste. If Mary had asked Judas if it was okay to offer Jesus the perfume, he would’ve said it wasn’t. We know that because John tells us he had motives that did not align with the gospel.
I’m not suggesting churches are stealing. When we’re not careful, though, we do deter people from living out their faith in meaningful ways. We take away opportunities for them to know the joy of faithful, fruitful and transformative ministry to God.
When I introduce someone to the spiritual gifts, it’s my hope they understand how God has equipped them for ministry. Wouldn’t it be a shame if we kept people from that ministry? It has been, and many people would rather find a place that shows them how they can put their gifts to work for the glory of God.