Come Back, Please

Following up on last week’s post, Shepherds False and True, I want to focus on one aspect of that piece. I want to talk about love that pursues.

In my previous post, I referenced the passage of Scripture that describes the man with one hundred sheep, the one who left the 99 to go after the one that was missing. This story ended in rejoicing that after a search, the sheep had been found. The man loved the sheep enough to go after it. He pursued it.

For many of us, the thought of being pursued in love, and I’m not talking about some sick control thing, by any church when there is a problem is beyond comprehension. These institutions are so used to having traffic go both ways on a regular basis that one more family out the door means nothing.

If a family is struggling with something at the church, it is far easier, a relief even, for these leaders to just wave good-bye  than to actually face the issues at hand. Doing so might reveal deep problems, sin, real issues at the church, and “ain’t nobody got time for that.”

Love that pursues.  Think of what these words below would mean when you are having to walk away in a seemingly unsolvable situation:

“Wait, would you come back? We value you. We love you and your family. You are important to us. Can we talk this over one more time? Please don’t leave yet.”

Think how healing these words, spoken in sincerity, would be! Think how beautiful to know that your presence, your family’s presence, matters. That all is not lost.

Imagine this scenario. A church has serious issues going on. Gossip is rampant, families are leaving in droves. Hearts are broken everywhere, as the environment deteriorates and families see no other choice but to drive away.

What if the pastor(s), rather than circling the wagons, meeting with lawyers, holding stern congregational meetings with threats about gossip and slander, stopped everything planned.

What if every meeting, every Bible class, every Sunday School class, every youth group event, every small group get-together, every single thing on the schedule came to a halt? And for as long as it took, they held prayer meetings inside the church sanctuary. Sackcloth and ashes time. A call to reconciliation and confession of pride and everything else. Pastors on their faces rather than lecturing against gossip. Imagine a congregation following the leadership’s model of humility and love.

What if apologies were sent out to pursue wronged and departed members, letters of contrition, letters of love and requested reconciliation to those families forced to leave by arrogance, pride and cold hearts at the top on down?

No slick “revivals”, no professional seminars, no programmatic anything. Just seeking the Jesus so often talked about, and yet so rarely present.

Would this change things? Yes, it would change everything if cold, unfeeling hearts were replaced by the Holy Spirit with new ones, tender and easily broken.  It would change things very quickly if callous indifference were replaced with love, the love that pursues and doesn’t give up.

Maybe this has happened in our time, somewhere in America. I have never heard of it if it has. I do know of countless Christians who have been forced to leave churches they once loved, churches where they hoped to raise their families. This is the terrible reality many know. Meanwhile, the church show must go on.

On a related note, there is general concern expressed in many places about the departure of Millennials from churches. I’ve read countless articles from various Christian news sources about how this demographic is walking away from evangelical and fundamentalist churches.

I’ve also read all the suggested fixes for this, ranging from the usual “cool church” makeovers of formerly staid and conservative congregations to denying cardinal doctrine.  It’s all a howling joke, people. It won’t work.

Some young people will leave church, because the message of the Gospel is offensive and they prefer the world. But who is to answer for the many others  who have walked away, because they have never, ever seen any reality of Jesus in the professing Christians in the churches where they were raised, and theyhave ceased to believe Jesus even exists? Who will give an account for the church politics (I could tell so many stories about that one), the obsession with image over reality, the false fronts, the play acting, the egos, the fraud and the total absence of power in the lives of the “believers” they knew from earliest childhood? Absence of power? What power? The power of forgiveness and reconciliation from Jesus Christ as seen in relationships! The power that can cause a hard heart to grow soft — a miracle only God can achieve. The power that causes change, not just empty talk.

This is what young people need to see. It’s what all of us need to see, more than ever in these times when the “love of many has grown cold.” It’s what we need to show in our own lives.

We may have nobody who pursues us in love, especially from any institution calling itself church. But we must be the church and pursue others in love when there are problems. Pride shuts the door and locks it on those with whom there is a problem. Churches like this are citadels of pride. We can all be citadels of pride. But where pride reigns, it ruins. It ruins people, and it ruins churches as a result.

“Please don’t go. You and your family matter to us. Come back, won’t you? Let’s talk this out. We love you.”

Those beautiful words, so rarely spoken in sincerity.  What wonders they could accomplish.

11 thoughts on “Come Back, Please

  1. T. I. Miller says:

    Well said. Well said.
    I have heard a pastor twist Matt. 18 to excuse themselves from the task of going after the 1 missing lamb. It is the hurt and offended lambs responsibility to confront the pastor for any alleged offense. Then the pastor will arrange a meeting with themselves and at least one elder and the wounded lamb to establish the validity of lambs lament. Looks like an intimidating stacked deck to me.
    I have seen churches jump on the social gospel bandwagon to attract the millennials. This allows the pharisees to be lauded for their good works. They are as busy as Martha and want everyone to see it and be impressed. Unlike the widow and her mite they also love to make their generosity, from their great abundance, known ( In direct defiance of Matt. 6 ) They feed the poor but never feed the sheep or engage in any aspect of the great commission with anyone ever.

  2. loveashesbeauty says:

    Well said. As a Millenial myself, I really appreciate and agree with your thoughts. No matter how much you try to explain why Millenials are jumping ship, you are greeted with indignant cries and hostility. If people would be more authentic and less concerned with perfect appearances, this generation would be more enthusiastic about being part of church communities. In my opinion, many churches simply need fewer hypocrites and more raw, honest, and passionate followers of Jesus.

  3. Denise says:

    I was moved to return to this article, which is sadly true. Living this right now, and as it is written, “The show must go on.” Following where God leads us.

  4. Ingrid says:

    Denise, I am so sorry you are living this right now. So very many are. I just read oaf the net worth of someone who is revered by many as the consummate pastor and Bible teacher. The man lives in incredible luxury, let me emphasize we’re talking millions, isolated from the public by handlers and PR men. He has a following of millions world wide – someone held in high esteem because he isn’t off the rails doctrinally. OK, so that’s how “ministry” is done today. But not for me, and not for many, many others, who would far prefer a man in a local congregation with kind elders in place, who has a tender heart for people, someone for whom the lure of “bigness” is no seduction at all, someone who values each soul under his care and that of the elders. More and more, I believe this kind of thing is impossible to find in established churches. Why? Because the larger the congregation, the more out of touch both elders/deacons and pastors get with individuals. The more they get out of touch with those underlings who are supposed to provide care. You really are, in the truest sense, just a number and a name, and as long as you show up to the various activities and services, you are considered fine.

    This ignores the fact that families all over are facing serious, life altering challenges in their homes. The grip of things like pornography, kids out of control, marriage problems, and so many other things, is real in our culture, and yet there is little help to be had in institutional places calling themselves churches. Having someone show up to listen and offer counsel in a compassionate way, someone who isn’t afraid to come to you even (I read of one pastor from generations ago – horse and buggy era – who made a point to visit each church family once a year to talk with them and their children about their needs – imagine that), is a rare, rare thing. Almost non-existent. That’s why I believe in small fellowships, rather than Building Program Churches. I have learned to disassociate Building Program Churches with anything related to real spiritual ministry due to a lifetime of witnessing the depressing reality of what goes on there. Pastoring is a career track, not a calling anymore. So many countless men in the ministry who have no business there. It’s more than being able to issue passionate messages or turn a phrase in a winsome way. It’s more than being able even to thunder truth from the pulpit when there is no love with it. Most pastors have no pastors heart – the heart of a shepherd that looks out into the faces of a congregation and sees the seriousness of his accountability before God to love them as Christ does. It’s the realm of fantasy really in contemporary America, and the exceptions are very rare. God help us all.

  5. healinginhim says:

    Ingrid, What a wonderful, compassionate response to Denise. It is a response that all of us can agree with.
    Denise, Praying for you and others — I’m also in the same camp and desire to only be where I can worship the true and living God of the infallible Scriptures.

  6. Denise says:

    Thank you Ingrid, for your kind response, and thank you, Healing In Him for your kind words. Praying that we can all remain strong in Christ and not forget the basics of our faith.

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