I thought that for this weeks’ blog, I would simply drill down further on the issue as to why Christians leave their home church for reasons other than doctrinal issues. I listed at least twenty reasons in the last blog, and I’m sure there are another twenty that I’m not aware of. The topic is obviously a popular one as blog readership tripled, regarding what I call the “church lateralization movement” that is confronting evangelical churches today.
In the big picture, simply stated, the problem of disappointment is what drives some believers away when they leave (sometimes in a huff). Clearly, when Christians become
members of a church body and are committed participants in the church family activities for years, there was never the intention of them leaving for another church. But then something happens….some new confrontation or conflict occurs (and generally isn’t resolved), something so serious to them that the disappointment becomes overwhelming. They end up dealing with their disappointment by running away to the church “down the block” that they heard had a dynamic pastor, or was “really growing”. (they of course take their family with them). They say after much prayer, that “they have been called away for refreshment.” The question is this: is this the way for us as believers to deal with a “major” disappointment at their church?
I say no.
God’s Word has answers for the problem of disappointment for all of us. In “Life’s Problems: God’s Solutions”, J. Dwight Pentecost helps to elucidate the causes of our disappointments. He divides the causes into two main areas; disappointment because of our circumstances, and secondly, disappointment because of people. Let’s discuss both of them and see that both reasons apply here.
Regarding difficult situations that bring disappointment, we can look to the apostle Paul to learn about Biblical examples of miserable circumstances. In 2 Corinthians 6:4-10 Paul lists 14 “persecutions” that he and his co-workers had gone through: 1) vs. 4 “troubles” 2) vs. 4 hardships and distresses 3) vs. 5 beatings 4) vs. 5 imprisonments 5) vs. 5 riots 6) vs. 5 very hard work 7) vs. 5 sleepless nights 8) vs. 5 hunger 9) vs.8 sometimes regarded as imposters 10) vs. 9 sometimes regarded as unknown 11) vs.9 some being martyred 12) vs. 10 being sorrowful 13) vs. 10 poor 14) vs. 10 having nothing. In 2 Corinthians 11:23b-28 Paul lists 21 more sufferings that he had experienced. And we think what we are going through is bad!
Through it all, Paul learned that God worked mightily through disappointing circumstances. 2 Corinthians 12:8-9 says that Paul learned a valuable lesson from the Lord about going through painful predicaments. Not only was he bombarded from the outside circumstances, but we know he suffered at least one disease that “was a thorn in his flesh”. God told him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul forged ahead. He did not give up and run away.
Even though we in our finiteness may be confused about the complexities of our difficulties that cause deep disappointment, God sees the big picture. You know that. We can’t see the forest through the trees, but HE can. We are in the midst of the hailing thunderstorm on the ground level, but God is looking at the storm from a different perspective, like the jet plane at 35,000 feet, way above the storm. Sometimes we can’t see His plan for us; it seems unclear. But He can see it. He is allowing us to go through struggles to look to Him MORE CLEARLY so that we can build our trust in HIM.
My brother Jim just sent me this quote as I am writing this blog, and had no idea the topic of the blog: Check this out.
“In joyful moments, praise God. In difficult moments, seek God. In quiet moments, worship God. In painful moments, trust God. In every moment, thank God.” How appropriate.
Pentecost says it best about how we need to deal with this very real topic of disappointment in our lives, which can discourage us big time. “We must deliver ourselves from disappointment because we have learned to find and follow God’s will for our lives. If a rain cloud comes when we have planned a picnic, we say, “This must be God’s will for me”.” He goes on to say, “Our disappointments are God’s appointments to accomplish His perfect will in us.” We go inside and make the best of it, rather than leave the party.
Sometimes I think that Christians think that their lives in a church are like the family picnic. We have planned for a picnic on a bright sunny day with blue skies, but we get a thunderstorm sometimes, don’t we?
By running away from difficult and disappointing circumstances in the local church, we could be preventing God from molding us more to be like His Son. Think about it.
The second big issue that brings disappointment in life are people. Moses was disappointed with his brother Aaron for allowing the golden calf in Exodus 24. Miriam and Aaron, Moses’ siblings, were disappointed in him for his marriage to the Ethiopian in Numbers 12. Elisha was disappointed in Gehazi, his successor, for stealing money and hiding it in 2 Kings 5. Paul was disappointed in John Mark in Acts 15:37, 38 and 2 Timothy 4:10. Trust me, there is disappointment after disappointment in the Scripture. God knows us well, doesn’t He?
What about Jesus? How did He deal with disappointment?
Do you think that Jesus had a right to be disappointed in Judas and Peter for what they did? Interestingly, NOTHING in the Gospels ever indicates that Jesus was disappointed in man. How did Jesus not get disappointed? Simple: look at John 2:24-25. “But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men. He did not need man’s testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man.” Jesus didn’t expect much from men. He knew their old nature and propensity for evil. (Jeremiah 17:9)
But we Christians sometimes have such high expectations for others! And yet we are all saints WHO sin ourselves.
Hebrews 12:1-2 says that we are running a race on this planet earth as believers. We must look to God, like Jesus did. Don’t look at the other contestants or the course that we are running on! We will be vastly disappointed if we become occupied with people as our models. Only Christ is our role model!
Don’t judge a church on its great pastor, or the men on the deacon board, elder board, head of the women’s ministry, or the main Sunday school teacher. Believe me, eventually they will all let you down. By the way, you will let yourself down, won’t you? People that judge their church because some of the key leaders are “not up to their standards” maybe have a lot of growing up to do. Perhaps they need to start looking at their own attitudes. Is running away from disappoints the answer? I don’t think so. The minor prophet Jonah ran from his disappointment. He was so disappointed in his circumstances–that God would ask him to evangelize “those heathen Ninevites”. Look what happened to him. The whale got him.
The race that we have is no doubt arduous. But those who turn their eyes upon Jesus, and those who look full in His wonderful face, will see the things (and disappointments) of earth grow dimmer and dimmer, in the light of His glory and grace.