My hands pressed against my face and I stared at my bathroom wall. Most of my intimate conversations with God happen here. Yes, it’s unorthodox. I hope it’s not disrespectful. My thoughts run amuck, but one thought blazes through the rest: What’s going on?
Maybe it’s the blogs I read where cynical and discouraged Christians put down church to a world of unbelievers: (1) The people are unfriendly, (2) It moves me too far out of my comfort zone, (3) The teaching is hard, (4) The people are snooty, (5) The people won’t cater to my political/moral agenda, or (6) I had a disagreement with the pastor. I could list a few more, too. We expect God to meet us on our terms and attend church harboring unforgiving hearts, graceless when someone in church makes a mistake.
Where are the transformed lives?
I think being a pastor is harder than attending church for the first time. They are the last people we think about because we become too self-involved. Some pastors become those cynical and discouraged Christians. It’s a tough life fraught with meetings, expectations, and the frequency of putting out fires to meet the needs of a congregation. They are the most dedicated. Their families are the most dedicated. Their hearts are big, and big targets, too. They say at the Schaeffer Institute that:
- 948 (or 90%) of pastors stated they are frequently fatigued and worn out on a weekly and even daily basis (did not say burned out).
- 1,050 (or 100%) pastors we surveyed, every one of them had a close associate or seminary buddy who had left the ministry because of burnout, conflict in their church, or from a moral failure.
I flushed the toilet and stared at my reflection. The water ran from the faucet cold over my hands. A frown stretched across my face. Heroes exist in church. I know many of them. They give selflessly. They sign up to pray for the pastors. They give church a good name. I wish more bloggers and people would speak about that—the good that comes from Christian church fellowship. Negativity gets out of hand if we don’t give it a short leash.
In one of my first few Praise and Coffee meetings a woman began a vicious cycle of speaking negatively about churches. Like rows of dominoes falling, I and other people added their stories, too, at first without realizing it; and then, we were too weak to stop the storm. There are legitimate stories. Then, there are those who can’t see the plank in their own eye and we miss the opportunity of invitation by speaking well of the church that we do attend or used to attend. Negativity is the weapon of the enemy. Even those of us with the best of intentions can fall. I worry for those who leave on this wave of cynicism or lukewarm faith. According to an article in Christianity Today:
“Kinnaman reports that 65 percent of all American young people report making a commitment to Jesus Christ at some point in their lives. Yet, based on his surveys, Kinnaman concludes that only about 3 percent of these young adults have a biblical worldview. Kinnaman translates the percentages into real numbers: “This means that out of the 95 million Americans who are ages 18 to 41, about 60 million say they have already made a commitment to Jesus that is still important; however, only about 3 million of them have a biblical worldview.””
I dry my hands on the towel and walk into the bedroom. Across from my bed is an art piece. Shells are glued over a framed board painted white. Scrawled in black paint across the bottom, it says, “Joy.” The shells came from our honeymoon. I created it to remind me of the joy of following God. I haven’t been a Christian for very long—only eight years—and yet I know ministry brings us dangerously close to becoming the cynical and bitter beasts we preach against. Satan laughs when we arrive at that place and while we should live transparently, blogging for real, living for real, we should also remember to point out the good in church fellowship and live in joy. We can’t blame a church for what it lacks when we refuse to commit to its success and let Christ shine through us in our actions and words. Transformation happens all of the time only eclipsed by cynicism. Change occurs when a few STAY and make a difference in genuine love and fellowship almost in spite of their circumstances.
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