Some brief church stories.
I have attended a few churches in the past 40 years, from a small Presbyterian congregation in Irvington, NJ, to an Assemblies church in Newport News, VA, to a few here in southern NJ. It has been the few I have attended in the last 25 plus years that opened my eyes to some very important issues that are serious issues in the Church, at large.
First, let me mention that little church in Irvington. That was the place the Lord used to get my attention in His direction. The pastor, Wade, was loving and patient and didn’t judge those to whom he ministered. I have nothing but great memories of those days and the people I got to know. Wade, particularly. For that matter, we are still in touch through social media and he has a blog, here. (The Lazarus Project, The Horizontal Church – Take a peek, if you wish.)
The church that really opened my eyes to some issues was a small congregation from the Cherry Hill, NJ area. We were part of that one for twenty years. We were deacons, my wife was on the music team, I ran the sound board, our kids did various stuff. About fifteen of those years were spent under a pastor who became more proprietor than pastor…more of a manipulator than minister. In the last 5 years we were there, his demanding ways became more rigid and his doctrinal views were questionable, at best. There are a few brow-raising details…but, to make a long story short, we left that church.
What happened after that was we have been basically shunned. We left nearly nine years ago, and no one from that church ever has called or emailed to see how we are. We knew most of those people for twenty years. Our children basically grew up in that church. One family I knew from north NJ and we go back to the late seventies. How much have I heard from them? Nothing.
Now, I know what you are saying. I could call those folks too. Well, I did. One family welcomed my calls and we talk from time to time. Others, it was rather cold, awkward…as if I had some sort of communicable disease or something. Even the couple I knew from forty years ago has had nothing to do with us.
We attended a rather large church for a couple of years. It was a bit of a drive, but worth the trip. Met some great people, there. Unfortunately, we were having transportation issues and decided it more prudent to go to a church closer to home. We kind of just left. Funny thing was, virtually no one noticed we were gone. Well, one guy emailed me after about a month and I was able to explain things. But, I was part of a greeting team and the team leader called me a few months after we had left to ask me to head up the team on Sunday. I informed him we hadn’t been there in X-amount of time – he had no idea. That team served once a month and no one on the team noticed my absence.
The church we went to next we only attended for about a year. I attended a couple of study groups and we got to know a few folks there. We stopped going. Not one person wanted to know what happened or where we were.
Now, don’t think I am trying to get anyone to feel sorry for me or my family. No need to. This was not meant as a complaint forum. Just some brief stories to show that we need to consider something Jesus said.
Love one another.
It seems that we have lost the idea of what it is to love one another. There is also confusion between loving our neighbors versus loving one another. To put it simply, our neighbor is pretty much everyone. One another is those with whom we fellowship as believers.
As I have stated several times, love is putting oneself aside for another. It is putting another ahead…to consider another more highly than ourselves. When we shun, overlook or forget someone, unless we have a memory issue, we are basically putting self interest above others.
We say we fellowship. Do we? Is fellowship just sitting next to each other while listening to the pastor drone on about stuff? Is it about those covered dish gatherings? I think it is more…it is about relating with one another.
Just a thought…one thing we need to be careful of is calling or talking people to “convince” them to stay among the congregation. That is just a marketing ploy. What we need to do is love, no matter who they are, where they are or why they may be leaving or thinking of leaving. We should love one another in spite of viewpoints, quirks, ideals, hobbies, habits…just love one another, period. Can’t do it? Pray and ask the Lord to work love through us.
After 20 years…
One would think that, after twenty years, that bonds would have been made. After raising all of your children with that place and having taken part in all sorts of different aspects and activities, one would think that the bonds would be stronger than the fact that you might leave their midst. But, when we forget how to love, we place importance on things that are less important than what Jesus told us is.
To be fair, there is the passage about not to fellowship with those who embrace sin or false teachers. I will probably approach that one, at another time.