CPL#27: Failing the Great Commission

LESSON #27:  Failing the Great Commission (DON’T DO IT)

Currently, we are taking about 20 guys through what we call a discipleship boot camp.  It is a return to what are called “First Principles”, the basics, Christianity 101, the foundation of our faith.  Some might consider our material too simplistic, focusing on “milk” rather than meat.  In the short time that I have been a pastor, I have learned that the basics are where most Christians, and the churches they build, go wrong.  Too often they want to run ahead on meat, only to try and choke down a theological rib-eye their stomachs are not prepared for.  Though they may be able to get some nourishment, most of the meal they have to spit out and thus, end up malnourished.  And though they talk about the glories of big theological steak meals, they don’t in fact grow, and neither do the babies around them they are supposed to feed.

All that to say, our first study was on the GOSPEL—the kerygma—the proclamation of WHO Jesus is and WHAT He did.  Knowing that Paul in 2Corinthians said that there is,”…another gospel, another Jesus, and another spirit…”, it’s a good idea that we get the right one.  In our second study last night, we discussed BAPTISM as it related to the Great Commission.  We took the Great Commission, Jesus command to His disciples in Matthew 28.16-20 which says:

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

For anyone that has been a Christian for any amount of time, the Great Commission should be a familiar passage.  Unfortunately, it seems that Christians, and their churches, have become so familiar with the Great Commission that the heart of it has been lost.  This “death by familiarity” has resulted in churches forgetting that the Great Commission is not good advice for godly living, rather, it is a command from God.  At the heart of this passage is Jesus command to make disciples of all nations.  Jesus doesn’t leave us to figure out what “making disciple means” but gives us somewhat of a formula:  GO PREACH, BAPTIZE, and TEACH.  As Jesus could have said so many other things for us to do as His disciples, it is crucial we understand why he commands this.

Curiously, it seems like Christians and their churches typically forget emphasize all aspects of the Great Commission.  If we do this, we I believe we fail to fulfill the Great Commission as God intends.  And, if it is a command and not just advice, we must be careful that our failure is not simply rebellion.  Failure can look like one of three things:

  • We GO & BAPTIZE but do not TEACH: These people and churches are highly evangelistic, but fail to establish disciples beyond basic belief (milk).   This can result in churches that teach little more than spiritualized-psychology and focus all of their energies on gathering a flock.  Similarly, their disciples they make are so focused on counting conversions, and on the gospel going further to more hearts, that they never wrestle with the hard truths of Scripture and the gospel never goes deeper in their own heart.   Making disciples is a numbers game.
  • We GO & TEACH but do not BAPTIZE: These people and churches are usually very engaged in culture, almost to a fault.  They fail to emphasize baptism because they choose to deny the centrality, authority, and importance of the church.  As a result, they build “faith communities” that are highly individualized, emotional, and ultimately unstable.  At the heart of their denial of baptism is a rebellion against all authority, the church and Scripture itself.  Typically, these groups will spend times arguing on the non-essential aspects of faith that are usually quite controversial.  But, with a few truths in their hand, their communities become full of disciples who love Jesus, hate His church, and ask a lot of questions about truth without ever coming to conclusions.  Making disciples is an ambiguous relational game.
  • We BAPTIZE & TEACH but do not GO: These people are usually doctrinal sound but relationally retarded.  They guard the purity of gospel-doctrine and emphasize the importance of being “the church”, but they separate themselves from the world.  Their disciple making emphasizes teaching and knowledge.  They deny Jesus command to “GO”, figuring they have already arrived where they were sent, and maintaining “the church” itself becomes the mission.  Though they may send a check to missionary in a foreign country, they are not missional where they live.  The church invariably makes disciples full of knowledge they do nothing with. Making disciples is a private game.

While I am sure there are other more accurate descriptions, it is clear that we can easily fail to follow the Great Commission of Jesus.  Jesus commanded us to go AND baptize AND teach.  Baptism is, according to Jesus, the first thing that someone who believes should do.  It is not belief itself, but it is the first act of obedience that visibly declares in the body what has already happened invisibly in the heart. In other words, baptism is much more than just getting wet—for both the individual who is being baptized and the church that is baptizing.  It is a comprehensive commitment to several things including:

1.      Commitment to the Triune God:  The formula given by Jesus is specific.  The triune God is unique to Christianity.  In baptism, the disciple is committed to the one true God and opposed to any other so called “gods” at the same time.  In baptism, the individual is identifying with Jesus, his death and resurrection, committing to walking no longer as a slave to sin in rebellion, but a slave to God in worship.

2.      Commitment to the church: Similar to circumcision in the Old Testament, the disciples were baptizing people into a people.  It was NOT just an individual experience but a communal one.  Jesus death brings us into His family, the church, where we experience community and serve as a member of the family.  Baptism is the act of committing oneself to following Jesus as the bride that He loves.  You cannot declare a love for Jesus and not be a part of the bride that Jesus says he sets His love on.

3. Commitment to making disciples: One final commitment we make as newly baptized disciples is of making more disciples ourselves.  The Great Commission was not only given to a group of “leaders”, but to all future disciples.  There is both an individual and a corporate responsibility to be disciple makers, people who preach, baptize, and teach.  In other words, beginning with your family, you make disciples who make disciples who make disciples.

Let us never forget that fulfilling the Commission is not just for pastors, it is for ALL who would identify themselves as disciples.  This is what disciples do. I pray that we will be disciples who make disciples who build churches full of disciples who fulfill the Great Commission only to do it all over again…and again.

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CP#26: Faith is like Playing Basketball

LESSON #26:  How Faith is like Playing Basketball

I suck at Basketball.  Growing up I played Soccer, all year, all the time.  And I was good.   I enjoyed playing Soccer from age 5 to age 25, even coached for several years.  After 20+ years of Soccer, I grew sick of it.  As I got older, and my body didn’t quite respond as I wanted it to, the sport that once excited every part of my mind and body, now bored me.  It was time for a new sport.

I decided to pick up a sport that I enjoyed but struggled with, Basketball.  I am terrible.  I am a great defender, incredible re bounder, but a horrific shot-maker.  If my life depended on making a lay up, let alone a jump shot, I would have died many times over.   Despite that fact that God did not bless me with the skills necessary to put a stupid little ball into a round hoop, I play twice a week.  At 5:30 am, I play basketball at the local High school with some of my old fellow teachers.  I am consistently on time and consistently the guy who can’t make a shot.  Once I was the star on the turf, now I’m the fool on the court, every week.  But every week, after the guys give me the “good game” pity pat, I tell myself, “It’s just good exercise.”  And it is.

What does this have to do with faith?  All too often, many people in the church will only do what they are good at.  This problem of self-confidence is rooted in pride and devoid of faith.  Faith is not doing only what you are good at or serving where you will succeed.  In fact, faith is often times the very opposite.   Much of the gospel work in the church is accomplished by people who are not equipped, skilled, or ready.  They are simply faithful and willing.  I can’t count the number of things I had to learn or just do when we planted the church.  I did them, not because I wanted to, but because they had to get done.

What I discovered, however, is that God used those times to grow me.  In fact, he grew me more when I didn’t know what, when, or how to do something, but I still took steps to following him.  As I look back, I don’t see what I accomplished as the best example of what COULD have been accomplished, I look at it as “good exercise.”  It reminds me of what Paul says in 1Timothy 4.7-8 to a young pastor:

…train yourself for godliness; 8 for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.

I hope that men and women, both young and old, do not wait to be “ready” or “equipped” in order to take steps of faith.  Whether that be starting, leading, or serving somewhere, expect that you WILL NOT be the best at something, that you may make mistakes, or that you might even get hurt–but it’s still good exercise for godliness.  Unless you play, you will not train. Unless you train, you cannot grow.

CP#25: When people stay (or should)

People land and stay at various churches for a myriad of reasons.  Again, some these reasons are very good and others are very bad.  No one can truly judge the motivation of the heart but Judge Jesus, so we’ll leave determining the genuine validity of reasons for coming or going with him. I am suggesting that you can stay at a church for the wrong reasons. This blog is not about convincing people to leave their churches, rather, for them to consider why they are there–or why they should be there.  My hope is that, if they are at a healthy church, they will in fact begin to love the church all the more and do more than stay, but in fact commit for the right reasons.

All of the wrong reasons to stay at a church can be summarized in two words: personal preferences (PP). Ironically, this is also the root cause of wanting to leave….I digress.  There is nothing inherently wrong with PP we all have them.   And I will agree that it is important, at some level, to be at a church that you want to marry.  I don’t necessarily expect everyone to marry the “fat church” because she has a “good personality.”  At the same time, I don’t know if that is our greatest problem these days.

Unfortunately, we’re not perfectly sinless like Jesus, so our PP are marred with sin and therefore not always trustworthy–at least not for building or evaluating churches, leaders, or people for that matter.  That is why Jesus gave us the Bible (though it seems PP still wreak havoc through personal interpretations).   And though I am sure pastors are grateful for every sheep that God brings into their flock, I am convinced that just as there are poor reasons to leave a church, there are also poor reasons to stay. Some of these include:  “I like the music…I like the sermons…I like the pastor…I like the children’s program…I like the building…I like the size of the church”...OR the ever-popular, “I like that this church/pastor isn’t like my last one.”

The one common thread on all of those reasons is that they are all rooted in a subjective “I like”, also known as personal preferences.   Implied through all of these statements are reasons why they wouldn’t or couldn’t go to other churches (the whisper of the critic-monster in all of us that we either feed or starve)…”The music isn’t as good…the preaching isn’t as solid…etc.”  Without doubt, and with a bit more information, some of these could very well be valid reasons to leave or stay at a church.   Many of these reasons to stay, however, have everything to do to with superficial issues and nothing with what the Bible describes as the essential character of what makes a healthy church.   While music, preaching, and programs are important, if these are the only reasons to stay, then the church is only a song, sermon, or class away from failing to meet your personal preference expectations–and then you’re only a short step away from looking for a new family that is more to your liking. I desperately want people to connect with the bride of Christ, to go to church.  I believe participation in the body of Christ is essential to the Christian life as I personally believe that God intended sanctification itself to take place largely in community.

That being said, staying at churches solely because we or our families are entertained, fed, or served is misguided at best.  There may be good reasons, but these are not them.  Led by such PP, one will either  find themselves dangerously plugged into an unhealthy “christian” church OR living as an unhealthy “christian” at a healthy one.   There are better, more biblical reasons to stay.  Here are a few:

1.  The church preaches the Bible: This might go without saying, but I’ll say it.  I could have just as easily said that churches must preach the Bible–all of it.  That means they don’t avoid the hard words, difficult passages, or counter-cultural truths.  A healthy church, a church you should stay at, has the Bible as THE AUTHORITY for all things.  Of course, there are those who will abuse authority and use the Bible wrongly to promote bad doctrine and false teaching.  If they preach the Bible, then they will also teach you to test what they preach by the Bible.

2.  The church centers everything on the Gospel:   This is beyond preaching the “story of Jesus” on Easter once a year.  It is the core belief that the gospel is not just the ABC’s of faith, but the A thru Z of faith–its beginning, its middle, and its end.  The good news of Jesus not only saves us, but it informs how we live.  The church should employ to the gospel to know how we are to “do” our doctrine, marriages, finances, leadership, parenting, community, and all relationships.  If the Bible is ONE story, and the hero is Jesus, then everything we do should center on Jesus as both the means and the end.

3.  The church has qualified leaders & leadership development. For all the mistakes I have made as a church planter, I have made the most with leadership.  There can be no compromising here, not laying of hands hastily, the consequences are too great.  I have lost good friends over the issues of eldership.  Though the standards of leadership must be set high, we must be careful not to put too much red tape in front of them–to make it near impossible to lead or even serve.  There has to be leadership development.  The church must have a place for young leaders to serve, grow, be trained, and then released.   Failure to do this results in an unhealthy polarizing a church around one leader, or group of leaders.

4. The church practices baptism and communion.  Since Jesus left the church with just two specific sacraments to practice, it’s best that we do.  Regardless of mode or form, the question is, is the flock encouraged to be baptized as the initial step of obedience to Jesus and doorway into the church community or not?  And, is the Lord’s Supper practiced as you gather regularly?  Both of these are not “culturally relevant” activities, but they are biblically mandated.  They are both memorials to remember the gospel AND signs to direct us in the future.

5.  The church practices church discipline.  The church has to be serious about sin.  You will know that they are when they talk about sin, command people to repent of sin, and speak of sin as an internal heart problem (not just an external hand problem).  Church discipline protects the purity of the gospel and the purity of God’s bride.  Church discipline is uncomfortable, inconvenient, and counter-cultural.  But, done rightly, church discipline is in fact a means of grace, that comes through the church, to encourage those who are caught in sin to repent.

6.  The church is on mission.  The word “missional” has been so overused that it has lost much of its meaning . It’s more than being contextual, more than being cultural engaging, more than being a presence in the community.  A church on mission recognizes that they are alive, active, and SENT.  With intention, one you can see, they strive to fulfill what Jesus prayed for in John 17 and what he commanded through the Great Commission.   Being missional meanings perpetuating the idea of being a missionary both individually and corporately.  Individually, we live on mission where we work and play, and we continue the mission together through planting more churches.

7.  The church is a family of families: Finally, is the church a family–a gospel community.   A church that is a family means that they treat one another like brothers and sisters, that they live out what Paul commands in Titus 2.  But this isn’t possible if the family is not living this way outside of the church.  In other words, the church should be encouraging parents, but especially fathers, to pastor their homes–their first churches.  Then, they bring their gospel-centered family into community with other gospel-centered families and we begin to see the “manifold wisdom of God” proclaimed.  On a side not, though I am sure it is possible, I find it difficult to understand how a church of 500+ can actually feel like a family.  Even at our small size, it is a challenge to know everyone.   I wonder, however, if many people stay at a church because they will not be known, because their service won’t be missed, because they can hide out at the “event” of church and not really be part of a family.

Who knows how this will be received.  My hope is that you will begin to view the church differently.  If you are a pastor or planter, I think it wise to ask yourself WHY people stay.  As people come, it is very tempting to “adjust” the mission and philosophy toward the applause and away from the boos.  Pastor Mark Dever (9 marks) says, “You win people to what you win them with.”  It’s your job to make sure that you are winning people with Jesus and that they are staying for Him too.

CP#24: Re-Preaching Rivers

CHURCH PLANTING LESSON #24:  You’ll always want to Re-preach your last sermon(s).

I always want a another chance.   Nearly without fail, I want to re-preach every sermon that I preach, right after I preach it.   At times, this desire overwhelms me seconds after I’m done.  Other times, it results days, or even weeks later, usually after I’ve read a Scripture, a book, or come across some other idea that would have been “perfect” or at least “better.”  Alas, there are always the things I wish I would have said, things I wish I hadn’t of said, things I forget to say, and things that I simply butchered when I said them.

The truth is, there will always be different ways to preach the same text.  God’s Word is a living mountain that is never fully mined of all of its nuggets.  I trust that the Holy Spirits is powerful enough to ensure that what He wants to be said is preached however broken the pastor or the sermon might seem.

I recently had this experience with a sermon I preached on crossing the Jordan.  I would post it here but our computer’s crashed so it sounds like C3PO speaking from a pulpit in the middle of the cantina in Mos Eisley (Shout out to my fellow Star Wars Freaks!).   The sermon text came from Joshua 3, where Israel is led across the Jordan.  Now I usually try to intentionally forget about my last sermon and move on so as not to dwell.  In fact, I’ve never listened to my own sermons after I preach them…ever.  Unfortunately, as is usually the case, I was reading a book and happened upon a passage that made me want to re-preach that sermon.

I am reading a classic titled, Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.   The first chapter about “costly grace vs. cheap grace” is amazing.  Every Christian should read it.  The second chapter begins with a verse from the Gospel of Mark: 

14And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.

The stated intent of Bonhoeffer’s book is to “recover a true understanding of mutual relation between grace and discipleship.”  In other words, he wants to prove how being saved by grace means more than a free pass to live how you want; but actually leaving everything to follow Him and live for Him absolutely. It reminded me of how I needed to better point Joshua 3(and all sermons) and following God across the river, more toward the cross and following Jesus who said, more than once, “Follow me.

So, in the hopes of redeeming my Joshua 3, C3PO sounding sermon here, I’ll quote Bonhoeffer because how he explains how genuine faith in Jesus does more justice to the idea of crossing the Jordan into a new, different, scary, and amazing life:

“The disciple simply burns his boats and goes ahead.  He is called out, and has to forsake his old life in order that he may “exist” in the strictest sense of the word.  The old life is left behind and completely surrendered.  The disciple is dragged out of his relative security into a life of absolute insecurity (that is, in truth, into the absolute security and safety of the fellowship of Jesus), from a life which is observable and calcuable (it is, in fact, quite incalcuable) into a life where everything is unobservable and fortuitous (that is, into one which is necessary and calcuable), out of the realm of finite (which is in truth the infinite) into the realm of infinite possibilities (which is the one liberating reality)…it is nothing else than bondage to Jesus Christ alone…”

Deitrich Bonhoeffer, Cost of Discipleship, pg. 58

CP Lesson #23: When People Leave

LESSON #23:  When People Leave

I never get used to people leaving our church.  In this consumeristic, serve me, feed me, meet my needs society, it is not uncommon to see people come and go in a church.   Connecting with a church for many is like dating without an intention to commit–just looking for a good time.  They’re trying to find the perfect ideal mate that looks right, sounds right, and makes me feel good while requiring nothing of them they don’t “feel” like giving.  That is why fewer and fewer people are actually getting married to the church.

So, every time a “new” person dares to enter our doors for the first time (usually after hearing how good a “date” we had with one of their friends), its difficult not to feel as if you’re being interviewed and evaluated like a first date.  For a pastor, there can be a lot of pressure to impress or prove they are “worthy” of a second date.  Know that, if you say one thing wrong, make one wrong move, or get something stuck in your teeth–you’ll never see them again, there are a lot of fish in the church sea.  I’ve gotten rather  used to people coming to see if we’re cool,”conservative”, or cultic–I expect it.   What is difficult is when people choose to join the family, to live with you for you a while, and then, like some sort of temporary marriage, decide to walk away.  Regardless of who or why, it’s hard not to feel like a rejected girlfriend left to wonder what (if anything) you did wrong.  Was it something I said?  Do I smell?  Is it my big butt?  Notorious for their number embellishing, when pastors are asked how big their church is they often say, “If everyone show up on one Sunday….”   Knowing how fickle people are today, such claims are akin to bragging about how many people you’ve dated. Weird.  I guess if everyone who has come and gone in our church actually stayed, we’d be huge.  We’re not, and that is ok.  But, unlike some of my pastoral compatriots, I’ve come to grips with the fact that those who have left, aren’t coming back any time soon so best not “count” them as part of the family just because they winked at your or held your hand for a while.  I’d rather have one wife than 25 girlfriends.

Yet, I can still remember the very first couple who left our church like it was yesterday.  We were probably 35 or 40 people, and they were good friends who had been with us since the beginning.   Though this one hurt a bit more being the “first”, it can still remember nearly every couple that has left after spending some time with our church family.  I see this couple and if often feels like seeing an old girlfriend that you once kissed–you both feel awkward.  The truth is, I have a Rolodex of every face that has left, whether they spent a week, a month, or several years with us.  Some of them I miss, some of them I don’t, but all of them left an imprint here whether it was to help build or destroy something–they either stayed and left some fingerprints OR farted in the room and left a stink when they walked away.  For better or worse, I remember them.

I thought I would share some of the reasons people have given for leaving.  Obviously, people have and give all kinds of reasons for leaving.  It’s similar to reading about all the lines that people give for “break ups” which we all know never quite tell the full truth (It’s me…not you.)  I do this simply to prepare any would be church planter as well as caution those thinking about dumping your current girlfriend to be careful what you say when you leave.  These are certainly not ALL of the reasons, but a good smattering of a few…

1)  “Your worship doesn’t make me cry.” Seriously, this has been offered as a reason.  Other versions of the same thing that make the reason sound a bit more spiritual is: “Your music isn’t spirit- filled.”  I’m not sure exactly how one determines the different between spirit-filled music and non-spirit filled music. There was a time when that meant no demonic drums or satanic guitars.  Today, it apparently means tears and tingles.  At the heart of this is a genuine desire for an experience that individualizes faith and puts one’s own emotions at the center of all authority.

2) “You drink beer and gamble.” I have heard this one a time or two, probably because when we first started the church we made a bit too much of a deal about our freedom in Jesus.  The truth is, we like beer, we like cigars, and we like to play Texas-hold’em.  In themselves, these things are not sinful though sin has perverted many such things in creation and caused much pain in people.  What I found, however, was that those who left enjoyed those things also–they simply didn’t think a pastor should talk about them.  Very quickly you realize that these people have spend a great deal of time and energy living two different lives, their “Christian” life and their “Real” life.  For me, that is simply too hard.  I’ll just be a Christian with an occasional pint lifted high in honor of the King.

3) “We don’t agree with your theology.” This will be offered quite often as an excuse.  It is often a very valid one.  What I find, however, is that those who offer theology as a reason to leave, often do so for personal not necessarily biblical reasons.   It is not that they can, or even desire to, debate or explain their theological differences.  I have found it is more that they don’t want to jettison whatever they have accepted as true based on how they were raised or what they were once taught.   In other words, they don’t really want to do the hard work of wrestling with the Scriptures as much as rest in what they already know, feel, or sense. 

4) “I,/We/Our Family doesn’t connect.” I am not sure exactly what this means.  Like many reasons given, this is one that probably serves as justifiable mask for a more unjustifiable explanation.  When someone tells me that their family doesn’t connect, my first thought is wondering how hard they have tried to connect or serve other families at all.  Usually, because I know the peeps in our church, there are many people who have tried to “connect” with the said family and, for one reason or another, they have been rebuffed.  It is my personal opinion that, for many, this reason is softer way of saying “I don’t like you.”  When someone says, “Our family doesn’t connect” or something similar, I hear, “I don’t, won’t, can’t commit.”

5) “God is leading/calling us…” This is probably the most irritating of reasons for people to leave a church.  For those who are leaving, this is the TRUMP card of all reasons.  Once someone declares that that the Holy Spirit is leading them, how can anyone disagree.  Sadly, God’s call or leading is often used as a spiritual-sounding cover to hide the true reasons.  Of course, this isn’t always the case.  There are those who are led to move and thus join other churches, those who are led to plant churches, even those who are led to stop traveling 50 miles to church and stay at one in their community.  I have not doubt the spirit leads in this way.   The problem I have with “leading” or “calling” is when it isn’t specifically TO a  place, but very definitely AWAY from a place (minus weird cult type situations).  Again, spiritual sounding reasons like these feel like dishonest cop-outs.  Other examples of spiritual sounding excuses to leave (or not get involved) include phrases such as “seasons”, “time of rest”, or “healing”.

6) “Your church is too young OR too old.” I’ve heard this one from both the older generation and the younger generation.  Sometimes this comment is rooted in consumerism, other times it is the genuine result of someone who feels out of place.  For the most part, both the older and younger generation are simply looking for how they can be served by others like them as opposed to how they can serve others not like them.  The older generation wants people in their same life stages instead of seeing the importance of pouring into the younger generations.  The younger generation wants to find people to “hang with” and marry without seeing the importance of learning from the older generations’ experiences and marriages.  Both miss the point of books like Titus where Paul describes the roles of all members of the family.

7) “Things have changed.” You can expect to hear this from some of the people who have been there for some time.  There are a lot of things that can be meant by “change”, and you’ll be hard pressed to get them to identify something specific.  They’ll spend inordinate amounts of time talking about how the church is no longer like a family, how it’s run like a business, how communication with leadership is different, and how “OTHERS” feel the same way.  The truth is, when you grow, things do change.  Sometimes this is a result of maturity and other times it is a result of simply size.  Whatever the reason, you must decide if your church is going to be committed to constantly reforming or forever remaining. 

Of course, there are others and not everyone leaves using such excuses.  There are those who leave churches for very valid reasons.  Please (the three of you who read this blog) do not take this list personally–my blog is simply cathartic.  And remember, if you are going to leave a church, however, I’d ask you to consider how you leave. Some have left in a blaze of glory with all matter of disdain for who we are, some have written lengthy letters explaining their “concerns” in detail, some have sent impersonal and curt emails,  some have given honest reasons, some have embellished (for our sake and for theirs), and still some slip out silently without saying anything.  Instead of all of those glorious options, which all sound like really bad breakups, how about sitting down with the pastor and being honest.  If not, there’s always facebook (but unfriend them before throwing them under the bus).

And if you are a pastor, the lesson to learn is that people will come and people will leave; that Jesus plants, builds, grows, shrinks, and kills churches; that people move in and out of churches for both good and bad reasons.  Let God determine which is which.  When new people come to your church, be slow to get excited,but quick to love them; and if they leave one day, be slow to get upset and quick to show grace. When all is said and done, Shepherd the flock that God has given you (for as long as they are there), ignore the goats, and shoot the wolves.