A few months ago, I read Rachel Held Evans' super popular post, "15 Reasons I Left Church". I could relate. And so could many, many others. What struck me, even more than the actual piece, were the countless comments full of hurt, sadness and sometimes even hostility and disdain towards the Church. They had been marginalized or manipulated, swindled and were scarred. As I read comment after comment, I went from feeling a sense of solidarity to downright shame. Yes, I had been hurt by other Christians, too.
But... I'm also a believer.
I am a follower of Christ.
I am part of the Body.
I sat feeling hurt because those commenters are my Brothers and Sisters. They're in pain. If the Church is guilty, I am, too. Yes, I've been wronged. But I'm also guilty of wronging others.
"I have a question: If a person leaves a Church, does that mean all the beautiful friendships made,all the memories made as servants of Christ also have to end? Is that love, Gods love is eternal. We are His Light. I have not left my church, I have not been in awhile due to my disabling health condition, Father God knows my heart, no man can judge it. I will always love and pray for my Church. Has anyone been unfortunate enough to go through this?..."
So far, she has received over thirty comments, and yup, most everyone had. Most everyone had wound up going to a new church after their hurtful incident(s). I know I did. But what happens when they don't?
After service one Sunday this past Spring, I stopped by Starbucks (as usual) for a skim White Chocolate Mocha (my tried and true). I wound up standing in a slow-moving line behind Yolanda, who I also met at my former church. After getting my drink, I stopped her as she headed out and asked her how she was doing. After the pleasantries, she shared how she too had left the large nondenominational church to which we both belonged for years. I was shocked. She had been quite active in a few ministries, including onstage as part of the Praise & Worship team. She told me with a resigned sadness how she wound up leaving. I asked her which church she was attending now.
"Now? Ha, I don't go anywhere. And I don't want to. I read my Bible and pray, and God knows...". Her voice cracked. There were tears in her eyes. She seemed taken aback by her own visible display of emotion, and quickly turned and left, half-muttering goodbye to me.
Another lone ranger Christian.
After Rachel shared her story, a number of bloggers (and folks in her very own combox) took offense at her post. They wrote, if she left, or quit or whatever, the problem is HER:
"Rachel typifies a generational character flaw that is a regrettable trait of our adolescent/young adult culture here in America... these narcissistic, preening, self-adulating princesses are constantly looking for someone to fluff their pillow and cater to their every whim. I dunno, Rachel, if we were to brew just the right Starbucks blend for you with the right blend of caffeine, soy milk and raw sugar and served it to you in the PEW(!!!!!), maybe, just maybe, would you even begin to think about approaching contentment? ..."That piece of ugliness was one of the first I read in the comments section. I just can't help but disagree. And feel like this person is missing the point. You know what, yes, Rachel is the problem. She even wrote that part of what drove her out was her own "selfishness and pride". But it's also all of our fault.
That writer, Rachel, Yolanda, Sonia and me.
Because we are all connected.
Giant nondenominational churches and lone rangers.
We are the Body. Disjointed and discombobulated and with frayed nerves, yes.
So, here's my challenge. I wrote it on Facebook last night and got a few likes, so here it is for those of you in the blogosphere:
Here's a challenge to my Brothers & Sisters in Christ: sometime this week, pick up the phone and call someone you use to fellowship with. You know, that nice lady who belonged to your small group, but moved away, or the guy who stopped attending morning services a few months ago.
Go ahead, do it. Don't cheat by sending a text, a DM or a poke. Nope, actually call. Do it.
I don't believe God likes such estrangements in His family...