by David Sisler

Most men, most women and most young people reject the claims of Jesus Christ. Is that because of Jesus, or because of those of us who call ourselves Christians?

A great many things have happened in the last two thousands years, perpetrated in the name of God which do not represent God in the least manner. Jesus said that in the last days many will say to him, "Lord, did we not in your name do many great miracles, heal the sick, raise the dead, cast out demons?" But Jesus' answer to them will be, "Depart from me. I have no idea who you are." Or to appropriate and paraphrase the famous words from Mission: Impossible, "God will disavow any knowledge of your actions."

In the name of Jesus, Christians rode out to the Crusades, spreading more barbarism before them than Gospel. People who cannot locate the nation of Spain on a map, know that the phrase, "The Spanish Inquisition" is synonymous for an enormous tragedy, foisted on defenseless men and women in the name of Jesus. I do not know the source of the quote, but I believe it to be true: "The single greatest cause of atheism in the world today are those who call themselves Christians."

Now all of this is going somewhere, and that somewhere is to church, or more specifically, to the leaving of church. As in, "I am sick of this place, these people, and this pastor, and I'm outta here!"

For reasons as varied as the individuals who express them, church members decide to leave the church they are currently attending and seek another house of worship.

As a former pastor, I know that much of the blame focuses -- rightly or wrongly -- on the man who stands in the pulpit. We don't like what he is saying. We don't like the way he is living. We don't like the way he is running things. We don't like the direction in which he is taking the church. It really doesn't matter why. The simple truth is, many church goers decided to go elsewhere.

The man who pointed out to me, correctly, the damage done by good men in the name of God, missed this one. The tragedy is not so much that we leave, but rather in the manner in which depart. Few disgruntled church members are content to leave quietly. Emotions run high, tempers flare and reason is trampled beneath angry feet.

If the pastor is guilty of false living -- dishonesty, theft, adultery, heresy -- and there is demonstrable, irrefutable proof, then there must be confrontation. The Bible demands it.

But how frequently is gross misconduct the reason for leaving? How many more times is it simply hurt feelings and ruffled feathers?

The whispering campaign begins. Recruitment is in full-swing. Old wounds are torn open. Outrageous barbs and arrows fly. When the dust finally settles, nothing is as it once had been, and there is no victor -- unless you count the enemies of the church.

You have "roast pastor" for Sunday dinner and you give your children food poisoning. You try to dislodge an old goat and end up crippling a lamb. You look back years later and see your offspring reject the church and all of its trappings, wring your hands and wonder, "Where did they learn that?" Chances are, if you look in the mirror, you will see the teacher.

Your mother used to tell you, "If you don't quit picking at that, it will never heal." Well, by now the hurt has festered to the point where a bandage will not do. Radical surgery is called for. Why don't you call on the man you deem to be the root cause of your bitterness? Sit down and talk to him. Or yell at him, if you think it will help, but do it in private. Do it where no one else where hear. Do it where no one else can be struck by a ricochet.

One of two things will happen. You will hear his side of the story and become convinced that you are wrong. Or, you will hear his side of the story and become convinced that you are right. If you were wrong, hug his neck and ask him to forgive you. If there can be no reconciliation, drown the rancor and the bitterness in an ocean of prayer, and move on quietly.

When it comes time to leave -- and the reason really does not matter -- leave in peace. Not in pieces.


Published in the Augusta Chronicle 5/4/96

Copyright 1996 by David Sisler

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