Have you ever heard of someone hurt by the church, be brushed off with a pat answer?
Have you been hurt and brushed off?
"You don't stop going out to eat, just because you had one bad experience."
I'm sorry; I might have been the one that gave you that answer.
My reading today kept highlighting Leaders. Then I was brought back to what I read yesterday in Proverbs. My heart has been troubled for the past few weeks reading about scandals within different Christian communities, churches, or families.
I love to read and research to get the bigger picture. Some of these excursions have given more questions, than answers, but that did not take my peace or faith in Christ.
But what about the person on the outside looking in?
What about the new Christian that, because of offense in the church (not for the word's sake) just decided it would be better to stay at home?
First off, I want to extend an apology to you. I'm sorry if I judged you, or gave you a pat answer. I want you to know that God sees your plight, and he is not pleased when his name suffers because of people running around and taking advantage of his sheep.
Proverbs 27: 23-27
Know the state of your flocks,
and put your heart into caring for
your herds, for your riches don't last
forever, and the crown might not be
passed to the next generation.
After the hay is harvested and the new
crop appears and the
mountain grasses are gathered in,
your sheep will provide
wool for clothing, and
your goats will provide the price of a field.
And you will have enough goats' milk for
yourself, your family, and your servant girls.
The ESV version says, "Know well the condition of your flock and give attention to your herds," in vs 23, compared to, "Know the state of your flocks, and put your heart into caring for your herds," in the NLT. Either one in my opinion, are acceptable. They mean the same thing. Some people put much emphasis, on how a church building looks, or how it feels, and do not know the condition of the people that are attending. Families focus on the exterior without investigating the inner workings of the spouse's or children's heart.
How many times have we assumed we knew what was going on in another person's mind or heart? Your child has good grades, listens to his mama, so he must be fine. The neighbor knows you go to church, so if they needed anything, they would come to you, but you don't know their name. You know the time of your favorite show, what channel it airs on, and when it reruns, but did not know your co-workers baby was born.
The scripture above says "the crown might not be passed to the next generation." That could mean many things. It could mean your country that affords you a 9 to 5 job, could become unstable and change your life as you know it. It could mean war could break out, but your side might not be victorious.
The children, neighbors, and congregants that we sowed into earlier, will or will not be there when the riches are spent, and the glory is gone. If you spent more time on networking, and building up contacts than you did by spending your time and resources into the people that are a part of your everyday life, you might find yourself alone, or facing judgment for not Shepherding.
Are you surprised when someone stops attending church? Do you assume you know why without verifying? Or do you make contact? Are you shocked when you kid acted out at school, or your husband blew his radiator cap? The temperature gauge was warning you the entire time, but you have to take your eyes off yourself, your tweets, your likes, your bank statement and look at it every now and then. Every body knows sister so-in-so is legalistic, and she means no harm. But, a new Christian that gets accosted in the bathroom by her "sermon while you potty" teaching, might run and never come back.
I have questioned my own denomination sometimes, when someone gets caught up in a wicked sin. I never questioned Jesus, but I don't think it is unfair of a non-believer to think all sorts of things. Paul warns us to be above reproach in the new testament. I have read articles and seen pictures of people I consider wise, make a show of support for someone that hurt and failed others afterwards. I have seen leaders defend very bad decisions or sins of others by declaring "it is under the blood."
I think if we, as a body stopped focusing on connecting with some fictional "global wide network" of believers, we would do much better at knowing the conditions of our flocks. God will bring the connections for you to "minister" to the nations, without you having to manipulate it and strike hands with a famous attractive personality that has no foundation.
I don't know much about the real people behind the Duck Dynasty brand, or 19 kids and counting. I knew some associations that I did not like of the Duggars, but so many people were touting "they're Christian." I said nothing. Why don't we start investing in the tangible? The proverbs 31 wife speaks of her husband in the gates, not the news network, or accolades of conference attendees. Your children are your heritage, not your brand or supporters. Taking care of the widow, orphan, and least of these in your local congregation speaks louder to your community than you bringing in headline Christian speakers.
Making disciples by being Jesus to the common person will be better for the body of believers in the long run. Know your flock and realm of influence. If you run out of gas, your neighbor might be running late for church and leave you stranded. Your kid that never received attention might just assume you would like to live in a retirement home. Your spouse might just assume you really don't want a marriage and remove the burden.