Posted: October 25, 2011 in Serious Stuff, Words

When I was six years old, my parents signed me up for little league flag football. Now, I’m not sure who’s idea this was, seeing as I’ve always been kind of a wuss, but regardless of how it happened, it did. And I was always a pudgy kid, so they put me on the offensive line. That’s where the fat guys go, because when you put four fat guys side by side, they naturally turn into a wall.

It’s science.

I don’t remember practicing, and I barely remember my first game, but one thing I do recall very clearly is that the first game was also my last game. I hated it. I remember going home after it was over and telling my dad I wanted to quit because everybody kept pushing me down and pulling my shirt. I’m a gentle person, a kind soul. Those other boys were mean. Looking back, I know it disappointed him, but Dad let me quit.

And it wasn’t long before I got very bitter toward the other boys on my team. After I quit, they never once came to my house on a Saturday morning and forced me into my pads and dragged me back to the field. In fact, it affected me so deeply, the way they let me down, that I’ve never thrown a football again since. I can’t even watch it on TV because they disappointed me in such a huge way. We were on the same team, and they should have done things differently.

Doesn’t that sound ridiculous? I didn’t really react that way. In fact, I never missed it at all. But that’s what pastors, ministers, church leaders, elders, and active church members hear on a regular basis from those who have quit on us. It happens all the time.

Someone gets busy, or gets their feelings hurt, or just plain gets lazy, and they stop coming to church. Or, as I like to put it- they remove themselves from our fellowship. They make the choice to no longer be an active part of the community and ministry that our  congregation is working to cultivate.

Then they blame us.

In the four years that I’ve been the pastor at my current church, it’s happened a handful of times. An active member or family misses a week or two, we check on them, we encourage them to come back, they don’t, so we stop asking. Months go by, then I hear that they’re mad because they feel like we’ve done something wrong.

“They let me down. I’m so disappointed. How could they do that?”

Unless you’re a kid, it’s your responsibility to set your alarm, put on something besides pajamas, and join the fellowship of believers when they meet together. We can’t make you do it. It’s all on you. Now, if you can’t make it because of your health or something, that’s totally different. But if you can and choose not to, your church has not let you down.

In fact, it’s more likely that the opposite is true. As members of a church, we each have a unique combination of talents, abilities, personalities, and gifts. And when you quit on your church family, you probably left a hole that they’re still trying to fill, because no one else is like you, and no one else can do it like you can.

Here’s my point: you can’t run away from home then get mad at your mom for not bringing you dinner. You can’t quit the football team and be bitter that the coach won’t let you play. You can’t quit church and hold the members responsible for your bitterness toward the church. Go back. Be reconciled. Hug it out. Reattach yourself to the body of Christ and be useful to God’s kingdom again.

  1. Karin says:

    Eloquently said. I never could quite put into words what bothered about people who do this, but this clarifies it for me. Thank you.

  2. I love how you can be so straight forward yet still be a little reserved. That’s what makes you such a good preacher.
    Your favorite sister 🙂

  3. Great way to put it, and you’re very right.

    It almost makes me not mad at you anymore for never coming to my house to wash my car.

  4. efchristi says:

    Well put! We all get our feelings brused once in a while, but always manage to live through it.

  5. randomlychad says:

    But Pastor Jared, you don’t understand–we just weren’t being fed no more. 😉

    How many times have you heard that? Or the ever-popular “We felt the Lord leading us in a different direction.”

    It”s usually a bunch of baloney based, as you so eloquently state above, upon some perceived slight.

  6. Travis Maines says:

    Brother Paul has been doing a series on the Prodigal Son. One statement that he keeps making is that “By the time the body leaves, the heart has been gone for a while”. His point is that people don’t just suddenly quit or leave a situation/relationship, they tend to have a hardening of the heart or leave emotionally before they leave physically.

    From my own experience, I have seen many instances of people leaving a group, team or organization because they don’t get the recognition they feel entitled to. Even more interesting, I’ve seen people threaten to leave in order to prove how important they are to the organization. Some people truly believe that an organization or group would crumble without them. I think people leave at times and expect others to repeatedly tell them how important they are to the organization, that they are one of a kind and they’re irreplaceable. Want to know what happens when someone quits a team? Someone else takes their place. What happens when someone quits a church? Someone takes their pew (GASP, not the pew). Now, don’t get me wrong, I like an insincere pat on the back as much as the next guy. I’ve just never understood the quitting because my pride is hurt concept. Just my two cents, sorry for rambling.

  7. joshfults says:

    I loved this post man. I can definitely relate to this. Co-dependent ministers aren’t doing anyone a favor by coddling them. I think it is best to let people know we love them, but we are not responsible for their growth. We all have to take ownership of our relationship with God and the church.

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