Do we cause prodigals and make young people leave the Church?
When two very similar things happen in one day, that is a coincidence, but when two very related ideas happen first thing in the morning, I have to wonder if it isn’t just a little more than a coincidence. Before I got to work, I had been confronted with two viewpoints on what drives young people from Church.
Ron Parsons was on a recorded radio show explaining how to make prodigals of our children. Thankfully, he wasn’t talking about how to become “relevant” or any other such marketing nonsense that some churches engage in. Rather, he was talking about authentic Christian behavior, which includes love. Sometimes, our very attitude drives people away rather than allows the love of God to shine through. One of his stories was about how a biker was dared to go to church one morning, and he sat by a 90-year-old woman who had nothing to gain by showing him acceptance and love. That man declared his Christianity that very day.
Now, I’m going to gloss over a lot of theology and what-not right now. I want to focus upon the attitude. Do the world’s churches do a better job of showing love than we do? That is a worthwhile question to ask.
Parsons explained that he himself was a prodigal in his younger years. However, someone showed him the respect that a teenager craves, encouraged him to take up public speaking and did not show him the judgmental spirit that he had experienced so many times before.
James, the half-brother of Jesus, himself gave an example of how we should deal with the broken and the downtrodden:
2 My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons.
2 For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment;
3 And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool:
4 Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?
5 Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?
~ Jas 2:1-5
Simply put, do we follow James’ admonition? He likely knew of how Jesus hung around with sinners and tax collectors, and He was heavily criticized for that. How do we compare to that?
It isn’t as though Jesus tolerated other’s sins, either. Jesus told the woman caught in adultery to go and sin no more. However, in our postmodern COG organizations, how many would have shown their hypocrisy (and uneven application of the Law) by joining the mob crying out to stone her?
It is not about teaching the Law, either. It is about hypocrisy.
Concretized Christianity recently posted “Zeal: For Who and For What?” There is one section where I’m not sure I agree with as it is written, but I am in agreement with what I believe the author was saying. Regardless, this jumped off the page at me:
And the number one reason why the younger people are walking away as soon as they are able?
I know a lot of these people. They’re friends and they’re going to stay in my circle because I love them. I don’t have an “out of sight, out of mind” heart. I thank God for that.
Why did this jump off the page at me? Because, as I will remind you, I too was once a prodigal. I can attest to you that often it was the people, not the doctrine, that drove me crazy. Even at home, what I saw was not what I read in the Scripture much of the time. It made no sense to me how there could be so many “Christians” who could not even agree on the smallest matters, would often exhibit a prideful attitude because they “knew” the truth (1Co 8:1), and yet if it really were the truth, then why couldn’t they agree?
What I see in all of these splits and divisions is the same pride which makes mountains out of molehills and yet expects everyone to climb a mountain. They strain at gnats while swallowing camels (Mt 23:24).
Ironically, many of the leaders in these organizations are so full of arrogance that they feel they have no need to repent of wrong attitudes. Like the Pharisee:
10 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.
11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.
12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.
13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.
14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
~ Lk 18:10-14
Just after this passage, what do we see? Supposedly every year at least once a year we have the Blessing of Little Children ceremony. Jesus heaps up the lessons on humility, one after another, yet I sometimes wonder if we really do get it. Time after time, the NT tells us how important love is, but I sometimes wonder if we really do get it. Time after time, we are told to esteem others more than ourselves and even entertain strangers, but do we really get it?
Because, to not get it means our attitude will bar us from the Kingdom. Our heart will show whether or not we are converted as much as, if not more than, our knowledge of the truth.