Monday, December 29, 2014

Dear Church, Here’s Why People Are Really Leaving You

I stopped in Macon, Georgia for the night on my way back from Ohio with my son and his fiancee and their baby. We have been having a great ride, with me playing with the little guy while we listen to the audio recording of World War Z (actually, it is very fascinating). Of course, I am harassing people on FB as we travel.

A friend of mine posted a link to this article by John Pavlovitz on the Patheos blog hosting site today. I read it and decided it was worth re-posting here. The key quote that I want to bring out and emphasize from the article is as follows:

"Your greatest mission field is just a few miles, (or a few feet) off your campus and you don’t even realize it. You wanna reach the people you’re missing?
Leave the building."

I have been saying these things for years, at least 10 years, but I think my circle of friendships have tuned me out (the little boy who cried wolf?, or Chicken Little?), so I will post it here in someone else's voice. I left the building a good while ago.

Here is a portion of Mr. Pavlovitz's post ....

Being on the other side of the Exodus sucks, don’t it?
I see the panic on your face, Church.
I know the internal terror as you see the statistics and hear the stories and scan the exit polls.
I see you desperately scrambling to do damage control for the fence-sitters, and manufacture passion from the shrinking faithful, and I want to help you.
You may think you know why people are leaving you, but I’m not sure you do.
You think it’s because “the culture” is so lost, so perverse, so beyond help that they are all walking away.
You believe that they’ve turned a deaf ear to the voice of God; chasing money, and sex, and material things.
You think that the gays and the Muslims and the Atheists and the pop stars have so screwed up the morality of the world that everyone is abandoning faith in droves.
But those aren’t the reasons people are leaving you.
They aren’t the problem, Church.
You are the problem.
Let me elaborate in five ways …

1. Your Sunday productions have worn thin.

2. You speak in a foreign tongue.

Church, you talk and talk and talk, but you do so using a dead language. You’re holding onto dusty words that have no resonance in people’s ears, not realizing that just saying those words louder isn’t the answer. All the religious buzzwords that used to work 20 years ago no longer do.

3. Your vision can’t see past your building.

The coffee bar, the cushy couches, the high-tech lights, the funky Children’s wing and the uber-cool Teen Center are all top-notch … and costly. In fact, most of your time, money and energy seems to be about luring people to where you are instead of reaching people where they already are.

4. You choose lousy battles.

We know you like to fight, Church. That’s obvious.
Church, we need you to stop being warmongers with the trivial and pacifists in the face of the terrible.

5. Your love doesn’t look like love.

Love seems to be a pretty big deal to you, but we’re not getting that when the rubber meets the road. In fact, more and more, your brand of love seems incredibly selective and decidedly narrow; filtering out all the spiritual riff-raff, which sadly includes far too many of us.
It feels like a big bait-and-switch sucker-deal; advertising a “Come as You Are” party, but letting us know once we’re in the door that we can’t really come as we are. We see a Jesus in the Bible who hung out with lowlifes and prostitutes and outcasts, and loved them right there, but that doesn’t seem to be your cup of tea.
That’s part of the reason people are leaving you, Church.
These words may get you really, really angry, and you may want to jump in a knee-jerk move to defend yourself or attack these positions line-by-line, but we hope that you won’t.
We hope that you’ll just sit in stillness with these words for a while, because whether you believe they’re right or wrong, they’re real to us, and that’s the whole point.
We’re the ones walking away.
We want to matter to you.
We want you to hear us before you debate us.
Show us that your love and your God are real.
Church, give us a reason to stay.
All 5 of these points resonate with me. But it is not just me .... 
To read the whole blog post, go to the Patheos blog

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