Pastor's Blog

There is a Facebook page specially reserved for those who attended my alma mater during the 1980’s.  Recently, an article was posted there expressing an opinion about why young people are leaving the evangelical church.  That thread, last I saw it, was up over two hundred posts – some of them were very lengthy.  I have some opinions on the matter – but I’d really like to see the opinions of those who have left the evangelical church and hear their reasons for doing so.

Feel free to criticize, but don’t be cruel.  Do not use names of individuals or churches or other evangelical organizations.  If you are reading this on Facebook and want to make an anonymous post, you should be able to do so through our website here: 

http://www.mountainviewchapel.com/index.php/info/pastors/pastors-blog

Click on this article (“Why Are Young People Leaving Evangelical Churches?”) and reply in the box at the bottom of the page.  If your reply doesn’t post immediately, it’s because it went to a “moderator’s approval” page.  I will try to read and approve them as quickly as possible.

I am NOT looking for the speculations of those still in the evangelical church about why they THINK young people are leaving the church.  If you are a church-attender and KNOW a person who left an evangelical church and KNOW their reasons for doing so, feel free to post THAT.

I hope to give our leaders and our attendees some things to chew on.  I look forward to hearing from you.  I will simply post the responses;  I will not respond and I would ask that no one else respond either.  Just take in the information provided.

 

Cameras are everywhere.  A news item this morning warned drivers in Philadelphia about a new camera mounted at a particular intersection to catch those who run the red light.  Knowing the camera is there should induce better driving habits.  Similarly  “Flo” (from Progressive Insurance) offers lower premiums for those willing to have a camera mounted in their car to insure that they observe safe driving procedures. 

It seems a truism that people behave better if they know they’re being recorded.  Recently I heard some folks propose that police brutality could be reduced if every officer was made to wear a small video camera that recorded all of his actions while on duty.  Probably so – and if so, what if every politician or government bureaucrat and every corporate CEO was forced to wear a video camera that recorded words and deeds – even behind closed doors?  Would we see a decrease in corruption?  Could we prevent malpractice if doctors and nurses had to wear video cameras?  What about teachers and those who work with children – and maybe even parents – wearing cameras?  Might that cut down on the abuse of children?  Married people could be made to wear cameras to prevent spouse abuse.  Better yet, why not get everyone used to it by putting cameras on every child when they begin school so as to reduce, not only cheating on tests and bullying, but child abuse and molestation?

Most of us recoil at the thought of being constantly monitored by a camera. Losing our privacy verges on losing our humanity.  It’s generally true that people behave better under surveillance, but the idea was understood long before cameras came on the scene.  People used to believe that everything in life was being recorded and that those records would one day serve as a source of reward and judgment.  That simple belief served as a strong internal motivation to refrain from evil.  It certainly wasn’t perfect and it certainly wasn’t fool-proof (video cameras wouldn’t be either), but the belief did an admirable job wherever it was wholeheartedly believed.  It had the added attraction of allowing people to be free. 

A fifty-something friend recently witnessed an old woman come out of a convenience store and unwittingly drop several dollar bills while walking to her car.  Some teenagers following behind her stuffed the bills into their pockets and started to walk away.  My friend saw the whole thing and confronted the teens about the money.  “Finders keepers,” they responded, laughing.

“But you saw her drop it,” my friend protested, “so the money is rightfully hers.  Giving it back is the right thing to do.”

The teenagers made gestures indicating that my friend was crazy, told him to mind his own business, and went their way. 

There was no sense of responsibility to a Creator in the hearts of these young people.  How could there be?  Our culture jettisoned belief in the One who sees all and rewards or punishes deeds in the afterlife quite some time ago.  What remains, then, to internally motivate people to avoid evil and do what is right?  Nothing – but recording every deed on a camera might.  It won’t surprise me if we get there someday.  We will not see it as a loss of freedom, but as a necessary increase in the level of security. 

Less freedom and more security.  A prison can be spoken of in the same terms.

Suppose that a conservative Bible-thumping Christian and his wife joined a group of “swingers” (people exchanging spouses as sexual partners).  But instead of exchanging partners, the Christians brought out their Bibles and began preaching that this was adultery and fornication and that everybody in the group needed to repent and remain sexually faithful to their own spouses.  How long do you think they’d last as members of the group?  They’d surely be asked to leave IMMEDIATELY and to never come back.  They would be “excommunicated”.

Non-Christians (and even many Christians) often feel that churches are cruel and lacking compassion when they practice excommunication.  But every type of community practices dismissal of non-conforming members. This is just the nature of a community or association.

Every community or association has the right to define its own mission or purpose, its tenets of belief, and its guidelines of practice – and those things define the expectations of members.  If you don't like a group's definitions, beliefs, or practices, you don't join it.  Those who agree seek membership in the group.  People who later discover disagreement with a group they have joined face four options:  (1) remain in the group and tolerate the differences;  (2) leave the group voluntarily;  (3) work to change the group and find success in doing so and (4) work to change the group unsuccessfully and be asked to leave or be forced out.  This, too, is just the nature of a community.

A church is a group of people who are seeking to live in a way that very often involves going against the grain of human nature and the values of the surrounding society.  This is a difficult struggle and churches don’t require sinless perfection;  it is a given that members of churches are going to commit sins.  The local church exists to instruct, encourage, and correct members to enable them to continue in the group’s accepted way of life.  “If your brother HEARS you,” Jesus said, “you have won your brother” (Matthew 18.15).  “Hearing” means that errant members willingly accept instruction and begin working to change behavior.  They may fail or experience lapses and setbacks in the endeavor, but so long as they are willing to keep trying to correct the behavior, errant members are “hearing” and are not “excommunicated”.

Complications arise, not when an errant member sins, but when she refuses to “hear” – when she insists that her behavior is justified and that the GROUP is wrong in calling her behavior "wrong" and requiring her to change.  The church community can’t accept her without changing its own character, and so takes a stand and works to bring the errant member into agreement with the community.  Jesus instructed the disciples in the process (Matthew 18).  If personal confrontation fails to get a hearing, several witnesses are to seek to restore her.  If they are met with stubborn refusal to hear, the entire congregation is commanded to reach out to the wandering member.  If the errant member resists this outreach, she is THEN put out of the community. 

What seems to be overlooked by so many is that the errant member is free at any time in this process to to revoke membership and leave the group.  A person who has been excommunicated by a church has simply refused to do so;  he essentially wants to have his cake and eat it too – wants to be a part of the group but wants to define the group rather than assume the group’s definitions.  He wants to re-create the group in his own image.  The church that excommunicates such a person is saying:  “We will not change our belief and practice to conform to you.  We disapprove of your behavior.  Why stay here and cause trouble?  If you’re not going to walk in harmony with us, go find a community where you fit.”  This is not cruel or lacking in compassion.  It is just the nature of any association or community.

 

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