Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Did You Leave the Church or Did the Church Leave You?

Zell Miller is a former U.S. Senator from Georgia, and author of the book, A Deficit of Decency. Senator Miller is a life-long democrat, and also the former Governor of Georgia. After he delivered the introduction speech for George Bush at the 2003 Republican National Convention, many of his life-long friends and supporters were up in arms with him and disclaimed him as a true democrat. Jimmy Carter wrote him a blistering letter and questioned his loyalty to the Democratic Party. As Senator Miller traveled and campaigned for George Bush, many asked him why he had left the Democratic Party. Senator Miller responded to them and said that he had never left the Democratic Party, but that the party had actually left him.

Today many are asked, “Why did you leave your church?” Many times the response should be, “I did not leave the church. The church left me.”
Many people have remained true to the core values of Christian faith, and the truth found in the Gospel, while watching the church embark on a self-seeking journey to redefine what “good news” is.

What has the church done to cause people to feel this way?

1. It has emphasized building an institution more so than building people's lives. Many have been told to work, work, work for the church, and that you were serving God by doing so. I once heard a pastor say, “I got so busy working for God that I forgot to serve Him.” Many people today have put so much time into doing the work of church that they have no desire or time left to worship him.

2. It has spent more money on itself than it has on reaching the world. We need to realize that the church is not about the people that are in it, but it is about those that have not yet come. It is sad that for many years the church in America has spent up to 95% on itself while less than 5% is spent reaching out to the world. Some churches spend more on flowers than they do on reaching the lost. Where you spend your money will show the world where your heart truly is.

3. Lack of moral standards. We have recently seen many ministers fall because of a lack of moral standards. Almost daily we hear of accounts of another pastor or church staff member that has been caught having some type of sexual affair. Many of these situations are made much worse by the church leaders trying to cover them up or downplay the degree of the sin. We hear statements like they just had a “moral indiscretion” or that it was just a “lapse in good judgment.” True repentance requires a turning away from sin, not excuses for it.

4. It has not had oversight of its leaders. Many pastors have no accountability to anyone. In many churches today there is no control over what the pastor does with the money, what he preaches from the pulpit, how he treats the people, or how he manages the church. We have given absolute power to a few and they are so in love with it that they want more. If all that is done by a pastor is true and correct then there should be no fear of the people being able to ask questions.

5. It has not been faithful to preaching sound doctrine. Many of the messages we have heard in churches today hold very little resemblance to the truths that we find in the Word of God. We must get back to the Gospel of Jesus and quit preaching the Gospel of Me.

6. It has not demanded excellence in its leaders. We need excellence of character more than excellence in material things. We also should see church leaders that have a desire to further their education in the things of God and His Word. Society requires plumbers, real estate agents, doctors, nurses, and the like to pass a test before they can be licensed. They must then continue this education to maintain this license. Why do many ministers think that they have already learned all that anyone can teach them, and then look down on those who have worked hard to earn true degrees?

This is only the beginning of an exhaustive list of the pitfalls to watch for in church leaders. We must pray that eyes are opened to the truth, starting with our own. If we ever think that we are the only ones that know what is right, then we have fallen into the very trap that we so need to avoid.

Proverbs 11:2 (KJV) When pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly is wisdom.