Posted by: minnow | January 30, 2009

Insider Disconnect

A comment on a blog I read recently, but will not name except to say that I frequent it frequently, truly irritated me. The post topic was about people falling away from the Church (or their faith) because they did not have their ducks in a row, so to speak, regarding doctrinal issues. I commented that for every example of a follower who slipped and fell out the door because of a loose doctrine I could provide a believer outside the walls of the building because the folks inside simply let him or her go. I furthered my argument by saying that many of these were continuing to follow Christ away from the traditional venues because they found more relationship outside than inside the building.

The comment that irritated me suggested that those outside would be very self-centered if they blamed those inside because those outside chose to leave. Then the commenter proceeded to tell me that the correct mindset for those inside would be to learn from God’s word and to contribute to the body of Christ (God centered and other-centered). (I assumed she meant to imply that those who had left did not have such an attitude). The commenter continued to whine about the wrong behavior of leavers–how dare they complain about those in the Church–and ended with another lesson on how we should worship, love, serve, know, and proclaim Christ/God and encourage others to do the same.

I was irritated with the above response to my comment for several reasons. First, I am really tired of those inside the building excusing our unlovely behavior toward others out of hand. The commenter did not consider for one minute the issue from a leaver’s point of view. Instead she immediately took up a position against the leaver, “Some people go to church hoping to get some strokes…If they don’t [get] the relationships they were hoping for they leave.” And, the insiders were let off the hook. But, more to my original point, I did not say those on the outside cast blame. I said they were allowed to leave without any attempt by those left to encourage them to change their minds and stay or come back. My statement was based on my own experience, not a leaver’s complaint. On more than one occasion, I have been told that my husband and I were the only people to call on someone after they had left our fellowship. Once our hand of friendship brought a couple back to a fellowship they helped to establish. Another time we became an interim “Church” for a couple who had a lot of Church-hurt to work through.  On two occasions I have taken extended (over two months each time) breaks from attending a particular fellowship.  I was not contacted once by anyone within either fellowship during my absence.  And, when I returned not a single person asked me why I had been absent.  Twice as a family we left a particular fellowship but remained in the same city and at the same address.  Again we were never contacted by a single member of either congregation despite the fact that I was baptized (as an adult) at one of the congregations and was a member of a small group at the other.

By my observation, the Church is in a serious state of disconnect.  One of the biggest complaints from those still on the inside is that they do not feel like they belong.  While I think it is fair to say that we need to take some responsibility for ourselves when it comes to building friendships and connections the overall assessment of the Body is that we are failing to truly build community.  And, with attendance statistics continuing to decline we can not afford (no pun intended) to ignore this complaint. 

If a major reason people leave is lack of relationship we need to start asking why people do not “feel” connected.  We may not like all the answers we get but if we do not at least consider the possibility they include a nugget of truth we will have a pretty difficult time proving that we are either (ahem) God centered or other-centered. 

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Responses

  1. so true Minnow… many church families we visit are anything but family. they are barely even friends. there is a terrible need for connection, authentic, real, true, deep. to help people feel they belong & are valuable & help them get connected.

    that is one of my passions for sure.

    and as far as the comment on the other blog by her —- she just doesn’t know Minnow. When all you know about the Body is a church building — you don’t realize how huge and dynamic the body of Christ is. You don’t realize that it’s possible to still be connected.. even moreso sometimes.. to the Body… outside of church walls. all you see is what you see. Trust men from my own experience…. she is saying what is true to her because of the information she has allowed in up to this point…. like we all do. have mercy for her lack of knowledge & experience, though her comments make it seem she is un-deserving of it.


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