I love the Church. I find it to be the greatest community in the world. All over the globe, there are little clusters of believers who gather together to learn, to grow spiritually, to serve, to love one another and to love God. These groups are usually full of people who are kind, gentle and full of grace and mercy. I love the Church.
I love it so much that I became a leader. I spent five years in Bible college, went on a mission’s internship and started a career totally dependent on the people of the local Church. I have lived as a leader of God’s people for over 23 years now. This is my life, and it is all I have planned for my future. I have often told my wife that I will preach until I can’t remember what to say.
With all that said, can I be brutally honest? Some days I get tired of the Church.
I have a friend who went to Bible college with me. He tried to be a Church leader, and after about ten years he quit. Now he is not a Church leader and is not attending a gather of believers anywhere. I asked him about it, and he says, “I left it years ago, and I have never been happier.” Unfortunately, I completely understand what he means.
First – I get tired of Church programming.
We are just coming off the Christmas season. I make no pretense; this season is so repetitious to me. Year after year of the same stories, decorations and holiday small talk. As a Church leader and Church member, I must come up with new ways of doing the same thing year after year. Whenever Christmas is over, I am exhausted. Then I wake up and know Easter is coming, then Mother’s Day, then Father’s Day, then VBS, then a fall series, then Thanksgiving and finally back to Christmas. Once it is over, it starts again. It is like an endless treadmill of the same routine.
Second – I get tired of some Church people.
I know this sounds harsh coming from a pastor, but I said I was going to be brutally honest. There are some people who wear me out. These come in various forms. On one side, there is the group of needy people. They always have something wrong. They always need help in one form or another, and they always want to talk. On the other side, there are the disappointing people. People who I thought would stand beside me and help in ministry but decide some other activity is more worth their time. I thought they would help me with the programs and they are just a bunch of talk with no action. There are those people who have hurt my children’s faith by their lousy Christian example. Finally, there are those people who I thought were growing in their faith and one day leave the Church and never return. Quite often these people see me in town and turn the other way or ignore me altogether.
There are some weeks I sit in my office and wonder why God called me to lead his people. I dream of walking out and never coming back. I go to work at an ice cream store, and everyone is thrilled to see me.
In these moments, God calls me back to reality.
First – God reminds me who people are really rejecting.
Ministry is very personal, and when someone walks away from God, it feels like they are walking away from me. I need to be continually reminded that God is grieving over certain people far more than I am. They are rejecting God. I am just a messenger.
Second – Hope glimmers in the distance.
Ministry is a long-term occupation. Rarely is a real impact made in one year or five years or possibly even a decade. I think of what my life was like just nine years ago, and realize I am different person today. People may walk away, disappoint or even curse me, but that does not mean that the story is over for them. Their transformation into Christlikeness will take a lifetime.
Third – There are still lots of great people in the Church.
My tendency is to focus on the draining programs, needy people or disappointing experiences instead of all the good things in the Church. While those exist, there are also some wonderful, caring people who do stand beside me. There are people who stand up for what is right in the face of evil. There are people filled with love for others while some are self-absorbed. There are friends who are praying for me when others curse me. There are wonderful men and women who love God and the Church right along with me. I need to see these people more clearly in my life and faith.
The honest and often brutal truth is that many pastors and Church leaders and even longtime Christians feel the way I do this week. We are tired of the Church. We feel like sleeping in next Sunday and who knows what next year may bring. This may be the year I just give it all up. If you are part of that group, let me beg you to hold and see the good in the Church. Together we will stand until Jesus calls us home.