People kill belief, not God
Believers regularly talk of ‘winning hearts and souls for Jesus’ – but what of those people who have tasted faith and, for a variety of reasons, decided to quit. Does a congregation really care about the issues that drove someone away, and do they do anything to put things right?
An interesting article recently appeared on the Buzzfeed website, which got my grey cells working and led me to examine why people quit the Church. I looked into the reasons expressed by many former believers – including those in the online article – and read more than 2,000 views. Of these, the vast majority cited a range of things such as a lack of spirituality through to a failure to support families when they are facing tough times, the gay debate and inappropriate sexual conduct.
None of these issues shocked me. Nor did the response of the various churches, which on the surface, didn’t look as though they had done much to allay the concerns of these disaffected people.
But what did come as a surprise were the reasons former believers claimed their faith had been shattered – with the overwhelming majority saying they had been let down by other people!
None of them said God had harmed them in any way whatsoever. Most did not profess to no longer believe in a Creator. All they could say was someone, or some people in their Church, had not behaved in a very Christian manner and this conduct had shattered their belief.
It is a terrible thing when a person loses their faith, but this is not the place to debate in detail what Christians should and shouldn’t do. However, what I would love to know is how strong the Biblical teaching was in these churches and how rigorously was it applied?
For me, that is the key. Give people a lukewarm, ‘anything goes’ version of the Bible, and it will be hard for them to grow in any meaningful sense. I have seen many people fall by the wayside simply because they were not taught the right things from the outset. And because the teaching was flawed, so too was individual and corporate conduct.
It is imperative Christians practice not what they teach, but what the Bible teaches. And at the core of this wonderful book – the second greatest gift ever given to men and women – Christians are instructed to look up to the Lord and trust in Him. And on almost every other page, it warns the reader of the perils of putting his or her faith in fellow human beings: being let down, or worse, is guaranteed!
It is now more than two thousand years since Jesus died. It is long overdue, but how I welcome the day when all of us cut out the middle-man (or woman) – that person or people that influences what we think and feel – and instead go straight to the source.
Here are some of the comments from the Buzzfeed article that piqued my interest…
‘My father lost his job and the only work he could get involved travel, which meant he couldn't make the Sunday service. Even though my parents gave to the church monthly, all the support we got were 'prayers that he found a job closer to home.' As a teen, I was asked by church elders why father thought making money for his family was more important than attending the church.’
‘Nowadays, I think church is mostly a social group for people with similar cultural beliefs, more than an exercise in spirituality. I took my family to church for years because that was what I grew up with, and I was familiar with it. But, gradually I realized that as a truly spiritual person, I had outgrown the beliefs of the Methodist church and I felt hypocritical to be there. My kids didn't even buy the stories and complained about going. So when my grandpa died, we just stopped going to the church he expected us to be at every Sunday.’
‘We had divorcees in the church and overt racists, but not gay people or former inmates. There were teachings of love, but it was very clear that love was only meant for certain people.’
‘My church growing up was kinda messed up. Southern Baptist. We brought an African American friend to Wednesday night youth group, and the youth pastor took him aside, told him to leave, and asked him not to come back.’
‘My minister’s wife, got brain cancer, and it took her years of suffering until she died. Our minister broke down during service, crying at the alter and he cursed God. It affected me deeply.’
‘I asked myself, would I have been Christian if I was born in a country with a predominantly different religion and my parents were of that religion? The answer was no. Which made me ask what makes Christianity 'more right' than other religions’
‘The pastor that I deeply admired and respected turned out to be having multiple affairs and cheating on his wife for months, if not years, prior to her finding out. It just feels like I’ve been duped, too, and it will take some time before I’m ready to go back.’