What To Do Before You Leave Your Church

What To Do Before You Leave Your Church

There is a very helpful article today on the Gospel Coalition about things you should do before you leave your church. I’ve known many people who have left churches for no apparent reason, and it is something that needs to be very carefully thought through.

Lower Your Expectations

One of the most difficult things for me about turning 25 was realizing all the unmet expectations I had. Yet as I’ve learned over the past few weeks and years leading up to this birthday, God is still at work in the mundane, seemingly trivial matters of life as I strive to daily become more like Christ.
As I talk to many 20 something’s about where we are in life, there seems to always be a bit of restlessness and discontentment, and that happiness is ever eluding us, like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Even my leaving minneapolis for my “dream job” had a certain amount of discontentment as I was leaving so a many good friends for the wild, Wild West.
There’s a certain allure that comes from being in your 20s with your “whole life ahead of you” (as some people in the church have commented to me). Yet there’s also a great deal of loneliness as most 20 something’s have a very transient lifestyle, and many of us are always looking for something new to do and try and experience, whether that’s a new country, new church, or new bar on the other side of town. We all have great dreams and ambitions to be a world changer and are convinced that we could fix so many problems, if only we were in charge! I look at people like Francis Chan and David Platt who get to travel the world spreading the Gospel. And Mark Driscoll who planted one of the most successful churches in America, and then I look in the mirror and ask what about me?
Can I be next?
Can I write the next New York Times best seller?
Can I preach to thousands of people?
Can I record the next big album?
Yet as I sit here wallowing in self pity, I’m reminded that it’s not about me. I need the daily reminder to die to myself. I need to remember that I’m representing Christ to the world where I live. My sphere of influence may not be as big as the people I look up to, but I still have the people at church that I see every week. How can I, as John the Baptist said, decrease so that Christ can increase?
In Matthew 25, Jesus tells the story of a man who went on a journey, entrusting to each of his servants a certain number of talents. When the man returns from his journey, those who grew their talents were rewarded, while the one who hid his talents was cast out into darkness.
I can’t, and I shouldn’t try, to be the next Francis Chan, David Platt, or Mark Driscoll. I should try to be the best example of Christ that I can be, ever decreasing so that Christ may increase in me and through me.

Is Jesus Greater Than Religion?

A couple years ago Jeff Bethke broke on the scene with his viral YouTube video ‘Why I Hate Religion But Love Jesus‘ which has since racked up over 26 million views. This led to him being a pretty hot commodity in the Christian community and has given him quite the opportunity to share the Gospel. One of the ways he has worked the spread the Gospel is through the book “Jesus > Religion” which came out last month.

In an open, real and gritty look at his life, Jeff shares ┬áhis struggles with God, but also how God has continued to reveal himself to Jeff throughout his difficult life, and with chapter titles like ‘Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up?” I found myself chuckling but also very much relating to the themes Jeff addresses. When the video first came out there was a bit of discussion from within The Gospel Coalition circle on if Jesus really does hate religion. So aside from that, I really enjoyed the book. (But when Lecrae writes the intro to the book, it’s hard to not look forward to it)

One of the toughest chapters for me to read was the 4 chapter, “Religion Makes Enemies/Jesus Makes Friends.” This chapter deals with divisions in the church which is one of the issues that I face on a regular basis. The main issue he addresses is homosexuality. Only he doesn’t address it from a hypothetical perspective, but from a personal perspective. His mom was openly gay, and he struggled with how he should interact with her as a Christian.

In this chapter was one of the most profound statements in the book. Jeff says,

Last time I checked, I was my own worst enemy. No one has caused me more grief, pain, or heartache than I have. The Bible rarely tells me to fight against someone who doesn’t believe what I believe, but it frequently tells me to fight against my sin and the disease that’s drawing my away from Jesus.

The whole book is definitely worth reading, and one I would recommend for church small groups/missional communities. At the end of each chapter is some questions to work through the material in a practical way. This makes applying the book a very simple process. I’d keep it on your shelf and loan out on a regular basis.

I’d also check out Tim Challies’ review of this book.

Growing “Old”

Last month was a big month for me, as I hit the quarter century mark. Yes, that’s right, I’m 25. I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling 25. Turning 25 was incredibly difficult for me because it meant letting go of a number of childhood dreams I’d had of doing before I was 25. I’m not married. I don’t have kids. I haven’t even started seminary. I haven’t written a book. I’m not on the “speaking network” for pastors. I haven’t become a world traveler. I’m simply me. God’s taken me turning 25 to show me some things about me and I’ve had to face some things that haven’t necessarily been easy.

This hit home for me when I read the story of Jim Elliot’s brother, Bert. Yes, the Jim Elliot who was a missionary and was killed by the people he was trying to bring the Gospel to. Did you know he had a brother? I didn’t! But Bert has been a missionary with his wife in Peru for most of his life. He’s now in his 80s, has planted over 170 churches and is still serving. In his words, “My brother Jim and I took different paths. He was a great meteor, streaking through the sky.” But,

Bert was not. He did not go streaking through the sky. Nobody lined up with their telescopes to watch his life. Instead, as Alcorn puts it, he was the faint star in the distance that faithfully rises night after night, always there. Always faithful. Always doing the same, boring thing.

Will I be content to be a faint stay in the distance, faithfully rising night after night? Whose glory am I truly seeking, man or God. Do the songs I help us sing every week, the children I hug, the grandparents I talk to have an everlasting impact for God’s kingdom. I sure hope so, because the kingdom I try to build doesn’t last very long. I hope in another 25 years to look back to today and know I was a faithful star rising night after night and pointing to the Son in everything I do.