I’ve heard at various times from several pulpits a curious statement. It goes to the effect of “Look at all the people who leave this great church (and my preaching) – they never amount to anything, bad things happen to them, they’re no longer serving God, they’re out of the will of God, they’ve lost their faith entirely, their families are a mess, their kids are on drugs, etc” or all of the above. Ever heard that one, or something similar?
Well, for starters, you may just be in a cult, but that’s another story. I always thought it was rather arrogant, controlling, and small-minded for a pastor to say such a thing (now that I’m far away from these guys – it was effective at the time). God is using more than just your little corner of the church, my good man. Just because someone leaves your little kingdom doesn’t mean they’ve left God’s. How self-serving of you.
But upon further reflection, maybe these guys have a small bit of a point at times, even if they’re not intending to make it. Maybe some have left the church and fallen away. Maybe it was for selfish reasons – they never had a relationship with Christ anyway. Just tagging along. Happens everywhere. But what if some have fallen away and ran away from God because the spiritual leader who spoke in the place of God has obscured the beauty of the Gospel of God’s grace with his own ego, his own rules, his own authority? What if this man has turned God into a monster by twisting Scripture for his own ends and gain? What if those children, having known nothing of Christianity but this twisted view (“train up a child”, they say), upon growing up, run as far away as they can from this terrible “God” they’ve been taught? What if adults, having poured their lives into what they thought was God’s work, came to realize it was all in service of a man’s whim? What if “God’s Man” exploits his spiritual influence on the young and impressionable (spiritually and physically) to get what he wants? What if a man has made himself the mediator between God and man, instead of pointing to the Man, Jesus? Maybe, just maybe, he’s right, and a high percentage of the folks leaving his assembly are crashing and burning, and it’s because he helped them build their faith upon the shakiest of ground, his ego or intellect.
Can you really blame them for these crises of faith? Is it really surprising some fall away entirely?
If a pastor starts that routine with his church, run, and warn as many as you can. You owe him nothing but the sound of your footsteps rapidly receding.