Feeble Knees

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Falling Away?

I started to write this as a comment on Messy Christian's post about the "Great Falling Away" from the faith that is prophesied in the Bible. Also starting writing in response to another comment from Joe Missionary, whom I don't know personally, but through his blog and his dear wife Jane's comments I've come to consider as a trustworthy friend and brother. I don't take issue with Joe or what he said, but his comments did fuel my fire somewhat.

What follows is a bit of a rant, unedited, unrefined, and unchecked. If I stop to fix it up as I go, I probably won't post it, so I'm letting loose instead. It may help to ready MC's original post for context, because I didn't bother to pretty this up much. Gentle reader, proceed at your own risk.

I was terrified that by leaving my old church, that I would become one of the many multitudes of the "great falling away". I worried that I already was falling away, because everything in me wanted to bolt from the church. It did quite a number on me and it took all the grace God could give me to convince me otherwise.

I wish that what Joe says about there being good churches in the US was true. Maybe it is true somewhere else, but there's little evidence to support that claim around these parts. Don't get me wrong, there are good people, very well-meaning people, and they're trying very hard - but the church is failing. We're drinking from broken cisterns over here. Some of us tried to make a change. Some of us tried to speak up and speak out. It fell on deaf ears. What then?

In his comment over at MC's post, Joe speaks of the danger of spiritual erosion that results when we remain without fellowship, I agree, and I've experienced it. This I fear too. But if God could feed Elijah in the wilderness, He can keep some of us who have fled into our own wilderness. He will also be firm enough to let us know when it's time to get our bottoms back to Jerusalem. He also sends friends who sharpen us and challenge us to live what we say we believe. I'm fortunate in this, that He has not left me without witnesses and strong friends.

For my own part, I'm tired of fighting, I don't want to fight anymore. I'm tired of trying to make the change. I go to churches around here and see and hear ridiculous things being done and preached, and I leave more depressed than ever. I'm afraid I'll encounter another bad situation that I can do little to stop. Within my own family there are troubles enough.

Big personal disclosure time: what follows is a very touchy personal subject.

I have family members that are still heavily involved in various churches. Two are forsaking their family in their never-ending "Purpose Driven" Pursuit of excellence. They don't come to birthday parties and they skip family events, but boy they're at church for every PDL meeting! I have another family member involved in a cultic denomination that preaches some pretty gross errors. There is so much division in my own family, among my own flesh and blood about all of this. I can't escape it at home, why do I want more of it in church??

I'm tired of fighting all the time, tired of the tension, tired of the walls that have gone up among us. I can't even fellowship with half my family who claim to be believers!! What the heck is wrong with us when there is so much division and striving even at the family level? Is it just my family? No, I think it's representative of the church at large. We're all so busy trying to be great for God, but we're being total jerks to one another. How is that right?? Read Isaiah 58 if you wonder what God thinks of it.

Sorry to get off on a rant here. I'm just so tired some days, so heartsick about all of it. I'm sure I'm not the only one facing such things, some days I forget that.

I'm pretty sure church was a mess even way back when the twelve first started out. I don't think it was ever supposed to be perfect. There is only One who ever achieved that. Perhaps that is the mistake we are making today with all our movements and building projects. We are trying to perfect an institution that was only ever meant to be temporary at best.

David endeavored to build God a glorious temple. Maybe his heart was in the right place, maybe he had the best of intentions. But you know what? Even though it was finished by Solomon and blessed with God's presence, that temple fell. God allowed it to fall. Why? Because He knows that we need to be reminded that everything in this life is temporary, transitory, flawed, and failing. Only God, His love in and His word in our hearts endures.

Perhaps the "temple" that is the church in America must fall again before we all start seeking God in earnest, because of Who He Is, because He is worthy to be longed for and sought after. Quite frankly, and this is by no means a slam against anyone here, we need Him a whole heck of a lot more than we need each other. He has graciously given us one another as companions on the journey, but let's not forget who or what our Chief hope is.

Are there some people who are never going to be happy because the music isn't to their liking, or the pews are too hard, or the preaching too long? Yeah, that's been going on for time immemorial. We have all been that person at one time or another, maybe we don't like to admit it. But then hopefully too we have had that moment when the raw power, enormity and utter magnitude that is the love of the Lord has seized our hearts and set them aflame. Then we don't notice the music, we don't feel the pew and the preaching's just words upon meaningless words.

To any and all who have ever known the overshadowing of the presence of God, who have realized His great love and mercy toward us, I have bad news:

You will never be completely satisfied in church this side of Heaven, because you are not meant to be.

The desire for God and His presence should only grow and magnify in our hearts. If even Solomon's temple itself were to be rebuilt and perfected in all of its glory, it is would still just be a shadow of what is to come, a crude imperfect and myopic picture of the Lord's glorious presence. Even given the sweetest music, the most learned and erudite preaching, it would still be lacking because it is not the fullness of the presence and glory of the Lord.

* * *

Oh I am feeble now, and all my faults are manifest. Put me in church and I'll stink up the place for sure, I have no doubts about that, and I try therefore not to hold it so strongly against others when they do the same - they too are human and can do nothing else. "The stable is clean where no oxen are," it says in Proverbs.

But what if we stopped trying to erect some monument to our faith, some undeniable proof of our own godliness? It seems this is all we try to do in church these days - prove our devotion, prove our faithfulness, prove our zealousness. Cain worked so very hard in the garden - it must have been back breaking and endless work to grow and harvest that beautiful crop of produce that he proudly offered to God. And yet Abel must have watched his brother's work those long weeks and despaired that he had nothing of his own to offer to God, nothing that God hadn't given Abel already from His own hand.

If we all admitted that despite the Lord's influence, we can continue to be stinky rotten people who make messes, then maybe we'd get somewhere. If we concerned ourselves more with esteeming Lord Himself than esteeming ourselves and our gifts or ministries, perhaps we'd hit traction again. Maybe if we stopped expecting God to bless us for all the wonderful things we do for Him, we would find out that He blesses us because of Who He Is, because He's That Kind of God. Then we'd have nothing to do but fall on our faces and worship Him, because He's wonderful and He loves us in the most unthinkable, unimaginable ways.

Seeing this, how could we fall away? How could you do anything but cast ourselves and our whole lives upon the hope and belief that this God is everything we ever needed, One we could cling to in the face of losing everything else that we hold dear?

To whom else would you turn, and where else would you go?

I ask you?
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