- This article is written to help people who were actively involved Christians, but now languish in a disillusioned existence. As my old friend Charles Slagle used to say, “you need to be sprung from the dung!”
- Some years ago our local Anglo-Catholic priest caught a cleric in training stealing artefacts to sell on the black market. Without a moment’s hesitation he frog marched Clerical Error across to the police station. This local priest didn’t give a hoot about the PR implications. My hero! In small churches the pastor is more likely to top up the collection than nick it and many ministers supplement their income through other jobs. Ongoing corruption is rare in local churches as high levels of personal interaction and accountability uncover most dodgy dealings pretty soon and sweeping things under the carpet in any close-knit community is not an option. In contrast large religious institutions do prefer to keep the law out, close ranks and enforce a party line of silence, “for the sake of the movement.” In this cover-up culture the person exposing corruption is the one dealt with severely so disillusionment sets in, but I am going to argue the answer to disillusionment is not in avoiding church.
- People are disillusioned because they expected better. They really expected everyone at every level to love The Lord and behave with integrity, but this is an un-biblical pipe dream! The biblical accounts of the Pharisees and Sadducees make it clear there will always be institutionally religious people who can’t see God or what God wants, even when He is standing right in front of them. Over and over we read about credentialed leaders harassing Jesus, yet these Pharisees started out as believers in the church of the day, got a diploma, learned to pray magnificently, sound authoritative and held a title that gave them “spiritual authority”. Sound familiar? You have been clearly warned there will be people like this, so why be surprised or disillusioned by them?
Walking away from church when beaten up or abused enables you to cast blame from afar and hold to the fact you are the victim that was wronged. You can back-slide in good conscience as you hold the upper moral high ground. You expected better, you were let down, so you left. These are your consumer rights! But Jesus didn’t walk away when he was maligned or mistreated by the denominational leaders of his day, he hung on in there and eventually hung on up there too. The Word shows us there will be times when God allows institutionally religious people to win the day. In story after story God warned you about them, but he never promised you would beat them! God may do nothing to improve your situation, leave you wronged and even ensure your dreams remain shipwrecked as his concern is not for your predicament, it is for you. This is tough and the tough discipline of knowing the truth brings forth the tough disciple. Jesus never had consumer rights and neither does anyone else who follows him.
When genuine ministers screw up, as we all do from time to time, you can use the biblical directions for approaching them and they will apologise, put things right or quite possibly put you right if you have the wrong end of the stick. Either way, sincere clergy put The Lord before their ego so love, humility and respect will be evident, but when modern-day pharisees screw up and you follow the same biblical procedure, you will suffer for it! Suffering at their hands is tough, really tough, but when you walk in self-denial and take up the cross there comes a new anointing, a peace and a joy that transcends all understanding so find God’s genuine people, walk with them and share in their joy.