One disappointment I have had in ministry is watching people come to church, get excited for a time, then disappear. You spend energy and heart on people, grow to love them and get excited about them, and suddenly they are nowhere to be found.
The biggest disappointment is not people who transfer to another church. I’m okay with that if it helps them better grow in their relationship with Christ. I’m talking about people who quit going to church altogether. They are in one day — out the next.
What happens to them? Why do they leave?
I’ve found there are often similar reasons that are repeated continuously. Perhaps you have seen this too.
Here are 7 reasons people disappear from church:
Burn out – These people came out of the gate too strong in the church. They showed up, got excited, and signed up for everything. They got so busy doing church they failed to enjoy being the church.
Injury – People inside the church can be cruel. I hate when that happens, but it’s true. These people experienced some of those people and they couldn’t move past it.
Distractions – These people got distracted by seemingly good things. They were playing travel ball, loving the fast life, traveling every weekend. Over time, their lifestyle of attending becomes the habit of not attending.
Life change – These people had a lifestyle change, such as divorce or re-marriage — or they move to a new community — and never re-connect with a church.
Mistakes – These people messed up! They made a mistake that may be public — or at least they feel that it will be known — and the place that should dispense grace appears either refuses it or they feel that it would. Many times when a person feels that way it is more perception than reality, but the way a person feels about themselves may determine whether they remain committed to church.
Power struggle – These people had an agenda. They were pursuing an issue — or a position — and when it their demands weren’t met and they couldn’t overpower the system, they left.
Lack of connection – These people never connected with others on a deeper level. As a result, they never felt really a “part” of the church.
Pastors, have you experienced these walking with people in ministry? How do you address these issues?
Obviously, we need to do all we can to help people become disciples. Knowing why they leave may be helpful. We can’t address some of these issues — maybe most — much of this is out of our control. But, the more we understand the more we can help people as they experience these.
I think there is also a word here to the one who has disappeared or is on the verge. Beware. If you feel the need for the church in your life — or if you understand the Biblical mandate to be a part of a Body of believers — then guard your heart for these. And, help us know how to be a better church. In fact, come help us be a better church. Here’s one pastor (And, I know so many others) who is listening.
What other reasons would you add to my list?
I’ve written some of my most read posts about a myth. A lie. A misquoted and misapplied Bible verse.
As with most lies the enemy uses, it originates from a misapplied truth in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that talks about temptation and how when we are tempted, God always allows us a way to resist that temptation. We can’t be tempted beyond what He’s equipped us to bear. (But, even that is misapplied if it’s done on our own strength.)
So using that truth, people often stretch it to say to hurting people, “God will not put more on you than you can bear.”
Yea — right!
Tell that to me. Or my friends. Or yourself.
Ever feel defeated? Like you can’t handle what you’ve been asked to “bear”?
Imagine telling a mother of two young children after she suddenly loses her husband and fears being able to raise the children, provide for them, and keep the home in which they live, “Remember, God will not put more on you than you can bear.”
Doesn’t sound very comforting to me — or probably to her. At the time she feels very much like she has more on her than she can bear.
And, she does.
And I’m not suggesting God “put” that on her, but He certainly allowed her to have more on her than SHE can bear.
If you’re like the rest of us you have felt that way also. It’s part of being in the fallen world in which we live.
And yet, for the believer we have an answer.
When we feel out of control — in over our head — afraid of the circumstances of our life — worried — our answer is Jesus.
It’s all grace, and it’s a sufficient grace to help us in our time of need. We are more than conquers — with Jesus
Ironically, however, I believe that truth, combined with the misapplication of the verse above, is where the lie in that familiar saying originates.
We have an answer to the stress of this world — a strength to bear any burden. But, that can make us think we should be able to handle anything.
And, we can — with Jesus.
When the administration of that strength rests on us — on our abilities — IF YOU CAN BEAR IT — it leaves out our need for grace.
And, Jesus made it clear when He said, “Apart from Me you can do nothing.”
This may seem like semantics, and I’m not usually a semantics kind of guy, but when the semantics are wrong here it can produce a terrible theology. One that says you have to make it on your own. That because you are a believer, you suddenly have the power to defeat anything that comes your way. And, you do have power — but it is NOT you — the power is Jesus in you.
The key here is you won’t have more on you than you can bear — IN JESUS. Paul said, “My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20)
But without an understanding of “Christ in me” that phrase “God will not put more on you than you can bear” isn’t freeing. It’s burdensome. And — with any misunderstanding of where our true strength resides — that saying becomes a lie.
And, probably no one who uses that statement intends it to harm — they intend it to be helpful. But the enemy would love you to live in that lie, believing that somehow YOU have to get it together — you have to conquer all the ails you — in your strength, because, you know, “God will not put more on you than you can bear”. It’s a dangerous, defeating statement without proper understanding. It’s not helpful in a person’s time of struggle.
It might be easier to say, “You know, God will never allow anything upon you that HE can’t handle.” And, then we can encourage people to “cast their cares upon Him, because He cares.”
And, as strange as it may seem, those times of disparity — when we are overwhelmed with our personal abilities — unable to stand up to the pressures we are facing — have more on us than we can bear — actually have great value within the sovreignty of God. He uses them for our good.
Here are 21 reasons God may allow more than you can bear:
So you will rely on Him. 1 Peter 5:7
So you will call on Him. Acts 17:26-27
So you have no choice but Him. John 15:5
So He can tell us things we wouldn’t know otherwise. Jeremiah 33:3
So He can be gracious to you. Isaiah 30:18
So He can show His kindness and compassion. Lamentations 3:21-24
So He can restore your soul. Psalm 23:3
So He can demonstrate His strength. 2 Corinthians 12:9
So you will trust in Jesus — and the Father. John 14:1.
So you can produce character and hope. Romans 5:3-5
So He can keep us from being self-reliant 2 Corinthians 12:7
So He can discipline His children. Hebrews 12:6-7
So God’s power is revealed. 2 Corinthians 4:7
So He can show our need for salvation. Psalm 119:67
So He can comfort us. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
So we can learn to comfort others. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
So He can reveal His unseen workings. Psalm 77:19
So He can demonstrate how all things work for an eventual good. Romans 8:28
So the Gospel might be proclaimed. Philippians 1:12-13
So He can draw prodigals home. Luke 15:17
So He can build character and hope. Romans 5:3-4
Don’t believe the lie. God WILL allow more on you than you can bear — alone. You and I need a Him for our every breath.
If you feel overwhelmed today — defeated — like there is more on you than you can bear – turn to the burden bearer. “Then Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.'” (Matthew 11:28)
Recently I wrote “20 Things God Might Say”. It was a popular post. All were designed to be easily tweeted with a simple copy and paste.
I thought there might be a companion post. I believe, based on Scripture, that we can trust God not to say some things — especially in these days of grace.
Here are 25 things you’ll never hear God say:
“Oh yea. I forgot about her.” #ThingsYoullNeverHearGodSay
“Well I don’t know what to do now.”
“I’m so worried.”
“I just don’t understand him.”
“Don’t call me again until you turn your life around.”
“This one’s too big for me.”
“That’ll make me love you less.”
“What did you say your name was?”
“Forgive me. I made a mistake.”
“I just need a vacation.”
“I’m so tired of being interrupted.”
“This one’s beyond me.”
“I can’t take it anymore!”
“I’m sorry, I can’t take your call right now, but if you’ll leave your name and number…”
“That little sin won’t matter.”
“I give up!”
“Since the world is changing so fast, I’m thinking about changing my ways.”
“I wish I had thought of that!”
“I need your help to make it happen.”
“I’m so confused.”
“I’m all tapped out for this month.”
“Don’t blame yourself. That one was my fault.”
“I didn’t know anything about that.”
“I’m a little behind the times.”
Any you’d add?
My friend Wayne Hastings is a pastor, author, speaker and business consultant. You can contact Wayne, and read his Blog, by visiting his website, waynehastings.com. He and his wife Pam live in Franklin, TN. His latest book “The Way Back From Loss” released this week. It’s a 60-day devotional focused on how, when we suffer loss of any kind. As a minister, we need this book. Here’s a sample of Wayne’s work.
Stuck in the Middle
“Christian living demands that we keep our feet on the ground; it also asks us to make a leap of faith. A Christian who stays put is no better than a statue.” —Eugene H. Peterson
Today’s Verse: “The Israelites grumbled and deplored their situation, accusing Moses and Aaron, to whom the whole congregation said, ‘Would that we had died in Egypt! Or that we had died in this wilderness! . . . Is it not better to return to Egypt?’” (Numbers 14:2–3 AMP)
Stealers Wheel recorded a hit song called Stuck in the Middle with You. It’s upbeat, but lines like “Trying to make some sense of it all, but I can see that it makes no sense at all” reveal that it’s an anthem to many lost hopes, ideas, goals, and beginnings.
We begin many things in life with fanfare and celebration. New things start happening. The “change” word is bandied about. Plans and dreams are set in place. It all looks so good.
Then, in the middle, something happens. We get stuck. Whether it’s because of our feelings, circumstances, or the voice of the Deceiver, we slow down. We find ourselves flailing in the quicksand of the middle. The emotional high is lost, we can’t see the end for trying, and the energy for it all just slowly disappears.
The Israelites suffered in the middle. Initially, the former slaves were heading to the Promised Land and everything looked great. Seas parted, food rained down from heaven, and God’s light led their way. But, for some reason, they got stuck in the middle. An eleven-day journey took forty years and the original “team” never made it.
If any group “had it all,” it was this group. If any group should have never felt loss, it was this group.
So what happened? And how do we free ourselves from being stuck?
The Israelites lacked vision. When the twelve came back from spying out the Promised Land (Numbers 13 and 14), the people chose to be negative. While Joshua and Caleb saw riches, the other ten saw disaster. They lost vision of all the good that could lie before them. Instead of seeing positive possibilities for the future, they wanted to return to the bondage of the past.
They had unbelief. It’s a progression. Lack of vision leads to doubt, which leads to more unbelief: “This is too hard!” “Why did we ever start this?”
“It doesn’t make sense.”
They were disobedient. God set a clear path before them and yet they strayed from it. They let their own pride, desire, and plans get in the way of a perfect plan engineered by God.
Letting the middle get in the way will stop any progress or growth. People think they are doing fine just by getting near to a new beginning. But then excellence gets reduced to acceptable and mediocrity is just a breath away.
We need to battle through the fatigue of the middle.
INSIGHT: When we are in the middle of loss, it’s tempting to quit and just stay stuck in the middle. When you feel that temptation, look up, not back. Look up, not at your circumstances, feelings, or regrets. Look up and let God renew your vision and belief, and prompt you to obey Him.
PRAYER: Ask God to lead and guide you out of the middle. Seek His direction and vision. Ask Him to increase your patience and your courage to move forward instead of looking back.
• Study Numbers 13 and 14. Take note of the responses of three different groups of people: Joshua and Caleb, the other ten spies, and the people. Choose to follow the response that will help you out of the middle.
• Understand that in a season of loss, there will always be times when you feel stuck. Learn to recognize how it happens and choose to respond out of vision, faith, and obedience rather than your feelings, thoughts, or circumstances.
• Discover the courage to look at your situation. When you’re in the middle—discouraged and frustrated—ask yourself, “What do I want to be doing ten years from now? How do I want to have grown by that time?” Looking this far ahead can release you from today’s angst and remaining stuck in it.
Eugene H. Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society, (Downers Grove, IL, InterVarsity Press, 1980 and 2000), 171