I’m a bit late to the commentary on iMonk’s post “Another One Gets Off the Evangelical Bus: Thoughts on A De-Conversion,” which is a response to a post by the blogger known as theBEattitude, “Losing my religion. Why I recently walked away from Christianity.” But I have to comment because this issue of people walking away from the faith is something we Christians must address—even more as the days grow darker.
In reading iMonk’s commentary and theBEattitude’s post and its follow-up comments, the one thing that strikes me more than any other is the travesty that is the loss of even one sheep from the fold.
Jesus says this:
What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.
I believe one of the most hollow vows American Evangelicals take occurs during infant baptisms and dedications. In nearly every church I have been a part of, the congregation pledges to join the parents in the spiritual development of the child. God takes such vows seriously, yet I would guess that fewer than ten adults in any given church will have any meaningful spiritual impact on that child’s life, even through adulthood. (And I believe that number to be generous.) When you consider the size of some churches, that’s an abysmal number.
The fact is, the average person in the pew has very little spiritual impact on the lives of fellow believers. The compartmentalized island that we call My Life™ here in America doesn’t make a whole lot of room for other people, and one of the areas we make the least amount of time for is discipling the less mature in the faith.
When I read the pile-on that functions as comments to theBEattitude’s post, it’s a stunning indictment of the spiritual wasteland that passes for modern Evangelicalism. I read through at least a hundred comments and most consisted of individuals stating (a) it sure is freeing to cast off the chains of religion, or (b) now you’re going to burn in hell, and it’s your own damned fault.
Apart from atheists rejoicing in their folly (Psalm 14:1), what got me more than anything was that the Christians who responded placed all the responsibility on theBEattitude for wandering out of the fold. To that I ask one hard question, “Oh, yeah?Well, which one of us left the sheep pen gate ajar?”
In a Christian culture that has de-evolved into the same “every man for himself” mentality that afflicts the worldly, placing the entirety of the blame on theBEattitude for apostasizing should come as no surprise. While it is true that each of us must give an account before God, it is just as true that too many of us who claim to be Christians don’t give a hoot about our culpability when the gate goes unlocked.
When I read theBEattitude’s tale of apostasizing after 33 years of being in the faith and the junior-high-school-level questions posted that form the backbone of his wandering through the open gate, I have to wonder, What mature Christians invested in theBEattitude’s discipleship? How blind were they to his building on sand?
Yet on reading the comments to his post, I did not see any that said, “We fellow Christians failed you.” Instead, we want to blame theBEattitude for his failure. Rather than wonder how his end might have been different if all those adults at his baptism had actually followed through on their pledge to raise him up firm in the faith, we want to blame him exclusively for wandering out the open gate when there never should have been an open gate to begin with.
How easy it is to point the finger of blame at the person who was wronged.
And theBEattitude was wronged. I wronged him and so did you. We didn’t keep up our end of the discipleship bargain. No, we hoped that someone else would. And all that hope led to nothing but apostasy.
In every church around this country, there are people like theBEattitude. He is representative of an enormous problem facing the Church in America, a massive failure that increases each year with little effort on our part to lay aside our own little kingdoms and do something to stop the flight from the unsecured sheep pen.
It is a failure of individuals to take time for others in genuine community.
It is a failure to see the necessity of solid, biblical teaching.
It is a failure to build a comprehensive Christian worldview in impressionable people.
It is a failure to address the issues of the day from an intellectually rigorous viewp0int.
It is a failure to understand the eternal life-and-death nature of raising up the next generation of believers.
It is a failure to take seriously the vows we make concerning our young people.
It is a failure to read the times and prepare for the future.
It is a failure to understand what is most important in life.
It is a failure on our parts to humbly accept part of the blame when those in our care wander away from the faith.
It is a failure to love our brothers and sisters and, most of all, to love Jesus.
What tears me up every day is that this most precious charge doesn’t have to end in failure. That it does is mostly a reflection of our smothering love for our own lives. The first casualty is people like theBEattitude. We are the second casualty (Mark 8:35).
Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more. “I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled!
We have been entrusted with so much here in America. Yet how is it that we care so little for that trust that we so easily blame the weak for their own destruction!
The following is a well-known verse most often used in a completely different context, but it applies most fully here:
Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work?
Instead, how easy it is to blame those who are wandering off to destruction and absolve ourselves of any responsibility for them. The sheep have left the pen. Oh well, guess they’ll get eaten by the wolves. That’ll teach ’em!
But our God neither sleeps nor slumbers, and He knows who left the gate ajar.