The One Who Left the Gate Ajar

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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.
—Matthew 18:12-14

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. gate_sheep.jpgWhile 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).

Jesus says:

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!
—Luke 12:48b-49

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?
—Proverbs 24:11-12

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.

39 thoughts on “The One Who Left the Gate Ajar

  1. Peter P

    Well said Dan.

    I just read Beattitude’s post and I now fear for the other people who aatend the church he used to attend!

  2. Well thought out Dan…I do have a few thoughts here though..

    I commented on the thread to which you refer. I’ve found that it’s pointless to beat them over the head with scripture at this point. I simply mentioned to him that now his faith is going to be even more tested because he will need a strong apologetic to defend his atheistic religion and that is indeed what it is.

    As a pastor, I stress biblical growth and maturity. We give the congregation ample opportunity to grow in the knowledge of the bible and also to connect in community with others. It’s our primary push and I’m ruthless to not let other things crowd it out. Still, Satan will intervene and try to put thoughts in the heads of some that they are not loved and that this bible knowledge emphasis is all academic and not spiritual. In BeAttitude’s case, what level of responsibility to we hold when one who has freedom of will makes a choice to reject the faith he was brought up in? He may come back to this faith at some point but the bible says many will not. They will have itching ears and go elsewhere. To make a broad statement that we have failed him negates the many pastors who suffer under the burden of being “super pastor” like Mega Mark up the street running thousands in multiple services. Until we stop this silly, competitive, ego-driven church growth mentality and focus on teaching the word and discipling others, I fear many more will fall into this trap. Pastors suffer by falling into indescretions that wouldn’t have trapped them otherwise and the flock under their care receives little more than a surface cleaning when a deep cleansing is called for.

    • Scott,

      I don’t know if a strong apologetic is really needed for atheism. That belief system can just throw up its hands and feign ignorance. And it seems plenty of people go along with not caring to be a defender of anything, even their atheism. i can see why many feel freed by that. It’s the same mentality that allows one to walk away from a wife and kids to pursue one’s “happiness.” It’s akin to the classic parable of the talents. Burying one’s talent in the ground is the perfect description of atheism and its thought processes.

      I think that one of the reasons why some people walk away is that the Church does not make itself a willing crucible for failures. People are not allowed to get it wrong in the Church. We don’t like people who are messy. But the fact is that all growth is messy. When people stifle that messiness, growth is often choked out as well.

      Part of this is because we are afraid of people who ask tough questions. Those questions feel like a disease that threatens to become pandemic in our churches. So the thoughtful (or even the belligerent) inquirer may be treated like a plague. That’s too bad. Since when are we afraid of men?

      Part of this is because we have not grappled ourselves with the inquirer’s questions, and this exposes our own shallowness and lack of preparedness. The inquirer forces us to work harder at our own growth, and few like to be reminded of this.

      The “failure” of the sower to receive a 1:1 return on each seed sown is no failure at all but the simple, sad facts of life. I completely acknowledge this. But in the same respect, few of us are working to maximize the return. Every mature Christian should be discipling others and working to ensure their growth to the best of his or her ability as empowered by the Spirit. Discipleship programs in most churches in America verge on total failure, though. When 80+ percent of supposedly Christian young people abandon the faith by the time they graduate from college (according to Barna), it’s just further proof that we’re letting down an entire generation with our shoddy discipleship practices.

      As Leonard Ravenhill once said, “When are we going to get serious about getting serious?”

      • Dan,

        First of all, let me say: “Guilty!”

        I have been (and still am) in leadership in my ‘church’ for the past 15 years. Until recently, I would have echoed Scott’s comments:

        “We give the congregation ample opportunity to grow in the knowledge of the bible and also to connect in community with others.”
        and
        “what level of responsibility do we hold when one who has freedom of will makes a choice to reject the faith he was brought up in?”

        I totally agree with your response as I am now a great example of what we (I) have really been like.

        Over the last two years my theology and beliefs have been in flux. I have been wrestling with God over some tough issues and questions. Over 5 months ago we had a leadership meeting that turned out to be a warning against people like me (unknowingly). I have been questioning the institutional structure, biblical authority and have been leaning towards a mixture of house-church/unchurch/congregational structure, missional purpose and ’emerging’ theology.

        After the leadership meeting, I sent an email to the pastoral team explaining my position mainly because I had already started to post notes on these topics on Facebook and I didn’t want them to think that I was doing this as a response to that meeting. I also requested feedback and conversation.

        As I said, that email went out over 5 months ago and ever since then I have been ignored. Only one of the four ever approached me with concern (not for my beliefs but for the situation).

        I must say that I have found more fellowship over the last few months with those who are hanging around the open gate then I have with anyone else. Of course, I would modify the metaphor. I have walked out of the pen of religious institutional bondage into the Lord’s abundant pasture.

        To those inside the pen, I may be seen like a lost sheep, however, I am still a sheep. Free-range but a sheep none-the-less.

        • Barry,

          I guess you can say that apostasizing is in the eye of the beholder. I know that people exist who believe that leaving the institutional church is akin to apostasy, but apostasy is more a condition of the heart than it is the position of one’s body inside a building with stained glass windows!

  3. Brian

    Good post Dan.

    I like what you said, so I don’t want what I’m going to say as disagreeing with you.

    In the circles I ran in, there were always a handful of men around me that always wanted to “disciple” me. It was taught from at least one pulpit I frequented that each young man HAD to be in discipleship.

    The problem with this is that most men who wanted to do the discipling seemed more interested in sharing what they knew from an experience standpoint (“see how much I know”). Instead of learning the student and applying “customized” Truth to them. It never was about the student, but the teacher.

    It always came across as prideful. Really, I don’t think the discipling was too far off from them trying to build their own little ministry.

    And because of this, discipleship was always a four-letter word for me. It has since been replaced by the accountability group. Ahhh yes, the accountability partners, the new Catholic priests. Those to whom we now confess our sins and are held “accountable” to.

    What you described Dan, I believe for me, has been lived out the way I have described it.

    Of course what you mean, and I know to be true also, are for “mature” believers to be servants of all, not masters. People who seek to edify the work GOD has begun in them, not reconstruct it to fit their work.

    Men in pride seemed to think God was calling them to take over His work. That they somehow knew how to work in salvation better than He. These men of course are thieves, not sheperds. If that seems to harsh, at the least they were hirelings.

    Even to assume servanthood to the salvation work of God in another is a grave and serious thing. As Jesus said it would be better for a millstone to be put around someones neck, then cause a little one to stumble.

    What truly is at the crux of this argument is maturity. Think of that. How does one know they are mature in Christendom?

    We have no ceremonies for it. We have no ordinations for it. We have no formal processes for it. At best what we have are two options — you get to know someone who you consider to be trustworthy of your inner self, or you have lay elected deacons and elders. The former is far better in my opinion. But you only trust that that trustworthy person knows what the heck they are doing.

    BTW, the only place though I can think of where maturity is mentioned is in Ephesians 4.

    Also, would we not consider that God is responsible for the maturation? I’m sure we have our part. But I worry about claiming we LACK maturity in the church, that makes me think that God has been a sleep at the wheel and forgot to make that happen.

    • Brian,

      Justification is solely of the Lord. The question then becomes one of asking if we have any part in the discipleship/sanctification process that follows. Hardcore Calvinists would blanch at that question, but the fact that the New Testament (and the OT, too) has so many commands for the believer to run the race, strive for the goal, pray constantly, do not neglect to meet together, and on and on makes it seem to me that a lot of what happens after sanctification is up to us. God will take us as far as we are willing to go. The parable of the minas in Luke 19:12-27 shows each servant receiving the same amount of minas, but not every servant generates the same return. Only the one who returns 100 percent receives the “well done, good and faithful servant” from the master. And there is no doubt in the NT that our reward in heaven is based on how seriously we take our commission down here.

      We can stash away our mina or we can create five more. Ten gets us the Lord’s praise. So which is it going to be?

      • Dan,
        I really appreciate this post. It is very insightful and thought-provoking, as your blog routinely is – which is why I follow it. I thought I’d drop a mention here that I am what some might call a “hard-core Calvinist” only in that I’m an admitted “5-pointer” (not to be confused with a “hyper-Calvinist”, which is altogether a different animal). I know the type of person you are referring to here, and so do not intend to contradict you. I was once that kind of person; but not anymore. I do not blanche at your question. Believers eventually and inevitably must cooperate in the process of sanctification. We are led by the indwelling Holy Spirit to do so. We are commanded in Scripture to do so – and warned of the dangers of not doing so. I also believe it is clear that the church plays a vital role in the perseverance of Christians in the faith. Those who walk away will be held accountable for doing so; but those of us who fail in our responsibility to others in the church will be held accountable for that as well.

        You raise some excellent points. We must not be too quick to absolve ourselves of our own responsibility when someone leaves the fold. The story of the good shepherd who leaves the 99 to go after the one is also part of the gospel. Thanks for the reminder.

        • Laurie,

          More than anything else, I wish that whenever Christians encounter a situation that begs for someone to blame that they would consider asking, What did I do wrong? before they assign the blame to someone else. More often than not, American cultural Christians share in the blame. A great “for instance” is found in this old post of mine.

  4. Brian

    I also want to add that there was in charismania a practice that usurped “discipleship”. It was were there teacher became the spiritual father of the student.

    There were a whole bunch of young men running around asking “Are you my spiritual daddy?” (Tongue in cheek…almost).

    Puke.

    This is so demented on so many levels, but the psychological origins of this in so many people today is epidemic.

  5. Brian,

    Ah, the shepherding movement. Yes, I know it.

    As to resources, I give the book The Fight by John White to new believers. I also used a simply outstanding resource called Life in Christ that was a discipleship workbook put together by Tony Salerno of Agape Force. Sadly, I understand that book is out of print, but it was an excellent guide for baby Christians. I would also recommend the book Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey as a worldview supplement, especially the newer version with the study guide. The Knowledge of the Holy and The Pursuit of God, both by A. W. Tozer, are also excellent. And I always liked the simplicity of Disciple by Juan Carlos Ortiz, which has a very tough, yet winsome, approach to being a disciple. In my earlier days, I also gave away Mere Christianity. (I got a real surprise one day when visiting a church 220 miles from here when I perused their large church library; that library contained a copy of the book that had my name and old telephone number in it because it was one of the copies I had given to someone long ago!)

  6. Diane R

    I know this might be a bit controversial, but I like to keep Dan on his toes…LOL. I’ve been considering a question lately that many are asking. Was this person a Christian in the first place? My conversion experience was so real that in 46 1/2 years it never even entered my mind not to walk in the Christian faith although most churches Ive been in really have not discipled me. I’e had to do my own discipling. Part of the problem in our churches here is a lack of Holy Spirit conviction and a clear message as to how to become a Christian. I guess in many churches, at least in the past, people just walked down the aisle and said some type of prayer and bammo! They are now pronounced Christians. But Romans 10:9,10 says that not only do we need to confess Jesus as Lord but also BELIEVE in our hearts. And perhaps that is where we are falling down? I’ve met 100’s of true born again Christians over the years and frankly, although they might be discouraged in their faith at times, I’ve met very few who gave up their faith and went to something else. But then I live in California where it is weird to be a Christian and I guess we don’t get alot of “hanger-ons.” There is a price to pay here by being a true born-again Christian. But as I talk to people I’ve met on the Internet in places like the South and the Midwest, they tell me that it is just something lots of people “do.”

    Anyway, I just thought I would interject this into the conversation. And, I do agree with you Dan that the level if discipleship and commitment to other Christians in this country is abysmall.

    • Diane,

      I had your very question in my mind from the beginning. The question of “cheap” conversion is a good one, and there are many cheap ones out there. The problem is that I am not God. My only sure means of testing someone else’s salvation is by the fruit test, and that’s a hard test to administer considering how well people can mouth the Christian jargon. I mean, if people SAY all the right things and SEEM to have okay fruit (if not abundant fruit), I have to accept them as a brother or sister in Christ until something/someone proves otherwise. In Paul’s day that would have been easier since NOTHING of the Gospel had gotten out and there was no New Testament for people to crib from. The division was clearer. Now is a different story. Separating the sheep from the goats is much harder to do, I think.

      Stuart Briscoe used to say that he didn’t consider anyone who professed Christ to truly be converted until five years of evidence of fruit had followed.

      The issue of giving up one’s faith and going to something else is an interesting one. As I see it, ANY kind of idolatry is “going to something else.” One doesn’t have to give up Christianity to head for the Buddhism to be guilty of idolatry. One simply has to immerse oneself in the American Dream to stand accused. And good grief, there are a lot of Christians who have gone to something else by investing solely in treasure on earth.

  7. merry

    I’ve known a couple of friends in the past year who left Christianity for atheism and said, like this blogger, that they felt tremendous relief. Why is that? Can we do something to change that?

  8. Like I said, Merry, it’s the same kind of “freedom” that one experiences by abandoning a spouse and children. Some people do it and act like it’s the greatest thing that ever happened to them. But God says otherwise.

  9. Paul Walton

    After reading BEattitude’s post it’s apparent that His viewpoint about God centered around himself, instead of Christ. Every comment was about how God didn’t perform up to his expectations, it seem as though God was suppose be proving Himself worthy to be God. His understanding of who Christ is, is flawed, Beattitude thinks the Christian experience is about us, it’s not, it’s about Christ crucified, risen, and ascended. If we as a community failed, it was perhaps that we have made our faith about us, instead of Christ.

    • Paul,

      The Scriptures say this:

      Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”
      —Matthew 11:2-6

      I find this to be one of the most telling Scriptures in the Bible because it shows us exactly what the Kingdom of God come to earth looks like.

      In the case of theBEattitude, all he wants to see is the very thing Jesus told John the Baptist to recognize. Jesus was asking John, “Are these things not the mark of the influx of the Kingdom?” How is it possible not to believe when the Kingdom is functioning this way? And yet Jesus knew that people would see this normal life of the Kingdom and STILL not believe.

      But I’m not talking about those who see it all and still don’t believe. I want to ask the same question that theBEattitude asks, because deep down inside, he wants to see those things too. He wants to believe. He wants to hear Jesus’ response to John the Baptist, and not just for 2000 years, but for today. Because the need for the very things Jesus talks about here has not changed. If anything, it’s more pressing than ever.

      Yet when theBEattitude looks around, what Jesus is talking about to John seems only like a distant memory, something written down in a book a long time ago. And that’s the tragedy, because deep down inside, he believes what Jesus is saying, but wonders where all that Kingdom life went to. And it’s a bitter question in his soul.

      Whose fault is that? Has God changed? Was the original Kingdom plan altered?

      I believe if every Christian in America were as honest as theBEattitude, the repentance would flow like a river. People would wake out of their American Dream stupors and start asking, Does my Christian experience line up with what Jesus is saying here? And if not, why not?

      If the greatest of all prophets asked this question in the midst of the display of the Kingdom working as it should, how can any of us fault anyone who questions the weak thing proffered by the Church in America as the genuine Kingdom? When the greatest of all prophets, who said that the Christ’s sandals were not worthy for him to touch, starts thinking about his own state and all that is happening around him, how much do we want to fault him for not being perfectly Christ-centered in that moment? And if we can’t point a finger at John, why should we point the finger at anyone else who struggles in like manner?

      • Paul Walton

        Good points Dan, Philippians 1 tells us that Jesus will be faithful to complete the work He began in us.
        We are told that Jesus is the Author and Finisher of our faith.
        Yes, we are told to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, but we are quickly reminded that it is God who is actually working in us according to His pleasure. BEattitude has arrived at a place of questioning if God is real. I believe if he, or anyone else for that matter, truly seeks God, he will reward them with revelation.

        But to say to God you must act in a certain manner for me to believe in you is unreasonable, and folly. Maybe I’m reading his post incorrectly but that is the vibe I received. John the Baptist didn’t ask Jesus if you are the Christ prove it so. He only asked if Jesus was truly the Christ, in a moment of weakness.

        • Paul,

          A few things:

          1. Is this equation true?

          Our Faith = Our Discipleship

          That’s a very slippery equation with stark implications no matter how it is answered. It is an equation that I know I have been pondering much as of late.

          2. The question of “If God is real, why are things as they are?” is a perfectly valid question and goes toward my contention that our apologetic in the American Church is in dire need of better answers, or at least better distribution of acceptable answers.

          3. I have known hardcore 5-pointers who will contend that if it is not God’s sovereign will, someone cannot know God no matter how much they seek Him. Needless to say, I don’t share that position, yet it is definitely out there in the “double predestination” problem.

          4. I don’t believe it is folly to ask God to act in a certain manner. Orthodox Christians do this all the time. Abraham did it more than once. Even God asks us to ask Him to act in a certain manner. It is part of His character to not act out of character, and we are to “remind” Him of this. I don’t consider theBEattitude’s asking God to behave in a certain way based on what he knows of the Bible to be folly. He wants to have satisfying answers to tough questions the Bible raises.

          One such question is “God, why don’t your followers today resemble those in the New Testament? Why do they instead seem to drive people away from believing in you?” That’s a perfectly legit question that requires a legit answer. But it’s the legit answer that troubles us because it exposes the fact that the American Church isn’t really living up to that high standard that we see in the Scriptures.

          In fact, many of the sticking points for theBEattitude are not actually problems with God Himself but with His Church. That means we need to wake up and ask what we’re doing wrong. God is faithful to get us through this, but we have to want to be changed. Too few people do, though.

          5. I’m not seeing the distinction in your comment about John the Baptist’s question. By asking if he should look for another Christ, John was indeed asking Jesus to validate His ministry and the coming of the Kingdom, which Jesus did by His response.

          The other issue is the one of time. How long can a “moment of weakness” last before it results in apostasy? That’s a hard question I think God alone knows the answer to. For that reason, I believe God would have us give others the benefit of the doubt when it comes to moments of weakness. If such a moment lasts 10 seconds or 10 years, I think we have to trust God’s ability to work through it in that person. Too often, though, while we are willing to stand beside someone for 10 seconds, few of us are willing to do so for 10 years. I think that is one of the major reasons why theBEattitude is in the place he is. Again, that’s the Church letting him down, not God. God is wanting His Church to be there. But if we are not, should we be surprised at the outcome?

          • Paul Walton

            Dan why do we think that John the Baptist asked Jesus if He was the Christ? The word of God doesn’t answer this question for us regrettably. But most likely it was because of his circumstances that he was doubting the validity of Jesus Christ. He was rotting away in prison, feeling forsaken, perhaps even believing that Jesus would establish His everlasting Kingdom during John’s lifetime. And if Jesus was the true Messiah why was he not saving John from his awaiting fate? Like so many of us are guilty of doing, he took his eyes off of Christ and focused on his own condition. Jesus didn’t deliver John from his circumstance, He didn’t even go to him personally to comfort him, He simply told John’s disciples of His works, and told them to deliver His answer to John. Jesus didn’t feel compelled to validate who He was, He only reminded John of what he already knew.

            Dan I hear what you are saying about the spiritual condition of the American church, and I certainly agree, we do not reflect the glory of Christ as we should. If we all followed the words of wisdom of Jesus and loved God with our whole heart, and our neighbor as ourself, we would certainly be more effective for His Kingdom.

            • Paul,

              You are right about Jesus’ reminder to John.

              When I read theBEattitude, I immediately thought of Jesus’ response to John, because theBEattitude wants to see the leper cleansed, the deaf hear, and the Church living out its calling. That he doesn’t see it demands something of those of us who claim to be Christians. It’s why I am less likely to blame him than I am to blame myself for my own failure to be the Church. What saddens me most is that where there is one theBEattitude, there are hundreds more, many who have been inoculated against the Gospel, possibly permanently, because you and I didn’t live up to the high calling of our Lord. That’s the kind of thing I think about nearly every day as I try to find a way to truly live as one of Christ’s Kingdom-dwellers while simultaneously finding a way to balance everyday life.

  10. David

    One of BeAttitudes reasons for leaving is that prayers are not answered. At the same time he says that he saw God acting in other people’s lives; an interesting dichotomy. I would say that one of the biggest arguments against Christianity is the Christian Church, especially as practiced in the West. The simple fact is that the majority of “christians” in America are non-believers. We pray with no faith, we act with no leading, we live with no purpose. The things BeAttitude railed against are cultural norms, not questions of faith.

    God for most of us is an ephemeral concept, like air, that we do not understand and cannot even conceive of having a relationship with. Is it any wonder then that people fall away from this “faith” and feel relief when they do so?

    I believe that God would rather us deny Him to His face than have us continue to blunder on in blind ignorance. Our Faith has to be real, not some airy-fairy “belief” in a superior being. If we deny Him, He at least has something to work with. We need to be hot or cold, but most of us are lukewarm. When someone tastes of us, they can’t even feel our presence.

    I cannot rejoice in BeAttitudes rejection of Christianity, but it is better that he has drawn a line and questioned his beliefs, rather than continue on the way he was going. God will continue to work in his life, as He does with everyone, and if BeAttitude allows his will to be swayed by his Creator, then his resulting belief will be real and eternal.

    “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ Matthew 7:21-23

    There are many people in the church today who are going to be very surprised on that final day because they never questioned what they believed.

    • David,

      Very astute comment! It’s hard to understand how God can present “cold” as a legit option to “lukewarm.”

      I am daily reminded that my own life shows very little Kingdom purpose. I have good intentions that are inspired by the Spirit, but the follow-through is just not there. I so readily fall into the plodding onward-ness that comprises the Great American Sleepwalk—a treasury of minas tucked away in a handkerchief, doing nothing for the Kingdom.

  11. DC

    You’ve managed to put into words what I have been unable to for weeks now. When I mentioned to my pastor that I just didn’t get prayer, how it works, how is it done, sometimes I just don’t want to do it, his response: ‘Then you must be walking around in darkness’. I much rather would’ve had, ‘What can I do to help you?’ So I’m attempting to figure it out, somehow, for myself. Thnx pastor!

    • Paul Walton

      DC, Find a new community to fellowship with if this is a typical response from your Pastor. If that is all the support he can give, he needs prayer, maybe you could start there. Peace.

    • DC,

      A classic book on prayer is by Ole Hallesby, simply called Prayer. I would also recommend a thick book called The Classic Collection on Prayer by E.M. Bounds, which is pretty much a treasury of everything that prayer warrior had to say on the topic.

      I am also convinced that some of the old ladies in our churches know a great deal about prayer, and it is their prayers that most often move me because they are dedicated to prayer more than many others are. I’ve got to believe there’s someone like that in your church or neighborhood. Learn from her.

      If that one sentence is all your pastor said to you, then yes, by all means find another church! But if that is all you heard out of many sentences he actually said, perhaps another meeting with him may be in order.

  12. Chris L

    Great comments about our responsibility and I especially appreciate the the comments on discipleship and community. Having said that, I found beAttitude to be honest on the surface at best. And yes our churches are full of people who picked their religion off a rack, thought they were joining a club, followed mom and dad … whatever. But this after 33 years? To dig no deeper than that? I’m sorrow over the one sheep but it isn’t just the one sheep. He has a daughter who is now stretched between two worlds. I am mostly concerned for her.

    • Yes, Chris, 33 years is a long time. It really makes one wonder. It’s why I find theBEattitude’s confession to be so disheartening.

      This is not to say that he won’t ever find the way back (or be drawn back), but I am not God, so I don’t know.

      And yes, there is nothing more insecure (and possibly damaging) to a child than to see one’s parent in a state of spiritual confusion.

  13. “I believe one of the most hollow vows American Evangelicals take occurs during infant baptisms and dedications.”

    When we baptize infants, no one makes a vow but God. God does the baptizing. He makes the promises in His Word.

    The infant doesn’t have a clue what is going on…how can he make a vow?

    Now, on the other hand, in believer’s baptism there is a vow made by the sinner…that he or she never keeps. Our vows are weak and subject to all the human frailties that sinners have.

    But God never breaks His vows. His decision for us, on the cross and in our baptisms is the only Word that can be counted on.

    • Steve,

      Whether the congregation recites a prayer attesting to their involvement or whether they receive an exhortation, most of the people in that congregation will have nothing to do with the discipleship of that child.

      As David said, this is a massive community failure largely because we do not understand what it truly means to be a community. The poor discipleship we see in this country is a direct result of our failure in this regard. Separatist communities like the Amish and Hutterites have much less failure in this regard because they get it. We don’t seem to get it, so in the end, all our vows and exhortations prove hollow.

  14. Dan,

    You are probably right.

    Not rying to toot my own horn, but I regularly remind the little ones what great thing that Jesus did for them in their baptisms, and I often remind strangers of it, upon asking them if they were ever baptised.

    It is a great way to speak the gospel to them.

    God certainly has kept me in th promise of my (infant) baptism.

    He really does work in mysterious ways!

    Thanks, Dan!

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