One Barna study among unchurched adults shows that nearly four out of every ten non-churchgoing Americans (37%) said they avoid churches because of negative past experiences in churches or with church people.
Another poll shows that 42% were wounded by the pastor.
Another poll says that every year, 2.7 million church members fall into inactivity. They leave as hurting and wounded victims-of some kind of abuse, disillusionment, or just plain neglect!
People are humans. Humans have feelings. Feelings get hurt. Hurt feelings can get buried, or they can get expressed. The buried feelings simmer to a boil, eventually exploding into some unacceptable behavior. Expressed feelings can be communicated in healthy or unhealthy ways. Healthy ways lead to healing, and sometimes, not always, reconciliation. Unhealthy ways lead to brokenness.
We live in a broken world, where people have learned to hold feelings deep within, and then at the slightest infraction, they explode out of proportion to the cause, leaving everyone around them puzzled.
Insulting, judging, rejecting, ignoring, gossiping are some of the ways people hurt other people. Unfortunately, these are too common in church circles.
We all need a healthy sense of self. Most have developed their view of self by the opinions and reactions of others around us. Our parents, caregivers, teachers, preachers, church members give us input as to who they view us as.
Many times this is the only view of our self that we know. We have failed to develop a healthy self-awareness and to be confident in who we are as a person. We only know how to behave to please others.
Christians learn how to please others as a need to be accepted and to belong to the local congregation or organization. Sometimes a person becomes so identified with the local group, that it is almost impossible to find the authentic self.
The church has become a social club for those who meet the membership standards. Somewhere church has lost the personal relationship with Christ; replacing it with a relationship with the pastor, or with certain key members. Just as in school and at work, there are various circles: one can belong to, or be excluded from.
I John 5:44, “How can you believe since you accept glory from one another, but do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?”
China appoints priests to assure that nothing is said or done against their atheistic government. The government controls what is preached and taught from the sanctioned churches. Crosses have been removed from churches in an attempt to eradicate any teachings about the death, burial or resurrection of Christ.
Yet, there are thousands of ‘unofficial churches’ meeting in secret, risking persecution, and detention by government authorities. As many as 70 million Christians now meet in in China. Two-thirds of this 70 million are not affiliated with the government sponsored churches. This means millions are meeting in secret. Communism has not been able to silence Christ in the heart of His believers.
“In that day the remnant of Israel and the survivors of the house of Jacob will no more lean on him who struck them, but will lean on the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, in truth.” (Isaiah 10:20-21)
Israel will soon learn about Jesus Christ as their Lord, the Holy One of Israel. They will then teach the whole world about Christ and His Kingdom from Jerusalem.
If God has not forgotten the wayward, straying Jews, but knows exactly who and where they are; could it be that He has also not forgotten the Unchurched Remnant?
Pastors and saints may fail us and hurt us, but Jesus Christ will never leave us nor forsake us if we put our trust solely in Him and not in pastors or saints.
A Jew is a Jew in his heart, and not because of his outward appearance or behavior. (Romans 2:29)
There are sincere, honest pastors. There are sincere, honest saints of God. Thank God for each one of them.
There are many sincere, honest unchurched believers, and we need to thank God for each one of them also. Just as we pray for the China Christians who meet in secret, facing persecution and imprisonment, we need to pray for those who have been hurt by the church and have chosen to worship God outside of organized denominational walls.
May God grant them close fellowship with Him as they struggle to make sense out of their painful experiences. May God reveal to each one that He will never allow any man or demon to snatch them out of His mighty Hands. (John 10:28-30) May God teach them that they are of more worth to Him than all the opinions of pastors and saints.
Their self-worth is not based on church dogma, or pastoral approval, or on what saints think of them: it is based on what God alone thinks of the secret intentions and motivations of their hearts.
God has not forgotten the unchurched remnant.