A traveling preacher was waiting to be picked up by a local church pastor to speak at his church that evening. Relaxing by an outside courtyard at the hotel, the preacher engaged a grandmother with two young children in a cordial conversation. The woman noticed the man’s Bible and asked if he was a believer. He explained he was a believer and that he was scheduled to speak at such and such church that night. The woman replied, “I used to go to that church.” “In fact,” she continued, “my grandchild here was healed of autism at that church.” Stunned by the disconnect between the fact of the child’s healing of what is considered incurable by many professionals, and the statement that she used to go to that church, the preacher simply replied, “praise the Lord.” He struggled to wrap his mind around the woman’s decision to leave a church where such faith was preached and such a powerful miracle took place simply because she was now moving in some “new” revelation.
What the preacher observed that night has in fact become an epidemic across the country where people leave their faith family despite the fact that the faith family was the source, in the Lord Jesus Christ, of the life and breakthroughs in their lives. A couple is headed to the divorce court with no hope of reconciliation. The Lord uses the church to restore the relationship but the couple then leave the church. A man attempts suicide, fails, and shows up in church where he gets saved and delivered, and then leaves the church. A young man is told he has an incurable disease but God exposes the infirmity and removes it through a word of knowledge. But then the individual lets hurt and disappointment drive him from the body God used to restore him. A man receives a prophetic word over his life about money all around him, and after prospering in a manner consistent with the Word, departs the church leaving pledges, vows, and commitments unfulfilled. A dejected and demoralized woman comes in to church and finds acceptance, love, and belonging only to walk away because of some minor misunderstanding or offense. The stories are endless but they all share a common narrative of people receiving life and restoration from the church and then divorcing their churches to serve some offense, yield to a divisive or deceptive spirit, or to pursue some spurious teaching, doctrine, or practice.
According to Psalm 68:6, the Lord sets his people in families so that the benefits of redemption can be explained, explored, and enjoyed. The word “set” means to remain or to abide. Our destiny in this life, our ability to bear fruit, and the influence we are to have on the lives of others are all tied to remaining in God’s set place for us. It’s easy to leave a church when it is viewed as an entity or organization, but when believers have the biblical revelation that the local church is a family, and a family the Lord has set them in, it is much more difficult for the deceiver to displace them. Like natural families, there may be sound reasons for separation such as abuse, but in most cases people are abandoning their faith families due to a dysfunctional view of and judgment of the their faith family. Sadly, these individuals then act like the family doesn’t even exist and was never a significant factor in their spiritual lives and well-being. Once this type of behavior is started, unfortunately and tragically, it is often repeated over and over again sowing confusion in the affected churches, insecurity in church leaders, and contempt for the Church in the hearts of kids exposed to this behavior by perpetually disgruntled parents.
Like with any family, there are issues, challenges, disagreements, and problems, but also like most families, there are untold and innumerable benefits to being a part of a faith family. Perhaps as American Christians we should intentionally focus on the positive aspects of family rather than focusing on what is not right or imperfect. It’s possible for the devil to inspire us to amplify the negative, forsake our faith family, and compromise the good things God had planned to do in us and through us in association with that faith family. Choose instead to honor the set place God has for you, to appreciate the life you have received from that faith family, and to focus on the positive when faced with issues, legitimate and imagined, in the local church. Perhaps it’s time to remember the value of blooming where we are planted or dancing with the one that brought us. If you have developed the habit of divorcing your church or have completely separated yourself from church altogether, consider the grace and mercy God has given to you and the fact that he did not divorce you for your imperfections. Ask yourself a simple question: Did I and do I treat my faith family like God treats me? Selah.