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Why do we keep hurting the Church? We can easily identify the short answer of this question. Because of sin, but it doesn’t explain why we still think we know better than God and continue to do so with arrogance and disobedience.

I have been hurt and bullied at church since childhood. It made going to regular school a whole lot more enjoyable than Sunday School. Mind you, I didn’t let the cat out of the bag until only recently, when I made it known to my parents that I was actually bullied at church. I kept my business to my own partly because I didn’t want my Dad to lose his faith, as he was a young believer at the time, and I know he would go out of his own way to protect me. You see, my Dad is from Glasgow. Generally speaking, Scottish people have a mind of their own. My Dad was also a deacon, so I chose to suffer in silence. Out of a team of Sunday School leaders, only one bothered to intervene and protect me on a weekly basis. Interestingly, I haven’t seen her attend church since, but I know her love for God is genuine. She does however work in the social care sector, which I appreciate is awkward hours and very draining. I can relate, as I assist those in the social care sector doing IT and training.

I know my Mum was also discriminated from church here in Scotland because of her ethnic background. My Mum still struggles to fit in with the local church here in the UK. Ironically, it’s the older generation that is more welcoming towards my Mum. You know when someone takes an interest in you when they ask of your family and of yourself… unlike the tripe of topics before a church service (i.e. Did you watch X TV show or X sport yesterday/last night?)

Ultimately, whenever Mum and I are bullied, my Dad being the knight and shining whatever in our family would always protect us both. These days Dad is more calm and collected before raging like an angry Scotsman, and he is now able to give it to the LORD and let God be the judge. Kudos to him for being responsible for his family, and showing his love for his wife and son. I pray I can protect my own family like my Dad.

Lately, I have seen my Dad become hurt with church. When Dad retired from cell group, he received a genuine e-mail reply from our cell group leader. Dad thought nothing less about the response, but Mum and I blasted the reply, because we both argued the fact that nobody (church or group) had ministered to Dad from the time Dad fell ill, while Mum and I were in Hong Kong during Easter 2014, despite written communication. It also doesn’t help when Dad is still accepting our underlying hurt that is connected to how I was treated with regard to church (notice capitalisation of church and Church). I passively mentioned to Dad that he will likely receive a half-hearted concern when it makes the round to others from the group, which curiously did happen, but God-incidentally Dad was unavailable to respond. It’s even more embarrassing that our neighbours show more genuine concern for us, than some brothers and sisters in Christ.

Strangely, even I received a half-hearted text message of concern this week because I *accidentally* received a chain text message, because I was formally part of the pastoral team at church. I haven’t replied and I’m unlikely to respond. I do not hate or have any grudges toward the individual. I just find it hilariously sad that folk resort to a cowardly way of social communication, much like I received an e-mail rejection from a former female friend, even though I had the guts to phone in-person. How can we possibly fulfil God’s Word as true disciples, if we don’t even have the backbone to arrange for a 1-to-1 and make the effort to engage with others, ESPECIALLY with brothers and sisters in Christ of God’s Church? It is no wonder non-Christians are rapidly changing the laws of the land, because we don’t have the audacious faith to stand firm in Christ, but hey, we will happily click LIKE and RETWEET articles and links from the comfort of our fingertips. Like that’s going to advance the Kingdom of God anytime soon…

When your early church experience has been scratched like the new iPhone 7 Jet Black edition, you are more observant and analytical than others – simply because you question more about the raw issues, situations, outcomes and motives of people. So yes, at a very young age, I do recall talking to the LORD God about such matters. And it was my favourite Sunday School teacher (the one who looked out for me), who encouraged me to talk to Jesus like a friend.

I feel equally sad that we as born-again believers seem to tear down God’s Church through the local church. I know certain sects and denominations have the political internal structures like a national government. If you are literally blind to that reality, observe your line manager or boss within your present (or past) workplace. Observe and recall their body language and lifestyle. Sadly, some of the worldly characteristics also apply within the leadership team of our local church. Everyone always… ALWAYS has a personal agenda. That is why we need to ask the LORD to prune us before we can serve and build for His Kingdom, otherwise we are hypocrites and fools of God’s Word.

I can passively make another observation. I know of a senior pastor who is literally hanging on to his called position mainly to secure a generous pension package, so he can retire from pastoral ministry. Ironically, the same senior pastor is gleeful to deplore those who are out of work, or want to understand their identity in Christ. His response is “Just get a job.” Swap positions and obviously words of pride will change to words of empathy and profound understanding in today’s cultural context. The same pastor avoided engaging with us as a family. Instead of picking up the phone, or making arrangements to visit, he posted his calling card with the words “God Bless.” So much for shepherding your sheep. As the old saying goes… practice what you preach. Again, I hold no grudge and I do forgive him, but it makes you wonder how many of these types of pastors exist within the Church?

Meanwhile, last weekend I listened to a podcast interview with Dr Charles Stanley – a Southern Baptist pastor whom I respect of his reverend fear in the LORD, and his genuine passion for God’s Word. The guy is 84 years of age and is still preaching. Charles isn’t even considering retiring anytime soon, which is something I personally admire in one sense… though you do wonder about the new recruits of seminary graduates, hence why church plants and hipster churches are afresh these days.

Once again, where am I going with this reflection. Lately, I’ve been feeling we as the Church are contradicting ourselves with The Great Commission. Some churches and denominations overplay the baptism aspect, but they are weak in sustaining disciples for Christ through the teaching of Scripture.

Others, overdo the Word of God with *paid* discipleship classes and multi-series books and eloquent sermons, but when it comes to responding to God’s Word in practice… the seeds fall in-between the cracks of slab pavements. But hey, they can quote Calvin’s 5-point TULIP theological standpoint and still find time to watch Game of Thrones. They like to identify themselves as an Evangelical or Reformed Christian. There is more pride when identifying themselves as an Evangelical or a Reformed Christian compared with the label of a born-again believer, because some folk don’t want to be associated with the charismatic nature of God’s anointing Holy Spirit.

I also want to address another concern. I am struggling to empathise with Christian-based management. I say Christian-based, as I don’t know how to summarise what I want to share in one word to describe Christian management.

I recently read this week that another popular preacher has stepped down from Christian ministry. His reason wasn’t related to marital affairs or controversial infringement of related books, but merely his central focus on God (or lack of).

Fair play to confess the truths to your congregation. Unfortunately, my empathy stopped there because sadly churches tend to create a culture of perfection (only God is perfect). Pastors need to tally check countless Godly characteristics and experience points, before they can even be considered for a shortlist for interview. Once a pastor is ordained, they unintentionally cultivate these barriers or walls that seem to deflect God’s grace and spiritual anointing, because they structure church policies based on a churches understanding of Scripture. If we were truly competent in our understanding of Scripture, we wouldn’t be riddled with countless denominations and sub-denominations. Essentially, we would actually be the Church… God’s Church.

Let me come from a different angle. When I was a student in Dundee studying for my first degree, I felt led to serve our Christian Union society. I felt a strong urge to step out, and for someone who was incredibly shy about everything including human interaction, I was trusting in the LORD because I sensed in my Spirit that God wanted to shape me as a young believer.

I served a full academic year and I valued the experience. Towards the end of our current leadership team, I was speaking with our staff worker who is affiliated with the CU societies across the country. I knew of a fellow brother in Christ who would be a good replacement, though I also sensed it would be a controversial choice due to his blunt nature. However, I knew nobody had the passion except for him. I even warned our staff worker, if we don’t encourage him with the opportunity to grow and lead, he will never receive this opportunity later in life. I profoundly believed, nobody outside of this CU would give him an opportunity. I knew it was controversial, but I believed in my Spirit it was the right thing to do.

Long story short, he became our new CU leader and he too served a full academic year. I later got in touch with him through Facebook, and sadly learned of his struggle to hold a job and live his life. I was heartbroken to learn that he had abandoned his faith in the LORD and he dabbled with other faiths and religions. I attempted to reach out to him on several occasions to meet up for tea and coffee, though he never took upon the offer. Others from our CU have also reached out to him.

Lately, I’ve seen his multiple Facebook accounts fall from grace, as he basically deleted all his personal details, photos, and status updates – except for one. I shall quote in full what he last shared with the world…

A TRIBUTE, A MESSAGE AND A CALL TO ACTION.
This contains criticism of Christianity but I don’t mean it in a nasty way. I’m not a Christian anymore and I do not think that will change. It might but I don’t think so. However when I think of that period of my life I cannot deny I had an awesome time. In particular I had an awesome time when I was involved in the University CU. In those days it felt like we could change the world and there were no limits. I met people that inspired me and who left such an impact on me that they continue to inspire me even though I have lost contact with some of them. There was people like Richard and James and Arlington and Tim and Yolanda and Sandra and so many others. Our goals were noble, our hearts were in the right place and our passion for people was unwavering. My problem is that we were fooling ourselves, blind to the actual God of the Bible and ignorant to the harsh truth of a Gospel that condemns most of humanity to the flames of hell but our underlying passion to change the world and serve our fellow humanity was genuine and it was valid and it was inspired by something greater than ourselves. An all consuming love for others, a willingness to share in the task of building an awesome world and a feeling that there are no limits… those are things the whole of humanity needs to embrace and become drunk on.

So yeah, that was Robbie from CU. I know of two underlying factors that has led Robbie to stray away from the LORD. According to a mature friend who knows Robbie, his new neighbour gave literature of another religion that Robbie obviously digested and accepted for a while. But more crucially, the local church also failed to disciple Robbie in the ways of Christ and Scripture.

I wish to return full-circle. I personally feel the local church is failing God’s Church to disciple God’s people with Godly leaders who should be leading in reverend example – not only in Godly character, lifestyle, but also in nurturing us with God’s Living Word in meaningful ministries that cater ALL demographics (including those living in the outskirts of society – and not just preaching to the converted). I appreciate and understand we can’t be spoon-fed by our pastors to live our lives for Christ, but when a preacher bangs on about community, fellowship and the Church as the body of Christ – they also need to play their part in training and faithfully teaching others with God’s treasured Word, otherwise we will end up like Robbie – abandoned to search God for ourselves. And just for the record, Robbie isn’t the only one… I sadly know a whole lot more!

I guess this is why I am careful to not read too much outside of Scripture through articles, books and conference speakers, because only God’s Word holds true above human interpretation. It may explain why I label myself as a Spirit-filled born-again believer, as oppose to an Evangelical Christian or even a Baptist. I am still Evangelical and a Christian if you want to tick the worldly boxes (for the sake of church statistics and graphical infographics), but I exist not to please man, but to serve and build for God’s Kingdom and love the LORD my God.

P.S. I apologise for the extreme length of this reflection, and once again, I do not know why I feel compelled to share and explore a taboo subject.

~Richard