The more I write about my experiences in the mainstream Evangelical church, the more people reach out to tell me about their own stories of abandonment, wounding, and deep betrayal by this same expression of Church. You don’t have to search too far in the former church staff realm to find those who are hurting, exhausted, frustrated, lonely, and far too often, bitter.
They have poured out their lives for the very thing that eventually rejected them. They have been pushed out and taken advantage while doing their very best to live into their calling and serve their King. They have sacrificed and lost. And so they have been left to walk away from the only careers they have ever known or felt compelled towards…
because there was no longer space for them…
because they couldn’t perform in superhuman ways…
because someone simply did not like them and did everything they could to undermine them…
because their theology was expanding and deepening…
because they could no longer see the world in black and white…
and often with them goes a spouse and children. One more family left in the wreckage of the Evangelical church who must fight with all that is in them to hold on to Jesus, to forgive over and over, and somehow, someday perhaps find themselves as a part of another church. But for many, it’s just too hard.
This must end. There has been enough human sacrifice.
The response for far, far too long has been to ignore, excuse or turn a blind eye to our corporate sins. Because we were not directly involved, we can remain comfortable. Because it does not directly impact our family, we will stay out of it. We will be silent. We will blame the victim and remind ourselves over and over again that it was them, not us, and we are better off without them. We will allow these wrongs to continue.
So what then shall we do?
Even though we are well-intentioned, when we stay in such environments and remain silent, we are yielding to, if not participating in, the sins of the whole. We are in part responsible as we benefit from a system that is diminishing the very humanity of others.
I understand why so many of us fall into this trap. Speaking up against systemic sin is never easy. It’s uncomfortable and risky; and it is often a very lonely place to be. Want proof? Check out the lives of the prophets of Israel/Judah.
Edmund Burke famously said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
Friends, we are foolish if we do not take a hard look at ourselves and our environment and ask where we are contributing to these destructive patterns of behavior. We are foolish if we believe our church is safe from such evils.
But even more so, we are incredibly foolish if we believe our voice does not matter. You are an integral part of the Church. You matter just as much as any other person. And if people continue to believe that their voices do not matter, that complacency is best, that nothing will ever change and no one will ever listen to them - that’s exactly what will happen. Nothing will change.
You are important. Your voice is necessary. We, together, are the Church.
What if we started to ask more questions?
What if we began to hold church leadership to the highest standards of character?
What if we prayed fervently for each person that is helping lead us and actively seek to know how they are doing and how we can help?
What if we stopped settling for pat answers and deceitful responses about the reasons a staff member was let go or left?
What if we were really honest about how our churches are doing and where we need each others help to grow?
What if our elders meetings were characterized by more open door conversations rather than hidden, closed door meetings?
What if, the fruit of the Spirit in our leaders mattered more than productiveness, talent, and professionalism?
What if we all started to speak up and believe that we are fully part of the body of Christ and are significant?
The church was meant to be so much more than this. I believe with all of my heart that the Holy Spirit is doing something new in the Church today - that God is calling his children to “wake up.” We must do better. We must. Too many people need us to bring the light and hope of God’s Kingdom to bear on this broken and hurting world. Let us stop settling for a shallow expression of the beautiful, amazing, breathtaking, powerful Kingdom of God.
Our Father who art in Heaven…
Thy Kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven!