Over the course of a year or so we have seen close friends and family members leave our congregation for all sorts of various reasons. Some more head scratching than others yet all of them awfully painful. Head scratching because the nature of the departures have been swift and sudden, with little explanation or clarity. Painful because losing a brother and/or sister is never easy regardless of the reason for leaving (Acts 20:37-38).
It is especially hurtful when we hear unfair criticism regarding both the church leaders and members. It’s never easy and always painful hearing discouragement from brothers and sisters in Christ whom you look to for encouragement, but suddenly walk away.
These situations cause us to scratch our head but the real ache comes from the heart. We are not professional pastors, professional worship leaders, professional teachers, professional preachers, professional prayer warriors, professional counselors, professional encouragers, professional members, professional… We are not professionals. But we have tried to love every member as dear friends and brothers and sisters of our Lord Jesus.
Yet from some who have left us, their unfair criticisms seem to be many. They have exposed a sobering and sad reality: We have become rejects.
They have dealt one discouraging blow of rebuke after another thrown like wild punches while the towel of brotherly encouragement laid ringside, unused. Brothers and sisters, we are rejects.
Their long-suffering toward us was shorter than their long list of failures about us. Brothers and sisters, we are rejects.
The criticisms against our church have been disproportionately greater than the size of our church. Brothers and sisters, we are rejects.
The number of those that have left seem as large as the Exodus. There are less Christians today than a year ago who are willing to struggle alongside us in our slow maturing and gradual progression towards sanctification. Brothers and sisters, we are rejects.
Their commitment to find wrongs has proven stronger than their commitment to us. They have turned a blind or gracious eye to their shortcomings yet will not bear with ours. Brothers and sisters, we are rejects.
We are a messy people. A rejected group of messy people. And when we stare ourselves in the proverbial mirror we actually discover that there’s not much to us. We can hardly find fault in those who have left. They have good reasons. There is nothing attractive about us. We fail to meet expectations, we do discipleship wrong, we counsel wrong, we serve wrong, we ask for the offering wrong, we encourage one another wrong, we exegete (theology word) wrong; we don’t carve enough time away from our families, we don’t give warm enough greetings, we aren’t loving enough, we don’t call enough, we don’t serve enough, we don’t rebuke enough, our prayers aren’t real enough, we don’t encourage enough, we don’t know theology enough, and quite frankly, we are not where and who we are supposed to be.
For crying out loud no wonder our close Christian brothers and sisters who preach reconciliation walk out on us. No wonder our dear Christian brothers can’t submit to one another, and instead leave us. We are not professional Christians. We are foolishly unwise and miserably flawed! Who wants any part of that? It appears the answer to that question is not a lot of people. We are amateurs. We are rejects. Why would anyone want to stick around for that? We’re not worth their investment, we’re not worth their bearing up with, we’re not worth their sacrifice, we’re not worth their… We’re too flawed and too diseased; an unhealthy church that healthy people cannot and will not be a part of. We so got it wrong that it wouldn’t seem right to them to stay. There can’t possibly be any hope left for us!
Tim Keller once said churches should feel more like the waiting room for a doctor and less like one for a job interview. He’s right. Our church and our community groups must be like a waiting room for a Doctor. We’re all terribly sick in need of the great Physician. The waiting room is the one room where it’s fine to not be fine. We are not professionals and we will not impress Jesus. We are amateur Christians who need Jesus. And the reason why there’s still hope for us rejects, dear friend, is because Jesus comes for the rejects. We are a messy people in a waiting room prepared by Jesus for Jesus and to meet with Jesus, not professionals with a resume in hand waiting to be interviewed by Jesus to impress Him. We can’t impress Him. Especially at Son Rise – have you seen our lousy resumes?
We are not good enough to join His company. But He is gracious enough to take us in whether by appointment or walk-in; because the truth is He called us long before we ever picked up the phone to make the appointment or ever thought about walking in. He knows we’re sick and steps into our mess. Take heart you reject, Jesus is our hope!
And during this season of the dwindling number of Son Rise members, we have the assurance of hope from our greatest Friend. Others may reject us and walk away from us but Jesus accepts us and will never abandon us. He is our Friend and our Physician and we can therefore sit with hope in His waiting room. There is hope for amateur Christians, dear friend. There is hope. Please let us not become discouraged with one another when we see one another’s mess. We’re all in the waiting room for a reason. And that mess you’re looking at was already purchased and forgiven by Jesus on the cross. And as the Physician, He is operating on and cleaning away at that mess. We don’t gasp when we see each others’ failures. We grasp for the hand of Jesus that is already grasping ours.
O, dear friend, please don’t go. Walk through the mud with us. We are not any cleaner than you and you are not any cleaner than us; we both need God’s cleansing grace on our hearts. Forgive us if we have presented ourselves cleaner than we really are. We are all equally messy and are all in desperate need of Jesus’ cleansing blood. Dear friend, please don’t go. Walk with us, work with us, forgive with us, bear with us, and stay with us.
For the few rejects left at Son Rise, I am intently looking forward to sitting under the teaching of Pastor Kurt as he goes through the Holy Scriptures verse-by-verse through the Book of Acts. I will be praying for him fervently because I love him. And I will be praying for us as a church because I love Son Rise. My prayer is that you and I would make much of Jesus – to see Him as big as He really is – as we see Him love, call, and work through the rejects found in the Book of Acts.
Let us put away our lousy resumes. Let us love one another. Pursue holiness together. And let us sit together in the waiting room unswervingly looking to Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood (Rev. 1:5).