I am often asked what is the hardest part of being a Pastor. There are many challenges to the job and over the years I have gotten better at getting used to some of them while others have continued to trouble me. This is one that I am overly acquainted with in terms of engaging it frequently but yet it continues to be quite challenging. It is very hard to watch those who were once contacted to the Lord drift from Him. It does not get easier to watch those who at least appeared and many who were deeply connected to the Lord and even at a minimum church. The fade becomes evident as you engage a person’s instagram or twitter account. You bumped into someone at the grocery store and you are reminded of what once was. You hear a story about the pain a person is in because of a situation in their life and yet you know they do not want to hear from his or her “church” people.
I want to be clear about why this is hard. I have learned you will give your best to people in ministry and they leave. That hurts, but it is ok. I am a big boy. I know that any church or person will fail people if they hang around long enough and I don’t expect to get the day in court every time to plead the case I would love to plead. I wish it was because I could say I know every person well and I my heart hurts relationally every time, but that is not true. But this is true. I believe a person being connected to God is the best thing for their life. I do believe that this connection to God results in a connection to the people of God in the form of a church of some kind and that is good. I do believe sin kills and whether I know a person close or not it hurts to watch people step into what I believe is destructive. I know that the as flawed as the people of God are and as messed up as the institutional church, that prioritizing the practice of attending corporate worship services is a good thing. And I know that whenever I see people walk away either on purpose or on accident , quickly or slowly, to sin or to what seems ok for the suburban life, and so on – it hurts and it is hard to watch. Not because I take it personal, but because even amidst my sin and selfishness and agendas, I love people and want them to connect with the living God.
So this Christmas, there are a bunch of churches near wherever you live whoever you are. If you have drifted over time away from the Lord and you are not even sure how, or you ran as fast as you could away from the church of Jesus for whatever reason, or you find yourself in pain, regret and behavioral patterns you think God would never forgive, or you are just confused by what you grew up with and you walked away to find yourself for a reason, or you fill in the blank – come home. Come back to Jesus this Christmas. Or maybe for the first time, come to Jesus. It may be hard to move back in that direction or take the first step or to give over you feel like people or institution will judge you or you have to move past your embarrassment because you knew you were wrong and let yourself drift or whatever, just come home. You won’t regret it!