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There is a lot of fear and concern circulating about the fact that many in my generation are not staying with the local church.
It concerns me too. Actually, it’s like a rock in the pit of my stomach. That’s because, for me, the statistics translate into faces and names of friends and family. My heart weighs heavy as I think about those that I love who have turned away.
I can (and have) speculate(d) about why people leave. I’ve analyzed, critiqued, and problem solved as to what the Church can do to better retain those that come. Some of this might be healthy, but I think that most of it is not.
I was completely convinced and convicted about this when I read John chapter 6.
The chapter starts with Jesus feeding the 5,000. You’ve probably heard that story. But just in case you are unfamiliar, Jesus breaks apart 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish and is miraculously able to feed over 5,000 people! Pretty awesome.
Just as you would expect, MANY people followed Jesus after that. I mean, free food! If you want people to show up, offer FREE FOOD!
If you read on in the chapter, you will see that Jesus confronts the people about their reasons for following Him. He basically says, “hey, don’t just follow me for the free food. Follow me because I am the Bread of Life!”
He continues on to say some pretty radical things and the people didn’t like what they were hearing. They wanted Jesus to stop teaching and keep feeding!
Once they realized that Jesus wasn’t going to submit to their wishes, many people left.
Did you hear that?!People actually LEFT Jesus. That means that this isn’t a new phenomenon. People leaving isn’t as much of a head-scratcher as one might think here in our formerly dominant Christian culture.
This means that maybe the problem isn’t simply that Jesus needs better PR. Maybe Jesus wasn’t as hip and snuggly as we’d all like to think believe that He was. His words and teaching weirded people out. His words and teaching offended many. They loved His miracles but hated His words.
People leave for all kinds of reasons. I think it’s good to consider the impact we are making on others. Sometimes the problem is us. Sometimes, in our sin, we poorly reflect Christ and it leaves a bad taste in the mouths of others.
But sometimes we are accurately reflecting Christ and they are offended, not by us, but by Him!
That was the case in John 6 and I figure it’s the case for many today too.
The story continues that Jesus looked at His disciples and asked them a searing question. As I read His words I heard Him asking me too. I believe He is asking you the same question.
Do you want to go as well?Jesus
Despite all his faults and blunders, Peter has a rock-star answer to that question. He says this,
Lord, where would we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and come to know, that You are the Holy One of God.John 6:68-69
Wow! Oh man, that makes my heart soar!
Lord, You have the WORDS! Your WORDS give us life!
Notice he doesn’t say anything about His miracles and wonders. Peter is amazed and desperate and thirsty for the WORDS of Christ.
I don’t know why people leave, but I know that this is why I stay;
Jesus’s words are life giving to me. I don’t know where else I would go. I would be hopeless, lifeless, directionless, restless if not for His words!
The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.Isaiah 40:8
Oh how I wish the Church would be louder about this than they are about analyzing why people leave!Why are we staying? That is a much better question to answer. Let’s talk about that! Let’s be LOUD about the fact that His Words…they are LIFE-GIVING! We’ve tasted and seen!
The music of the rescued saints is a tremendous means of evangelism.John Piper
That’s why Emily and I sing about what we are learning in the Word. We are musicians, singers, and artists, and one of the best ways that we can proclaim our experiences with His life-giving Word is to sing about it. Our hope is that it will fan the flames of faith in someone’s heart and mind.
Let us never view our own song as the stopping place of God’s mercies. God aims for us to sing others into the kingdomJohn Piper
Be encouraged. The Lord is not shaking in His boots when people walk away. He isn’t fearful like we are. His authority doesn’t waver with popular opinion. He is resolute to speak the truth in love knowing that many will find it distasteful. And I believe that He is broken hearted that many turn away and reject Him. There is nothing new under the sun.
I want to encourage you because I’ve been so encouraged. Nothing fuels my own doubt and fear as much as seeing or thinking about people in my life who have turned away. I’ve hardly known how to handle it. But the Lord has been loving and gracious to teach me and help me through my own doubts and fears. He continues to renew my mind and place my feet on the solid ground when everything around me is disheartening.
I wrote the song below as both a declaration and a reminder. A declaration from my heart that echoes the words and faith of my brother Peter. And a reminder to hold on to faith when I am disheartened by those that fall away around me.
If you enjoy the song below, please feel free to pass it along on social media or through email.
Thanks for journeying with us.
Other posts about the songs on the Not Our Home EP