Working as program manager for a Christian women’s recovery program is a joy. Most of the time the women coming to us are ready for a real change in their lives and, having tried so many other routes, are now ready to give God’s way a chance. Yesterday, however, I had a conversation with a young woman who, having submitted an application, was now deciding whether or not she wanted to come into our program. When I asked her about her faith life, she first told me she was agnostic. Then she said that, although she believed in God and, in fact, felt she had a personal relationship with God, she did not believe in organized religion.
In our program the women attend a minimum of 2 hours of church worship/Bible study on Sunday morning, then Bible study on Wednesday night, and all of our curriculum is Bible based. When I told this young woman that, she said that she would not be interested in our program.
It breaks my heart that so many people fail to appreciate the benefits of church. Oftentimes they are simply using it as they would any consumer good, to get what they want. Or they perceive it to be only imposing constraints and demands and avoid it like the plague. How can we believe that we have real Christianity when we practice only a minimal kind of vertical engagement with God and forswear any engagement with His people in the horizontal dimension? There is a real aversion to accountability with other Christians. It’s as though people say, “you have no right to tell me how to live or to hold me accountable to any kind of standard.”
In my other role as director of adult Christian education in a local United Methodist Church, I have a hard task I need to address. An individual in a leadership role needs to be confronted about some issues that have been reported to me. I accept that it is my responsibility to address the issue. If I ignore it and let it go, it could do irreparable harm to others spiritually. It has already led to some confusion for some young Christians.
Sometimes I just want to scream when I see people within the church, especially people who’ve risen to levels of leadership, fail to “get it” and being careless about the impact of their behavior on others. It’s in those moments that I have to remember how patient God has been, and continues to be, with me. And I have to turn to Him and plead for myself to be given the grace to handle this part of Christian life with grace, too.