I guess Friday is now for leavers. Might make for depressing Fridays 🙂
Let me introduce you to Kristie (name has been altered to protect her identity). Please read her letter expressing why she walked away from the faith at 20 years old.
My name is Kristie and I live in Dallas, Texas. I am twenty years old and have grown up in a very strict Southern Baptist home. I’ve been on my own now for several months and have since decided to quit going to church. This choice was a difficult one for me and I had to do a lot of soul searching. What provoked all of this “soul searching” was something my Sunday school class was studying. We were reading through a book that talks about other religions and basically how it was either our way or the highway. I asked the hypothetical question, “What about the twelve year old boy who is of the age of accountability as far as right and wrong goes, who lives on the other side of the world and has been raised Muslim by his family. One day he meets a Christian missionary who attempts to introduce him to Jesus and he rejects the offer since it goes against everything he has ever been taught to believe. What is his destiny? Will he be sent to hell if he is not “saved?” I was told then that God is big enough to take care of that situation. I said that was not a good enough answer for me and that I would not accept that. I said I would not worship a god who would send that little boy to hell. That is unfair, unloving, and unjust. The exact opposite of what I had been taught that God was. This is what made me start questioning several things I had been taught. I been looking through old notes from sermons I had written down and was astonished that I had blindly let these people put the ideas in my head that God and the Bible were “absolute truth”. I began doing some thinking on my own and my closest family and friends began telling me that I was rebelling against God or that I was “backslidden”. I have become an outcast amongst people who said they would always love me and who preach never ending forgiveness. I have been hurt by these people who still mean so much to me, but over all I am much happier of the person I have become. I am no longer narrow-minded, judgmental, or unaccepting of people. I have become more kind and loving of others that I interact with simply because I don’t carry the attitude that if they don’t believe the same way I do that they will go to hell or that it is my duty to bombard and offend them with my believes by trying to witness to them. I let people be who they are and accept them for that. . . . Like I said before, most of my family and friends are Southern Baptist or are believers. I am not exactly sure where I stand on the existence of God. What I do know is that I do not agree and no longer choose to believe all of the things that I have been raised to believe.
Kristie here is an interesting case. Her expressions of faith before she walked away definitely fits the bill of a nominal Christian who has never really explored the faith. Like the previous “leaver” we evaluated, Kristie asks a really good question concerning the destiny of the unevangelized. But unlike the previous “leaver,” those who answered Kristie’s question did a relatively good job. It would seem that “God is big enough to take care of that situation” is an accurate and acceptable way of dealing with the issue due to honest ignorance. I probably would have said the same thing. I may have gone into it a little deeper, letting Kristie know that all those who are in hell will be there by choice and that if this boy did make it to heaven, he did so based upon the atoning work of Christ made necessesary due to his sinful condition. I am just glad they did not crumble due to our culture’s offense of the exclusivity of Christ and say, “This young boy will most certianly be in heaven because God is a God of love.” Either way, from her response above, I don’t think it would have gone far. Kristie was prepared for disbelief.
Once again, we have a 20 year old who grew up in the church and is just now dealing with these pivotal questions of doctrine for the first time. I am not saying that if this issue and others like it would have been dealt with earlier in her life she would be a committed believer today. In fact, I think she may have left much earlier. But the point is that she believed that she was a Christian up until this point in her life. I wonder what being a Christian meant to her.
I am glad that these people in Kristie’s Sunday School did not make lite of the truth by assuring Kristie of something that they did not know. More importantly, I am glad Kristie left based upon her doctrinal issues (ultimately the exclusivity of Christianity and the existence of God). That may sound strange, but we must understand that doctrine is the foundation of our faith. We cannot simply allow people to hang out in church, comfortable in their disagreement with vital issues that have defined historic Christianity for two-thousand years. This does not do them any good. Had Kristie stayed in the Church, hiding her unbelief, yet trying to maintain a form of godliness, she could have fooled herself and those around her about her position before God and her standing in the church, but she would have been among those on the last day who suprisingly respond to the Lord’s condemnation, “Lord, Lord, didn’t I . . .” (Matt. 7:22-23). Now that she has left for the right reasons, I believe that she and the church are better off.
I can picture Kristie as one of those who wore a “WWJD” braclet, but have no idea what Jesus actually did in order to know what to do. Christ was not one who tried to keep a following by compromising the truth. In fact, it seems that every time that the ranks around him got too large, he would say something radical to make people leave. At one point, due to the difficulty of His teachings just about everyone left. He turned to the disciples and asked, “Are you going to leave to?” Peter’s response was not one of complete understanding, but one of complete trust, “Where are we to go? You have the words of eternal life.” Let me post the passage:
John 6:65-69 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” [a difficult and exclusive statement] 66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 67 So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”
This may sound harsh, but sometimes the church needs to let people leave so that they can see that they never really believed to begin with. What are we afraid of? Don’t get too postmodern to where you are afraid to offend people with the Gospel. It is offensive. It does draw a line in the sand. Most people will not believe. If it is for the right reasons, let them leave. You do them no favors by making their stay in hostile territory more comfortable. Yes, your numbers may go down, but in the end, your church will have much more to offer people like Kristie because of its faithfulness to representing the one true God.