May 27, 2010
. . . I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation. We put no stumbling block in anyone's path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. 2 Corinthians 6:2b-3
No doubt, most Daily Devotion readers have heard the expression, "If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck."
Although that may be true when it comes to ducks, it's definitely not the case when it comes to Christians.
According to a recent survey conducted by the Barna Group, 28 percent of America's adult population -- that's about 65 million people -- have not gone to church in the last six months.
Amazingly, many of those church dropouts consider themselves to be Christian.
And even more amazingly, many (that's 40 percent) of those Christian dropouts, did so because they had been hurt by someone in their old congregation. Quite a few of those folks said they didn't want to leave, they were forced out; they were disrespected; they were ignored; they had been picked on. There were all kinds of reasons given for not being at worship.
When I read that survey, all kinds of thoughts came to mind. For example, I wondered
• if they are listening to The Lutheran Hour now?
• if they tried out other doctrinally sound congregations where people seem to be nicer?
• why they left their church and turned it over to bullies? That is precisely the kind of church where someone with a kind heart like theirs is needed.
• how they take the Sacraments, minister to others, support missions without a church of their own.
As a parish pastor, I remember some of those folks who just disappeared. I was sorry to see them go and, more often than not, I had an acceptable explanation for their departure.
Sadly, there is one explanation which I really never liked to think about. Was it possible, was it remotely possible, that I or my congregation had put a stumbling block in front of someone?
The answer to the question was always "yes" and "no."
The answer was yes because everyone in my entire congregation, the pastor included, were sinners. There were times we did bad things. Most of the time those bad things were unintentional, but they were still hurtful.
The answer was no because we would have tried to fix things if we had known the pain we had caused.
The overall truth is people leave the church for all kinds of reasons, but I don't want to be the excuse which they use to separate themselves from the fellowship of believers. No, I don't want that -- and neither do you.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord I am a sinner in a sinful church which does your work in a sinful world. For the sake of others, help me be Your witness by being the best Christian I can possibly be. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries