Published October 30, 2014
Question: How do we answer a disillusioned disciple?
Answer: Most every pastor has to deal with someone who has been baptized and discipled, but who then becomes disillusioned and drops out of church. This “dropout” may end up dropping by to talk, but chances are it is a parent who asks if there is something we pastors might say or do. If we are able to arrange a meeting, how do we answer this disillusioned disciple?
First, it can be most helpful if we are able to be empathetic. I am a wee bit empathetic because I once was a disillusioned disciple while in my overly “idealistic” and highly “judgmental” phase as an aging teenager.
I got turned off to Christian leaders in the church who failed to live up to what I expected of them. I had a touch of what I call “Gandhi’s Complaint,” remembering how the charismatic Hindu leader was most attracted to Christ but repelled by not-so-Christ-like Christians.
Most recently, I encountered a “disillusioning” situation where a “Christian” leader was guilty of misrepresenting the truth in an untrue and unkind way. Most, if not all of us, have been disillusioned with Christians.
Second, it is always helpful to face the truth not just about others but ourselves! Who among us has not failed to be Christ-like and perhaps given people ample reasons to turn away from Christians and their Christianity? Who among our heroes of the faith in the Bible did not falter and fail?
They forever remind us that our faith is not rooted in Peter, Paul, and Mary. Even Peter stuck his foot in his mouth and got cold feet on the night of infamy. Paul the Apostle wrote in Romans 7:24-25: “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this dying body? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Mary tried unsuccessfully to interrupt Jesus’ ministry and bring Him home before He got Himself into too much trouble! Their and our failures remind us of how none of us can save ourselves – no matter how good we are and how hard we try!
Nevertheless, in spite of our failures, God loves and forgives, heals, and helps us! That is amazing grace! There is nothing disillusioning about that!
Third, the fact that we can become disillusioned can be a jolly good thing. We have this innate, God-given sense that things ought to be better than they are. We ought to be better than we are – especially as Christians! God creates a divine restlessness within us, challenging us to rise above ourselves to become what He intends for us to be!
In a few weeks I will be leading a group to the not-so-“holy” Holy Land where Jesus was betrayed, tortured, and crucified – but resurrected! He challenged His disciples not to give in to despair, but to rise to become witnesses for Him in Jerusalem, all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the world!
We hear His challenge to us whenever we read His Sermon on the Mount. Surely we see how much we need to be “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world” in a decaying and darkening culture! Surely we see the need to tell the truth, plain and simple, in a time of lies and half-truths. Surely we see the need to “be perfect … as (our) heavenly Father is perfect” when even “Christians” give in to anger and hatred! Surely we see the need to pray that gut-wrenching, soul-stirring “Lord’s Prayer” that includes “And forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.”
Just thinking about His challenge is enough to enliven our heart, soul, and mind to fight the good fight! There is nothing disillusioning about being a disciple of Jesus – providing we keep attuned to Him and His Word before us and His Spirit within us!
Paul Baxter serves as pastor of the Church on the Square, LaGrange.
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