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Friday, September 23, 2011

Talking It Over: How Would You Respond to Kevin?

A few weeks ago, some good friends of mine received a heartfelt email from their son, who wrote in response to one of my first posts on this blog: “Our Message – Not Like The Others?

Kevin, [not his real name] is in his early thirties and the father of 2½ children. A Bible College graduate who was raised in both a godly Christian home and a Bible believing church, Kevin is a fine, young man who knows Christ and wants to walk with Him.

However, there’s a problem! Kevin and his wife have not attended church in years.

Though they understand the importance of meaningful Christian fellowship and Bible teaching for both themselves and their children, they just can’t seem to find a church in their area that fits who they are.

Of course, this is quite perplexing to his parents, and though they have tried their hardest to help, they just haven't been able to fully grasp the issues or why this is so difficult. 

That is, until recently when Kevin wrote them the following letter:

"[Bill's] post titled "Our Message - Not Like the Others?" really hits home with me. That's what I struggle with more than anything in "looking for a church".

I'm just going through the motions of tradition that I don't necessarily care for, nor want to participate in. I AM the church.

What makes it difficult is that there are so few who understand this concept it seems. The focus is GOING to church, not BEING the church.

I miss the fellowship greatly, but I detest the politics.

I need the teaching, the accountability and the perspective of others. How does one go about finding this without going to one of these exorbitant buildings on a Sunday morning and sitting through often intolerable, pretentious sermons and mingling with "better than thou" yuppies trying to convince you that they're somehow justified in their daily lives by performing this ritual every week?

I'm very uncomfortable and withdrawn in large groups of people, regardless of the purpose for the gathering. So why intentionally subject myself to an uncomfortable setting with people I'll not interact with anyways? I'm still not getting fellowship. Teaching . . . maybe. Worship . . . sure, but aren't our lives the worship God seeks?

What is our obsession with these traditions? I don't understand the societal rules we must follow lest we be dubbed "worldly".

What do any of these have to do with MY relationship with God? And as Bill points out, how is "going to church" evangelistic if it's not something someone would do in the first place?

We are supposed to be the light, are we not? Our daily lives are what speak of Christ in us, not our Sunday morning ritual. The paradox for me is that I need the accountability, the teaching, etc. to remain a light in the darkness, but can't even seem to find it in church (the building, not the body).

So where do I find this? Is this communication to you, my parents, not fellowship? Is reading the Bible not teaching? Reading Bill's blog is learning a brother's perspective, completely different from my own, no? Are my daily prayers and thoughts, or the songs I sing in my head or aloud, not worship to God? (obviously they're not all worship, but I think you know what I mean.)

I'm sorry for being so cynical. Just bouncing my thoughts around. Don't get me wrong. I definitely believe in gathering together, I'm just very disappointed with the Sunday morning/Wednesday night typical "church" format and its participants at this point. Let me know your thoughts.”

Not long ago when Kevin was visiting his parents, I had a chance to sit down with him for a couple of hours to hear more. I can tell you that this is one sincere young man who wants to walk with God, but these are very real issues to him and his wife.

So, how would you respond to Kevin? 

Would you take his criticism seriously and try to understand the core issues bothering him?

Would you chastise him for not obeying God and then attempt to persuade him to come to your church since your church is nothing like what Kevin described?

If he continues to stubbornly refuse to "join in" would you write him off as having no heart for God? Or, would you try to figure out a way to "be" the church for Kevin and his wife?

What would your message be to my friends, Kevin's parents, who very much want to help but are unsure what they can do from a distance (who, by the way, gave me permission to post this, as did Kevin, and would very much welcome your thoughts)?

What would be your message to "the church" when it comes to people like Kevin who just can't seem to connect to our American church system yet very much want to walk with God? How seriously should we take this?

Since this is not some hypothetical situation, and is much more rampant than many of us are probably even aware, I'd love to get your feedback! How would you respond to Kevin? Feel free to post your thoughts below.


  1. Being a military man, I often tell the young troops, "Don't fall to the temptation to 'just get out' of the military." What I mean is that I see many young people separate after their initial enlistment is up, and in a few years they're doing minimum-wage labor wondering why they got out. The answer is because they were frustrated and disillusioned with the military, but they had nothing better to replace it with.

    Not that they couldn't have a plan. They could take their GI Bill and go to school, for example. But in many cases there's no positive direction ... there's just the urge to "get out".

    I see this question the same way. I'd tell Kevin I understand his frustration with the church. It is all of those things. However, there are many Christians who leave the church out of frustration, and eventually end up essentially adrift and backslidden.

    So again, I'd say "don't just get out ... if you think God is calling you to a place where you can be more effective in service to Him, then by all means follow. But be careful ... that 'still small voice' can sometimes just be our own wanderlust."

    I am one who has traveled the road off the beaten church-path and has returned, and have found places to make a difference in both callings. In fact, I know I will be off that path again soon, as my next assignment will be to Hanoi, Vietnam.

    One more thought. If and when it's time to go, you should be able to stand up face to face with your brothers and sisters in the church and explain what you're doing. If it's of God, your decision will stand up under the scrutiny, and you may even find some encouragement there.

  2. Hey, Jailer, thanks for stopping by. Sorry for the delay in responding - I've been on the road lately.

    As usual, I'm grateful for your insights!!!