I just finished reading Dee Yoder’s novel The Miting. It’s a gripping story about a young woman’s struggle to leave her Old Order Amish family, faith, and community. And the shunning she endured.
Some Amish leave for the comforts and conveniences of the modern life. Others are fleeing the burden of a life dominated by rules. Rules they don’t always understand but are not allowed to question.
They seek freedom to think for themselves. To pursue personal fulfillment. To escape cookie-cutter conformity.
It got me to thinking about why people are leaving many of our churches. Let’s face it; there are a lot of empty seats in a lot of churches.
A look in the mirror
For me, the story was not just about the Amish. It’s about our human tendency to create and impose order in our lives. To gain control and to preserve what we like.
This hit home for me personally because I’m pretty compliant by nature. Following rules is generally easy for me. However, over time I fell victim to a negative outcome of easily adapting to a rules-driven life.
I developed a tendency to withhold grace in order to get others to follow the rules I follow. This is my biggest regret in life and in my ministry.
What was intended to encourage good behavior resulted in self-righteousness and ultimately a loss of joy.
Why do they stay?
It’s much easier for people to leave our churches than it is for the Amish to leave their community. So, what motivates people to stay when they find church less than satisfying?
People stay for security (we find comfort in the familiar). They stay because they want to do what is right. Many stay for the relationships with people they love.
Why do they leave?
While people leave for a multitude of reasons, some reasons are a red flag that change is needed.
Something is wrong when people leave church because:
• They feel condemnation when they desperately need grace.
• They crave freedom to think for themselves. They are tired of constantly being told what they must do to be worthy of acceptance.
• They are starved for joy.
• The burden of rules and conformity is too heavy to carry any longer.
For another perspective see Ron Edmondson’s article, 7 Disappointing Reasons People Leave the Church. http://bit.ly/1xc0JRf
Question: How can we encourage righteousness without becoming dominated by rules?