Panning for Love | Reasons We Leave the Church

Church leaders are wondering why people are leaving the church in such numbers. Thich Nhat Hanh had a good grasp on it 20 years ago.
Church authorities must strive to understand the suffering of their own people. The lack of understanding brings about the lack of tolerance and true love, which results in the alienation of people from the church. True understanding comes from true practice. Understand and love are values that transcend all dogma.
-Thich Nhat Hanh
What church leaders and religious folks need to realize is that how they react can cause suffering.  When a church leader or religious person tries to use scripture to convince someone that their life choices are wrong it sends a message.  The message it fails to send is love and hope.
Church Leaders. Parents.  Family Members. Congregants.  If you cannot make an attempt to truly understand people, they will leave the church and possibly God and rightfully so. (By truly understand I mean listening to a persons story, hearing their heart, and striving to understand the pain in which they sit.)
But,
we don’t listen in this manner very often do we?
Of course not.
Why?
Because when you sit and listen to a persons story you can’t deny it.  You can deny an opinion piece written by an online journalist, but you can’t deny the truth of a persons story and you sure as hell can’t discount the reality of what they felt because of it. Too many religious people have the audacity to tell others that what they feel isn’t valid because it doesn’t line up with their religious world view.
Church, if you want to share Christ with the world, with the suffering, with the unloved, with the outcast… stop trying to convert them to your version of Christianity.  If you desire to create men and women who will be the living representation of the Christ on this earth, start living from a place of love rather than proselytization.  Repeating magic words doesn’t wash a persons spirit, it simply manipulates them to believe in fairy tales.  Leaders, your congregants aren’t 6 anymore, they have pain and heartache.  They need someone to walk with them through their struggles.  They need to see and feel the love of the Christ through your selflessness, not your convincing apologetics.  To be Jesus means putting oneself in a posture of understanding from which grace will flow.
Perhaps the best thing the church (and Christians) can do is to relinquish their fear of being wrong.  I pray church that you would be willing to grow in your understanding of scripture and when people’s lifestyles don’t add up to your or your pastors interpretation of scripture you realize that there are over 2 billion Christians in the world which probably means you don’t hold the only and correct interpretation of an ancient text written 2000 years ago in a culture you as an American will never be able to fully grasp the cultural context of the writings and therefore never be able to fully interpret incredibly well, if not downright mediocre, to the original authors intent.  Your not that smart.  Your pastor is flawed. Have some humility and love.
Forget the cultural Christian heritage you were birthed into. Find beauty in the mystery.  Treasure the uncompromising love of Jesus for all people.
Love moves people.  Love creates relationships.  Love changes the world.  But love can’t be expressed or felt when it’s caught by the sifting pan of “I’m right. Your wrong. We still love you.” because that’s not love.  Love is the small nuggets that didn’t fit through the pan’s screen.  Stop panning for love. All you’re doing is removing it from the river that brings life and keeping it so you can turn around and profit off of it.
The Christianity I read about in the gospels is better than this.  Let’s move forward in a way that’s life changing. That is love.  That is grace.  That gives hope.
Grace and Peace.

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