I know this is probably shocking and you're kind of floored that I am announcing this on a blog but don't worry. I'll probably come and see her and the kids in a couple of weeks--or at least within the month. I have just learned from my past dating experience there are lots of women out there--nice, Godly, single women--who can help meet some of my needs as well. I probably have something to offer them too. So, I'll hang out with them for a few weeks, get certain emotional and spiritual needs met and then come back to check on Lisa. This is the new commitment I'm making to her...that I'll be there and see what she can do for me on a regular basis. However, if she makes a mistake or reminds me too often that she's not perfect, I can always visit one of the other women who are out there. Remember, they have needs as well. I think it's a perfectly wonderful arrangement and the kids will adjust to my being there on a less frequent basis.
Now, before you start the e-mails or comments (the accountability that should be coming from my true friends) let me make a little application for you AND assure you that none of the above is true.
It's just an example of how we treat our churches--the bride of Christ. Our mindset is that our church is all about what she gives to me. Never mind that this was never the reason that God gave us the church. Our commitment to our churches goes as deep as "what has she done for me lately?" Don't let her dare remind you that, because she is made up of humans, she is imperfect.
Shouldn't our relationship to our churches approach that of a good marriage? It's not about compromise or about getting your needs met. It's about investing all you have--mind, body and soul--in making your partner better. It's in understanding that the better the relationship is, the greater the blessing you receive. It's about a whole-hearted commitment with no escape clause. Rather, it is "for better or worse." It is saying I'm here to invest in you, to love you and help you grow.
If we approached our relationship to our churches with that kind of serious understanding (keep in mind, this is a problem with every pastor friend I know) , maybe we'd think twice before choosing our church, we'd pray really hard before making a decision to leave and our churches would be far stronger because of the investments we make. I've heard far too many followers of Christ blame God for their leaving their church--"we just feel like it's His will"--when I see no indication of this in Scripture. In fact, the only people to ever leave their church in Scripture were the ones who were removed because of church discipline. (Maybe that's what you are really trying to say to your pastor, "God is removing us from this fellowship because we aren't living by His moral guidelines for our life"...but I don't think so).
You get my point. A commitment to the bride of Christ is just that...a commitment. The Bible is very clear about how seriously God takes our commitments. Jesus demanded that our "yes" be "yes" and our "no" be "no."
I hope you are really hearing my heart on this and understanding where I come from. As a shepherd with responsibility over one part of Christ's church (notice who it belongs to please) I'm less concerned about your comfort, your feelings or your freedom to walk away. I am, however, very concerned about the condition of the Christian church, particularly here in our consumer-driven western culture. This is the bride of Christ we are talking about people. Let's treat her with the respect she deserves...and that God demands.