Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Ecclesial Adultery

This is my first encounter with Gen-X Rising blog (I didn't even know people still used the label Gen-X except in a historical sense), but this post by Andrew Thompson is a hum-dinger:
Cheating On Your Church

A substantial taste:
There are some legitimate reasons to leave a church once you join as a member . . . But they are few in number. And most reasons people leave amount to nothing more than ecclesial adultery. When you promise fidelity to both Jesus and a congregation of his disciples and then break that promise over matters as simple as boredom with worship or frustration with a committee, you are running out on the bride of Christ. It's cheating on your church, folks . . .

There is, of course, an underlying reason why people instinctively think that seeking out a church that meets all their felt needs is a God-given right. And it has to do with consumerism and the aforementioned market economy. Most Americans simply cannot conceive of the idea of not being able to choose their church the way they do their cell phone plan or where they'll get tonight's take-out. But think about what that mindset does to the Bride of Christ: it turns her into a cheap prostitute, who peddles her wares on street corners in the hopes that you'll condescend to choose her over all her similarly cheap competitors.

If you want to do something truly radical for Jesus (and 'radical' is a relative term in our historically weak era), commit to his bride the way you did to your own bride or groom on your wedding day. Stay with her through thick and thin. Help your fellow brothers and sisters there to grow in discipleship. And whenever you get mad at some perceived slight in your church, realize that you are committed to that community in such a way that you are called to reconciliation rather than self-chosen alienation.

Spot flippin' on.

(HT: Matthew Johnson at the BHT)

7 comments:

DLE said...

Jared,

David Wayne (Jollyblogger) had an interview with a pastor from the Ukraine (if I remember correctly) who was startled that Christian in America move from church to church like wandering nomads. The entire idea was so utterly foreign to him that he couldn't understand how that was possible.

I wish that same mentality were true here.

rich said...

I do think the moniker "genxrising" is a good one since most of us x-ers are "all growed up" now and are in spots to make a difference.

This is a great post you link to here. I've watched this be the norm here in east TN and it has sickened me...

Jared said...

Rich, good points.

Travis said...

(I know, I know: here comes Travis again!) ;)

I agree that it's bad. I disagree that it's adultery. Because both the congregations are the same bride, (and the believer is, too). You can't commit adultery against your wife by sleeping with your wife, and you can't commit adultery against yourself.

Now if you wanted to say that a pastor was Christ's vice-regent, and thus leaving that pastor was akin to leaving Christ, wherever you left to, then your adultery label would be spot-on. You'd just get labeled a cultist. ;)

Can I ask, though, why there's an alternative congregation to go to in the first place? Why is it adultery for a singular believer to break fellowship with a congregation over such a matter, but large groups can do it? Why is there more than one church in a given community? It seems to be that the laity is only acting as they've seen the clergy act for centuries now.

Jared said...

Travis, I think the adultery parallel presupposes two things:

a) the covenant of church membership
b) breaking that covenant for an invalid reason

So if someone enters into church membership in its covenantal sense and then leaves because, say, they don't serve Starbucks coffee, they are breaking covenant, which Scripture itself connects with spiritual adultery.

As the original poster indicated, and I agree, there are valid reasons for leaving a church. I've done it when an environment of pastoral abuse grew too much, and I think when people leave for reasons like that (and other valid ones), they are actually expressing faithfulness to the Bride, not unfaithfulness.

74WIXYgrad said...

In the 10 or so years, I have switched churches three times, for reasons I care not to state, except for one case where the church had gone under.

The all purpose reason people give for leaving a church is "I'm not being fed here" which I feel is more a cop out than anything else.

There are also those who, if they would stay, would poison the rest with their attitude.

Jared said...

The all purpose reason people give for leaving a church is "I'm not being fed here" which I feel is more a cop out than anything else.

I used to agree strongly with that sentiment. I still think "I'm not being fed" is grossly misused.
But I think some people actually have legitimate complaints about that, although I still wonder if it is legitimate for leaving a church.

Depends on what the person means by feeding, I guess. Does it mean there's nobody teaching on eschatology? Or does it mean the pastor's not preaching the gospel? Does it mean there's no exciting children's program? Or does it mean all that is offered a family is an exciting program but no real relationship building etc.?

There is a fine line, I think, between "This is something I should find at church" and "This is something I should make sure people find at church."