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[Jesus-centered] Competing With Church

Tony Myles —  December 30, 2013 — 12 Comments

It happens.

leaveachurchAround this time of year, various families in your church will simply leave and won’t return.

This type of exodus has no bias. They may have been irregular or regular attendees, some of your newest visitors or some of your longest leaders.

If you’re fortunate, you’ll get a phone call or be invited out to lunch so the break-up seems more empathetic and personal. Regrettably, it’s more common to receive a one-sided email or Facebook note explaining, “It’s not you, it’s me. So give me some space and don’t reply.”

There are other households who will be more aloof about it all. They’ll stop attending and count how many days, weeks or months it takes for you to notice they pulled back. If you don’t follow up quickly, it will only further validate the reason they began to leave in the first place.

I see this happen at the end of every December. While some use the “new year” to dig in and grow, others use it to fade off and go. You may see a few hints in what they post online or share socially, but it will still hit you hard as it happens.

I’m speaking from experience. Even though I know it’s coming, it always deflates me as it unfolds.

exitCan you relate?

  • They’ll begin to attend a different church, and you’ll wonder why. You won’t literally say, but you literally wonder, “Is that church sexier than ours?”
  • They’ll explain that another youth group is offering a unique program or class, and so they won’t be around for a season. “I hate that,” you’ll think, but instead you’ll force yourself to say, “Well, churches aren’t in competition with each other, so it’s no big deal.”
  • They’ll tell you that they’ve prayed about it and God led them to make this move in this timing. “Funny how ‘God’ always seems to tell people to do this in January,” you’ll further note to amuse yourself.

Make no mistake about it…this will hurt. You will take it personally. It will feel as if you’ve been betrayed. Cynicism will dominate your future.

Unless…Jesus_mosaic

Jesus Christ really is the center of your life and the ministry you serve.

I’ve already confessed that I struggle with this. Perhaps you do, too.

We tend to think that the biggest competition to serving God is sin (or our own carnal nature). Truth be told, church itself can become your biggest competition for a Jesus-centered life and ministry.

The question is if that’s how you’ll roll.

  • It’s easy to think of all the time you’ve put into “your ministry” and “your church.” It’s harder to realize that the ministry and church doesn’t belong to you (or even the students) but to God Himself.
  • It’s easy to spot the (alleged) immaturity of other people who pull out of your particular congregation for the wrong reasons. It’s much harder to admit there may be valid reasons for why they’re leaving…reasons that may or may not have anything to do with you.
  • It’s easy to be offended by how effortlessly someone can choose to not show up anymore. It’s harder to admit you’re simply jealous that you have to project more commitment and maturity than that.

I have no solutions for you other than Jesus Christ.

  • He hears our whining like he did when Peter complained, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?” (Matthew 19:27)
  • He enlarges our perspective like he did when James and John demanded, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.” (Mark 10:37)
  • He remains faithful to us and carries his cross like he did even when the Bible says, “Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.” (Matthew 26:56)

God isn’t bound by time. I personally think it’s short-sighted when people use the calendar to make spiritual decisions. Maybe there’s some obscure Bible verse that you can use to correct me on this, but the fact that we use a certain time of the year to retreat from him, relationships or church seems lame. As Jesus said, “Deny yourself. Carry your cross. Follow me.”

On the other hand, my attitude serving Jesus isn’t to be bound by what’s going on in the church. Whether people are leaving or staying shouldn’t affect how faithful I am to Christ. Maybe it bears repeating that Jesus said, “Deny yourself. Carry your cross. Follow me.”

Can you relate?

Thank you for loving students!

Tony

@tonymyles

*Love Tony’s insight on service and youth ministry? Receive his articles every Tuesday when you sign up for the SYM Today Newsletter!*

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Tony Myles

Tony Myles

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Tony Myles is a youth ministry veteran, author, speaker, volunteer youth worker and lead pastor of Connection Church in Medina, Ohio... and he really likes smoothies.

12 responses to [Jesus-centered] Competing With Church

  1. Shannon Hutchison December 31, 2013 at 11:26 am

    Needed this like you wouldnt believe. Thank you.

  2. Thank you, Tony.
    This is my struggle, too. It is nice, though, to be reminded that an earthly brother (and a heavenly one) is with me there.

    In Christ,
    + Adam

  3. I needed this too. My heart has been heavy lately with the busyness of ministry (and the drama of drama)

    :)

  4. Can’t believe I just read this article. I had this conversation with my wife last week and considered letting someone else take over the youth group because I had 3 kids leave for a para-church youth group (taking their families with them). The reason? “They play more games and only have a short lesson.” I felt beaten. Thank you so much for “Deny yourself. Take up your cross. Follow me.”

    • Tony Myles

      David – you are a good youth worker. It’s obvious, even within these few sentences you’ve written here. Keep the main thing the main thing. Learn where you can, of course, welcoming evaluation over praise. However, if you know what God has asked you to do… do it. Jesus had this way of “losing” mass amounts of people by saying something hard – and it seemed to drive the disciples nuts. Then again, here we are on the other side of the globe years later because of that approach. Stay strong… not by being strong-minded or hard-hearted, but by being broken for all the right things in the right places. Praying for you today as you help others follow Jesus.

  5. Christianprincess January 2, 2014 at 1:46 pm

    Really needed this. One of my most faithful students just let me know that he is attending another church now. I believe it is temporary, but it doesn’t change the hurt. Seeing things from a Jesus-centered perspective is exactly what I need to realize that God called me to ministry and that the students and families I serve are His, not mine.

    Thanks for the message and thank you for loving families

  6. You dont know how much I needed this. One of my most deceated youth informed me in December that he would be attending another church. I was devestated! But we will move on for the Lord.
    Thanks so much.

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