In my last blog post I wrote about different reasons why we sometimes feel resistance towards God or the church. In this post I want to cover one more reason why we sometimes feel resistance towards God or the church: when we feel bitter or jaded towards our leaders or towards certain church meetings (or both!). When a leader outright sins (especially when the leader is unrepentant or the sin is very grievous) or when a regular meeting becomes overly religious and even suffocating, it is understandable if people’s hearts start to drift away. But, if the leader has never sinned in a grievous way and the meetings are about the same as they were when they were once enjoyable, then there likely is another reason for the feelings of resistance: our reliance on the leader or on the meeting (or both) became a substitute to our relationship with God.
In my many years of ministry I have been very flattered when a young Christian will express how much they have been blessed by me and how much they want to learn from me. But soon I learned that when people admire me too much, their sight can turn from trying to follow God to trying to follow me. And that is a burden that no mortal man can carry completely. The moment I am unable to fulfill one of their expectations, they begin to feel jaded towards me. I had once seemed like a perfect father figure to them. But the truth is I’m a human just like them. I’m not perfect. And there is no way I can give them all the love that they need. Their source of love must be from God first and foremost, and then from their leaders and family in Christ. I have seen many people leave the church after their expectations for their leader were not met (with most of their expectations never being spoken, or being way too high for anyone to meet).
I have also had the blessing to be a part of some very special prayer meetings, church services, mission trips and retreats where God’s presence has been thick. People have been blessed immensely and the hunger has been strong, and at times lasting for a long time. But soon, for whatever reasons, the fire and the power of the meetings/gatherings gradually dimmed. It’s never fun to come down from the mountain top, but no revival in the history of the church has lasted forever. That won’t come until heaven. But sadly for those who relied on the meetings, services, trips, or retreats for their intimacy with God, they found themselves dry, frustrated, and even bitter once the fire and the power dimmed. They hadn’t been spending much personal time with the Lord (praying alone with God, reading the Word alone with God, praising Him alone), so when the corporate gatherings ended many of them blamed their struggles with God on the church and then left the church to find some other group gathering where the Spirit of God was moving.
Leaders and meetings should never become a substitute for our personal relationship with God. Good leaders and powerful meetings should be considered the cherry on top, something special we should praise God for but never be fully reliant on. And when our leaders struggle or our meetings become dry, rather than complain or bolt we should instead rely on our relationship with God and pray on behalf of our leaders and our meetings for God’s Spirit to move powerfully through them.
When a leader commits a grievous sin (adultery, fear based control, misusing church funds, teaching heresy) and refuses to repent, then it might be time to leave. If a church meeting is dominated by religious leaders who quench and grieve the Spirit and burst out in anger at anyone who suggests changes, then it might be time to go. But if the leader is the same person as when you were really growing with God and the meeting is about the same as when you were really growing with God, then it is probably time for you to pray and walk with God more closely than it is time for you to run off. And it might also be time for you to voice your expectations more…
I mentioned earlier about how I’ve seen a number of people leave the church due to their expectations of their leaders not being met, but for many of them their expectations were never voiced but only assumed. Unspoken expectations are dangerous! I preached a message about this recently and I encourage you to listen to it: http://www.comequicklyministries.org/blog/dt_portfolio/unspoken-expectations/.
God will never let you down! And He has put you in a family not just for you to receive love, but also for you to give love. In some seasons we may feel like we’re giving a lot more than we’re receiving, but God is faithful, and as we rely on Him He will always meet our needs. His love never fails!