I visited two churches last Sunday. The first is a non-denominational evangelical church. I will call it the “Pen church” because I got a new pen there. And these pens are long-lasting! The second church is a largely African-American Baptist church. I have been there a lot of times in the past. Even in weeks that I do not go there, I watch the sermon online.
The pastor at the Pen church was starting a series about being a velcro Christian, having a faith that sticks. The pastor shared a statistic that 70% of high school students who become Christians end up leaving the faith. One solution that the pastor proposes is being in Christian community. That can keep Christians on track, as they deal with a world that tempts them towards pleasure away from God.
The pastor at the Baptist church was continuing a series on the family. Last Sunday, he was preaching about how husbands and wives should relate to each other. He said that spouses cannot force each other to be a certain way through nagging, for each spouse has to feel that call from God for himself or herself.
I somewhat juxtaposed the two sermons in my mind. I can understand the benefit of small groups or church attendance. Christians gather together with other Christians, and they can encourage one another on the Christian path. A person who wants to keep on being a Christian may appreciate that positive form of peer pressure.
But it is far from fool-proof. There are people who professed Christianity who were involved in church, small groups, and maybe even Christian ministry, but they ended up leaving Christianity. Maybe they felt alone in small groups and felt that they were wearing a Christian mask. Perhaps they had intellectual doubts that they deemed to be insurmountable. Maybe they got discouraged with God on account of life, or got tired trying to be perfect all of the time.
In some cases, their fellow Christians may have tried to help them. They gave them Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ or tried to argue them back onto the Christian path. But it did not work. Either these Christians falling out of the Christian faith were not truly convinced intellectually, or perhaps their mind was simply going in the opposite direction. I have been there before. I am told that I need to be HERE in terms of my faith, but I am THERE.
This is where the Baptist pastor’s sermon comes in. We cannot have faith for somebody else. People ultimately have to walk their own walk. Maybe Christians can advise others, or offer a listening ear, provided that the struggling or leaving Christian wants that. But nobody can make a person have faith. Attempting to argue someone into the faith may create resistance rather than helping the person.
I may visit the Pen church next week, since I find the series to be intriguing.