There is often the misconception that those who are disassociated, distant, and weary of the church were flunkies or people who were never really that serious about God, but the opposite is often true: these are our best and brightest.
And we're driving them away.
There is a famous case of burnout in the Bible, and though it was in the Old Testament, it serves as a wonderful model for how a person of God can be driven to the point where he or she has had enough.
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The person we'll be discussing today was Moses. He represents our best and brightest. He had a good education, but he has chosen to spend his life with the people of Israel, those in the lowest position, and to forsake the pleasures of Egypt.
In a nutshell, he has given everything up to follow God.
He is the epitome of our serious Christian, the ones with the highest potential.
He isn't 'playing church', and he follows God with every fibre of his being. This is serious business to him. He could have had it easy, and he may have even forsaken an inheritance that was filled with the finer things of Egypt.
And yet, it isn't appreciated.
In the desert, Korah led a rebellion against Moses and accused him of making himself a prince, but this wasn't true. His true character was assailed by Korah, as the Bible actually says he was the meekest man on earth.
Today, churches sometimes oppose their best and brightest because they want the spotlight for themselves and because they are envious of what God is doing in the lives of these people. Bad blood can also develop, because the zeal of the sold-out ones makes the rest of the people look bad.
Moses became angry when, after receiving the ten commandments, the people were found dancing and worshiping a golden calf that they had made, showing they weren't really serious about their holiness.
Our best and brightest often end up leaving because of the hypocrisy of church leaders and lukewarm believers, as following God was never a game for them. Our most zealous members are often broken over sin, doing their best to remove it from their lives and are grieved when sin is practiced openly in the church.
Another reason we're losing our A-game Christians is because of exhaustion. Plain and simple, we wear them out. We weigh them down with too many tasks when we refuse to help and allow them to always do everything. We take advantage of their willingness to serve by not doing what we can do ourselves.
In Numbers 11:12, Moses says, 'Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their ancestors?'
The people wore him out.
Lack of support is another major cause of driving our all-stars away. Moses' father-in-law Jethro wisely counseled him to find 70 men to divide the task of judging the people, but many of our choicest brothers and sisters do not get the chance to delegate.
Rejection chases many of these ones away as well. When Moses attempted to moderate between two Israelites, they said to him plainly, "Who made you ruler and judge over us?" The message was clear. We don't want you.
This is likely why when God was calling Moses out of the bush that he was so reluctant to go back to the Israelite people. As he continued to give objections, it was clear he thought that they wouldn't believe him.
Because they'd rejected him.
Our best and brightest know when we do not accept the calling on their life, and very often, the hurt becomes too much to bear, and as a result, they check out.
In addition, they are needlessly torn down by the criticisms of others. The world is harsh, and when the church is just as harsh, and relationships are fractured, the tasks we thrust upon our most eager members becomes thankless, and it becomes too much.
They drop out.
In the Bible, Moses' siblings, Miriam and Aaron, were disputing among themselves that God had also led by them, implying that Moses thought too much of himself. They also were critical of Moses' Cushite wife.
God heard this and was not pleased with them both, and He struck Miriam with leprosy. Moses pleaded on her behalf that she be cured, and after seven days, she was made clean.
It is, unfortunately, not uncommon for those carrying out God's work to be criticized and to have their characters inpugned. Everything from clothing and music choices to sins they struggle with to how their work is carried out is generally fair game for online discussion.
And it can be very painful.
And Moses, at many junctures, seemed burned out. He was irritable and exhausted and at times impatient with the people. He bore up under a tremendous burden, however, and showed more patience than any man likely ever would.
And, so, I propose this. Come alongside our weary warriors. Let them ask questions. Don't hold them to a standard of perfection. Love them unconditionally.
Don't turn tail when the next new hot shot springs up, as it may not be of God anyway. Raise up people who will help carry their burden, and do not grumble under your breath or murmur that this person is leading everyone straight into the abyss.
Look for God's hand in all that these people are doing. Don't accuse them falsely, and above all, show them grace. Let them take breaks as Jesus did, and let them know they are appreciated. Forsake sin, and take living the Christian life seriously.
Maybe then will we see an explosion of church growth instead of shuttering the doors.
Maybe then we won't keep losing our best and our brightest.
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