Tommy was torn. He’d been in church his whole life but now, with his 18th birthday approaching in two weeks, he was ready to take the walk. The walk out of his parents’ home, his parents’ faith, and his parents’ church. He didn’t really want to leave but truth was, his church just wasn’t the same as he remembered it being when he was a kid.
As a kid, Tommy remembers looking up to his pastor. He wanted to be just like Pastor when he was little but not anymore. Pastor doesn’t preach like he used to. His sermons don’t attract as many people as they used to nor as many as the church across town does. In fact, some of the people who used to go to church with Tommy now go to that church across town. And they should, of course, because it is what this church used to be. The pastor there preaches amazing sermons just like Pastor here used to.
Besides, Tommy also heard that the only reason Pastor is here anymore anyway is because of the money. If it wasn’t for that, he wouldn’t even stay.
As a 16 year-old when Tommy started to date he would look at his pastor’s wife every Sunday morning when she would play the piano for church and think, Someday I want to marry a girl who worships God just like her. I want a wife who will pray as much as her and who will be a good mother like her. Tommy doesn’t think that way anymore. Why should he? The pastor’s wife doesn’t dress up as much as she used to so it’s obvious she doesn’t care about church as much as back then. He doesn’t see her praying before service as much as she used to either–now it’s as if she just hangs out in her husband’s office before church each Sunday.
It’s not just the pastor and his wife, though. The youth leader, who used to plan so many events and preach convicting messages at Youth Night rarely plans anything at all. The retreats are fewer, the game nights less wild, the Bible Studies are now being taught by other kids in youth.
His old Sunday School teacher who used to be a shining example of Christ now wears her skirts shorter than she ought to and she doesn’t even work on getting more kids into Sunday School. Not like the teachers at the other church do, anyway. If she really cared about kids why doesn’t she run a bus route like they do? Surely more kids could be coming than currently do.
Furthermore, the saints at church aren’t even like they used to be. Too many people gossip, too many youth are acting up in church and not paying attention, too many people aren’t living how they should.
Tommy doesn’t see any point to staying. What good is it going to do to belong to a second rate church where the leadership doesn’t even care and the saints can’t even live like they should? So he makes his decision. He’s leaving.
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At what point did Tommy start disliking his church? It wasn’t two weeks before his 18th birthday. It wasn’t even his 16th birthday or his 14th or 12th. Tommy started disliking church when he started realizing the church was changing.
But was it really?
-Tommy hadn’t noticed Pastor preaching any differently than normal. In fact, when he would go back and listen to old sermons it sounded the same. The conviction was the same, the anointing was the same, the Biblical foundation was the same. But even so, something had to have changed otherwise why would people have left and gone to the other church? Why would mom and dad always talk about how Pastor doesn’t preach like the one across town? The pastor at the church across town preaches so that people flock to the altar. The pastor across town has people receiving the Holy Ghost at every service it seems. The pastor across town has more people in the church than ours. The way mom and dad made it sound, the pastor across town is as good as they used to say Pastor was.
-Mom and dad also said that Pastor only stuck around for the money. I mean, Pastor did just get a new car a few months ago. (They didn’t know that the new car was loaned to him by one of his preacher friends out of state because their current one was having problems and they couldn’t afford to get it fixed.)
-They said that the church across town must be doing better because several families have decided to attend there instead. (They didn’t realize it’s because these people didn’t want a pastor who would preach holiness and old-time conviction like Pastor does).
-They said Pastor doesn’t preach as well as the other guy because if he did people would pray at the altar like they do at the other church and how they used to here. (They didn’t consider that many of the people in the church now are new saints and don’t fully understand all of the ways people do things.)
-Mom said that Pastor’s Wife has stopped caring as much about church because she doesn’t dress up as much as she used to. (Mom didn’t know that the reason is because with several families leaving, Pastor and his wife now give a large portion of their income to the church for the mortgage payment and she can’t afford new clothes.)
-Pastor’s Wife does spend more time in the office on Sunday mornings now instead of praying. (What Tommy didn’t know was that it’s because Pastor’s wife is counseling a single mom before service each week because it’s the only time Single Mom is available. Pastor’s wife shows up an extra hour earlier to pray before her meeting.)
-Dad doesn’t know that the reason Youth Leader can’t plan as many events is because he lost his job and since church funding has gone down he has been paying for all the youth trips with his own pocketbook. Youth Leader has been working two fast food jobs to hold his family over until he gets permanent employment.
-Tommy doesn’t know that the reason Youth Leader is having other people teach the Bible studies is because these young men have spoken to him about a desire to preach and he is trying to give them the opportunities to teach God’s Word.
-Sunday School Teacher’s skirts haven’t gotten shorter. She is still as modest as she’s always been. Mom has just gotten more critical.
-Tommy and his parents didn’t know that the reason Sunday School Teacher doesn’t have a bus ministry on Sunday mornings is because she comes to church early to watch Single Mom’s kids while she counsels with Pastor’s Wife.
-They didn’t realize that more people really weren’t gossiping, more youth really weren’t acting up, more saints really weren’t living contrary to the Bible. It’s just that with new people coming to Christ, they are still learning to walk in Him.
But all this doesn’t matter now because Tommy doesn’t know. All he knows is mom and dad are critical of Pastor, of Pastor’s Wife, of Youth Leader, of Sunday School Teacher, of Saint. And that has made him believe that this church is no good. And now, Tommy is leaving.
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Death and life are in the power of the tongue… -Proverbs 18:21