Because I love churches and love to watch them grow, I follow quite closely the Barna organization and the research it does among Christians and non-Christians. In one of the interesting studies they’ve just completed they asked a ton of non-Christians and former Christians what kind of person they are apt to seek out if they want to discuss matters of faith. The most popular answer (2 out of 3) was, “I look for the believer who listens without being judgmental.”
Well, those should be easy to find, I thought. But then I was reminded of something that happened to me just a few days ago. I heard a rumor that a former pastor from my faith group was living in our area. I inquired to discover why he was a former pastor. I learned that he had made some serious mistakes and the organization had taken away his ministerial credentials and removed his membership from the congregation he served.
He had remarried, moved to our area years ago and hadn’t been heard from since. No one knew where he was, or if he even still lived here. We look with disdain on an organization that “shoots its wounded,” but being forgotten can sometimes be as painful as being shot at.
Providentially I was led to a lady who remembered chatting with him a couple of years before but hadn’t seen him since. I began to make phone calls to colleagues I thought might have some information. I finally found a man who thought he might know a man who had an idea about how to reach him. So after a couple of more calls, amazingly I got a phone number. Not knowing what to expect, I called.
Charles (not his name) seemed a bit distant as we exchanged information. We learned we had mutual friends and that our paths had indeed crossed through the years. But when he moved to our area he evaporated. Someone, somewhere knew where he was, but no one had called. We’ve lived in the area for 15 years. I had never heard his name mentioned.
But the most painful part of the story was when I started phoning acquaintances across the US. Virtually everyone I talked to could tell a similar story. They all knew a colleague who had made some unwise choices and was disciplined. And dumped. I hope that troubles you as much as it troubles me. I suspect Jesus is the most troubled of all.
Or maybe it’s the former spouses who were embarrassed, humiliated, abandoned. I’m not talking blame here, I’m talking about shepherd families that ended up with no shepherd. Ruthie and I have lunch scheduled with Charles next week. We’ll plead that he’ll forgive us, then make sure he understands about the miracle of grace.
By Don Jacobsen