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Dearly Departed: The Separation of Church and Jesus


This article, disturbing as it is, brought back a bad memory which I’ve never been quite able to put to rest.

For some years in the early-mid 80’s I taught a class of young adults on Sunday morning. They ranged in age from 14-18 yrs old. One of our goals was to spend at least one Saturday a month, or more, walking through the neighborhood and talking face to face with the people–especially young teens. Telling them about our church and class, inviting them to come. It was really exciting, for many in the class had come to know Jesus as Lord recently…and they were “fired up”…ready to tell anyone who would listen, what Jesus did for them, how He changed their lives.

(If you ever find yourself forgetting what your salvation is really all about, hang around a bunch of brand-new young believers for awhile. It’ll all come back to you!)

Anyway, long story short. We ended up one Saturday in the projects about a mile from Church. That’s where we spent that Saturday afternoon–the place was over-run with young children playing outside, who just plain seemed overjoyed at our being there! We talked to many of the parents that day also–inviting them to visit Sunday morning and telling them about Jesus.

Many of these parents ended up giving permission for their children to come to Sunday School, so we made arrangements and picked a spot to pick them up in our old church van the following morning.

We did, they came. About 15 skinny kids, both black and while, marched in with us the next morning. They sure weren’t all dressed up fancy, like regular church folks, but you could tell they were  excited to be there.

After class our regular van driver took them home. And we made arrangements for him to pick them up the following Sunday.

Sunday came around and no kids. I got there right before classes began so had no time to talk to the van driver, so just assumed the kids were not at the designated spot when he went to pick them up.

After class and shortly after regular service started, the outer-door opened and in walked these children. See, I found out later that no one went to pick them up–(it wasn’t the drivers fault, he was told not to go) and these children, after waiting, had walked that mile to the Church. I’ll never forget the youngest one–she was around 5, holding onto the hand of an older child of about 8-9.  They all stood in the back of the Church, and before I knew what was happening, someone walked back and herded them back outside and into the van, to take them home.

It finally dawned on me, that a certain segment in the Church had been “disturbed” the previous week at them being there, so had talked to the pastor. Who in turn, told the driver not to pick them up.

Folks, I wept for days. And, I will never forget the sense of grieving I felt in my spirit that morning, watching those children being herded out the door. They never returned.

I’m a lot older now–and hopefully wiser and bolder. Today I don’t know what I’d do, but it sure wouldn’t be to just sit there stunned. I learned a hard lesson that day. And so did my class of young ‘fired up’ adults. Their zeal to go out on any more Saturdays, seemed to dry up after that happened.

This story below, like I said, reminded me of that horrible incident. Reading it made me wonder about the youth minister mentioned, and if his ‘incident’ has left him with a dampened zeal and a grieving broken heart.

Dearly Departed: The Separation of Church and Jesus

By: Jim Evans

Several years ago a friend of mine was working as a youth minister for a church that was exuberantly evangelistic. The pastor spoke eloquently and often about “winning the world for Christ.”

Unfortunately, the community around the church was “in transition.” That’s code for white families moving out and people of color moving in.

In spite of that, my friend decided that if the church was going to win the whole world, why not start with their own neighborhood? In a short time, he had encouraged several young people in the community to attend a recreation event held at the church during the week. He eventually persuaded a couple of the teenagers and their mother to attend a Sunday morning service.

When they showed up on the church steps, however, they were greeted by a special usher committee that told them they could not enter. The head usher explained to them that they would probably be more comfortable in a church “of their own kind.”

The mother explained that she and her children had been invited by the youth minister to attend the service. The usher nodded and said, “Yes, I know. He made a mistake.” With that, the small family left

When the youth minister heard what happened, he confronted the usher and demanded an explanation. The usher told him that it was a long-standing position of the church that people of color not attend.

The youth minister was shocked. He could not understand how a church could claim to be evangelistic and eager to win the world to Christ, yet turn the world away when it came to the door. He said to the usher, “Is this the kind of church you think Jesus wants?”

The usher replied, “Jesus doesn’t have anything to do with this.”

And there it is. Not the racism – that’s just a symptom. I am talking about the separation of Jesus from the church. Apparently there are some areas of life that are simply too important to run the risk of Jesus meddling with them.

For instance, a few years back Time magazine ran an article about theologian Stanley Hauerwas and his view on the run up to the war in Iraq. Hauerwas believes that since Jesus taught and practiced nonviolence, the Christian community had a responsibility to resist war, or at least approach it with great reluctance. Because there did not seem to be much reluctance to invading Iraq, did that mean “Jesus doesn’t have anything to do with this”?

Or how about this? In a recent letter to the editor a churchman made the point that Christians have no real responsibility to seek ways to alleviate poverty. All that is required of us is to practice a little charity as we have opportunity. Is that what Jesus taught? Just a little pocket change when we feel the urge? I guess when it comes to issues of substantive economic justice, “Jesus doesn’t have anything to do with this.”

The New Testament has Jesus saying at one point, “Behold I stand at the door and knock.” The preachers I grew up with used to say that the door on which Jesus was knocking was the door to our hearts. Jesus wants to come into our lives and save us.

Later, I learned that the door in question was actually the door to the church. Jesus was on the outside of the church, trying to get in. I wonder what sort of committee he ran into.

James L. Evans is pastor of Auburn First Baptist Church in Auburn, Ala.

Source, Ethics Daily

I’ve wondered over the years about those children, who all would be any where from 35-40 now. I wonder about these teenagers and their mother in this article above too. What kind of memory they will have of being turned away.

And I also wonder about those in both churches, who did not welcome the poor, needy, and the blind,  into what is suppose to be, houses of God. How will they explain their actions, on that day when standing face to face with Jesus?

And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord”- Luke 4

When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?” On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice. For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Matthew 9

18 comments on “Dearly Departed: The Separation of Church and Jesus

  1. PJ … This has to be one of the most heartbreaking stories I have ever heard. What a grief! I remember Keith Green once saying something like … If you have been turned off to Jesus In the past, because of all the hypocrisy you see, know that Jesus isn’t like that, and there are real Christans running around the world …

    Knowing how hard it is to get anyone to come to church, the thought of turning anyone away who wants to be there is incomprehensible.

    As a new believer I was in a situation, involved in ministry and wanting to be “obedient” to church leadership, which caused me not to say anything when I saw something that was very very wrong. Thank God for giving us His wisdom as we grow.

    • I remember Keith Green once saying something like … If you have been turned off to Jesus In the past, because of all the hypocrisy you see, know that Jesus isn’t like that, and there are real Christans running around the world …

      Cathy, i remind my children of that often. Its easy for younger believers to think that what they see coming from all of those in the church, represents Jesus and his character.

      Coming face to face with the truth (the first time) is something i think we all eventually must go through–the truth that there are some very very un-Christ like people…heck there are mean and cruel people, who attend church every week and call themselves Christians.

      When each of us first got saved we are so full of love and joy, etc…we just automatically believe every person in church is too. What a slap in the face it is, the first time we realize that’s not the case.

  2. Actually I’m speechless. I was going to write a long-winded comment but your experience and that of the Youth Minister speaks for itself. No wonder judgement begins with the Church first — we’re the worst offenders.

    • Yes, no wonder we are judged first…

      I heard a preacher yrs ago say its easier to win a lost person to Christ then get a Christian who has been emotionally and spiritually damaged “in church” to return to attending church.

  3. What a moving post. Both of these stories are enough to make a person weep. I felt compelled to pray for those young people who were turned away from your church back in the 80’s, wherever they are now. I pray that their hearts are not still hardened toward the Lord because of the open rejection they faced back then. And if they are, I pray the Lord will soften their hearts and grant them a revelation of His love.

    Sometimes I think our church buildings are no less than idols to us. This isn’t true for everyone, but many consider their church buildings to be “defiled” if someone walks in [a] not dressed in their “Sunday best” [b] who is not of the “correct” socio-economic status [c] carrying a drink that might spill on the carpet [d] etc.

    At the church I grew up in (in Ohio) there is a security guard who seems to have an overinflated view of his own importance (I’m trying to be nice here). He stands between the lobby and the hallway leading to the “main sanctuary.” I’ve known him to literally strong-arm first-time visitors who “dared” to try to walk in with a Starbucks coffee cup or a ball cap on their head. “No, no, no! We can’t have those things in the sanctuary,” he’ll say, and he’s been known to even permanently confiscate their personal possessions. It’s no surprise when those visitors never return again.

    I also remember doing street evangelism in one particular section of Dallas, Texas when I lived there for three years. Most of the young people we encountered there were goths, followers of shock rocker Marilyn Manson and others like him. It seemed they all had “church stories” to tell too. Many had said the “sinner’s prayer” multiple times in their childhood or youth. They would literally scream out in anger and pain about the atrocities they had experienced in various churches. That type of evangelism sure wasn’t easy going, but thank God that some of them were genuinely touched by the love of God and some even came to repentance and faith in Christ.

    I do wonder, though, how many “church-burned” and “gospel-hardened” souls are strewn about the US because of actions like what we are reading about in this post. May God reach out to them in sovereign ways and cause them to cross paths with His true people.

    • I do wonder, though, how many “church-burned” and “gospel-hardened” souls are strewn about the US because of actions like what we are reading about in this post.

      I’d say there are many Adam.

      The mistake many pastors and congregations make, is they forget we are called to be servants.

      May God reach out to them in sovereign ways and cause them to cross paths with His true people.

      Amen.

  4. While attending our former church, the Lord gave my husband and myself a vision for starting a van ministry in our town. We approached our pastor and church board. (The children in the church had grown and few, as adults, were returning. The congregation was rapidly turning into all senior citizens.) We were told by the pastor, (and if I told you the denomination…you’d fall off your chair) “Who will teach these children? We’ll have to buy curriculum for them. Who will pay for all of this.” I assured him that the Lord always supplies.

    Well, this vision was never accepted. The Lord showed us where to move (same denomination…just up the road!). This pastor told us that they had two buses and two vans. All were being used except a van. If we wanted it, it was ours to be filled! Nine months later the church purchased another bus, our van ministry is now a bus ministry!

    I strongly believe if God wants you to do something for Him, and your church rejects those you are ministering to, that is a CLEAR sign to move on! Shake the dust off of your feet, and God will show you where you need to be to accomplish His will!

    • Ruth, im sorry to hear of the first experience but OVERJOYED! to hear God opened a door at the Church the Lord led you to!

      The first pastor (and church) let pass by receiving a true blessing from God, when they turned down and then ignored the vision God gave to you and your husband.

  5. I have come to the place in my walk with the Lord where I believe I heard Him correctly when He said to me the word “commitment” … that He is fully committed to each of us…but the question remains just how committed each of us (individually) are committed to Him. In other words, are you committed enough to Him that you will stand up to man and say “No” …this is not the way the Lord would do things…? Are you, O man…? Let us all examine ourselves to see if we really are in the faith…

  6. actually a person may leave the church because he was turn down or because of hypocrisy in church, but deep down in his heart he knows it is not because of the teaching of Jesus, but because of the sins of these professed christians.
    The sin done on him by these hyporcites, triggered a sinful response from him, he say to himself, I will never step into a church again. So he is partly responsible for his bitter response, he allow sinful thoughts and bitterness to control him. And partly this gives him an excuse not to find out more about Jesus.

    But thank God when He call a person to salvation, the peron will not be permanently stumbled by this, the bible has promises that those He saves He will keep and preserves:

    2 Thessalonians 3:3 But the Lord is faithful, who shall STABLISH YOU, and keep you from evil.

    Hebrews 12:2 looking unto Jesus the author and PERFECTOR of our faith…

    Jude 1:24 Now unto him that is able to GUARD YOU FROM STUMBLING, and to set you before the presence of his glory without blemish in exceeding joy,

    May we cling to above promises!

  7. As a young teenager I went to a church that had a big youth ministry and one Sunday the preacher said from the pulpit that blacks weren’t welcome in his church…Cant tell you how that sounded to me, I quit going. The neighbor hood is mostly black know and that church as been sold off.
    There was and still is a mass of social clubs that call themselves churches.

    But for those who didn’t get to hear what I said before I’ll say it again; this is what Paul said in Gods word;

    Rom 8:9 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.And then latter on he says; Gal 6:1 Brethren, even if a man be overtaken in any trespass, ye who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; looking to thyself, lest thou also be tempted.
    Gal 6:2 Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.
    Gal 6:3 For if a man thinketh himself to be something when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.
    Gal 6:4 But let each man prove his own work, and then shall he have his glorying in regard of himself alone, and not of his neighbor.

  8. Amazingly sad stories…and it strikes very close to home for me. In the summer of 1980, I had just graduated from high school and was getting ready to go into the army as a private (I didn’t have any idea what I wanted to do with my life at that time). In July, about a month before I was scheduled to leave, my father collapsed at work and died a couple of days later from a cerebral hemorrhage. Suddenly, I was the man of the family (three older sisters who had already left home and a younger brother and sister).

    When we got back home from the hospital where my died (about 4 hours away), my mom was naturally very distraught – the man she had married at the age of 21 and had been married to for more than 25 years was suddenly gone. We contacted the pastor of our church to make the funeral arrangements and were told that he wouldn’t do it. You see, up until the last two years my dad worked on a farm which meant he worked from 6 AM until about 7 PM Monday through Saturday and most Sunday mornings were spent feeding the cattle…it doesn’t just happen. So, my dad didn’t go to church every week even though the rest of the family did most Sundays. For this reason, the pastor said he thought that my dad was in hell and he wouldn’t perform a funeral for a person who was in hell.

    As an 18 year old kid, all I knew was that my mother was devastated. For the first week or so, she wasn’t able to sleep in her own bed because of the memories, instead she slept on the couch…with me lying on the floor beside her, holding her hand, trying to help her get through the night. To add to all that she was going through, she was now faced with not being able to have a funeral for her husband…

    I was dumbfounded, I always thought funerals were more for the living than the dead…not to mention the fact that I had spent the last two years going to high school with this pastor’s son and daughter who had terrible reputations regarding their personal lives. The hypocrisy amazed me.

    Fortunately, another pastor in our small town heard about what was going on and offered to do the funeral for us and life went on…

    It has been almost thirty years since this happened and I have not returned to that town since then…driven around the outskirts a few times as I drove home to see my mom 25+ years ago but never stopped there again. I have very bad feelings about that town all these years later…not the people, or the school I went to for my last two years but just…a very bad taste in my mouth.

    I’ve come back to my alma mater (about 50 miles from the town where I went to high school) to become a teacher and have found out that one of the requirements for one of my classes this semester is to spend two days in a school observing a teacher (Tuesday and Wednesday this coming week). Guess where they’ve decided to send me? Yep, to the same town that holds so many bad memories for me in regards to my dad’s death and subsequent troubles we encountered. I’m not very happy about it, but am planning on getting myself mentally prepared to deal with the situation…makes me wonder if this is all happening for a purpose – probably is.

    All these years later, I’m trying to make my return to God and one of things I feel a strong desire to do is go back to a church (with my mom). However, I am finding this a very tough thing to do…have such a feeling of dread when it comes to this…but I really want to, as a sign of respect to God. Kind of like the sermon “Ten Shekels and a Shirt” when Pastor Reidhead talks about going over to preach the gospel not because the “heathens” deserve it but because Jesus DESERVES it. That’s what I keep telling myself…

    Reading the two stories you posted, no wonder so many non-believers consider Christianity a sham…but like I tell them, maybe Christianity IS a sham (it sure does feel that way to me sometimes) but Jesus is NOT a sham – follow Him, not somebody who says they’re a Christian. After all, I can say that I’m a monkey but that doesn’t mean that I AM a monkey…

    So sad that people can take something that is so wonderful (people wanting to reach out to Jesus) and just throw it in the mud like it was a bunch of garbage…I mean, how in the world can the very idea of those little kids walking the mile or so just to get to church on their own, NOT touch a person’s heart. I can understand that no more than I could understand reading a book written in Latin…there’s just no way I can fathom that.

    Yet we see this same kind of attitude all over the internet and in our daily lives…people who claim they’re Christians, yet they seem to have little or no feeling for others. Sometimes I look around at those around me (on the internet and in real life) and feel that I’m among strangers – who are these people and why are we not traveling down the same road? I’M the weak one who struggles and fails on a daily basis…where are all the pillars to lean on? Maybe that’s the way it should be…lean on Jesus and rely on no one else. It’s getting to be that whether I’m surrounded by “believers” or “non-believers”…it feels pretty much the same way.

    • but Jesus is NOT a sham – follow Him, not somebody who says they’re a Christian.

      Wise words Mark…

      Sometimes I look around at those around me (on the internet and in real life) and feel that I’m among strangers – who are these people and why are we not traveling down the same road?

      Believe me Mark, i understand. I can’t explain it but i understand.

      Some days it can be compared to the saying about being in a room with 200 people, but still being alone.

      So sad that people can take something that is so wonderful (people wanting to reach out to Jesus) and just throw it in the mud like it was a bunch of garbage…I mean, how in the world can the very idea of those little kids walking the mile or so just to get to church on their own, NOT touch a person’s heart. I can understand that no more than I could understand reading a book written in Latin…there’s just no way I can fathom that.

      Lee is right.

      it is the same reason why the Pharisees were not touch by the miracle of God but accused Jesus of breaking the law because he dared to heal on the sabbath.

      Its religious pride.

    • God forgive us!
      God have mercy!

  9. “I mean, how in the world can the very idea of those little kids walking the mile or so just to get to church on their own, NOT touch a person’s heart. I can understand that no more than I could understand reading a book written in Latin…there’s just no way I can fathom that”

    Mark, it is the same reason why the Pharisees were not touch by the miracle of God but accused Jesus of breaking the law because he dared to heal on the sabbath.

  10. […] I don’t want to summarize or comment or copy and paste. Just go read this story: Dearly Departed: The Separation of Church and Jesus « Sola Dei Gloria. […]

  11. What a sad testimony of the “church”.

  12. […] Jesus Knocks At The Door Because He Is Locked out of Churches Posted on October 12, 2009 by Rod Revelation 3:20 says that as Jesus stands at the door of apostate churches, he is knocking and  only wants to come in and fellowship with his people. However, the doors remain locked because churches do not want any part of him. For anyone who goes to a church in a neighborhood in “transition” or a church which desires to reach the world without reaching out the people who live in the projects across the street, I dare you to read this disturbing article: Dearly Departed: The Separation of church and Jesus. […]

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