People “Backslide” For Very Good Reasons

So over the weekend my Facebook feed (I promise I don’t live my life on Facebook, but it does give me lots of great article fodder) was littered with links to a particular article. It caught my eye because, for one, I saw it several times, but also because it’s most definitely written toward me. Not me personally of course, but it’s nonetheless meant for me.

It’s from a blog called “That Crazy Pentecostal Girl” and the title is, “To All My Backsliding Friends and Family.” So yeah. About me.

There is so much I want to say to the author of this post. I started to leave a huge comment, but really there is just too much. So I’m doing it here. Let’s dive in, shall we?

Summarizing the first several paragraphs, the author grew up in Illinois, in a family of dedicated members of the United Pentecostal Church. They prayed before meals and every night before bed. They were in church three times a week and scraped together enough money for the kids to attend the church’s private school. Mom was Ladies Auxiliary Leader and Dad was Worship Leader and even preached on occasion. In other words, they were in the “in crowd” at this church. They were dedicated.

But Mom and Dad “got the bright idea to move to Florida,” and that’s when it all went downhill. Mom and Dad “began to abandon the way of the Lord and follow after the things of this world.” Sadly for the author, she’s seen several others “walk away from truth.” This, she says, “breaks my heart.”

As I think back to my days in the UPC, I remember seeing others leave and it did indeed make me sad. Watching from the inside, it does seem as though people drift… that they just get distracted and fade off, possibly not even realizing what has happened to them. It’s impossible to think that anyone would make a conscious, rational decision to leave “Truth.”

But I’m here to say that they do.

The article goes on:

The bible says that in the final days there will be a great falling out. (1 Timothy 4:1)
And that’s just it folks, its the final days.
Here recently a man, by the name Rev. Lee Stoneking, came before the members of the United Nations and proclaimed the gospel. The Bible says that in the end times this Gospel will be preached to all nations. (Matthew 24:14)
Its the end time. That’s why my heart is broken.
Because there are too many people I know that are not living for God.
Too many!

There are so many things I want to say about these paragraphs it’s hard to know where to start. So I guess I’ll go in order. First off, this is the go-to excuse for too many people leaving the denomination. Because it’s the Last Days! The bible predicted there will be a great falling away!

That line of thinking gives you an out, so you don’t have to think that maybe, just maybe, lots of people are leaving this church because there’s actually something – or several things – wrong with the church itself. NOPE! It’s because Time is winding down and the 6,000 years of Earth History are up. It’s time for Jesus to come back and begin His 1,000 year reign.

But it just KILLS me that she offers our old friend Lee Stoneking up as proof of this being the End Times. And his speech at the UN. Miss Crazy Pentecostal Girl, please do some homework! Lee Stoneking lied during that speech. And it’s not the first time.

Besides that, the fact that he read your favorite bible verse to a half-empty room does not fulfill Matthew 24:14. I’m sorry but  it just doesn’t.

Finally, she knows too many people who are not “living for God” – this is the euphemism used in the UPC for someone who is an active member of an Apostolic Pentecostal church. You can lie repeatedly across pulpits around the world (like Rev. Stoneking) and still be “living for God.” You can sit in judgement, spewing hatred and condemnation on the poor, on the protesters in Baltimore, and especially on those vile homosexuals, but if you’re dressed correctly and doing it from a UPC pew you’re “living for God.”  You can gossip, slander, envy… you get the point.

But no matter how Christ-like you are, how much you love God or how much you try to live a good life and love others like Jesus would, if you’re NOT doing it from a UPC church (or one that teaches the same doctrines) you’re not “living for God.” Sorry. You’re just out of luck come Judgement Day. 

Back to the article:

The question is why?
Well what I hear almost across the board, sadly, is that they are hurt.
Someone offended you?
The one place you are supposed to feel loved is where you felt abandoned, used and hated.
Well, you are not alone.
I’ve been exactly where you stand. Not just once, not twice, but three times.
I was ostracized, hurt, and taken advantage of.
It doesn’t matter what religion you’re in, where you go to church, or how high or low you are on the totem pole, you will be hurt.
“It’s a church”, you say.
“We are Christians”, you say.
“Christians are supposed to love like Jesus loves.”
Well they are also people and unfortunately people can be stupid and selfish.
Even pastors….But here is the thing we aren’t supposed to be “Christian” for people.
We are supposed to choose this life for God and God alone.
Believe me, I know from experience, if you live for God and not for people your life will be far less stressful and far more blessed.

Granted I’m sure there are people who leave the UPC solely because their feelings were hurt by other people. But just as this author states, I, too, had my feelings hurt many times and it never caused me to leave. In fact, I guarantee you pretty much every member of every church in all of Christendom has had their feelings hurt by other members. By elders and pastors. It happens because, as you say, we’re all human.

But guess what? Much of the time when that happens people don’t walk away from their church. Because honestly: Do you think you and the people still in your church are the only ones smart enough to figure out that “we’re all just human?”

This argument insults the intelligence of everyone who’s ever left any church. Do you really think we’re all immature 2-year-olds having a temper tantrum? No. We know good and well you’re all human. And if that’s really and truly all that was going on, very few people would leave churches. Because most people can be adults even when they get their feelings hurt. The Crazy Pentecostal Girl managed to, three times.

Again, back to the article:

Believe me, I know from experience, if you live for God and not for people your life will be far less stressful and far more blessed.
People are hypocrites. God is the same yesterday, today and forever.
People hurt you. God heals you.
People offend you. God defends you.
People abandon you. God will never leave your side.
I could go on and on, but one thing I know to be true.
 I would have been gone a longgggg time ago if I had based my walk with God off people and their stupidity, but by the grace and ever faithfulness of God, I am still here.
 Still in His promises.
 Still blessed and highly favored.
Still a child of God and nothing this world has to offer can compare to that!
I apologize on behalf of all the stupid people, but under all that rubble there are people who will love you and there is God who still loves you and whose arms are open wide and are wanting you back. Come back before its too late.
I end with this. You are and will forever be in my prayers.
Much Love,

There are a couple pretty big points I want to make about this section, but this time not in order.

First off: by the “grace and ever faithfulness of God”, you are “still here.” Still in His promises, blessed and highly favored, still a child of God etc. The problem is that you think this does not apply to people who leave the UPC to go to other churches. People in many other denominations feel “blessed and highly favored” by God. But the clear assumption from your entire post is that unless someone is continuing in the “Apostolic” doctrine of baptism in Jesus Name and speaking in tongues, they are lost. They are no longer a child of God.

This is, quite frankly, in and of itself a very valid reason for leaving your denomination. There are other interpretations of the bible. Yes, I know you believe any other interpretation is wrong. That is the problem.

Secondly,  your god can and does leave people’s side. He can and does let people down. He let me down. I’ve heard many people talk about times when they couldn’t hear him, couldn’t feel him… the whole “prayers hitting the ceiling” cliche. It’s a cliche because it happens so often.

Usually, people who want to hold on to their faith internalize the disappointment and blame themselves. They think they are the ones who have somehow failed, or that perhaps they are undergoing some kind of “test.” But the bottom line is, nearly every Christian (if they’re being honest) has experienced times when God just wasn’t around.

Some of us, when faced with that situation, realize that maybe Christianity isn’t the path for us. And before you go all “deceived by Satan” why don’t you try to stretch by giving it an honest, fair consideration? Perhaps the UPC brand of Christianity is the right path for you. You’re clearly happy there now, and I’d never try to talk you out of it.

So show me, and all of your friends and loved ones the same respect. Realize that we’re capable adults who aren’t under some kind of Satanic spell, and let us find our own paths. We’re not stupid, we’re not blinded, and we’re not throwing a temper tantrum.

We’ve made our choice, now learn to respect it.

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