If you’re one of those faithful “bloomers”, I’d love to hear from you. What made you decide to stay in your church? What has the result been? What would you do differently? Recommend to others to help sustain them when the church no longer provides sustenance or fellowship?
One reason the question of whether it is possible to “outgrow” a church keeps coming back to me is because of the process described in Ian Michael Cron’s semi-novel Chasing Francis. The book is an interesting hybrid of history lesson, travelogue, church diagnostic, and love story. It tells the story of an evangelical megachurch pastor named Chase Falcon who has a spiritual and emotional implosion one day while midstream through a Sunday morning sermon. Pastor Falcon happens to have a beloved uncle who is a well-connected priest living in Rome who just so happens to be a scholar and student of the life of Francis of Assisi. The uncle directs Chase on his unexpected pilgrimmage walking in the footsteps of this 800-year old true, faithful Christian.
What is most striking about the book (besides the fact that I wished I had a cool uncle like this) is that Pastor Falcon didn’t lose his faith, though for a while, he thought he had. He kept walking through that desert with Francis, and discovered his faith was there, but he’d outgrown the practices and spirituality of his mega church life. The book ends with Chase in his living room with a group of friends, plotting what it would be like to have the kind of church that echoed the ministry of St. Francis.
This was quite inspiring, but this cozy living room scene was immediately preceded by weeks of high-level church political subterfuge that took place while the pastor was away, followed by a fireworks-filled congregational meeting at the megachurch that ended with the pastor’s ouster.
And this is how growing pains seem to work – too often. For every lovely parting of the ways when someone outgrows a congregation, there are many more flame-filled bridge-burnings. Curses are invoked, salvation is unnecessarily questioned by those left behind, and relationships are damaged. John 17 remains an unanswered prayer…
Some don’t believe you should ever leave a church – that it’s disloyal and consumerist. Stick with it, and grow there. Bloom where you’re planted. Even if the soil is dust-bowl dry. God will bless your loyalty.