By Patrick Hawthorne
Several years ago, through an invitation from a friend, I visited a little Baptist church on a Wednesday night. As is customary with many churches, the pastor asked that all visitors fill out a visitor’s card. I was happy to oblige but in no wise indicated that I was interested in joining this particular church. It wasn’t that I did not like the church, but I just did not feel that it was a proper fit for me.
After the service, I went about my merry way and pretty much forgot about the church. Years later, on a bright and sunny day – actually, I don’t remember if it was bright and sunny, but this is my story so I’m making it that way – I received a letter in the mail. It was from the pastor of the little church. Upon opening the letter, my jaw dropped. To my amazement I learned that I had been dropped from the church membership roll due to poor attendance and not being faithful.
Yep…You read it right. I had been excommunicated, banned, barred, removed, disqualified, expelled, and as many other synonyms that you can think of to express that I had been kicked out of this particular church. I was given the big ole boot of love.
At first, anger rose up within me against the pastor. How dare he kick me out of his church! “Why, I oughta go up there and give him a piece of my mind! How dare you accuse me of blah, blah, blah!”
When I finally calmed down and stopped blathering like an idiot I started to pray. My thoughts turned to the account of Saul on the road to Damascus. In his divine encounter, Jesus firmly expressed that when you mess with His brethren, you mess with Him. With that in mind, I chuckled and said, “Hey Jesus! We got kicked out of church.”
The actions of this pastor are no laughing matter. However, it does go to show that religion and Christianity are not the same. A church, minus the presence of Jesus, is just another religion full of rules and regulations. Many churches claim to follow Jesus, yet wouldn’t know His presence even if He kicked them in the back side.
I hold no animosity towards this pastor. I do, however, feel sadness for him. Jesus said,
“Come unto Me all who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28). This pastor was not walking in love. His actions, if anything, created an environment of hostility and unrest.
While I do not condone the pastor’s actions, I will use it as a growing opportunity. “Father, forgive me if I have ever done anything to cause another to leave the church. It would break my heart if ever I was responsible for kicking Jesus out of church.” Be blessed.