Outside the Camp

“And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore.”

     There is an article I wrote long ago that never saw the light of day.  In it, I eviscerated some authors and thinkers that I found to be detestable.  The article was overly emotional and came from a place of deep personal pain.  I was writing about church refugees.

     A church refugee is someone who loves Jesus, and at one point in their life served their master by serving a local expression of His bride, The Church.  But at some point, this disciple left.  Maybe they got disillusioned.  Maybe they got hurt.  The point is, something happened, and this once fruitful disciple retreated into themselves and ceased to be a part of the family.

     I have heard this story many times.  I have seen it happen up close and personal.  And being so idealistic and loyal, I didn’t like this path.  I didn’t like seeing people leave the family. 

     And then… well…. then I went through a season.  A season where loyalty and passion were of no value.  A season I found myself outside the church for the first time.  And it hurt deeply.  It was a weird kinda hurt.  Like when your dad punches you in the face… its not the knuckles that sting.  It is a deep down thing.  Like he hit you in the soul.  Things break in there that you thought were unbreakable.  I was now in a new club…., I was a church refugee.

     Being on the outside looking in, I understand why people leave.  Some people get hurt real deep.  Sometimes the business of the Church can seem so much like lame business… and not like the life giving, soul saving, world shaking mission given by the Christ.  I know why people church shop, and jump around.  I can see why some people, so discouraged jumping, finally just stop going and watch some clean cut preacher on TV.  I had to be on the outside to understand.

     I say all that, and end by saying this.  We all need a family.  We do.  If you love Jesus, and long to be closer to Him, I don’t think you can get to the fulness alone.  You have to draw near alongside others.  You can’t obey any of the One Another commands by yourself.  It’s impossible.  I know why you went outside.  And I know that the Church can hurt us in ways that make our Master weep.  But the mission matters more than our wounds, and more than our broken hearts.  We may leave a trail of our own broken dreams behind us, but we have to be willing to bear the pain our Master bore. 

     Augustine is often quoted as saying the following.  And I affirm the sentiment, no matter how brutal his words: “The church is a whore, but she is my mother.”  

     To my fellow refugees…. I call out to you.  Do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together.  You can’t go it alone.  Come in out of the rain.  I know its hard.  But it is good.

-Ernesto Alaniz