The analogy is accurate. Sometimes you cannot stop a person from leaving a marriage. But you can stop them from burning down the house on the way out. And there are certain people who will do it. Such a person claims to be justified in doing it just like they justified leaving. Often we do not see the people who do such things for what they are. When we see it, there is always someone else who does not see it. One of the more troubling passages of scripture comes to mind. “They went out from us, but they did not belong to us; for if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. But by going out they made it plain that none of them belongs to us.” (1 John 2:19)
Burning Down Ministries
The term “clergy killer” was coined to explain how congregations fail to face up to the anxieties they suffer. The clergy killer congregation wants an easy scapegoat. OR the congregation burns the pastor out by constantly creating new problems rather than the one’s they should tackle. It is tempting for pastors to paint ANYONE they perceive as causing problems with the “1 John 2:19 paint brush.” We should acknowledge this and be careful of it.
Churches are soft targets for narcissistic individuals. One experience I lived through allowed such a person to run rampant through the community. People believed the person knew what needed to be done. All that he had to do was claim that he did. No one really knew him. He came from outside the community.
People that need such an ego boost will use every manipulative tactic possible. They will serve themselves while claiming they are doing something for the church. The actual ministries of the church will be ignored, downplayed, and degraded. If you wonder what has happened to our good works, ask yourself who suggested ignoring them.
Manipulative people undermine the work of others. Clergy recognize this happens among clergy. We almost have no recourse to correct the problem. Lay people who constantly undermine the work of the congregation will attack the work and character of others. They will also set other people up to do the character assassination for them.
Churches are loathe to confront these actions. They try to appease the problem people. Clergy who bring up the problem are ignored. Evangelicals and progressives deal with the same type of problem. Denominational leadership rarely steps in to help the situation. Congregations are their sources of income. Burning down the house happens even though patience and forbearance are practiced.
Burning to Destroy
John uses the term “antichrist” in the previous verse. I know that is a loaded term for progressive Christians. Yet, it applies to those whose sole desire is destruction if they cannot make the church in their own image. One criticism in my denomination is the practice of hiring people who do not share our theological positions to lead camps, congregational ministries, and bodies that are tangentially connected to the denomination. We have hired fundamentalists who are not of us. And they eventually show they do not belong to us. Many of our problems are due to this “openness.” They did not belong to us and never intended to do so.
Theological reflection is not valued when people are not being taught properly. And when people suspect they will hear something they do not like, they will resist it. This is an unfortunate situation brought on by arrogance. It is difficult to listen when you think you have the answers.
Church Membership and Following Jesus
People attend churches for many reasons. But fewer people are attending now because there does not appear to be any advantage to it. I would love to think a person desiring to follow Jesus was automatically ready to become a member of the community. Often, they are not. Churches should overcome the fear of losing people by having requirements. When the COVID pandemic hit, churches crumbled under the pressure of people who did not want to wear masks to church or anywhere else. People continued getting sick. Some church members died. And the church participated in making the pandemic worse.
Followers of Jesus do not desire the destruction of other people. We should want to avoid that. But the people who desired destruction won over too many people again. We have gotten into a bad habit of letting it happen.
It is time to fight back against the destructive antichrists who do not belong among us. They have brought the rest of us along in causing harm to others. It is time to stop it lest our house be burned down.