e sat relaxing in our front room. Our three small children were in bed for the night. The dark of night matched the despair that registered on the face of my wife across the room. I was excited about the prospects of a long awaited vacation, but I soon backed off when I realized her total disinterest and depression.
"I feel like such a failure, Roger." Tears filled her eyes as she said: "I just feel like I'm not getting enough done at church, I'm such a failure."
I saw a tired woman, weary with church life and at present in deep despair. She was doing all she could, but she felt it wasn't enough. Her depression, rejection, and feelings of failure are familiar to thousands in C of C Churches today.
They are faithful to attend all of the services of the church. Giving is the first thing in their budget. During the worship services they observe all of the prescribed ritual, being very careful so that God will accept their sacrifice. When committees, programs, or projects are organized they are among the first to volunteer, so that the Lord will know that they love Him. These poor lambs finally "Burnout", and they say, "Why me Lord?"
These unfortunate ones have little spiritual strength to draw from. They trust the church for such and it is a void. In their state of church exhaustion, they become disillusioned and, as we sometimes say, "They slipped through the cracks." They are lost to the church.
Still, many more who have not slipped through the cracks are running close to the line. They may put on a good front, but most are empty on the inside, just hoping no one will find out! Their spiritual temperature is almost zero. They are eating religious food of no substance.
During my years in the church I visited many "church delinquents". The following statements are not uncommon. "I am sick of my empty religious life"; or "What is the use? I can't do enough"; or "I don't understand all of the pettiness"; or "All of my work for the church has exhausted me"; or "This can't be right because I'm so miserable."
Some say, about these disillusioned saints, who have left the church, that the devil has won a victory. If that is the answer, it only raises more questions. Jesus ascended victorious over all the powers of hell! He said:
"I will build my community ... those called out by God. Death will not overpower them" (Matt. 16:18 SEB).
Something is wrong if the devil can blow followers away so easily.
The religious world calls this "spiritual burnout". They are asking, "Why are people dropping out or moving to the back seats and living on the edge?" They are saying, "Where shall we look to stop the swelling river of church faithfuls who are being swept out of our ranks?"
"Institutional Church Burnout" is the real problem. It is not "Spiritual Burnout". The spirit of man is not subject to burnout!
"Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day (II Cor. 4:16 NIV).
"My yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matt. 11:30 NIV).
Before Jesus came, the Pharisees dedicated themselves to keeping the law of Moses, called the Torah They were a closed circle into which only the faithful were welcome. They separated themselves from the sinners outside
The fact is, the demand of the Law was simple:
".. but love your neighbor as yourself" (Lev. 19:18 NIV).
Not comfortable with this simplicity, the Pharisees added over 600 laws of their own, which they claimed would keep man from breaking God's law
Now they were practicing religion, but the list of meaningless rules was keeping them from pursuing love.
Within the sacred circle were laws for all of life. Rules for dress, for food and drink, for where to go and not to go; rules for acceptable associates, for divorce, for how to pray, fast, and keep the Sabbath.
The secular Israelites, the common people, were constantly reminded of the rules. They experienced feelings of guilt because they could not live up to the standards of holiness that the Pharisees had established. (Sound familiar?)
How well the man-made rules were kept, was considered to be an indication of how close they stood to God.
However, God cannot be reached by the keeping of man-made laws and the doing of man-made rituals. Jesus did not come to bring us a new religion ladened with new laws. He came to make void such "religion". He said:
"I have come that they may have life and have it to the full" (John 10:10 NIV).
Our relationship with God is not expressed by "acts of worship" carried out behind stained glass windows. Nor is it measured in "doing" church required activities at our dedicated real estate-the church building. It is reaching out to the down-trodden. It is:
... to keep oneself from being polluted by the world" (James 1:27 NIV).
This is God's view, and it should be ours, if we intend to please Him.
It was because of the religion of form imposed by the Pharisees that Jesus:
"had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd" (Mat. 9:36 NIV).
To these sheep, weary and exhausted by all of the burdens laid on them by religion, Jesus said:
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for i am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matt. 11:28-30 NIV).
Today God has no earthly sanctuary except the consecrated human heart. God has no church buildings. There is no certain place to go to perform prescribed "acts of worship". The C of C Church today is an organization of our own design. There is a veil over our eyes. The church has become a false security blanket used to deceive mankind
Today, in Christ's spiritual kingdom, there are no holy days, no earthly holy places, no earthly holy things. These all belong to the era of law. We have returned to living B.C. lives in an A.D. world. Jesus said:
My kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36 NIV).
For the follower of Jesus, there are no holy days simply because there are no unholy days. Every day is a high feast day, the Lord's day.
As a follower of "the way", we do not go up to the house of God. We are the house of the living God! When a building is full of saints, it is full of "sanctuaries".
Man-devised religion brings "church burnout" It leaves one depleted of all spiritual strength, exhausted in one's attempts to please God. We have been burdened with all the rules and formulas that religion has imposed on us through our professional ministry system. We are crushed by those who intend to take charge of our spiritual welfare. Submitting to man's laws has produced a spiritual police state-the church!
When Grace came, the list of rules for worship was done away with and replaced with a living Person. To be yoked to Him gives rest.
". . .and you will find rest --relief, ease and refreshments and re-creation and blessed quiet for your souls" (Amplified Bible).
Look at what Paul says we are and what we do because of grace through faith
"For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works" (Eph. 2:10 NIV).
There are no rules for man to add, no patterns of worship to labor under, no church to play. It seems silly to go to "worship services", perform "acts of worship", listen to sermons, give to the Church treasury, and to look for patterns when the sacred writings are silent about such.
And He is not served by human hands, as if He needed anything, because He himself gives all men life and breath and everything else (Acts 17:25 NIV).
Jesus warned His disciples:
"... Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees" (Mk. 8:15 NIV).
He saw the deadly doctrine for what it was.
Today he might say: "Watch out for the yeast of the elders, preachers, editors, and other keepers of the gate." We should see their doctrine as deadly, because it is often an imitation of Judaism filtered through hundreds of years of Roman Catholicism and Protestantism
When Paul wrote to the Colossians, who were hung-up on festivals, new moons, sabbaths, fasting and the like, he said:
"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him' (Col. 3:17 NIV).
I recommend that we all accept that just like it is.
If you are one of those who has just come out of the dark cave of institutionalized churchism, now blinking in the light, you may be wondering, "What do I do if there is no church in my life to direct and guide me"?
It's major surgery to change so dramatically one's point of view in order to understand what following Jesus really requires of us. It is the giving of our life to people in a caring, loving way instead of giving our life to church organizations and programs.
Those in Christ are upheld by their total commitment to the Ultimate Being There is no greater security than that. Your future is more secure than the ground you walk on. Security is not in things of the world, nor in forms, patterns, or traditions, but Jesus the Christ. If we trust in Him, who can threaten? Nothing can separate us from our Father. Thanks be to God for His overwhelming victory.
If we look at the teaching of Jesus we will see that the taproot of a person's security is in giving of ourselves to one another To the lawyer He said, "It can't be in your legal rules". To the young ruler He said, "It can't be in your accumulation". To Nicodemus He said, "It can't be in your position in life" To all of us He has said, "You must turn loose of everything in which you trust so you can trust in Me" This is why He said to His disciples:
"I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 18:3 NIV).
The Lord spent a great deal of time telling His followers what not to trust in. To those who trusted in status He said, "Don't". In respectability He said, "Don't" In religion He said, "Don't". To those who trusted in piety (super religion) HE said, "Don't" In morality He said, "Don't". In an institution or a system He said, "Don't". When anyone sought to obtain life from anything except a direct trusting relationship with God, Jesus cut the umbilical cord. There is no other source of spiritual strength other than Jesus
None of the religions, traditions, or opinions upon which the masses today depend can give us spiritual sustenance. The only sustainer is Jesus the Christ.
With Jesus you can say:
"I can do everything through Him who gives me strength" (Phil 4:13 NIV).
There is nothing left out. The Christian is not deficit in any way because he has trusted not only in Him,but in nothing but Him. When the believer understands this he will say, "I don't need the institutional church to direct and control what I do in serving my Lord."
I am a child of God, uniquely and wonderfully made. He is equal to all of my needs. I have no crutches, I have been given strong legs. I have no church glasses, I have been given good eyes. So, how do I proceed in life? I enter each day and each relationship seeking to do what I should do in each situation.
A good guideline for our life is, "Do in each situation what I should do." This means that my responsibilities are not the same as those of others because I'm not the same as other people. My eyes do not see the same needs that others see. My convictions are not precisely the same as others. My capabilities are not the same as others.
Because another can do something that I can't, or did not see, does not imply any obligation for me. It does not mean that I should feel guilty or inferior because someone else is capable of handling a situation that I can't.
One person's talent may be to provide a meal, another to start a car, or provide a listening ear, or give a loving heart. None of these people can change places and do not need to.
None of them need to feel insecure or inferior. Each should do what he or she can do on that day.
It's hard to imagine anyone being more tender and loving than Jesus was. This has to be the example for all our lives.
"... are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord" (II Cor. 3:18 NIV).
When the Syro-Phoenician woman came to Jesus and touched the hem of His garment, Jesus turned to her and she felt guilty seeking a blessing that she had no right to have. Jesus expressed such love, tenderness, and forgiveness to her that it touches every heart to read the story. The leper that came to Jesus said, "If you want you can make me clean". Jesus said, "I want to!" and touched him so gently and so tenderly, healing him. The woman, caught in adultery, was hurt and humiliated by the teachers of the law and the Pharisees. The Lord, who had the right to condemn, said with a heart of compassion, "neither do I condemn you". On the other side, it's hard to imagine anyone being more tough than He was when He cleansed the temple. I can see Him, eyes blazing with fire, blood vessels throbbing in His temples, His face white with anger, His words like a rifle shot: "GET OUT!"
There is no way Jesus could give you a program that says do this in this situation and do something else in that situation. The bottom line of your response must be love. When Jesus found himself facing the cross, it was not an option with Him. His love and His mercy were that great.
Our response of love means we must obey God rather than man. This means we must be fully capable and willing to pay the price of making a choice between what God calls us to do, and what our human traditions, and well-meaning friends are tugging at us to do.
Live everyday in loving service to your Lord. Sunday will no longer be a special day. Jesus will be your sabbath, and your life of worship will be 24 hours a day everyday. You can, with the help of the Spirit, make every act and word of your life to be worship, adoration, and praise to Almighty God and Jesus the Christ, our Lord and Savior. There will be no "church burnout" because you won't be busy "playing church," and being organized needlessly, into what the world now calls "spiritual burnout."
A poem by Emma Lazarus, is inscribed on a tablet in the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. It includes:
"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free."
If you are yearning to breathe, free from "church burnout", try Jesus.