Drinking Deeply

Friday, September 22, 2006 at 8:13 AM

Is the "Silent Exodus" a good thing?

I've been linked in David Park's blog under the category "blogs about asian culture and faith." I don't entirely deserve that honor, but sometimes I get a hit or two from there on my stat counter. Today I followed one back and found this post: "A Silent Exodus" Leads to Freedom.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the "Silent Exodus," it's based off an article in Christianity Today that pointed out that in many Asian-American churches, there is a large percentage of people who leave the Asian-American church (and maybe church itself) after going for college. Check out the article, it's a good read.

Reflecting on it, David Park remarks, "But is it possible that exodus was a necessary thing — perhaps even, a good thing? Is it possible that when Asian Americans don’t return to the church of their youth, that could spell good things for the faith of their youth?"

I'm not really interacting with his post, but I just wanted to add my two cents here.

One reason that people leave is because they are not regenerated (yet?) and the clear testimony of Scripture offends them and repels them.

We have clear biblical evidence of this in John 6:25-71, where Jesus preaches truth (I've posted about this before). This includes talking about election. (Which, as a side note, is a good argument that the topic of "election" isn't just for those who are "mature" Christians.) What happens? Thousands leave. They leave because the Gospel has hardened their hearts.

When these people leave, we should not be ashamed. We shouldn't think that people are leaving because there is something wrong with us, or the church, but people are leaving because there's something wrong with them. It is God who has placed a veil over their eyes. As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 2, "we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. "

A Christian is going to be the aroma of Christ to all people through the preached truth. For some it is going to call them to life, for others it's going to call them to death. We shouldn't be ashamed of God's work in that manner.

But unfortunately, I don't think that's what is happening with the Asian-American church. I don't think that's the case because we have people dissapearing after they go to college, not storming off in the middle of Sunday service.

But can that be a good thing?

Well, some people would say, "yes, just look at what God has done through this person, or that person." I don't entirely agree with that argument. Just because God uses something for His glory doesn't make it a good thing for that person to do. We have countless examples of this in Scripture. We have Jesus being delivered up by God's foreknowledge by evil men (Acts 2:23). We have Joseph being captured and sold into slavery by his brothers, which was an evil thing (Genesis 50:20).

These actions all happened by God's foreknowledge and explicit decree. They happened so that God may be glorified. And God does accomplish His task. But does that excuse the evil or encourage the sin? To echo Paul, "Shall we sin so that grace may increase? By no means!"

No, just because something happens for our good and God's glory is not an encouragement for us to continue doing it. Rather, we seek to please God through our obedience and worship in all that happens. If we know something is wrong, we don't do it, we don't encourage it, we rebuke it and refute it.

If I may be so bold, I'd like to lay the blame down upon the churches for struggling with the "silent exodus." Now, each individual person will be held accountable for what they decide, so certainly they are not excused for leaving the church. But, if a church is doing its job right, there should be no reason that something like this should happen. If the church is faithfully preaching the Word, faithfully equipping the saints, faithfully training people up for God's glory and His worship, then the One Body, by One Spirit, in One Faith concept (which should be preached upon and emphasized) should be sufficient to bring people to joyfully stay and serve. If they aren't, maybe they're unregenerate. Glory to God. But if they are leaving in droves because of cultural differences... One day we'll be held accountable for what we do. What have we done for the bride of Christ? Jesus loved her to death.

Related Post: Asian American Church

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Blogger Peter said...

dear friend and pilgrim, thank you for your thoughtful post and may I contribute my "two cents" as a way of us to work out our faith out of reverence and humility. I think there is much to be said about the distinction from leaving or fleeing from the "gospel" versus the distinct call to pursue a community that reflects the gospel. For many first generation leaders they feel that they are preaching the bible and the word...many faithfully but there is a color of culture of shame and confucian ethics that have crept up on the church that sometimes blur the essence of grace and ultimately the gospel. That is God incarnate came to provide salvaton for His glory.

Since serving in the Asian American community for some time, I feel that there is a real disconnect between the authenticity that we are called to...to diagnose our heart relation with God...to work out our salvation in community...but for many...the Asian church is one that is very "work" based and filled with man-made esteem...they profess to know Christ yet with their deeds deny the power of Christ in their lives. I am not taking away the responsibility of the second generation to seek building bridges so that the intergenerational church can be healthy and victorious, it is just that there is much for us to uncover and to collectively seek to "feed the sheep," so all walk away from the table fed...The fact is that God left the 99 for the 1 and it is not a time for us to determine if the fleeing is evil as much as determining what is the measure of restoring those prodigals into the legacy that God has establisehd through the Asian American church...a church that reflects this profound love of God. a church that is a city on a hill that is filled with promise, healing and power...for His glory and only for His that we seek to do this...not for our comfort...but our confrontation of what is hurting the church.  

~

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