Monday, March 7, 2011

Monday's Meditation: Do You Need to Go Home?

Sometimes I’m tempted to tell them, “Go home.”
Our local church sees plenty of visitors each week: some never come back, others stay a while, and a few adopt our community as their community. What troubles me is the large percentage of prodigals I meet. Not prodigals in the obvious sense--the “sinners” returning to the Heavenly Father after a few years of raising hell. Those prodigals I would welcome with feasting, robes and a ring.
In my years as a pastor I’ve learned to recognize another kind of prodigal: the Christian prodigal. The Christian prodigal loves Jesus but lives far from home. He has taken the family inheritance and squandered it on travels in Christendom. He has left his family in search of something else. He lives as if his family is dead.
North American Evangelicals share a passion for the new birth, and why not? It comes directly from the words of Jesus, “You must be born again.” Yet so many children of God live the rest of their lives in Christ as if there is no such thing as a spiritual family. If we are born again, shouldn’t the metaphor extend to the nurture and maturing of each new son and daughter?
Some prodigals come to our church simply to find a quiet place to rest. Others prodigals come because they are angry with those at home, so they worship somewhere else. Still other prodigals come because they have dreams of living large in the Kingdom of God: large ministry, excitement, and a big name. They want to make their mark in God’s world. They act as if their destiny is divorced from their place of birth. They act as if the Father has a plan for them but somehow He doesn’t have a place for them. They think they must make their own way in God’s world.
Each Sunday I stand at the door and scan the horizon. I’m looking for our prodigals to come home. I’m looking to comfort and encourage the prodigals who have another home but have forgotten their inheritance.
Today’s post is still a meditation for the week:
  • Am I a Christian Prodigal?
  • Do I live as if I have no home in Christ?
  • Have I wished my family dead and sought a far horizon on my own?
If these answers are yes, I want to tell you: “Go home.”


  1. Thank you for this post. It means a lot to me.

  2. I love how you've taken the family metaphor and extended it to its logical and biblical place. The father in the story certainly wasn't expecting the son to head out to a nearby town the next day to get wasted! Well said Ray.

  3. "Am I a Christian Prodigal?
    Do I live as if I have no home in Christ?
    Have I wished my family dead and sought a far horizon on my own?"


    I constantly wander off, and yetn He brings me back home like the lost sheep.

    What a great God we have in Christ Jesus!


  4. It was suggested to me that I go away from my Vineyard when I asked questions about tithing. Never got the answers I was looking for. But I got the message, shepherd: "don't ask questions about sacred cows." It was the beginning of the end of my life as an Evangelical Christian. I spent a few years in the desert. I got my faith back by reading the Church Fathers. I still don't think I'm welcome at the local Vineyard.

  5. Thanks for your comments, everyone!

    Andy, it's always my pleasure to be able to help--God's good!

    Ed, I've always thought the Lord wanted us to think beyond the story and understand the metaphor, but of course, not to the point of making a new law based on the parable.

    Steve: We *do* have a great God in Jesus Christ. My purpose was to talk about more than the human tendency to sin--I hoped to spur a hunger for that place which each of us can call "home" in the Spirit.

    Anon: I am so sorry for your personal experience at one church. I can only hope you have found the home that the Father intends for you. Blessings to you.

  6. When I was a child, they taught me in Sunday school that the Church was not the building. I've learned as an adult the institutions that build the buildings sometimes seem self-chartered.

    I've noticed in my home town there seems to be a church going up on every corner. Why? It's hard to escape the suspicion that many are in the church business. When you've been harmed by men pursuing their own agenda, it's easy and natural to be skeptical of all church institutions. It becomes hard not to, when it's happened more than once.

    Ray, I know you well enough to know you are not suggesting allegiance to institutions, nor judging, but I value your honest thinking enough that I would love for you to expound on this: What does the healing look like that puts a believer back on the path to connecting with the living Body of Christ?

    I hope the healing does not rest solely on the shoulder's of the disaffected, otherwise that's a sentence for more go-it-alone separation. I hope further that some shared value can be found in wilderness time, and not just pity.

  7. Wow, what great insights and questions, Anon. You're correct--I'm not in favor of mere allegiance to institutions or (worse) abusive spiritual environments. What good would it be to he healed and return home to the same pain and erors. Whew! This could take several posts. Stay tuned!

  8. Anonymous(II) is coming out of the closet. Comment was posted anonymously just because I've had trouble posting in the past. I'm not ashamed to own the comments, so let's see if this works.

    I'm careful about pejoratives, though I'm having difficulty verbalizing why. I had experience with the shepherding movement in the late 70's, which I can call abusive without pangs. I would not describe my most recent experience that way. I don't think there was intent in either case, but maybe the first seemed more carelessly negligent.

    In the latter case, it just seemed as though the priorities got whacked, that the health of the members and the organization--what should be a two-way street--became a little too focused on the organization, so that it appeared to became an end to itself. It was only at the margin, but if that's where you're at...

    It must be emphasized there are notable exceptions, men whose relationship I still cherish, but overall the connection was damaged and remains that way. I will also allow for the possibility that the responsibility lies entirely on my shoulders, and the probability that I'm in a distinct minority. But should anyone take comfort in that? (Hint: Parable of the Lost Sheep)

  9. Very thought provoking, Ray, thanks.
    While I know that many people have been in truly bad, dysfunctional, or even abusive situations, I think far more American Christians are in a perpetual "drift" mode because they are looking for the perfect church: Where the sermon never sucks, the worship is perfectly mixed (never a hair too loud), the greeters always say, "God bless you" with a smile, etc, and most of all, no one ever challenges you or sticks their nose in your business. Fact is, Christians drifters will never find that perfect church, so they are going to stay just long enough until the newness wears off and they see a few flaws, then it's off to some new church that seems more exciting and more spiritual.
    Reminds me of Bonhoeffer: "Every human wish dream that is injected into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive. He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial."
    I think that before Prodigal drifters can come home in a healthy way, they must at some point lay down their dream that the perfect church is out there somewhere, or that their church could be "it" if they would just listen to a couple of your suggestions.

  10. Great post Ray. And Caleb I enjoyed reading your comments about the American Church. Good stuff. It pains me to meet a believer who doesn't go to Church because they've been burned one too many times. I have a close friend who is a believer but refuses to step foot in a church because he doesn't want to deal with Churchy Christians. I feel I can relate to him in a way. I've been burned too in my short time in music ministry, unfortunately. Goes with the territory of dealing with humans trying to serve the Lord. Things get messy and people do things that divide or alienate a certain percentage of the congregation. This post brings light to a portion of that flock that most likely gets overlooked because of the fact that we can't please everyone.

  11. Don: There's never a need to Anonymous here! Sorry you've had trouble posting in the past, because you raise excellent points.

    Caleb: Bonhoeffer (or "D-Bon" as I like to call him) is hard core! Is that quote from "Life Together?" It's a transcendent look at CHristian Community.

    Stew: I'm so pleased to see your example as one who understands that some things "go with the territory."

    Perhaps each of you would be willing to write guest posts on this subject?

  12. Ray: that quote IS from Life Together, via the Power of Ugly chapter entitled "Ugly Church" I would be honored and thrilled to guest post it up.

  13. Ray: that quote IS from Life Together, via the Power of Ugly chapter entitled "Ugly Church" I would be honored and thrilled to guest post it up.