"Be diligent to come to me quickly, for Demas has forsaken me...only Luke is with me." 2 Timothy 4:9 - 10
I have not experienced every vocation in life. No far from it. But I have had a few. I have been a computer operator, a salesman and sales manager. I have managed retail stores and I have written computer programs. I have put batteries in watches and torn tickets at movie theaters. But none of these vocations have brought so much pleasure or so much pain as being a pastor.
The above scripture came to my mind a little while ago as I spotted someone in the parking lot of a nearby store. The Lord refreshed my memory about the days when they had stopped me almost weekly after each message to tell me how much a blessing it had been. I haven't seen her at church in years. I had assumed she and her family had left town. I guess I was wrong.
I have learned over the years that there are several reasons why people leave church only moments after being active and encouraging. Sometimes someone in the congregation snubs them in a store or acts hateful toward them at work. Their feelings are hurt and and they choose to avoid any confrontation with that person even if it means changing churches.
Other times they hear a little rumor in the church. It often involves the pastor or one of the staff members. They choose only to hear the story of the party who claims to know the "down and dirty" and never asks for the other side of the story. I have been accused of mistreating people and behavior that wasn't even a part of my life before I was saved. It has happened so often that I have decided to take the Jesus route; "when He was reviled; He opened not His mouth."
Still others were attracted by the campus or one of our programs and quickly joined our fellowship. After the newness wore off they decided the vision of Dallas Bay is not the vision they have for church in general. Or more likely, they have no vision at all. Church to them is a place to make you feel comfortable or even convicted for a while. They don't share the same vision where church isn't a place to cling tightly to tradition that makes us comfortable, but it is a place that does whatever it takes to reach people with the life changing gospel of Jesus Christ. John described these people perfectly; "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us; they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us." 1 John 2:19
But I have to admit, the same hurt that I hear in Paul's words when he says to Timothy, "Demas has forsaken me" is all too real to me. People I have prayed with; people I have visited in the hospital or shared a meal in their home; just disappear as quickly as they came. I have come to conclude that I don't thank God nearly enough for those people who are in my life and the life of the church He has called me to serve. And I have come to conclude that some of those who have left have fulfilled their purpose in my life and the life of the church. God will use them somewhere else that their talents and their prayers and their words of encouragement are just what that church needs. To pray them back may rob some other of their blessings. So for those who God has today placed in my life may I once again try and emulate the heart of Paul; "I thank my God, making mention of you always in my prayers." Philemon 4.