Lets take a look at the Book of Luke, in chapter 2. Joseph and Mary had lost their son. Lost him in the most unlikely place of all, in the temple. The church.
When Jesus was twelve years old, they attended the festival as usual. After the celebration was over, they started home to Nazareth, but Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents didn’t miss him at first, because they assumed he was among the other travelers. But when he didn’t show up that evening, they started looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they couldn’t find him, they went back to Jerusalem to search for him there. Three days later they finally discovered him in the Temple, sitting among the religious teachers, listening to them and asking questions.
Luke 2:42-46 (NLT)
We would think the last place on earth we would lose Jesus is in the church. Yet, that is the very place where most of us lose him. Just a few weeks ago I was in a conversation about all the different churches in town and how many if not most of them where founded by splits of other churches. Not planned church plants. Coming from California I find it hard to understand. We had a hard enough time keeping our church up and running. Planting new churches was a fight with the local planning commission and zoning commission. Not founded by infighting of fellow church members. So to hear a church was founded by splitting off from another church takes me to the edge of understanding.
This is where we lose Jesus. For a time everything is just going fine and well within a church. Then the pastor preaching a service which the message comes from God, and it hits too close to the heart for some members. Without warning someone's feathers get all ruffled up and starts screaming, “Get the torches and pitchforks!” Or time comes to replace the carpet. One group likes green. The other wants blue. Again the Torches and Pitchforks come out. The piano gets moved or the music seems too modern or the choir director tries to appeal to a larger and a more diverse audience. Getting crucified for it when all he is trying to do is please everyone. I hear these stories over and over again. Some churches have such a bad reputation that local neighborhoods will have nothing to do with them. These churches go through pastors like kids go through shoes. Bright and shiny at first will all kinds of ideas and on fire for God. Then crushed when the truth of what they are really part of comes crashing down around the poor new pastor.
Any church staff member can tell you how hard it is. How would you handle having 50, 100, a 1,000 pairs of eyes looking over your work in the smallest detail each week? It can become disheartening and down right depressing. When someone does tell you good job. It is like a cup of water after you have spent days in the desert.
Losing Jesus happens all the time. One time when I was part of the church basketball program as our gym's time keeper. We had a game were the parents were a little too emotional to put it lightly. Two men sat close to me always making sure I heard their comments when our referees did not make a call to their liking. When the night was over I was so grateful that I would never have to deal with those men again. Oops! Just lost Jesus!. Should have been praying for them than counting myself lucky in abandoning them. God was about to teach me a lesson.
Two days later I was with my oldest daughter and her boyfriend. We had stopped at McDonald's for lunch. There was only one person in line when we got there. Who was it? You guessed it. The same man from the basketball game. Talk about God giving me a clear message. It was the father's son who broke the ice. Recognizing me from the game just two nights ago. Sounds like Peter when asked if he was with Christ? To make matters even more obvious there was only one table open for us to sit. Yes you guessed it again. Right next to them. We continued to talk and I learned his brother who was the other man at the game had suffered a stroke. He did not like to speak much and I was wrong just 48 hours ago thinking he was rude to me. You see. I had lost Jesus. We both left with renewed spirits. A lesson well learned.
So how about you. When have you lost Jesus? In church when you are trying to focus on the pastor preaching and you get distracted by a child crying thinking their parents should keep that kid quite? At work when someone cracks a joke that rubs you the wrong way? At the store when someone cuts in front of you? At home? Around friends? With family? We seem to lose Jesus just as easy as Joseph and Mary did. Like them, when we lose Jesus. We need to run back and find him immediately.
Teach, Preach and Reach.