Failure in the Core Group

Often, while God is doing something beautiful, men are simultaneously in their hearts and minds heading off into many clueless, dark directions.  

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It was a gathering of college Christians, and the place was crackling with excitement.  Lives were being touched, praises resounded, and the general atmosphere was one of spiritual receptivity.  God was breaking through, taking the attendants to new places.  

But at the same moment, one of the students who had excused himself to go to the bathroom instead went through the pockets of the coats hanging in the hallway.  He found a few wallets and promptly stole the money out of them.  

Meanwhile, God kept moving in the other room.     

On another occasion, a conference was being held in a campus fraternity house.  The subject preached was the authority of the Word of God, and a number of young people were re-discovering hope in the Scriptures.  

During one of those sessions, though, someone wandered into the other room, got on the house phone, and called a psychic hotline.  The bizarre act was not uncovered until the telephone bill arrived later, with the details of that ten-minute call.  

We were never able to find out the reason for this behavior or the identity of the caller.  We only know for sure that during the strange, ill-advised phone call, God was inviting his people in the other room to place their trust in His word.    

Often, while God is doing something beautiful, men are simultaneously in their hearts and minds heading off into many clueless, dark directions.  

Think of the numerous times you’ve drifted in the midst of a Christian gathering, occasionally into sinful thoughts even while words of grace and blessing were being spoken.  No, you didn’t get up and go rob a convenience store, but you caught yourself abiding in some place of anger or anxiety or perhaps coveting some material object.     

Grace, though, is never so amazing as when it proceeds unfazed by this, offering its multitude of blessings regardless of human failure.  

On the night He was betrayed, Jesus told His disciples, “You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom” (Lk. 22:28-29).

This statement came amidst a setting of failure:

  • In a pathetic bid for material gain, Judas had negotiated a price for selling his portion of the kingdom–thirty pieces of silver.
  • In a battle of egos, the disciples argued about who was the foremost.    
  • In a fit of blind self-confidence, Peter vowed that even if everyone else ran away, he would stand fast for Christ.

You could say the upper room was a nest feathered with human failure, even as spectacular graces were unveiled, including the promise of the kingdom and the institution of the Lord’s table.  

On its better days, the Christian church has sought to overcome its disloyalty to the Lord.  On the days it’s not doing so hot, well, the whole world hears about it.  I’m talking about things like bullying, financial abuse, betrayal, ego, and anything else that constitutes a playground for the devil.  

Unfortunately, people love a good horror story.  

Now I believe in call-outs when they’re appropriate, but honestly, critiques of Christian groups are too easy to write.  I’m doing research for a new book on the church at large.  Some of the volumes I’ve read for my prep aren’t friendly toward the idea of church involvement.  They remind me of monster trucks spinning their huge, knobby tires in a mudhole that has no bottom.  I’m nowhere near done with my reading list yet, but I’m pretty sure I’ll need a shower when I finish.  The truth is, there’s plenty of mud to be found in any given fellowship.  

If sub-spiritual attitudes can be present among the Lord’s core disciples on the last and most solemn night of His life, for sure, you’ll find them everywhere else.  Sin shows up in the idealistic house church, the highly leveraged mega-church, staunchly doctrinal reformed churches, explosively charismatic churches, or just anything self-styling itself as the little flock.  

Yet the Lord still manages to speak kindly to us and maintain His promises.  He does not discount our brief victories as fake, rolling His eyes when we pray.  When we finally repent, He doesn’t say, “Yeah, right.”    

The jewel of the grace of Christ cannot be tarnished.      

I understand many a wrongheaded believer has misperceived grace as God’s permissiveness, a divine indulgence of some sort.  They think since punishment hasn’t struck, or since God doesn’t suspend all visible blessings, He is okay with unrepentant sin.  

However, in the upper room that night, their lapses did grieve His holy soul, and so Jesus corrected them.  My point is He could have continued to dig down and wallow out a hole the size of the Grand Canyon, naming every bit of the pettiness, cowardice, and greed still lurking in those erring hearts.    

Instead, He maintained His view of them through the prism of His perfect coming redemption.  What He saw at all times was their many subsequent experiences of repentance (minus Judas, of course), the blessings of their future self-sacrificial work, the blood and fire of their martyrdoms–decapitations, stonings, crucifixions, exiles.  He even saw them in glory.  

To this he said, “I assign to you a kingdom.”


This is an updated edition of a post originally published on John Myer

Featured Image by Lucas L from Pixabay 

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About the Author

John Myer is an evangelical Christian who likes to think as well as pray. Though he loves to write, his passion also has a live outlet. He planted and currently pastors a church, Grandview Christian Assembly, in the greater Columbus, Ohio area. He is a dad, a husband, and an expatriated southern man living up north. And by the way, he has a Master’s Degree in Theological Studies from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

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