Mid-City, the area of San Diego I live in, has long been a place where refugees start their new lives. Families have relocated here from war-torn African nations, fled the Khmer Rouge of Cambodia in the 1980s, or even escaped to here from extreme poverty in Central America.
People from all over the world end up here to start over.
Traumatized. Homesick. Hopeful. Confused. Off-balance. Grateful.
Assimilation is both one of their greatest fears and one of their great hopes.
Their lives are conflicted. Emotionally bouncing back and forth between hope and despair. They are here to seek a better life. But their hearts burn to go home and start a better life there.
You Find Christian Refugees Everywhere
There are lots of Christian refugees out there, too. People who grew up in church but fled somewhere along the way.
You find them involved in local politics. Or coaching your kids soccer teams. Or living next door.
They’ve fled the church. They’ve fled church culture and church life to seek a place where they could live out what they believed more than the church was comfortable with. All they wanted was to love God with everything they had and love their neighbors as themselves… but the church was hostile towards them. (Perceived or real) They didn’t fit the program. Or the mission. Or the pastor’s agenda.
So they fled. They left quietly, found community elsewhere, and settled into a new life.
They’ve rejected the abuse of the church but not Jesus. Disenfranchised but not disassociated.
But they miss it. A piece of their life is empty. Just like the refugees who play soccer at the park down the street from me, they always hold out the simplest hope that they can one day return home. Reunited with the people they love without the fear of danger.
When there is peace, they say– When there is something to return home to– they dream of returning.
Church leadership is at fault
Just like you can’t blame refugees leaving a country on the people fleeing, church leaders need to own the fact that they have caused a massive exodus from the church. Jesus tells us, his disciples, to call people to Himself. We need to quickly rectify our internal squabbles, give every person in our congregation a voice again, and go out to seek reconciliation with those who have fled.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”
To make peace. We need to go out and make peace.