I am a part of “The Church”. Jesus gave His life and resurrected to save me and others around the world. I’ve survived hard times and seasons through churches as they grow, change, split, and grow again. I have seen many wounded people who have left the church, some who believe they can never return, because there was so much hurt done to them in the church by His people. My husband Rob and I were even fond of a handful of churches that we attended in a span of 3 years (before we had our children), which eventually fell apart, where even the pastors stepped down completely. We understand what it is like to be let down, wounded, and asking, “What now?” or “Should we bother finding another church?” When that happened, we actually did stop going to church for a few months.
Called to Stay was written by Caleb Breakey to try to encourage people to continue to attend a church and to stick with that church. It begins with a lovely forward by Jefferson Bethke (who also has a new book out in which I want to read). The first chapter of the book confused me at first, in which it spoke about Mr. Breakey and his wife getting held up by guns on their honeymoon. I am not sure if this is fact or a story to try to get us to understand how perhaps Jesus feels in watching His church act, but the entire chapter is about saving the church and why this book may be for the reader. It is an introduction of sorts.
A few years ago, our current church had some major issues that occurred which was so much to have to deal with at once. Right before these events happened, I had read Joshua Harris’ book called Stop Dating the Church! I believe that book had helped me understand why I should not leave my church (which lost probably 80% of its congregation). Breakey’s book however explains in a more beautiful way about how we can infiltrate the church and help it change towards living in a Biblical way no matter how difficult of a task it may be. He used many of Harris’ quotes throughout the book, which is why I brought it up here. I will say that there are loads of quotes intertwined on the sides of this book, much which I didn’t even read (they distract me from where I am on the page), but some of them were really wonderful! I loved when Caleb Breakey said, “Paul wrote tear-filled letters to church people who would come to communion drunk. He even had to prove to them that he wasn’t a fraud.” Also, “To infiltrate a church is to get some flack, either subtly or overtly, from people inside. But it’s in this hardship that God does serious work on your soul, teaching you to depend on his power to speak, his power to love, his power to overlook offenses, and his power to forgive. God makes us more like Jesus through infiltration. He shows us what it means to lay down our lives for his sheep. It’s not easy, and we may never stop experiencing doubts. But this is the beauty of our call to love God and love others.” [page 41]
As the book continues, there is such a heart and love for why people may want to leave but are being asked to leave or who have communication hold-ups that tear the body of Christ with so many wounds. We are encouraged to be intentional about helping the church we attend to grow more in love with Christ. “The moment you stop focusing on intentionality and start focusing on results is the moment you’ll get down. Because infiltration isn’t about changing people. It’s about letting God use you in the growth of others. We do what we can in the operating room while God performs open-heart surgery.” [page 50]
I have to admit that in reading this book, I was feeling heavy in my heart for “The Church”. In my own church, I don’t really fit in. Am I involved; absolutely. I know that my husband and I have Messianic and Anabaptist viewpoints (while attending a Christian Missionary Alliance church with a focus on missions – which we love), so we are very simplistic and don’t celebrate “normal” holidays, but Messianic holidays instead, while we are also very into first three-AD-centuries living and non-resistance (according to what we view in the Acts church in the Bible). We get a lot of people looking at us confused when they find these things out or think we are strange (well we are). We were even asked by someone within our church why we stay while having these different viewpoints. The reason why we have stayed is because no matter where we go, there will be people who disagree with us or don’t see eye-to-eye on things as we do. We know that there will be many disagreements, but leaving it will not solve anything, and we adore the people in our church. It is very hard at times though (and even lonely). This book really helped me know that I need to continue on and dig deep.
“Digging deep is to…
1. honestly assess how your life reflects the commands of Jesus
2. allow your heart to break where it needs breaking
3. Pray for restoration” [page 63]
“The act of digging deep takes great humility. Because you have to get real with yourself. You have to take ownership of your lack of devotion to Jesus. It’s hard. It hurts.” [page 64]
At times, Mr. Breakey gives some very interesting stories to use as examples. He had one about a glowing ball and the Holy Spirit which threw me for a loop at first, but as I continued on, it made loads of sense. I actually chuckled while reading it and smiled. The Holy Spirit is within you and can help your church by the way you live. If we want to see our churches grow and live out God’s Word, then we need to confess our sins and allow God to work on our lives while expressing it to those in the church so they can help encourage you as well. Pride is going to destroy a church, and if you are humble, pride will crackle and disappear. Let your love for God overflow out of you! This is truly what is said throughout this book. It was definitely a refresher!
“We cannot stir up love for Jesus in others if we do not overflow with love for him ourselves. We cannot encourage the importance of obedience to Jesus if we ourselves do not take his commands seriously. We cannot set a tone of trust in Jesus if we ourselves never go out on a limb as his disciples did. And we cannot push an agenda of knowing more about Jesus and the ways of God if we haven’t immersed ourselves in studies ourselves.” [page 130]
This book ends with how one should leave a church if they decide to, of course it is a complete challenge and was beautifully put. The entire book was filled with uplifting encouragement and joy. It definitely was a Spirit-filled book. My only qualm, if you may, that would be used as a valid excuse to actually leaving a church is if you are going to plant another church yourself as an extension of your church or do missions work, but then you will always be able to return to your home church and feel the family connection. I don’t believe or recall seeing this mentioned in it, but I also know this was not the focus of the book. It was about how people today are leaving the church and give up instead of sticking with their church or even continuing in finding another one (by leaving it completely while still loving and believing in Jesus). It was about living out “being the church” daily and how you can do that in your church community. At first I was thinking this was aimed towards Millennials specifically, but in reality, this is about people of all ages!
Thanks Caleb Breakey for sending me this book to read and review. I believe it helped me feel renewed hope for the church and it challenges me to stay in check with Jesus and allow Him to change my heart more and more towards Him and to help others see Him through how I live. I’m up for the challenge! Thanks again!