by Zana Reichen
When I first went to Bible College, I was very excited! At that time, I heard an administrator say that my freshman class was the largest freshman class up to that point— nine hundred students! When I returned my second year, I noticed that a few faces that had been there the previous year did not return.
As time went along, I would occasionally hear of a student who had left college. Since it was a large college, it took a bit longer for word to spread that a student had left, and the administration was very good about keeping negative news quiet. They knew how important it was to maintain an upbeat, positive spirit among the college family.
In my life, I have had people who I love and care about leave college, quit church, or just decide to go a different direction with their lives altogether.
If we were to serve in a church or a school, we would also encounter the incidents in which good, faithful, tithing Christians will just up and leave with no explanation. College students leave for various reasons, such as sickness, finances, expulsion, family problems at home, etc. In addition to this hurting fellow church members or college students, it is also extremely hard on the pastor and other leaders.
If we want to be life changers then we WILL be hurt along the way; but, on the flipside, there are great rewards. Through the years, leaders have taught me both by words and example to maintain a process of thinking when a brother or sister leaves.
- 1. Our first response, BEFORE TALKING TO ANYONE ELSE, should be to pray for that person.
We must talk to God, not to others, about him or her.
“God, I heard so-and-so left. Please keep them safe and in Your loving care, and please give them the help that they need.”
- Our second response should be to remember that we do not know all of the facts.
I refuse to commiserate with my friends in expounding on why I think the person left.
“I do not know all of the facts, and I do not NEED to know all of the facts.”
- We must refuse to listen to gossip about that person.
That person is someone’s son or daughter, a pastor’s dream teen who went to Bible college, someone’s sibling, and God’s child. He or she is our brother or sister in Christ! Let us never weaken the body of Christ by stooping to talk about him or her with our friends. If we refuse to gossip and one day that person comes back to church or college, we will not need to feel guilty.
I mentioned previously that in a larger college it took a while for negative news to get around. I have noticed now, while serving in a smaller college that practically everyone knows all of the campus gossip of the day by the end of each day. Thus, I say once more: Refuse to listen to gossip about that person! Refuse to give your input! Just be quiet!
Imagine how much better lives would turn out to be if we would pray for people as much as we gossip about them!
- We must consider that it is not always God’s will for everyone to attend Bible college or be in that particular church.
Some may attend college, but after a while realize that Bible college is not for them. If they leave college having their pastor’s and their parents’ blessing, then we should not form our own opinions about it or discuss it.
- When a person leaves, we want to make it as easy as possible for the person to returnif they someday want to return.
Not everyone is able to return, but most are eligible to do so if they wish. When a young person leaves our college for whatever reason, I try my best to make her feel loved as she is departing. Somewhere down the road, she may want to return. People will remember how we treat them when they are on their way out the door.
- Sometimes we can take it very personally when friends leave because we felt very close to them.
A young lady in our college had a close friend who was instrumental in her getting saved and living for the Lord. Now, that friend’s life has taken a completely different turn toward the world. When people in our lives change or leave, we can get upset with God and be tempted to leave as well. If this temptation has not happened yet, it will one day. We must remember that the decision we made to serve God with our lives was, in fact, a decision we made WITH GOD. That decision to serve God was not dependent on what other people would do with THEIR lives. I challenge all of us to determine not to allow the decisions of others to cause us to change our decisions for God.
- We must determine that when we encounter that person who left in public, we will be kind and cordial.
There is nothing more disgusting and more immature than a judgmental Christian. If we want them to come back, we must show love.
Now, let us put all of this into perspective from God’s Word.
Galatians 6:1 – “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault,…” This is talking about error, transgression, sin. “…ye which are spiritual,…” These are they who are un-carnal. “…restore…” This means to mend and put back together. “…such an one in the spirit of meekness;…” We should have a spirit of gentleness. “…considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.”
What if they are already gone? How can we restore them? The answer is that maybe we cannot restore those today, but we can have moments every day of restoring those who are still here.
Galatians 6:2 – “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.”
We really do not know who is the next to go. We look like we have it all together when in reality, there are people who are about to “throw in the towel” at any given moment. As Christians, we must be fighters! We must fight discouragement, sickness, financial difficulty, and relationship struggles. However, as we continue to fight through the tough times, we are becoming stronger. How can we bear one another’s burdens while we are fighting our own battles? I must remind all of us that we need each other! Though we are fighters, no one likes to fight alone; so, if we wanted to grow even stronger while we fight, we must take every opportunity to encourage each other!
We must pray for each other. We should ask God every morning to prompt us throughout the day to show us when and how to help and encourage other Christians. We must be interested in the lives of others. We should never be afraid to speak words of kindness and encouragement to each other in passing. Everyone needs encouragement! We are all living busy and full lives, but we must decide to “kick it up a notch,” realizing that in our busyness, if we do not encourage, pray for, and show interest in others, we are failing to follow a scriptural command given to us by God.
Restoring others is a business in the Christian life in which we must all be willing to participate. One day our words, prayers, and kindnesses might be the defining factor that brings a lost or discouraged Christian back to the things of God. Each day, when we reach beyond our own world and touch the life of another child of God, we bring honor to the name of Jesus and further the cause of Christ.