These quotes are from Religiously Transmitted Diseases by Ed Gungor. He describes a belief and action disease that exists within the church as Elder-brother disease. The name of this disease comes from the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15. Gungor states that people, especially leaders with this disease is the key reason people are growing to love God but hate the church.
When those of us who are older in Christ see the failure of others and God’s unwarranted and incautious restoration of them, His kindness, forgiveness, and love often seem irrational and even unfair. We don’t understand the Father. How different this story would have read if the prodigal had run into the elder brother first. I am certain he would have turned back to the pigs. I have witnessed folks being written off by the elder brothers. And for good reason – the prodigals acted improperly and hurt their fellow believers. And now they are labeled. Labels are always paralyzing. Has anyone ever labeled you a “misfit” or “rebellious” or “inconsistent” or “untrustworthy”? If so, you probably agree that it wouldn’t be so bad if the labels were said to your face and the accuser actually committed to helping you work through your stuff. But more often than not, the labels are a kind of insulation between you and others. They are reminiscent of the “kick me” signs people used to stick on your back in grade school. People may be courteous to your face, but you can see it in their eyes: Something’s up. And when you walk away, you know you have about as much a chance of belonging as a snowball in hell. It’s easy to think about going back to the pigs under such conditions. At least pigs don’t reject you. (p.189)
There are millions of failed believers still in the pigpen because the elder brothers have positioned themselves at the doorposts of the church. These self-righteous boys and girls are keeping prodigals away. The protective, performance-based view of the elder brother is a spiritual disease, and it is the biggest cause of the “dechurched” of America – those who still love God but hate the church. Let me leave you with a scary thought: the elder brother still runs most religious organizations and institutions. Perhaps that is why most organized churches are losing their voice in our culture. (p.197)
I have talked with many who have experienced elder-brother disease, and I have seen leaders who have this disease. It is crippling to the church, and is not representing the true heart of God. I applaud Gungor for bringing this issue to light, but now we need to discover how to combat this disease and prevent further spread of this disease.