If you hang around pastor types long enough, there are certain phrases and concepts you’ll hear repeated. One of the sayings I like to use is, “It’s enough to make a preacher swear.” A short phrase often used to describe certain congregations is, “God’s frozen chosen.” Then there’s the ever-popular, “I’m too blessed to be stressed.” And of course, there’s the one you never want to hear—“God told me to tell you…”
If you overhear pastors complaining to each other about people who buck against everything they try to do, you may hear them refer to the “Back-to-Egypt Committee.” The Back-to-Egypt Committee is not a committee at all, but they seem to function like one.
It’s very Biblical
They usually have a leader (akin to a chairperson). The leader is usually someone well respected in the congregation and who doesn’t want to see anything change. He or she easily gathers a group around them who share the same perspective. Their attitude can be summed up in the phrase, “We’re agin’ it!”
The nickname for this faux committee comes from the Bible (sort of). You may remember the story of the Hebrew nation escaping from slavery in Egypt. Moses led them out, God parted the Red Sea to get them to safety, and they began to cross the wilderness back into the Promised Land.
The problem that occurred really began when the folks began to miss what they had in Egypt. According to the complainers, they had it made in the shade when they were slaves. They had pots full of meat, cucumbers, melons, garlic, leeks, and onions (and some good mouthwash, I hope).
“So You Wanna Go Back to Egypt”
In short, they wanted to go back to Egypt (hence the Back-to-Egypt Committee). It’s these kinds of ad hoc committees that keep congregations from joining the twenty-first-century church. They keep yearning for the “good old days.” Me too, I guess. But we have to come to a point where we realize the good old days are gone. We can’t go back to Egypt. Or, as Thomas Wolfe said, “You can’t go home again.”
The late Keith Green wrote and recorded a great song about the subject (So You Wanna Go Back to Egypt). It’s a tongue-in-cheek rendition of the complaints of the beleaguered Hebrews. It ends with them listing the various ways they have come up with to prepare their daily manna (dishes like manna-cotti come to mind).
Going back to Egypt is always a great temptation. We remember how it used to be, and we long for those things (whatever they were) to be commonplace again.
As far as I can tell, however, the Lord isn’t parting any Red Seas for us to backtrack. Once we got to the other side, the seawalls crashed back down to the seabed, and that was that. No more dry land on which to return.
We in the church can no longer afford to yearn for the past. The bridges have been burned. Let’s move forward with all haste.
[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently the pastor of Smith Chapel, in Great Falls, VA.]