One thing that I see lacking in the church is community. Especially in my generation, the church is being reduced to a concert with someone speaking at the end, and it is tearing apart the faith of so many. Countless people struggle with the grips of anxiety and fear, and many of those are in the church! How crazy is that, there are people that we come into contact with each week that are in such an intense battle, and they don’t even have one of the most essential tools needed: Community. Real, raw, and unfiltered. It might scare some, the prospect of opening up themselves to people who could potentially leave or hurt them. The truth is that the church was designed to be a resting place, a safe haven for people to let down the baggage that they carry in, and just be loved. So many times in my life, I hear the usual excuses for why people don’t go to church.
“The people there are hypocritical.”
“I don’t feel like it relates to me.”
“It felt like people there judged me.”
Do you see the theme that all these statements share? They relate to the people who embody the church, whether it be the leader, body, or just the overall feel of the place. None of these complaints have anything to do with the ideologies of church or doctrinal issues. The majority of people who leave the church are not saying, “You know what? I just couldn’t take the church’s stance on thinking evolution is false, that’s why I stopped going.” Or, “The whole dinosaur explanation just didn’t cut it.” I once heard someone say something very profound, and it is part of the reason that I’m writing this.
Only the church is so prideful that it is losing so much and decreasing in such an immense way, yet they claim that there is no problem and do nothing to fix it.
How crazy is that? To think that we only are retaining 20% of our faith believing high school students. We think that there is no problem, and that it must be the culture that is at fault. The problem rests within the attitude of the church. Each body of believers has to continually refine themselves in order to effectively serve the city or town that they are placed in.
At my home church, the staff and volunteer team is continually thinking about how to reach the people who come searching. People come to church thinking that it might be a last resort or a final effort to fix that gaping hole that each of us carries. Our church is community oriented, and we focus more on creating relationships than merely trying to convert people.
The best argument for the case of Christ is not any theological evidence we can produce, but it is the way that we love one another.
Read that statement over again, and try and think about it for a second.
What draws us into a place or event? It’s the prospect of community. Of being affirmed. Accepted. Loved. We all crave these things, and the possibility of fulfilling those entice us into many different circumstances, whether that be good or bad. The church has to be conscious of this, and we have to put it as a priority. Not something that can be pushed back on the list of essentials, but the necessary component needed to have a healthy body of people who passionately love Jesus. People constantly get hung up on the disagreements that people have in doctrine or theology. Does a certain church accept people from certain backgrounds? Skin color? Sexual orientation? The fights over these issues pushes people away from the church, and when I read the scriptures I do not see Jesus doing that. He picked the unlikely, the people that society at that time had deemed unworthy of the law. Tax collectors. Blue collar workers. Prostitutes. The individuals that had been told no by religion were told yes by Jesus.
If we want to embody Christ, we cannot afford to turn our backs on anyone. Any group that we might not necessarily deem as worthy of the gospel is a group that we have to run after passionately. Not even that, we have to sprint after them. They have been turned away by many other people who put shame on them instead of love. The radical love of Jesus defies our synthetic idea of love, and embodies something completely different.
Christ is love.
He is the one who took the fall for us, and therefore transcends all barriers that we might think exist. We have to carry that love out into the world. Countless times in the New Testament, Paul blankets his statements with the phrase, “In love”. He is trying to get the point across that without love, our actions will be void. Every opinion that we have. Every time we come into contact with someone. Every time we try and correct someone. All of these interactions have to be drenched in love, in a compassion that goes beyond us. It has to come from the giver of life, and through that other people will want to know why we treat them with grace. People will see the way us as Christ followers live our lives, and they will say, “I want what they have.”