Let me start by saying that I have two specific objectives in writing this blog series. The first is to encourage those who don’t go to church but once did. The second objective is to encourage those of us in the church to look up and look around. I’m sure like me you want to be part of the solution and not part of the challenge.
I had the amazing opportunity to help start a brand new church recently. It was so great to meet so many different people from all over the country. Some had gone to church their whole lives, while others had never been to church. Some people I met used to go to church and had just gotten busy and church attendance sort of drifted.
As I talked to hundreds of people I heard similar stories over and over. Here’s a quick summary:
- The church is not relevant –
Lots of people said they left going to church as they got older. I heard many stories of people who had just drifted from going to church. As I heard people talk about their own drift, I often thought “Was it that they didn’t see the need anymore, or that they just got busy with life”. But I wondered to myself if they had really encountered God and community in a meaningful and personal way.
- Hurt / abuse –
I also heard a lot of people talk about tough experiences they had, some even experiencing abuse.. Power and money are a dangerous combination. Some of the stories were simply the result of imperfect people being in community with imperfect people. Misunderstandings and hurt are always going to happen because none of us is perfect.
- The only place to get to God –
Some think that in order to get to God you have to go through the church. Many of the people I spoke to in this group spoke with shame and guilt in sharing their stories. They felt they needed to get their lives sorted before they could come because only perfect people go to church.
- Building – the church is an institution –
A few others thought of the church in a way that sounded very similar to my perception of the mafia. The church was a place that was controlling and cold. This perspective often conveyed a person’s view of God. They saw God as distant and impersonal.
- Church is for me –
Of the folks I met that had attended church in the recent past they often had a very personal and powerful perception of church. They saw the church centered on preferences and personalities.
- Preferences – the way some people described church it sounded a little like Burger King, remember their slogan “Have it your way”? The church existed to meet their individual preferences. I have seen churches who exist simply to maintain and protect what they have.
- Personalities – Others I met felt that the pastor was a kind of CEO. I really struggled with this model. As I read the Bible, the word I see over and over to describe a pastor is the word “shepherd”.
Please don’t get me wrong. I can put my hand on my heart as I write this and say I love the church. I love God’s heart for the church as shown in His Word. But too often, not always, but often, we’ve taken God’s design and put our stuff over it. You see I think all of the perspectives about church listed above are not God’s heart for His church.
The purpose of the coming blogs is to simply encourage you to think about your perceptions of church. I hope this series is challenging and encouraging. As always please feel free to comment or email me directly: . firstname.lastname@example.org.