Do people just make excuses to not go to church, or does the church need to consider change as an option? If we are going to reach people that have never been reached we must be willing to do things we have never done!
I recently dialogued with a woman from another church near Bonney Lake. She had faithfully served for dozens of years and was very proud of her accomplishments. She asked what I attributed the growth of Open Life to and I expressed that many of the people who had begun to attend had come from a place of not being able to find a church that truly represented the heart of Jesus in scripture.
I further explained…they found great churches, but struggled to find a growing connection with Jesus. So many have given up on church as the way to Jesus. They think church is just a bunch of politicking, and more about themselves vs. truly being interested in sharing the gospel in a messy world. Where is the justice for the unjust in our world…are they living the gospel outside the church or is that just a great plaque above the door as churches claim to be “the church exiting the building.
She then replied in a way that has had me thinking, “people will always say that about the church. They are just looking for an excuse to leave.”
So I have been wondering, is that really true? Is there really 80,000 people out of the 91,000 in our region who have chosen to make excuses to leave church, or has the message and reality of Jesus just not been made real yet? Personally I think what she said is an excuse for the church not to change in order to be more present in the lives of those who need Jesus.
The church gets super comfortable doing what they do and when someone no longer sees Jesus in what they do, they blame the people vs. stepping back and asking the hard questions about what they are doing. Is Jesus asking them to do what they do, or are they doing what they do out of habit, history and tradition?
If people are deciding to give up on the church, if they are not finding Jesus in what we do, we need to make deep changes. My suggestion is we go to the scriptures and ask ourselves what the church would look like today if Jesus were to tell us how to do it all over again.
Would it look the same as we are doing it? Have we really heard from Jesus in our design or are we doing what is familiar?
What we do know…thousands do not have a growing relationship with Jesus and we can make a difference in their lives. We have the message…that is the most important thing, the method must be flexible.
Thad, I think you are spot on. Recent reading; UnChristian, Searching for God Knows What… stellar in conveying the glaring divide that is the “Churched” and “UnChurched”. If Christians would rather belong to the club, then change will not happen. But if being the love of Christ or the Seed that leads to fruit is what Christians want, then getting back to the “gutter” is where the Church should go. I know it was an isolated event, but I was at a tattoo parlor in Phoenix (I wish I could track how many people stop reading this just because I was at a tattoo parlor), and one of the artists asked about the meaning of my tattoo, and then stated I must be one of those ‘Christians’. In the way you cringe when you hear ‘Christians’ as he already put me in a box. I told him yes, in the sense that I follow the Jesus of the Bible, and have a relationship with him. He then related to me that he was at a funeral for a family member (distant) and was told he had to be in the back of the church because of his tattoo’s. We talked about this for a minute, and I couldn’t hide my disdain for the Christian Club that would shun like that. I told him in essance that was okay; one not all churches are like that, and frankly, Jesus would not be hanging around in those Churches anyway… he would be hanging out at/around/in/near the “sick”. That revelation struck him as if I had just explained to him that water will make you less thirsty. My prayer is for the Church… that we would run to Him, resemble Him, and influence for Him.
It was just a week ago that someone I know, who has been a Christian for over 40 years, said she doesn’t see the need for the ‘church’ to make changes to suit the culture (become relevant). “Just preach the word & they will be changed”. I understand this way of thinking, but the reality is that not everyone is coming into the traditional church building to hear the word for many different reasons. When we look at the word of God, we did not always see Jesus in the temple reaching the masses. Jesus was out in the community touching lives where he went–loving, sharing, caring, and doing. I love the vision you have for Open Life, even though it may not be the place for those Christians that have been in the church for 40 years. I’m thankful God is bigger than a box and He cares deeply for those that don’t even acknowledge Him yet. The blind man in the scriptures came to know Jesus while begging for money. Peter, the religious man that he was, came to know Jesus while on his way to persecute the followers of Jesus. Nicodemus, one of the leaders of the religious Sanhedren, came to know Jesus when he listened to Jesus and his heart cried out to ‘understand’ what he was hearing. Surely your vision must be inspired from someone greater than mere man. I love what God is doing thru Open Life. There is so much relevancy to be made known about God…Jesus… He hasn’t changed and His word hasn’t changed. He continues to be relevant. Bless you as you continue to live out what you’ve experienced and share it with others.