West Franklin Family,
There’s something that is weighing heavy on my mind. I cannot get it out of my head. In the course of seven days, I have had two separate conversations with two different ladies who know Jesus but are struggling. Struggling with sin issues, yes. We all struggle here. But their struggle that I am “struggling” with is their reticence to come join a local congregation on a Sunday morning. Both of them, in their own way, communicated to me that they don’t feel like they measure up to the other church people. One came to Christ later in life (not as a child). She acknowledged not being familiar with the church culture. She shared she didn’t know how to act and was incredibly intimidated to be around all the “moral” people. The other one knew Christ as a young child, stepped away for a bit, and now feels condemned when she thinks about sitting in a church service. Condemned, not just by God, but by the church people.
Before you start thinking to yourself all the reasons this is not the case and formulate your arguments, let me urge you to pause. Sure. There are tons of factors that could be at play. These ladies obviously have an enemy who want them to believe a myriad of lies. Yes. These ladies could be simply making an excuse not to go to church. These ladies may have had some horrific church experiences in the past that still haunt them today. They might not even be genuinely converted and are merely demonstrating a life without the Spirit of Christ. Yes. All of these things could be true. (For the record, I do not think this is the case with these ladies – but still. . . )
But let’s pause and consider that their feelings are real and valid and that maybe, just maybe, they are right. What if we “church people” do – in fact – give off an air that communicates self-righteousness? What if we do talk in a way that is foreign to someone who didn’t grow up in church? What if we do merely glance and stare at the person who may not look like us, rather than engage them in conversation – as a human being? What if they have indeed been condemned by leaders from other churches in the past and are mortified of it happening again? What if our posture is one of holy arrogance that pats our religious selves on the back for being at church? What if, without even knowing it, we intimidate people who long to grow in Christ?
I am not sure why this has stuck in my head so fiercely. Honestly, hearing them talk hurt my heart. It forces me to ask the question, “What is a church?” How should someone who came to Christ later in life feel about joining a group of Christians? How should someone who walked away for a while, did some things she isn’t proud of, and is now longing for Jesus – think about being with His people? What do you hope comes to their mind when they consider being around other redeemed Christ followers? Does it bother you that new adult believers are scared, intimidated, and automatically assume they don’t fit in?
To be sure, their comments were directed toward the capital “C” Church – not particularly West Franklin. And, to be sure, dozens of factors could be (and probably are) at play. But what would it take for us to begin to change the narrative? What would have to happen for us to reverse the assumption? What is necessary for us to move toward a culture that exudes welcome and warmth and safety and the kind Spirit of Jesus? What do we need to do to help everyone feel human?
I don’t have the answers. But I do have lots of questions. We aren’t perfect. We aren’t going to get it right some (most!) of the time. We are a group of saved sinners who still sin. This side of heaven, we will always struggle. So shouldn’t this knowledge lead us to humility? Shouldn’t these facts drive us to empathy? Shouldn’t these realities free us to laugh at ourselves and not take ourselves so seriously? Shouldn’t the fact that we would be nothing without Jesus lead us to live like we would be nothing without Jesus? Shouldn’t the way the One we say we walk with be the posture of our lives? Should we not welcome sinners the way Jesus did/does? I’m not talking about being a friendly or welcoming church. I am talking about seeing one another – seeing people – the way Jesus does. Seeing ourselves the way Jesus does. The woman at the well. Zacchaeus. Matthew. Nicodemus. The thief on the cross. Peter. The church – sinners saved by grace. The church – redeemed brothers and sisters. The church – ones who are hopeless without Jesus. The church is not a display of what we do and who we are. The church is a display of what He’s done and what He is doing.
Again, I don’t have the answers. But I long for the spirit we give off to be the same Spirit of our Lord. Tomorrow morning when we partake of the elements together – let’s keep this in mind. If we had it all together, we wouldn’t need Jesus. If we were holy and righteous on our own, we could proudly pass on the bread and juice. If we were without many sins, we could eat and drink while looking down our noses. But we aren’t. We come to the table to express our need. We come to the table to express our hope. We come to the table confessing we are desperate people who have found the Answer. We are broken brothers and sisters who know where peace is found. We are known and we are loved.
Yes. West Franklin. We are Known and We are Loved,
Tomorrow Morning – My Bible will be open to John 6:1-15. 8 AM service will meet in the student room. 9 and 10:30 AM in the fellowship hall.
Tomorrow Night: GOING NIGHT at West Franklin! Go here to learn more.