I think things are changing. I (Amy) grew up in a traditional church – in the Bible belt, no less – and many good things happened in that church. People were mostly genuine and mostly loved God. More than you can expect of an average American church, I think. I was blessed. I wasn’t wounded or hurt deeply by the church like so many I know. I love the church – in all of her imperfection.
But I really think gone are the days when you just invite someone to church who isn’t familiar with Jesus or church. I just don’t think that’s how it works anymore – maybe it never really did. But the problem with the church is that it’s full of people. (Not really. This a good thing. But stay with me.) Imperfect people. People who do horrible things. People who don’t do what they say they believe. People who put on a facade. People who are better at judging than they are at loving. People who are better at attending than at living out their faith. Those who don’t like church look in and wonder, “Why would we want to be a part of that?”
Too many churches have tried to be perfect instead of real. Rules instead of mercy. Production instead of community. Programs instead of mission. Many churches think that the way to “grow” is to invite more people, put on more of a show, and offer more to the consumer Christian. But I think a lot of people who aren’t into Jesus and church are not interested in what the church has become. So, I ask you, What if we stopped inviting people to church?
What if, instead, we reached out and got to know those around us? What if we decide to be late to where we’re going so we can talk to our neighbors in the driveway? What if we invite the other soccer family over for dinner? What if we invite the single mom at our child’s school out for coffee? What if we meet the guy who always serves our coffee at a bar over beer and get to know his story? What if we get to a point with people in our lives where we talk about God over glasses of wine on our patio while the kids play in the backyard? What if we got past our own discomfort, and went out of our own way, and learned to join those people in the things that they’re already doing? What if we’re real with them and talk about our faults and our vulnerabilities? What if we encourage them to do the same and love them no matter their story?
What if we then invite them to a small gathering of friends where we share a meal, share our lives and talk about the Bible? What if they get to know our friends and establish friendships with them outside of the one we’ve started? What if they find our friends to be real and vulnerable and loving too? What if we invite them to go serve at the local mission with us? What if we make serving a regular part of our lives and not just something we do monthly or quarterly? What if those we’re reaching out to see this and want to join in? What if we love people even if some of their choices or decisions don’t align with what we’ve decided is holy or Biblical? What if we let God handle what needs to change in their lives, and we love them where they are?
What if, after all of that, they ASK to join us at our weekly gatherings where the people they’ve already met will come together in a simple fashion to corporately love on their God?
After Jesus washes the feet of his disciples at the last supper, in John 13:34, he says this, “A new commandment I give to you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
What if John 13:34 looks a little like that?