As I begin the process of planting a church, I have had several conversations with people seeking a different way for church to work. They have had painful experiences that pushed them out the doors of many churches and seeking faith answers elsewhere.
My heart broke as I heard one person share their inability to feel comfortable in a church that won’t allow them to wear jeans and a t-shirt. They felt judged and insecure.
Another shared their fear of not understanding traditions. They said, “I wasn’t raised in the church. So, if I walked into a church that had a lot of rituals that I didn’t understand, I would most likely leave.”
Finally, there was one person who shared their heartache because they walked into an older congregation and got cold, blank stares. Nobody said hello, but when they didn’t take communion right, it shifted to people ridiculing and making sounds of disgust. They didn’t know they weren’t supposed to take the bread back to their seat. A simple mistake for someone who was raised in a different faith tradition and didn’t experience communion.
All these issues might not seem big to some of you, but for me, it’s huge!
There are a large amount of struggles in the Church, which is to be expected as humans lead and direct it. However, many of the struggles could be avoided if people would think beyond their own wants and comfort to provide a safe and welcoming worship experience.
This doesn’t necessarily mean traditions or rituals have to disappear, but perhaps there has to be a point where people recognize there are others who don’t understand and need explanation. Not everyone was raised in the church, or perhaps in a particular denomination, so they need grace.
For many churches, there are groups of people who have control of certain parts in the congregation. There are individuals who will complain, leave, withhold money, etc. due to their control issues. It is unfair to the church as a whole, but it also causes an interesting dilemma, mainly around their idea of God’s authority in the church.
I’ve come to wonder if, the churches who are not growing, have become like the Israelites in the desert. Have they allowed themselves to get to a point, where they have turned their back on what God originally planned for them, in order to pursue their own desires?
When a church becomes stagnant, there has to be an internal analysis of what has kept them from growing and going forward.
Perhaps, the churches the few people I mentioned earlier attended, have become so focused on their own comfort, that they have forgotten their role in reaching those on the outside of their doors?
They are wandering in the wilderness, and they might have people who believe their church can be more, but unfortunately they have to sit in the wilderness too.
The interesting thing God said to the Israelites as they walked in the desert was they would be there until a generation passed on.
This is not a commentary on the older generation, but a commentary on the people who have a stranglehold on the finances or church programs. These people could be young or old. They are mainly the people who are dragging the church down and causing the issues and, most likely, they don’t care as long they are getting what they want.
Until those people are addressed and challenged to reconsider their position or step out of their roles, then the church they attend will wander.
God wants the Church to reach the promised land. There might be some left out in the desert, but the hope is, there will be a group walking into the place God has prepared for them.
May we be the Church to the broken world. May church leaders be bold enough to stand up to those who are causing them to wander. May the congregation be strong enough to address issues with their leadership. May we see the Church enter into the promised land as they serve for the glory of God.
Peace and blessings friends.
QUESTION: How can you be a part of leading the local church out of the desert?