Monday, February 25, 2013

Church is not for me?

Have you ever been accused of only hearing what you want to hear, or, only seeing what you want to see? I know I have. Last night I was talking to a niece who teaches a class of middle school children and she told me one of her students thinks he is a cat. My unfiltered response was, “Well that must be difficult for you since you are a dog.”

Fortunately she heard what I wanted to say rather than taking the words at face value. I was thinking of one of those long thin dogs you see with French models, which fits her. Had I been talking to someone else, well, it doesn’t bear thinking about.

I bring this up because I am concerned the people who do not know Jesus and who would not normally consider going to church will only see what they expect to see when they come to church. According to my unscientific survey over the years they expect to be in a building decorated 20 years ago, filled with long time church members who expect the guest to act and look like them. They believe the music will be less than professional, the message long, theological, and, irrelevant to their lives. Not surprisingly they also expect to be judged as unworthy to be there.

Church goers expect to see what they have always seen. They do not see the d├ęcor, demographics, music, or even, the message as important. They are there to be in church. Because of this “selective perception” church goers do not see the need to make changes in the look and feel of the church. They assume people come to church for the same reason they come to church. Non church goers see church goers as apathetic to their attendance.

I know the last paragraph is more a caricature than description, but, it highlights the issues we face in making LHCC irresistible to people who won’t know Jesus unless we introduce them to Him. When we make changes to our property and program we want to keep these concerns front and center. We are, of course, being good stewards of God’s resources when we repair, paint, and, decorate. We also want to be good stewards of His Mission as we do all these things so that non church goers will immediately feel welcome and comfortable. If that means I do not have that same “ah I am at church” feeling, but, they have an “ah ha so this is church” feeling I believe we have succeeded.

Much of what I am comfortable with and find pleasing in “church” may have to take a back seat to what makes them feel comfortable and find pleasing. That is how a person with one set of preconceived assumptions, that would be me, can reach out to another whose assumptions are so different, that would be the one Jesus is calling to Himself.

I believe I must contribute to making the church environment so welcoming to the people who do not yet follow Jesus that they will be willing to give Him a chance to work in their lives. Given that Jesus primary mission was to the “sick” who need a doctor and not to me, the healthy, then I must change my environment so they can hear the unchanging truth of Christ. Since God is not willing that any should die without Him then I must give up my prejudices so the people closest to His heart can find a pathway to him.

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