What do you figure Jesus had in mind when He began the church? Do you think it was so He would be remembered? So we would be motivated to be faithful to Him? Because we need to remind each other to glorify His Father? So we can learn all of the books of the Bible He knew would be written, collected, compiled and printed . . . eventually? As a way to help us be better organized? So we could take witnessing courses to spread the Gospel? Etc . . . etc . . . etc . . . ?
When a youth/college minister, I once had a college student who had just completed in-patient treatment at a chemical dependency facility tell me that Alcoholics Anonymous would outlive the church because it was a more supportive organization than church was.
Others frequently complain that the church is “full of hypocrites,” so they have no intention of ever going there. I always respond that I’m glad those nasty hypocrites are going to church, because at least that increases the chances they’ll learn how to be genuine, caring, honest people. At the same time, it points out the feelings many have regarding those who attend church. Namely, that Christians don’t live the lives to which they profess to be committed. While no one is capable of living a perfect life, some really do appear to the world to be living a double life; one for church and one for the rest of their time.
Others criticize church as “man’s institution.” The evidence, in their minds, is that there are so many denominations, and even lots of differences within denominations, that it must mean conflicts and selfishness is the cause of all these churches. If everyone is worshiping the same God, everyone would be worshiping and believing the same. That sounds logical, doesn’t it? If all people had the same personality type, and temperament, and carried the same baggage, that really might make sense. Unfortunately, for that theory to make sense, there would be no uniqueness between people. So I have a problem with that excuse.
I have a tendency to think that one of the principle reasons for the creation of church is so we can have a loving, caring support group. Studies in psychology regarding people dealing with problems show that those who enjoy a dependable support group have a greater chance of overcoming a trauma or crisis in their lives. In some wedding ceremonies, ministers point out that, “When a couple share a sorrow, the sorrow is halved, and when they share a joy, the joy is doubled.” How exciting is it for a person to have a large group to share a joy with, and that same group to help carry the burden of a difficult situation.
Some churches seem to be achieving this goal. Stories can be heard in most communities of such places. Some people seem to be able to find a safe church for their needs regardless of where they live. Some churches have a wide-spread reputation, even nationwide.
So what can a church do to develop that supportive, encouraging, loving, caring attitude that will make it the support group God would be proud of, full of hypocrites or not? I think it can be done when . . .
. . . church members are educated in loving others and avoiding judgmental behavior. Of course, Bible study classes and small groups a church may have in place can be the way to accomplish this. When leadership beginning with ministerial staff, elders/deacons, and other lay leaders, lovingly but firmly interrupt gossip and rumors in the process of being repeated, respect for the leadership increases and these problems decrease.
. . . church members are led to be connected and invested in each other. I heard a report of a pastor recently who stayed in touch with many members of his congregation with Twitter, text, e-mail and Facebook (but not all at the same time). When a young father of an infant was widowed, the pastor checked on him daily through texts and gave a significant sum of money out of the pastor’s own pocket to “help with diapers”. It wasn’t announced from the pulpit, but the word spread and inspired others. What a great example for others!
. . . small groups are formed to give the kind of support people need. There is a model for addictions support groups found in Celebrate Recovery begun by Saddleback Community Church in California.
. . . the community feels invited to take advantage of the ministries that are created. Although most churches make an effort to issue invitations to those in the community to come to their services and activities, not all churches are inviting to the community. What I’m trying to say is that an invitation doesn’t mean that guests feel welcome and included when they do show up. Making the effort to go up to a visitor and host them helps them feel welcome and connected.
. . . God’s commandments and Jesus’ example are implemented. The example of the pastor described above who gave out of his own pocket is the kind of encouragement that can motivate a family of believers to minister to others.
Want to learn how your ministry can have a positive impact on the community? Contact Ken Sneed at firstname.lastname@example.org. We can discus a plan taylored to your staff’s and/or church’s needs.