When I’m talking to people and the topic of church comes up, I’m interested in where they attend or what their background is. When they say they, “Used to go to . . . .” or they, “Don’t go to church any more,” I’m especially curious about their reasons. The reasons are most often in three categories. One is that their moms made them go and now they can’t be made to go, so they don’t. The other reasons are that they didn’t like something that happened to them in church or something about church they don’t like.
The something about church they don’t like is interesting to me because I’m not sure if there is anything that can be done to change a lot of the problems that are blamed. Things like:
- “The church is too organized” (or too disorganized.)
- “The church is too big.” ( or too small.)
- “The church is full of old people.” (or too many young people.)
- “The church is just trying to entertain people.” (or it’s too boring.)
- “The pastor is only interested in money.”
- “There are too many hypocrites in the church.”
. . . do we need to go on? The excuses are unending. How can these be remedied? (There really is nothing that can undo mom’s rule about church attendance. God bless her for caring enough that she tried to help her children learn a moral way to live and to know about God.)
Sometimes the something that happened to a person really might be legitimate, or it might be just another excuse. Excuses were aptly described by Dr. Landrum Levell, when he defined an excuse as “the skin of a reason, stuffed with a lie.” In other words, excuses sound good, but they aren’t real. A reason is real.
Some examples of real might include,
- “Nobody would talk to me,”
- “Mrs. Windham, my Sunday School teacher, told me I should dress nicer for church,”
- “I was told that if I really loved Jesus I’d bring my Bible to church with me, but I don’t have a Bible.”
- “I haven’t been going to church very long, so I was embarrassed when people laughed at my question (answer, opinion) in a Bible study.
- It could be an ugly business meeting that became too uncomfortable.
So, what’s the “elephant” in your church? You know, one of those things that no one will talk about. Maybe its a difficult problem that offends someone but doesn’t have an answer. Can a church really be all things to all people? Think about it. You can’t be small enough for everyone and big enough for everyone. You can’t be young enough and old enough for everyone. There’s no way you can be progressive and traditional. There is no church in the world that can be said to have no organization and at the same time minister to people. You can’t have committed Christians and screen out the “hypocrites.” A church can’t make all people feel comfortable even when sitting side by side in worship. Some believers and unbelievers just don’t want to be a part of church regardless of what’s done to encourage them to feel safe.
What is the thing that no one will talk about in your church? The issue that may not have a solution? Maybe the answer isn’t in trying to be all things to all people, but being available to all people and accepting the fact that no one church will be satisfying to everyone.
In coming posts, let’s examine some of these elephants and see if we can find ways to improve situations and develop solutions for some of the reasons people might complain about your elephant. If there really is no solution, maybe there’s a need that can be met, and a means to accept what can’t be accomplished.
There are other kinds of elephants, too. Some may get pretty ugly to talk about . . . for now. Maybe we can tackle them in the future.
Have you ever experienced a situation in church that you, or someone you know found offensive? Maybe it’s your church’s elephant. Let me know about it in the comment box or e-mail me about it. If your church is struggling with a problem and needs help, contact me and maybe we can find an answer for it.
I’d like to hear from you!