Pain in the Pews
So I’ve read a few blogs lately about why people are not happy with their current church. Supposedly many long time church goers are just up and leaving and others are sitting in the pews week after week wondering if they should leave. And of course there is no shortage of bloggers out there in blog land ready to put fingers to the keyboard to explain this discontent with the modern day Christian church.
If you are a Christian on Facebook there is a good chance you’ve read one or two…or five or ten of these blogs. And you may even be able to see yourself in some of them. I know I have.
Fact is, we can probably all identify with being unhappy with the church we attend or have attended in the past. And we all have a great reason for our feelings. Someone said something rude to us, the music is too boring, the music is too loud, the preacher is too crazy, the children’s ministry is too big, the children’s ministry is too small, there is no place for me to minister in my church, they don’t understand my feelings, I don’t fit in, I feel worse after church than before, I don’t have any friends at church, there are too many cliques. Or….someone didn’t invite me to their house, no one talked to me, no one sees me, no one cares. Or….I’m offended and I have every right to be offended. Or the church won’t change what it preaches and teaches to fit my lifestyle or my opinion. The list goes on and on. I know, because I’ve been there.
I’ve been in that place where I wasn’t sure I fit. I’ve sat in my seat and wondered if anyone really saw me or even wanted to see me. I’ve gone to church and looked around at all the cliques and friend groups and felt left out. And yes, I’ve experienced deep “church hurt”. I’ve had my heart broken in church by people that I trusted to love me no matter what. If we are honest, most of us have.
But here’s the kicker…ALL of those reasons have one thing in common….they are about me, not Jesus.
Let’s just be honest. We can get our feelings hurt everywhere we go, not because of the nature of the place but because of the nature of the people. And that’s really the problem. It’s not the church as a whole, it’s not even the people alone, it’s the sinful nature. Hmmmm, I wonder where on earth we could go that we would never have to deal with the sinful nature of people? The answer is no where on earth. We gotta wait till heaven folks.
Until then, Jesus has given us some instruction on how to handle all this stuff. First, love God. Take your attention off of yourself and what you want and your feelings and look at Jesus. Love Him first and love Him so much that your feelings and opinions fade to the background and nothing seems to matter when compared to Him. Jesus, the one who saved you…the lover of your soul….your everything…. Love Him fiercely. Don’t look to the left of you and don’t look to the right of you and don’t look down. Look at Jesus…only Jesus.
Second, love people. Love ALL people. Love the lost and broken, love the lonely, love the popular, love the sinner, love the hypocrite, love the one that hurt you, love your preacher, love your teacher, love the old guy that snores during the service, love the teenager that won’t shut up, love the kid that won’t sit still, love every member of the clique that left you out, love the woman that shamed you, love the elder that corrected you, love the person that called you a name. Have I left anyone out? Oh yes! Love the teacher that lost her temper and yelled at your child. Love the parent that is too protective. Love the parent that lets their kid run all over the church building; love the kid that runs all over the church. Love the one you harbor jealousy for. Love the one that wears too much perfume and love the one that doesn’t wear deodorant. Love that one that has left and returned over and over. Love the one you don’t trust. Love the one that lied to you. Love the one that gossiped about you. And if I’ve missed anyone, well then love them too. Love them past their sin and their mistakes. Love them beyond how you feel. Just love them.
Yes, how you feel is real and it matters and Jesus cares. Take it to Him. Let him comfort you and soothe you and fix your heart. After all, that’s His business. It’s His joy. Run to Jesus….not out the church door.
I can’t even imagine what the church would look like if every single Christian came to church with one goal every single Sunday…love God, love people. If we woke up on Sunday morning with just that thought in our head…love God, love people. If we didn’t wonder what songs would be sung or what the pastor was preaching on, or who would talk to us that day. If we didn’t waste time trying to fit in or thinking about who hurt our feelings. If we just got up and went to our place of worship and we loved God and we loved people.
And I wonder, if we did that every Sunday…how long would it be before we did that every day? I wonder what your community would look like?
Listen, if you are a born again follower of Jesus your life isn’t about you. So suck it up buttercup! Quit looking at yourself…because that’s all you will ever be able to see if that’s all you look at. It’s about the Holy, Sovereign God that died for you. And it’s about the people He created. Jesus was serious when He told us the greatest commandment. He knew exactly what He was telling us to do. He left no wiggle room. Love Him, love people and He will work the rest of it out.