It occured to me as I was rereading my post from Monday, that some of you might think to yourselves, “My church isn’t like that. Some days I’m not sure if they care about me at all! I certainly don’t think they would help me out in the way you’re talking about.”
If that happened, my post did not serve the purpose for which it was intended.
Instead of sharing an illustration of how a gracious interaction helped me experience grace in a new way, it would have engendered feelings of jealousy, dissatisfaction, even dissention with your church and/or its leadership.
That wasn’t my intention. . .AT ALL!
I don’t use illustrations from my church situation to make others jealous. Or worse, make them dissatisfied with their churches or church leadership. Remember, I’ve been on both sides of this situation.
There are pros and cons for each kind of church: Big or Small!
We have served in large churches on a multiple staff and know the down sides of that. . .as well as the upsides. They tend to attract people with lots of great skills. Resources tend to be plentiful. But for the people who work on a multiple staff, life also has major stressors. . .depending on the culture of the church! Then there is the culture among the staff. Sometimes it is the same as the church. Sometimes it can be very dysfunctional. But I digress.
We have also served in smaller churches, actually, by definition they are called medium sized. These are churches that have 100-250 members, depending on the book you are reading.
But in many of the larger groups where we function, (some may be at the denominational level) it feels like we are odd. We feel like we’re small. Are you aware that the average sized church in the US is about 100 members?
So a church of 200-ish isn’t all that small. We just hear about churches in the thousands and think of it as the norm. But wait, back to the point of my post!
As part of a church, I’m also part of a family.
We don’t air our dirty linens in public. . .hopefully!
So why am I enjoying many aspects of our church? For one thing, I’m not going to post about what I don’t like. It’s not right! It’s not Biblical. It’s downright wrong. I need to go to the leadership if I have an issue. It’s in the family. I talk to them about what I have problems with, not everyone else!
There is another reason I enjoy our church. They have been through a very painful period. They have been broken in difficult and public ways and the church was split a few years ago. It was sad and way more public than family problems should be handled. It happened before we moved here so I wasn’t involved in the details (thankfully).
But those who came through it were broken. Three years later the pastor will break into tears when some things are spoken of from the pulpit. Friends of mine will choke up when it is referred to. It was very, very sad. The one thing they are all very aware of is that they do NOT have it “all together.” Their awareness of their brokenness, proneness to sin, need for GOD’s grace is extremely tangible and concrete?
That is not a subject for discussion. They know they are needy that way. They aren’t surprised when someone fails, makes a wrong decision, says something the wrong way. Why? Because they have done those very things. . .and more.
When all is said and done, it is the difference between people who consider themselves to be Pharisees and able to keep all the rules to GOD’s standards vs. those who come to GOD knowing they are a mess (like the tax collector in the story). All they can say is, “GOD, be merciful to me, a sinner.”
They don’t look down on the sinners around them because they know they are part of the group. They don’t look around them to see how many people are watching them do their good deeds. They are too aware of their own bankrupt position in front of a Holy GOD.
How does a culture like this start to happen?
This kind of culture develops in a context of pain, grief, humiliation, and failure. . . to name a few. Don’t ask for this end result as you pray for your church if you don’t want that process.
That’s how people are broken from their self-centerdness and pride, their arrogance, their disinterest in sinners and the people and communities around them who are broken.
And as you pray for your church and your leadership, start putting into practice the Matthew 5 principles taught by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. They are good for all relationships. . .just not natural. They are so NOT native to us. They go against the grain of our wishes and desires.
Another resource? Peacemaker.net Biblical, practical, offered for many age groups and reading levels. (For those who don’t like to read or have difficulty reading, see their teen level, comic version that is also multi-cultural in illustrations.)
They have been around a long time, yet keep up to date. They are both practical and thorough. Started by former lawyers who wanted to see the Bible put into practice in these important areas. Take a look at their website for resources, stories, books, conferences and seminars near you. . . and ask GOD for guidance and help.
So ask GOD where change needs to happen. My guess is that He will show you your own heart for starters!
What do you need to do to help the attitudes of those around you in your church?
How would the conversation you had with a friend be different if you lived out Christ in each conversation?
How can you pray for your church and church leaders?