When I was in college, I read a survey posted by a Sociology major titled, Terrible Travels. The idea was for people to list places they hated being, but for some reason still felt compelled to attend. “The DMV”, “Airports”, and “The Dentist” were entries that would surprise no one, but as I got toward the middle I noticed another one, “Church”. Normally this wouldn’t have bothered me, but I went to a Christian college. It seemed even Christians didn’t want to go to church.
So what happened? How did the act of going to Church, which once led to joy and celebration, turn into such a chore? I’m sure many theologians will have much wiser answers than I do, but for my part, I believe it’s because many churches have stopped being families. In a recent article by Sarah Bessey, the author describes how her Church is more than an institution for believers, it is a home for all those who seek to know Christ.
“Because at the end of the service, they practice the priesthood of all believers and anyone can pray for anyone else. Just go ahead and pray, go ahead. Talk to each other, you don’t need a sanctioned commissioning, you are already part of this Body so go on then. Because I need to be around people who love Jesus, too. Because I know Jesus better when I hear about Him from other people who follow Him, too.”
“Because I almost always encounter the Holy Spirit in a profound, sideways sort of way when we’re gathered together in His name. Because then I leave and I go back out into my world, my neighborhood, my life, and there is always the promise of next week. Because some of my greatest wounds have come from church and so my greatest healing has happened here, too.”
People underestimate the power of family. Family offers unconditional love, it offers understanding and safety, discipline but fairness, and a place to turn when you feel lost. Or at least it’s supposed to. In recent years, the Church has behaved more like a moral autocrat than a loving parent, and this position has cost believers and non-believers alike. If we are to repair the damage we’ve done, a fully represent the image of Christ, we must change our approach.
Look at what Jesus says in the book of Matthew,
“‘Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' "Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'” – Matthew 25:34-40
It is time for the Church to become a home. A place where the poor and lonely can find a family they never knew. No one connected by blood, but by something stronger. By the unshakable spirit, and unending love, of Jesus Christ.
*Ryan Duncan is the Culture Editor for Crosswalk.com