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Something gnawed at me.
I couldn’t identify it, but that something was there, like an internal siren trying to warn me.
One of my clients as an IT technician all but offered me a job under his purview. I was, of course, flattered at the offer, and the position definitely had its perks. It came with a modest increase in pay and the promise of summers off.
But as I contemplated the opportunity, that nagging feeling persisted. Finally, it hit me.
All of my would-be peers were miserable. They complained, were stressed, unhappy, and unsatisfied. Even the newer employees who had come in as world-changers, upbeat and optimistic, were inevitably beaten down like throw pillows into apathetic lumps.
I respectfully declined the offer. I had no desire to transform into a pessimist, no matter how much they paid me.
Sometimes I wonder if our churches experience the same problem. We invite people to attend in hopes they might turn to Christ, but when they see the way Christians can behave toward one another, they turn tail and flee. Who wants to be part of such a miserable mess?
Famed Hindu revolutionary Mohandas Gandhi is often quoted as having said, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians.” Although I cannot find a definitive source for this quotation, the principle behind the statement is damning.
In contrast Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have lovefor one another.” (John 13:35 HCSB). So which is it?
I do not intend to be a downer on the church. I’ve attended all of my life, and I love my church. But I think we’ve all seen or been a part of seriously dysfunctional congregations consumed by inner strife. And when a church becomes internally focused, it ceases to be effective for evangelistic purposes. At that point why does it even exist?
So what’s the solution?
Church culture spreads from the top down, and there are three things pastors can remind their parishioners.
Remind them who the real enemy is.
The person in the next pew is not the enemy. Satan is. His plan is to divide and conquer. To isolate the sheep for the purposes of stealing, killing, and destroying. Striving against a common enemy is a great way to effect unity.
As Paul wrote, “ For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens.” (Eph. 6:12 HCSB).
Remind them what Jesus did for those who hated him.
One of the most powerful verses in the entire Bible is, “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).
Jesus died for the benefit of the very people who murdered him. He died that they might have life through His atoning death. Even while we were at war with Him, He laid down His life for our benefit.
So if Jesus, our model, can do that, we can forgive any hurt perpetrated against us. As the Scripture says, “Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Col. 3:13b).
Remind them of the mission.
If uniting under a common enemy is effective, uniting under a common mission works even better. The church exists to be the very hands and feet of Christ. We are to carry out His will for the benefit of His kingdom. This means caring for the sick, clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, adopting the orphans, and providing for widows. The church should be so busy doing those things, there’s no time for anything else. Casting that vision helps the community unite under a common goal.
The church doesn’t need to pretend to be something it’s not. It doesn’t have to be phony or exude false positivity. The truth is, the church is filled with people. And any time you’re dealing with people, even redeemed people, things get messy. Just because we are saved doesn’t make us immune to conflict. But when the focus is on what Christ did and how we should respond, nothing else really seems to matter. That’s how you get people in the doors.
Andrew Gilmore writes for people who crave a deeper relationship with God but might not know where to begin. He provides the tools and inspiration you need to connect with your Creator on a more intimate level. Learn more at bit.ly/about-andrew.