We can all picture the usual Sunday morning scene:
We walk into church with, dare I say, a fake smile and have 10 pointless conversations in a row.
You know exactly what I mean. Those fake conversations:
“How are you doing?”
“Great thanks, you?”
“See you next week.”
This is pointless.
I have been to a fair amount of churches and while they were all radically different from one another, the reoccurring theme I noticed was the lack of community. This is a really important issue, as ultimately the role of the Church is to be there for the lay people when they are struggling with life. And how can the Church understand anyone’s problems when no one is close enough to share their true feelings? The Church is meant to be a place of refuge, not a building filled with shallow relationships.
This lack of community could have severe consequences for us all, and this was highlighted to me when I was away at Momentum last summer. The speaker felt he had a word for people who felt abandoned and mistreated by the Church, and invited them to stand to be prayed for. To my horror thousands of people stood up and walked to the front. The scene left me upset and angry, as it’s something that could so easily have been prevented.
I’m currently in a great church where community has been the focus for the past few years. Other churches need to follow this pattern and have community as their focal point too; and if it’s not, depleting attendance should come as no surprise.
The root of the problem could be found in how we conduct ourselves at church. A surprisingly large amount of Christians view church as an unquestionably holy place. But that’s wrong; church is not a place for the holy. It’s a place for us all to come with our brokenness, our sin, our mistakes, questions, and anger and to submit them to God. We should arrive broken and leave restored.
If we all assume that we have to be holy to enter church, and think that by admitting our weaknesses that God won’t love us, then we’ve missed the point entirely.
God doesn’t say that. God says that He will love us, no matter what. And this is epitomised in Jesus’s words: “I have not come to call the righteous, but the sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32).
So where do we go from here? After all, what is the point of ranting without any suggestions of how to change it? There is no easy way to initiate community but it starts by people being honest about how they’re really feeling. So if you want to see community, next time someone comes up to you in church and begins a ‘pointless conversation’ tell them honestly how you feel. Sure enough this will evoke truth in them also. Community will therefore, build and grow and the Church will become what God always intended, a sanctuary.