Meet Mary, Frank, and Marcia. Or maybe you already know them.
Here’s Mary’s story:
“I came into that church a broken person. Alone and unsure. People said this was the place to learn about God, but nobody talked to me. Nobody welcomed me. The sermons were boring. The people were all in cliques. They kept talking about community, but I never felt more alone. That church is dead to me.”
Here’s Frank’s story:
“The Finance committee asked me to be on the audit team. So I spent three months working with this small group looking at the church’s finances and practices. I gave up time with my family in order to put a comprehensive report together. Nobody said thank you, and as far as I can tell, nobody even looked at it. That was it. That church is dead to me.”
Here’s Marcia’s story:
“My parents forced me to go to church as a kid. I hated it. What my parents never knew, or refused to acknowledge, was that one of the youth sponsors was abusing me and a few other girls. For me, that church is the least holy place I’ve ever been. That church is dead to me.”
What would it take for you to make such a statement? Maybe one of these scenarios sounds familiar to you. There are lots of Marys, Franks, and Marcias out there who have abandoned the church.
Wait, is that right? We tend to think of folks who step away from church as if they are abandoning it, but in each of the stories above, it would seem the church has abandoned them!
How can this be? Churches can be so nurturing, so friendly, so life-changing and soul-filling for millions of people. How can they let down so many others? Or, I should say, how can we?
Is it our fault when hospitality and discipleship lets people through the cracks? Is it our fault when leadership isn’t strong and structured? Is it our fault when predators can get to our own children? Yes, of course. It is absolutely our fault.
Being the Body of Christ is an audacious undertaking. It’s a lot of complicated systems that all have to work together for the body to be healthy. Sometimes, even when we think we’re in peak condition, one of those systems fails, and we’re in trouble. As good as dead, at least to some of the folks who get hurt in the process.
If we’re going to own up to the damage that we can inadvertently cause, we have to consider these sad stories as near-death experiences. If we don’t pump some new life into our systems, we risk our churches becoming lifeless tombs. Like the kind they put Lazarus in.
When Jesus comes to bring him back to life, Jesus does not say “Lazarus, resume what you were doing!”. He does not say, “Lazarus, let’s pretend this never happened,” or “Lazarus, how are things in that tomb?”
He says, “Lazarus, come out.” That’s exactly what we’ll have to do if we’re ever going to reach the folks who say our churches are dead to them. We’ll have to come out to where all the hurt folks have gone, and find a healthy way to love them.
Let Mary, Frank, and Marcia be good reminders for us.
You can’t fully offer life to people…
If you’re not fully alive.
Have a good week,