Church on a slippery pole

January 4, 2010

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We have a bird feeder that has a squirrel guard on it to keep squirrels off the feeder.  Some people put grease or oil on the pole for the same reason.  We only want birds on our bird feeders. 

Sometimes I think churches do something similar.  We build churches on slippery poles so we only get the kind of people we want at our feeders, er churches.

I know some churches who make everyone feel welcome and some churches that accept people where ever they are in the spiritual journey, including those running from God as fast as they can.  But the majority of churches that I have seen are looking for an homogenized congregation, they only want people of a certain flavor and texture.

Many don’t do this on purpose.  They simply limit their congregation by doing church in a way that would alienate or scare off the “wrong kind of people.”  Sometimes without even knowing it.  We get so comfortable with our way of doing church that we fail to notice that everyone else is uncomfortable. Some churches are very deliberate in their approach, and will go so far as to say, “If you don’t like what we are doing you can go someplace else.”  

I want to make it very clear I am not talking about teaching and speaking the Truth, I am talking about the style and the culture in which that truth is communicated.  It doesn’t matter how relevant and helpful the Word is if it is spoken in a totally irrelevant manner, or with condescension, or with constricting language (language that only club members will understand).  When we do that we are telling people very clearly, “thank you for visiting, but we don’t really want you here.”

How do churches get to be this way?  They fill themselves up with people who think that way; in other words they invite us  to be a part.  Church is only a reflection of the people, mostly Christians, who attend.  So if I don’t like Chinese people, rock music, or people who smell funny, chances are my church will be a reflection of those values.

When you and I as a followers of Jesus take the Great Commission and the Greatest Commandment seriously we will become better neighbors, better co-workers, and better churches.  Then we can take our churches down from the slippery poles upon which we built them.

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