So, in the last six months I have transitioned from working for and being a member at a very large church(of which I had been a part of since I got saved) to being a part of a new church plant with is about 1/100th of the size of my former church home. And I have learned a great amount of things about my self and about gospel community in the process, But thing that totally stuck out to me today was this; in my experience, Christians and not-yet-Christians seem to be drawn to different churches for different reasons. Now this is a VERY general statement, and i'm going to be painting this thought for you in very broad strokes, so just realize, this doesn't apply to everybody.
Since the transition to my new church home, It has been much easier for me to invite not-yet-Christians to our corporate gatherings and much harder to invite already-Christians to come. Now, coming from a big church with lots of programs and do-hickeys and laser beams and guitar solos I found it quite simple to get my Christians friends to come but arduously difficult to get my non-Jesus loving friends to check it out, and now I seem to have the opposite happening now.
A couple of days ago I had an eye-opening conversation with a friend who has a passing knowledge of Christianity but would never consider themselves a church-goer. She explained to me in great angst and detail how she felt like going to a large church gathering felt like going to an event or concert instead of engaging in a community of believing peoples. I was struck by her candor and precision in nailing what exactly what she (and I imagine many others) felt was lacking in Churchianity. Now, this in no means is a blast on megachurches. I thank God for the many large congregations in my area because bigger churches generally mean more people meeting Jesus which is always a good thing. The problem is see is this: It seems to me that many christians go to bigger churches so they can escape from being known and not-yet-christians seem to like smaller churches so that they can known. You see, it is much easier to go to a program or event than it is to part of a family. Families are messy, but events are smooth and enjoyable. If we were completely honest (and I know that church is not the place for that), we would admit that even though we try to look good and perform well at church (cuz' thats what you do at church, right?), we are just a broken as the people on "the outside." But if good, church-goin' folk found out who we REALLY ARE, well, what would we do then?? I think the answer comes in "heathen" form. Not-yet-believers want to be known, they deeply desire for the community that we as Jesus' church are supposed to have! They have been so beat up bedraggled and bushwhacked that they just want a place that will met them where they are and love them, not try and fix their life, not try and make them more presentable in church, but just love them with the love of the Father. Can we all agree that its hard to step into unfamiliarity, especially when it comes to church? Then shouldn't we make it as easy as possible to invite people into community?
Now back to the Christians for a moment. Why are we so afraid of Community? Why do we hide away in our massive church buildings and play as if church were an interview to get into heaven? Can't we really believe in a big God and a big Cross and grace enough for everybody's shortcomings? even the most religious and most heathen of us? It seems to me that those outside of church would gladly enter into our fellowship, and honesty, and accountable relationships. Are we just taking up room in church so we look good and check off being "holy" for the week? If so, than I have met plenty of non-believers that would love to take their place, to have what they have. Let's thank Jesus for making community and ask Him how to best use it for his glory and our joy.