I once wrote that the church had become a service industry and as prepared today’s blog that statement came to my mind. If you have ever been a part of a committee or group that is charged with examining the state of church membership or how to bring more people into the church, add to your church roll, then you are part of a very normal percentage of folks who engage in the fill the pew programs that are so much a part of our church culture today, along with the yearly or semi-annual revival. I want to be sure and state that negativism doesn’t help either. So up front, this blog is not about doing away with but adding to the things we can do to add souls to the community of faith. This is not a church bashing blog. This blog is not about numbers or denominations, it is about his people, his creation and maybe if we quit looking at numbers and religion so to speak our task will be plainer. I believe that saved or not saved we are, each of us a child of God, his creation, each just as precious to him as the other. Here is an excerpt from a blog of mine two years ago.

“To grow a church has to have a lot of different programs other than worship itself. It’s all about how you present yourself; make people want to come, offer a range of services that meets every need. Family things, what do you have for the kids, is there a Youth Director, what type of Music Program do you have? Is there a Family Life Center and what does it include? What about the young adults and seniors, do you have programs for them? Now I could go on and on but the point is this. Church today is about the services it can offer to its members. Most of the things I have listed are the ones people ask about. I have never really heard anyone ask, do you preach the gospel of the Living Christ and is the pastor anointed by God preaching the word and led by the Holy Spirit? When I shared this with some friends they had a question for me. What does it matter how large or small a church is, or what services it offers its members, as long as people are saved and their lives are better? Well I can’t argue with that but I do still wonder why the success of a church is determined by its size. Religion is a weird science for lack of a better term. I think I will stick with John 14:6 Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Back to last weeks post, a re-thought if I may. Growing a church is not easy with all the distractions and other choices that are competing with the church these days. The “nones” we wrote about last week offer a real challenge because they comprise such a large and diverse group. If I were to pick a reoccurring theme here it is that the complexity of this group and the above mentioned reasons dictates that the problem cannot be approached with anything we are now doing. The stats say what we are doing is not working. As if all of these stated challenges are not enough the survey also stated that a significant number of these folks say they are too busy for religion, which reminds me of a sign I saw when traveling the back roads. Small country church, the sign read “ARE YOU TIRED OF RELIGION……TRY JESUS”….

Simple statement or slogan if you wish but I believe within it there is some good advice. We continue to look to numbers, buildings, music, tradition, programs and acceptance of the new norms in society. Struggling to be a part of it while maintaining the values and tenets of our faith. This is in reality is a nice way of saying “looking for loop holes” to justify certain behaviors. Here is an excerpt from a letter I used in a post several months ago. How do you think we as christians are viewed today as opposed to the early church and Roman society?

The Letter to Diognetus, the work of an unknown author, written in about 130, describes Christians to the Romans as follows:
“They dwell in their own countries simply as sojourners…. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven.  They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time, they surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men but are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned. They are put to death, but [will be] restored to life. They are poor, yet they make many rich. They possess few things; yet, they abound in all. They are dishonored, but in their very dishonor are glorified…. And those who hate them are unable to give any reason for their hatred.”

Look closely at the letter above. Early christians did not have the facilities we have now, no need to make a list, simply put…..they didn’t have the stuff to work with that we do. We need to keep building, to add facilities and services and programs to stay in the game so to speak. However, I believe in our zeal to compete we have lost the simplicity of “Jesus” , the power of the message. We must live our lives so as to avoid the temptations of the flesh, we must live in a way that allows us to be “citizens of heaven” here and now. We must obey the laws but our very behavior should exceed that which is expected. Even though we will know rejection and at times persecution we must love all men. We may lose our life but to die for Christ is to live. We may be poor but what we have must be used to enrich the lives of others. We may not have a lot but through Jesus Christ we have all we will need. We may be dishonored here on this earth but we will be honored in heaven among the saints. We may never understand why we are so hated but know well the love of Christ which exceeds all understanding.

We have a story to tell and I believe we have become too busy acquiring “stuff” to point to, when all we really have to do is tell the story…..

I love to tell the story
of unseen things above,
of Jesus and his glory,
of Jesus and his love.
I love to tell the story,
because I know ’tis true;

it satisfies my longings
as nothing else could do.

Go tell the story…the stuff will come latter. Hope you return to the pew next week.  jk