From hatred to apathy to fondness, a variety of emotional responses are evoked when the word “church” is mentioned to both believers and non-believers alike. It has served as both a scapegoat and symbol in a society that is both ever-changing and dependably tumultuous.
Unfortunately, many believers have separated themselves from church; most certainly not losing their conviction but their commitment to religious activity.
Researching the why of this trend is discouraging at best, and overwhelming at worst—there is finger-pointing, blame and impossible scenarios. And while we can get caught up in the why, the reality is that we can’t spend too much time there.
We have a responsibility to churches—whether we affiliate ourselves with one or attend every Sunday. In recognizing that we are the Church by His Word, and not necessarily by our deeds, here are five ways that we can actually be the Church as it was created to be:
Realize that you are a part of the Body, and bodies need to move.
The similarities between our physical bodies and our spiritual one are endless. For example, when we live stagnant and inactive lives, our muscles weaken and our physical body is at risk for dozens of chronic diseases. This isn’t that different from our spiritual body as we find ourselves sitting in the exact same pew, attending the same life group and choosing to volunteer only at the church and not outside of it.
Being lukewarm is deadly.
As a part of the Church and the Body of Christ, we need to move out of apathy and comfort and into places of brokenness, hardship and marginalization. It means reading less self-help Christian books with an inward focus and feeling more empowered to be mission minded—whether in our home, in our neighborhoods or across the ocean.
Offer hope, instead of peddling fear.
From disjointed political parties, frequent terrorist attacks worldwide and countries that seem to be inwardly imploding, it seems that the most popular initial response has been one of horror and dread.
We buy into the diatribe that scrolls across our screens and begin to wonder if the end times are near. We get distracted with click-bait articles and videos that feed and intensify our fear, rather than combat the darkness.
We were always meant to be the light, not just another person looking to turn out the light.
Our job as the Church is to offer a place of comfort, safety and hope. Not proclaim the judgement of God on all people. Actually, we seem to have gotten it all turned around—thinking fear will bring people to the arms of Jesus, when what has been the most effective all along is hope.
Let God defend Himself.
It’s ironic that we think our Creator can’t handle Himself as if our thoughts are higher than His.
Certainly, He needs advocates—people who love Him and want to glorify Him. This is what it means to be a disciple.
However, we easily begin to make it less about glorifying God, and more about being morally right. Or rather, just right. When it becomes more about the fight, creating an unhealthy us versus them mentality, we’ve stepped into a place that isn’t about God.
It might be time to stop pushing our agenda, and praying for His.
Walk with those who are broken.
Here again, we spend so much time justifying, rationalizing and trying to judge whether a person deserves our help and support. Often almost to the point where we simply do not give at all.
However, this is a state of mistaken identity. We are certainly not Jesus, but we are supposed to be more like Him. Thus, we do not have the ability to make the call of whether the homeless man on the street deserves kindness or the marginalized deserve a voice.
Here’s the deal, if He can die on a cross for them, then we can most assuredly love them. He set the standard for whether a person deserves our kindness—they always do.
Yes, that’s hard to walk out, but as the Church this is what we are called to do.
Treat prayer not just as a place to retreat to, but a place to be charged from.
We’ve maybe all done this, or experienced this in some capacity—when a person standing right in front of us, or even we ourselves, might say, “I’ll be praying for you.” And while the intentions are good, or maybe it’s just time to go to lunch, we’ve single-handedly turned prayer into small talk.
Somehow, what was meant to bring heaven to Earth has morphed into doing just what works for us, feels good to us, and somehow benefits us.
Rather than using prayer as a way to retreat from what is hard or a way to stand in condescension, we should be using prayer as a way to enter into relationship with not just the Lord, but with others as well.
Regardless of how we might feel towards the Church, we are still a part of it.
We can’t hide from what will always be a part of our Christianity, but we most definitely can redefine it. Rather than cut off our nose to spite our face we could instead be willing to do hard things for the sake of the body of Christ, perhaps starting here, and with just a few of these.