12. Be a church for all kinds of people
It bothers me as a Caucasian to look around on a Sunday morning and see no faces that look different than mine. While it’s true that our churches draw from surrounding neighborhoods, I know that while my neighborhood is predominantly white, it’s not exclusively so.It bothers me that at most churches the second a family hits the lobby they scatter. Mom goes to her MOPS class, Dad goes to his men’s class, while each child is sent to a separate classroom. Poof! They’re vapor. We talk about unity of the Body, but the designs of our churches and their programs tell a different story.
The singles are herded into a corral with other equally sexually frustrated people and we expect them to behave. Nor do we really want to know what they’re up to so long as they don’t whine about it.
Same goes for the elderly, because God knows that once you’re old you no longer have any viable purpose. (No wait, perhaps I’m confusing the Church in America for the movie Logan’s Run.)
Yet a body cannot function compartmentalized. Cut the heart off from the rest of the body and we know what happens. Remove something as small as the pancreas and see how long the body lasts.
Why we think it’s healthy to compartmentalize people in our churches is a real head-scratcher.
Somehow we’ve gotten it all backwards, thinking that our little nuclear families are the ne plus ultra of God’s design. Jesus turned that idea upside-down, though, when He said that the Christian family does not consist of those who share a biological relationship, but of those who do His will.
A healthy family is available to all its members. It doesn’t shunt its elderly off to a home to die. It doesn’t let its singles twist alone in the wind. It doesn’t believe that the five-year old can’t contribute. The foreigner and the alien are welcome and given a place of honor. Angels are entertained without our knowing.
Why are our church programs segregated by age and various other distinctions? Why do we have separate educational materials for each age group rather than a unified curriculum around a set area of study that is taught age-appropriately to all people in our church? Why do we set up parents to fail with their kids because they never know what the kids learned in Sunday School?
I believe we need to start asking questions why our churches look all white, all black, all middle class, all young, or all old. If the Church on Earth is a representation of the Church in Heaven, then why aren’t we preparing now to look like that Church at the End of All Things? I wonder if God is asking the same question.
I’m not filled with answers on this one, mostly questions. Still, I think that all of us need a gut check on this issue because it causes the Body of Christ to suffer needlessly in the long run. I’ve written a few smatterings on this topic before, so I won’t needlessly rehash old posts. Let’s just agree that this is an area of growth we should be pursuing in order to make our churches all they can be, not only for the Lord, but for all His people.
11. Conduct a proper self-examination
Ever encounter a truly humble person? I haven’t met many, but one characteristic stands out in the few I have met: they live in peace with all men. Why? I think the major reason is that they’ve truly believed that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.This past year, the garrulous tone that the Godblogosphere took on disheartened me because it was a rush to self-justification. Each side in whatever battle was picked launched into the other with fingers wagging and hearts pounding. Jumping into some of my favorite blogs lost its allure. After awhile I was just sad.
If I learned one thing in 2005 it’s that all of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Sure, I’d memorized that verse a long time ago from my Navigators Topical Memory System days, but the deeper meaning behind it had gone undiscovered. What I learned this year is that most people don’t get up in the morning plotting evil. Usually evil comes as they try to go about their day using whatever flawed coping mechanisms they’ve acquired in time. The result is shattered lives and bondage to sin.
This is not an attempt to diminish sin, only an acknowledgment that none of us are perfected yet.
Before we launch into a tirade about homosexual activists, our snooty neighbor, or the promiscuous girl in the youth group, perhaps we should put ourselves in their shoes first. Maybe then we can better examine ourselves to see how far we’ve fallen and carefully note the chinks in our own armor. That homosexual activist may be a slave of sin, but he’s there at the bedside of every friend who has ever died of AIDS. The snooty neighbor who needs to know Christ gave a third of her income to help destitute children in Africa, never saying anything about doing so. The promiscuous girl who is fornicating her life away tutors dyslexic kids every day at her school.
Where are we? And just how big is the log sticking out of our eye?
We need better self-examination, folks. If we’re not putting ourselves in front of the Holy Spirit daily to allow His Light to root out our darkness, then we need to be doing a whole lot less finger-pointing. Ironically, when we do put ourselves under the Spirit’s illumination we do a whole lot less finger-pointing anyway.
There but for the grace of God go I. The humble man realizes this because he’s been there. He knows the depth of his own failure, so he’s less likely to grouse about someone else’s. I pray that our churches would be filled with that kind of humility.
10. Fire the youth pastor…then rehire him for his true purpose
Okay, now I’ve ticked off the multitudes of youth pastors out there, but hear me out. Trust me on this one.If you’re familiar with the
Business series I wrote this last summer, then you know that youth ministry started as a reaction to industrialization in England in the early 19th century. Young people were leaving farms to come to the big city to work in factories. Alarmed by the loss of parental support and the tendency of youth to turn idle hands into the devil’s toolkit, well-meaning Christians attacked the problem by creating a new kind of ministry.
The only problem is that no one thought to ask was if there was a better way. In truth, for centuries there had been a better way: parents taught their children at home about the Lord.
In taking the role of teaching one’s children about Jesus and placing it in the hands of supposed experts, the Church in industrialized nations created a monster. Teens today don’t work in sweaty factories or live in factory-sponsored dormitories, but the model used to meet that need is still paraded as the best way to reach young people.
Yet by every measurable standard, today’s youth ministry is a devastating failure. Every poll shows that Christian youth are indistinguishable from their pagan counterparts. Same amount of sexual sin, same pathetic understanding of Scriptural truth, and on and on. The model is not working, yet we continue to believe it is.
Why not take what was usurped and turn it back over to the people who once did it right? In other words, why are we using youth ministers to instruct our children in the faith rather than using their parents? It’s the parents’ responsibility anyway, isn’t it? Aren’t we simply undermining that responsibility?
Fire the youth pastor. Then rehire him for his true purpose: teaching parents of youth how to teach their own kids about the Faith.
Today’s parents were never shown an example of how to raise their children for Christ. Most don’t have a clue. I find it hard to believe that this was the case with Christian families two hundred years ago. The failed reality remains, though. We have to do something about it.
Already in a tailspin from its heyday in the 1950s, the early 1990s saw the wholesale shuttering of Christian Education departments within churches. Time was that every church had a paid person on staff responsible for overseeing the education of people within the church, but this has long since gone the way of the dodo. In many cases, the Christian Ed department was there for the very purpose of helping adults instruct their kids in a holistic Christian worldview. Now it’s gone.
But a youth ministry 180 degrees from the typical youth ministry model of youth pastor and clan of kids can counter that loss. A youth pastor dedicated to teaching parents how to instruct their kids in the faith puts the pieces back in their rightful place. It betters families, improves parent/teen communication, and also saves the youth pastor from the typical two-year burnout and rampant divorce patterns that have plagued youth ministers for the last thirty years.
This doesn’t mean that a youth group must go away, only that it be better incorporated into the full functioning life of the entire church. The elderly are involved, entire families are involved, and parents get to take back what they let slip away.
It’s time we moved to this model. (If you didn’t get enough here, I may write on this again in the future.)
9. Be hospitable
In the latter half of last year I wrote series called “The Little Things.” One of those little things that has gone unnoticed is our lack of hospitality in our churches and our homes. This lack of hospitality manifests itself as an unspoken message of division and exclusivity. Rather than reinvent the wheel here, I’ll point you to “The Little Things” post on hospitality and hope it speaks as well now as it did then.
Follow the link below to part 4…