The One Ingredient Essential for a Successful Church


I’ve been a Christian for 32 years. I’ve worked for or been a part of many churches. A good chunk of my degree work focused on analyzing how churches operate. I think I have some qualifications to express my opinion here.

If anyone were to ask me what the one essential ingredient was for a successful church, I’d say this:

The people in the church are genuinely friendly and loving
toward strangers and each other.

Now before I get thumped by some watchblogger out there, I am, of course, assuming that the church assents to one of the Christian Church’s major creeds, such as the Nicene or Apostle’s. Kid friendsOtherwise, the use of the word church would be gratuitous.

As I see it, a church filled with loving and friendly people can overcome just about any obstacle. I’ve seen it too many times to think otherwise. And churches that lack this trait can have everything else in the world and fail miserably.

Can Jesus make any pagan misanthrope into a loving believer? Sure He can. My only question: Why then are so many supposed Christian churches filled with people who could care less about the person standing next to them?

41 thoughts on “The One Ingredient Essential for a Successful Church

  1. There could be quite a few reasons. The cynic in me wants to say that a lot of people goes to church because it fulfills a need within themselves, in other words, they do it for themselves. But I believe the main reason is that we simply do not know Jesus (at all) and do not experience His love for us and others.

    The other thing is it’s easy to say that there are many Christian churches filled with people who could care less about the person standing next to them. It’s an awful broad generalisation to say something like that. I do not think it’s true. I think most people care, but they have no voice, no function, no responsibility and no place of “connecting” within the church setting. Those that love are simply not visible.

    People come to church with all kinds of expectations and the church simply cannot fullfill those expectations. When we do not, a lot of the time, we are judged to be loveless.

    I know that we are loveless at times and think we should police the whole world. We tell them what to do, but we cannot show them how to love. We are not humble. We are sometimes a very bad example. We say stupid things. But for all our glaring mistakes, I do not believe that christians are not loving and do not care. The loving and caring are usually not seen, and that’s the way it’s supposed to be 🙂

    • Abmo,

      You bring up very good points. Thank you for the commentary.

      I guess where we will disagree is on whether having good intentions is enough. If a person says that he loves his neighbor or she cries at sad movies in which people suffer, is that enough to prove that he or she actually does care? If it’s not followed up by anything, what good is that supposed caring?

      Of course, I generalize here. Many churches are filled with loving, caring people. But I’ve been in plenty where that milk of human kindness has gone a little sour.

      • Hi Dan,
        actually I agree with you. Good intentions are useless. I have a friend who says the following. The church has become a place where we relate out of function, instead of functioning out of relationship. I think the way we “ARE” church, is screwed. A total mess. The thing is, nobody has a clue on how to change an artificial creation into a living breathing creation. And that is what the church has become, artificial.

        I believe our dual idea of life is the worst thing that happened to us. Spirituality versus secularity. The idea that some activities are more spiritual than others. The idea that some people are more spiritual than others. The idea that prayer is more spiritual than playing football. The idea that worship is more spiritual than driving an Aston martin 🙂 The idea that a meeting is more spiritual than mowing your lawn, washing your dog or playing golf. We treat love the same way. There’s the “spiritual love and then the ordinary love. We simply do not understand that the full might of God’s love is present in the ordinariness of everyday life. We believe that when we are nice to people and tolerate them, God will miraculous bond us together. When I read about David, my heart breaks, because they wanted to belong, but all we could give his family was an artificial connection of “how it ought to be. We never dreamed that love meant friendship, laughter and crying together. We never gave David and his family a look into the emptiness of our souls. We never believed that we needed David and his family. We never felt their loneliness, because we were sooo busy with spiritual things. And when they left, we never noticed it, because we were never connected. I’m sorry David for all the hurt we caused you. Perhaps, one day, you will be the one that shows us the love and reality of Jesus.

        The question you asked Dan, is probably worth a book of answers. The long and the short of it is that we can only give what we receive. And all I see is artificial love, artificial friendship and artificial relationships. In this artificial environment, a lot of christians try their best with what they know and received. And what we’ve received is not from God. It’s man made, which means it’s selfish in nature. We are not known for our love, because we do not know Jesus.

        (sorry for the long post)

        • abmo,

          The sacred/secular dichotomy is a problem. I think that we are actually doing better in that regard, though, as the generation coming up behind us Baby Boomers does not seem to be as divided. We shall see.

        • Mark


          I think your points are well taken. “The church has become a place where we relate out of function, instead of functioning out of relationship.” The hierarchical structure of modern christianity prevent true building of community and relationship, where each member supplies to every other member. I agree that we need to change the way we “are” church, but there is no changing the establishment. We have to, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, start from scratch and allow Him to build. Even in the context of the New Testament there are still a lot of questions to be answered regarding “what does it look like”. All we can do is, with a pure heart, start with the limited revelation we have, and then let Him grow our hearts and minds, and His body, into what He wants. A good friend of mine discusses the relational aspect of the body at the following:

    • David

      I’m not sure I understand how someone could be a caring person and not have a voice. Few churches are actively damping the care and concern of the congregation. Most churches are simply made up of people who don’t want to reach out except to those familiar to them.

      Churches should attract the hurting and helpless. That’s the role of the body whose Head healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, made the lame walk, gave hearing to the deaf, raised the dead, and preached good news to the poor.

      Our role is not passive. But most churches are. Churches today wait for people to come to the door. They wait to be friendly to the seeker. That is backwards.

      I don’t think God called us to wait in our pews until a leader gives us direction. It’s been given already: “Go into all the world and teach all the things I have commanded you” is pretty direct. We no should have the timidity of sheep, and yet that is what most church-goers are: Sheep waiting for someone to tell them what to do. We’ve already been told. We just need to do it.

      Our role should be anonymous, but not hidden. Our love for others should be a shining beacon that tells the world where love is and Who it comes from. “Give me your tired, your poor…” should be graven on the lintels of congregants everywhere, but we’ve left it up to governments and agencies.

      We are the Body of Christ. There is nothing We cannot do.

      • David,

        We are definitely still tribal people, no matter how cultured we believe ourselves to be. Our very culture creates its own tribes.

        I think the “fear of the other” is still prevalent in our society. Islam’s been around a long time, but we didn’t really “discover” it in America until 9/11. Now it’s scary because it’s so other, so not like our tribe.

        You’ve been a reader here for quite some time, so you know the dead horses I like to beat. But I’ll say it again: I think busyness is destroying us. Busyness forces superficiality. The busy the people in a church are, the more superficial they tend to be when it comes to relationships. That may not always be the case (as each of knows a handful of people in our churches who run 90 percent of the church’s activities yet still have time for people), but I think it’s a major force.

        You also know that I think the way we work our jobs has really hurt our sense of community. We don’t know our neighbors because we don’t work with them. And the people we work with don’t all live in our neighborhood. It’s a vicious cycle of independence that distances us from each other, even on our churches.

        I hate it. I talk about it, but I don’t always know what to do about it. Seems to me that we have to gut the entire core of Western Civ to get at that cancer, and no one’s eager to do it because those that try to buck the system will be the ones most likely to go down in flames for doing so.

        Still, in some ways I hope that the economy linps along for a while because it may force us to begin re-assessing what is truly core. Maybe then we’ll see community and the need for it revitalized.

      • Hi David,
        Perhaps, I should have said that there is a difference between knowing the gospel and living the gospel. Also between talking the gospel and living it. Church is known for our talking, but not for our loving. People, who live the gospel, do not tell others about it. The just live it. From my experience, this puts the doers in a disposition when it comes to church, because only the talkers are seen and heard. I also believe church as we know it is more man-made than God’s creation. People go because they have a need that needs to be fed. They are in this for themselves. When this happens, we will never be a light for the world. Jesus gave His life away. How much do you see of Jesus in our lives? Probably not a lot. I believe this is because we do not know Jesus and experience His love for us.

  2. Dan,
    I agree with your analysis. It may not make a church large (which tends to be the only measure paid any attention to) but it will make the church successful. I think it tracks well with 1 John 4:20.

    As to your question, I have to wonder if part of the answer is that it reflects what is coming from the pulpit.

  3. Brian

    I think a lot has to do with how we see people. Do we see the wino under the bridge and think about all the mistakes he made that put him where he is, or do we think, “There’s a soul for whom Christ died”? Do we watch the reports on Entertainment Tonight and think about how screwed up celebrities’ lives are use them as an example to our children of what not to do? Or do we pray that God will put someone in their lives to share His love with them?

    One of the core values at the church I attend is “Every Soul Matters to God.” And the follow-up is that every soul must matter to me. It’s like Brandon Heath’s song, “Give Me Your Eyes.” We have to look at people like God does. Jesus looked over the multitudes and wept because He saw them as sheep without a shepherd.

    I want to get to that point. Where I don’t see someone’s condition and wonder what they did to get themselves in that mess, but rather ask what God wants to do through me to help them out of it.

    I’ve got a long way to go. Pray that God will help me to be sensitive to others’ needs and not just be concerned with my own problems.

    • Brian,

      You know what I think when I see that man under the bridge? That could be me. Now I have to ask myself what I must do because that man is not only my brother in that way, but he is also My Brother. As Jesus said, when we do things for others, we do them unto Him.

  4. Normandie

    I think a lot of church goers are merely humans with issues. Many are there to have THEIR needs met — or addressed, at least. All of this goes back to your earlier posts, Dan, about self-centered individualism versus community. We’ve been taught to worry about number one, to focus on number one, and we go to church to find a bit of peace or joy or forgiveness or healing — for number one.

    I was always a shy child, very inwardly focused. I’d been trained in my family to be gracious, but it was always slightly awkward for me to approach strangers. And then one time I was the first member to arrive at a Christian women’s group luncheon. Already seated were five visiting women, all decked out and ready. I cringed, knowing that I’d have to go over there, introduce myself, and welcome them. Then the Lord whispered to me: “Your shyness is sin because you’re worried about yourself and not about those other people. I want to welcome them, so you need to forget about yourself and go do it.” I was appalled. Shyness was sin? Really? But I could see His point. I certainly couldn’t very well be His hands or feet if I were too worried about myself to go do it.

    That moment was incredibly freeing. I wanted to serve the Lord more than anything else, so I put on a smiling face and did it. That was over twenty-seven years ago. Now, when I enter a group or see someone standing alone, I remind myself that they may be just as frightened as I — and even if they’re not, I must think about them and their needs more than my own.

    I agree with the poster above who says that the group leader/preacher must initiate this. I’ve been in churches that considered themselves “hospital” churches — and they certainly tried to meet the needs of the members for healing and freedom. But the “patients” (my word) had a very difficult time looking beyond their comfort zone of friends within the group to reach out to newcomers. The pastors reflected this as well. And then there was the huge, multicultural church we attended in Richmond, CA. The pastors made themselves available, approachable, and friendly. They fostered small groups to meet the needs of everyone. And the people responded. On our first visit there, we were hugged and welcomed, we received smiles and invitations. I was so excited to see a church of Jesus Christ that had no color or ethnic or economic barriers but only happy and joyful faces. That’s what church is supposed to be about.

    • Normandie,

      I think the problem with our self-centeredness is that the core of our society runs of it. Extracting that black heart will take more gumption than any one person is geared for, so nothing ever gets done about it. In time, it’s self-centered mewling becomes part of the background noise of our lives, like the old, dripping faucet that we no longer hear.

      I also think I am less likely to blame the pastor for a congregation’s lack of caring. This may be one of those cases where the causes are too complex to nail down to any one source. The church I’m a member of is exceedingly friendly and loving. I know people in that church who would do anything for me. Some already have. (I hope to be in a position some day to return that caring in the manner I am accustomed to.) That church stayed together through a series of tragedies regarding pastors, so it was something in the people that made it work. And yes, that’s a rarity, but I think it does happen. My sense is that it tends to happen more often outside suburbia, at least that is what I have seen in churches similar to mine.

  5. David

    My wife and I left the church we’ve been attending the last 6 years because we felt we had no friends there. It’s not like we didn’t try. We’re not exactly extroverts, and it is difficult for us to be outgoing, but we invited people into our home, we served at the various programs and projects the elders dreamed up, we sang with the worship team, I did the computer work that put the music and pastors notes up on the screen every week. We weren’t wallflowers.

    Our sense of emptiness was based on the realization that outside of the building, we didn’t exist in peoples hearts. Off site, out of mind.

    When we left, no one, it seemed, noticed. We got one e-mail wondering where we were. So it seems we were correct in out assumption that no one cared.

    I’m sure that many will say that love is a one way street, and that we should be like Christ, who loved all even though unloved.

    But we’re not talking about the unsaved, here. This is the family, the body, the Church. Christ said we would be known as His disciples because of our love for one another.

    Where there is no love, what should that body be called?

    So Dan, mark up another one in the “correct” column. If the family does not actively show love, there is a problem. Remember the church at Ephesus? They had forgotten their first love. And we all know what that is…Love God, and?

    • “Our sense of emptiness was based on the realization that outside of the building, we didn’t exist in peoples hearts. Off site, out of mind.”

      David, I think what you are saying is pretty common. Our churches are over-run with programs and structures for everything from the number of minutes the prayer has to run during the televised worship service to who orders the paper toweling, but we don’t live as a “family”. Most of us wouldn’t wait to show affection for our physical family until we are told to greet each other for 1.5 minutes while the organ/keyboard plays. Yet, we program in our “love” for our Christian brothers and confine it to a tiny part of one day of the week…in the physical “sanctuary”…sandwiched between the ads for next week’s program and the “temple tax”.

      Does that show our shallowness in personal relationships in general? The shallowness of the leadership? Our shallow love for the One who loves 24/7?

      • Kat,

        As I noted above, I think people are just too busy. And the form of busyness we take is not one devoted to people but to events. That’s a major displacement of what should be our horizontal focus.

    • David,

      I am so sorry to hear this. I know exactly what you are going through. I wish no one ever had to know that kind of emptiness.

      If you need someone to talk with, drop me a line. I’ll listen.

    • Mark

      I used to play drums at a church when I was in high school. As I progressed in school, our youth pastors left, eventually landing at a different church on the other side of town. I felt lead to go where that couple was, because they were an important piece of my life at that time. When I told the pastor of my old church that I was leaving they felt betrayed, stating that they had put time into teaching and training me, and now some other church would reap that benefit. I made a comment that I still wanted us all to be friends, and the following comment was the response: “we can still be friends, but it will have to be from a distance”. How sad! I am not saying that it was right or wrong to change churches. In fact, I no longer even “attend” church at all. The point is that I was not a person to them, I was a tool, that they used to build their kingdom. They weren’t interested in what was going on in my life.

      As posted earlier, our gathering needs to be based on relationship, and not our relationship (or lack thereof) being based on our gathering. Without community and relation we are no different than the world.

  6. diana

    My heart aches as I read David’s comment above. They had left the church they had attended for the last 6 years. I have had many, many same experiences. We tried to serve failthfully in the churches we attended (nursery duty, parking lot duty, greeter duty, ect) and did attend the small groups even. When we left, no one noticed, no one checked in on us. This has occured at different places through the years and we do not actually attend church any longer. We see no point. We are weary. It makes me weary to even write about it. Amongst all of the programs, special events, “seeker friendly” worship styles, ect., ect, bla, bla, bla… We have lost our first love. And the world does not know us for our love. Lord have mercy on us.

    • Diana,

      My heart breaks for you. My wife and I left a church once, just sort of drifted away, and not a single person spoke with us again. Not a phone call, nothing. What an awful, soul-crushing feeling. So I know how you are feeling.

      Feel free to drop me a private email, if you would like to talk more.

  7. Diane R

    I’ve given this alot of thought for decades. And the conclusion I ‘ve come to is the awful organizational structure in churches. People just do not automatically go up and say “hi” to people they don’t know (especially where I live–I do hear they are friendlier in the Bible Belt–I live in a “blue” state). Why churches do not organize people into smaller groups and have things like ice breaker activities I just cannot fathom. But the majority don’t. If they have anything, it usually is superficial. The most the church does is to have to pastor get up and say something like, “Say hi to someone you don’t know after church.” Right. Like everyone is going to rush up to someone they don’t know….I don’t think so. But when there are real organizational structures put into place that achieves this, I find the great majority of Christians to really respond and are quite warm, friendly and caring.

    • Diane,

      The pastor usually has to bust up all the greeting that goes on in our church or else there’d never be a sermon! In other churches, the “meet ‘n’ greet” is the most awkward part of the service. Not where I am. That’s a real blessing, for sure.

      Though I’m a part of the worship team and have a bit less mobility as a result, I still try to greet at least one or two folks I don’t know. But then again, that’s never been an issue for me. I know that some people have problems approaching strangers, but I do pretty well in that regard. (My problem is that I’m a lousy evangelist.)

      I attended the leadership meeting at our church last night and the greeters got huge kudos for identifying visitors and making them feel welcome. The great thing is that they aren’t the only line of friendliness. So organized is great; I agree with you. But I think it’s that second and third layer that really makes a difference.

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  9. Matt

    Good post and thoughts on this thread. I think it especially resonates because the crying need of our times is community in an increasingly fragmented world. You can see community spring up around any number of hobbies, interests and activities, but if the church isn’t hitting the mark on this one, we have to ask ourselves what we are all about. Even the root word for church means the called out ones, essentially, a community or gathering.

    I’m in agreement with Diane above, that if our structures and traditions undermine or completely block this kind of community from flourishing, we’ve lost the plot.

    I feel blessed that community is one of the things that the church I participate in does particularly well–but even there I see how the structures of Sunday religion can erect a barrier that needs to be dealt with.

    • Matt,

      I think church people are more hampered by societal constructs erected against community than they realize. Take a look at my series last week on postmillennialism, the industrial revolution, and social Darwinism for how this played out.

  10. Susan

    Thanks Dan for this wonderful post. I have been lurking around here for months and this is my first comment. This post really touched a nerve with me. I attend a fairly large church and like many of the other people commenting I have tried very hard to be friendly and welcoming to people in my Church. I always dread the “long lonely walk” back to my car after services. I have been slipping away as well and have had no phone calls, no emails. We have no small groups or areas where we can get to know each other either and it’s frustrating. I think so much of the problem is we as a society do not focus on relationships period anymore. I see families in my church much more concerned with personal comfort than in building friendships or relationships and it really bothers me. Not just personally, but there is a breakdown here. We recently had a pot luck type of dinner and my friend and I (both single women) were looking forward to joining married friends and families for fellowship. Well most folks were not interested, but we hung around after church and convinced people to attend. Sadly the entire meal consisted of many of these folks whining “I wish I had gone to olive garden” “wonder who made this, is it safe to eat?” “My food is kind of cold”. Blah blah blah.

    It was sort of heartbreaking to watch and listen to frankly. God gave us such a huge gift of fellowship with each other, being able to carry each others burdens and pray for each other, but we miss this big time by being so self and comfort focused. Like you I hope the economy trudges along for a little while in the doldrums, I know that sounds awful and people are losing jobs and I do not mean to overlook that, but we need spiritual help. People often quote how much they would like to emulate the early church, ha! We would actually have to get to know each other!

    Anyway sorry for the book, but I struggle with this every week. And I have just about quit going to church which just seems so wrong to me. I will pray for everyone of you going through the same things. And God bless, great site!

    • Susan,

      Thank you for commenting!

      The example you shared, while familiar to many, should be the rarity, not the norm.

      Still, I am convinced that change comes through change agents. While it is hard for one or two people to make difference, I believe that a remnant exists. Elijah cried that there were no other prophets left, but God had retained a remnant. I think every church has a remnant. Mustering them is the issue. And they need to be mustered. Doing so may be easy, or it may be like pulling teeth. And sometimes, for whatever reason, it just doesn’t happen. Sometimes the lampstand is destined for removal.

      If you and I decide it will begin with us, I am convinced our attitude will spread in 90 percent of the cases. A small group of people who are friendly and positive CAN win the day. That’s the belief we need to have or else the distant, fog-enshrouded people will always win the war.

    • Matt

      Susan said:
      “We have no small groups or areas where we can get to know each other either and it’s frustrating.”


      “People often quote how much they would like to emulate the early church, ha! We would actually have to get to know each other!”

      Great post, Susan (and great picture!) I think these two statements you made are related. If you look in Acts where the flavor of early church life is seen most strongly, you see that believers gathered in two primary places: in the temple courts (large public gatherings) and house to house. Later as the church scattered through persecution, most meetings were house meetings–small, intimate gatherings, usually centered around a meal. The Lord’s supper was not a cracker and some juice, but actually part of a real meal, just like when Jesus first introduced it. A cracker and juice to me are a perfect picture of what we’ve done in artificializing the church–how we got from the early church “love feasts” to this is a long sad story of the institutionalization of the faith.

      There is great power in the truth that wherever 2 or more are gathered in Jesus’ name, you have church. As Dan said, you can be a change agent. It can be as simple as inviting a few people over to your house to eat, laugh, worship, and pray. That is just as much church (moreso even, IMHO) as what you have described of your Sunday AM experiences.

      I know, I’ve got a dead horse I’ve been beating around here, too, but it just seems so related to so many of the issues we’ve been discussing on this blog.

  11. This post is convicting. I have attended the same church my whole life (except for college). For the most part, my church is like family. It’s grown in the past 10 years, though, and now I don’t know over half of the regular attenders. It’s easy to stick to my own circle of friends and not make an attempt to get to know new people. I am on the shy side, so it’s not natural for me to go up to someone who is sitting by themself. I occassionally break out of my comfort zone, but desire to be more intentional in welcoming new people and taking the time to get to know them. I know what it feels like to be alone and ignored in a church setting, and that should motivate me to seek out the lonely people on Sunday mornings. I need to get over my pride – worrying about what people will think of me – and fear – worrying about how to relate to people so different than me.

    I agree that busyness is a problem. At my church, we talk about “doing life together” through small groups. I’m guessing some groups are better than others at this. It’s easy to show up once a week for a Bible study, but it takes more effort to get to truly know people outside of weekly meetings. Just the other day, I ran into someone from my small group at a coffee shop. He isn’t someone I would ever just call up, but we ended up talking for an hour an a half. I wish that happened more often, and know that I need to be more intentional about making it happen.

    • Kristen,

      Being available makes a big difference. If you keep your schedule from filling with events, it is much easier to use that time for the kind of conversation you and your friend enjoyed.

  12. “Why then are so many supposed Christian churches filled with people who could care less about the person standing next to them?”

    Because we are at heart, self-obsessed idolators.

    It is only Christ and His love that work in us His goodness. And once in awhile it breaks out of our sinful self and manifests itself as love for the neighbor.

  13. Glenn

    I don’t know if this is the proper forum but I need suggestions. My church appears to be going “backward” in the sense we are losing members and the members are losing interest. We have had problems in our church in the past couple of years that really tore it apart. Now, however, I think it is time to “restart”. I feel this is my opportunity to help my church. How do you heal a broken church? Is there a common template to success? What programs can we offer to get the younger generation to participate? Any comments would be greatly appreciated.

    • Glenn,

      I wonder if this is necessarily a bad thing. It may be possible that God is whittling the church down to the remnant that He will use to rebuild things. Have you considered this?

  14. Glenn,

    I don’t know if there are any formulas.

    Try to forgive one another for the past (make sure it’s all aired out).

    Just keep handing over God’s Law and Hid gospel and administer His supper.

    Have people start up some ministries that they are interested in.

    In my congregation, there isn’t a lot of interest, either. People are too tied up up family and culture and work to give much energy to the church, anymore.

    This, I’m sorry to say is a big problem for many churches.

    You could totally give in to the culture and pack them in with hip (cool) style worship with great rock music and high production values…but then you have to give up being the have now become the culture.

    I’ll pray for you and your church, Glenn, that the Lord will keep you guys going and keep His Word flowing.

    – Steve

    • Glenn

      Thanks Steve. Your prayers are appreciated. I am also praying. I am also going to become pro-active to see this church never disappears.

  15. Hmm. Good questions. Why don’t “we” show more love?

    Well, I can’t speak for “we.” I can only speak for “me.”

    I am tired, anxious, worried, stressed. I bring into the assembly hall all that’s been affecting me all week. It’s all I can do to appear friendly to the greeters.

    And the people around me – some are quite self-satisfied and successful, and superficial to those who approach them. Why would I want to approach them and pretend to have a conversation? We have nothing in common except being in the same place.

    Some of those around me are just as anxious to avoid contact as I am. There’s the anxiety of disappointment – will that person think less of me? (And, will I think less of them?)

    There are some who “know” me in the sense that they know my name and some of my skills or experiences. But they don’t really know me, and we have no time or opportunity to get to know each other. We are all busy with our jobs, our families, our lives.

    Church is attendance, and sometimes participation, which means standing or sitting when directed.

    It’s all I can do to appear to be composed during church. You want me now to step out of my security zone and approach people I don’t know & possibly suffer rejection?

    It’s a bit much for me to be told I should be more “loving.” Perhaps that’s true. But as long as we’re discussing things I should be doing, perhaps we can add I should be exercising more, and watching what I eat, and spending my money carefully.

    I get that. I have the lists of things I should be doing.

    It’s not that I don’t know about these things. The reason I’m not doing them is because – at the heart of it – I’m broken, and alone, and tired, and weary. What I come to church for is succor and balm and incense; in return, I get flailed for not doing what I “should” be doing.

    Well, yeah. Add them to the list. I get that list from everyone around me. I should be working harder at my job. I should be a better parent to my kids. I should be a better husband to my wife. I should be a more responsible driver.

    I get that list wherever I go. So when I get the list from church, I add it to my pile of Things I Should Be Doing.

    So far I’ve managed to exist by failing at doing the lists. My strategy is somewhat successful.

    What I need in order to be “friendly” with the people around me is a different heart and outlook on life. I need to love people, to care about them, to consider them as something valuable to interact with. Telling me more, and louder, what to do is not accomplishing that.

    Note: I’m not saying you are doing this.

    • Mark


      I doubt you are still following this string, but your words were so honest, and I must say that I identify with them from my past. I was wondering if you still felt this way, or if you had found peace in your experience of community?


  16. Mark

    I don’t think new programs and new ministries are the answer. I think we need to abandon the broken, decrepit, world-based “church” we have known for so long, and focus our attention on Christ alone, and building relationships with others who are seeking the same thing. Ministries and programs that are not built on existing relationships will ultimately fail, and the fracturing of the body that occurs with modern “church” is harmful to our sense of community and our ability to edify one another.

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