As a minister who has been involved in church all her life, I spend a lot of time thinking about why people don't go to church and why, if they attend worship, they often don't get more involved (I'm thinking about all churches, not just the one I serve). I talk with people who believe in Jesus but have no interest in church, and it feels like I'm trying to sell fresh air to a fish. How can I need something so badly that they don't seem to need at all?
I suspect that the need for what the church can offer is still there in many who were raised in the church, but the barriers have grown too high. Much of that has to do with what the church is. Of all we can say about the church, the one thing that is most true is that it is IMPERFECT.
People long for the fellowship they felt at church, but have been hurt by unkind words. They long for a genuine experience of God, but have been dissolutioned by the judgement they've felt on Sunday mornings. They long for the sense that their gifts were valued and utilized on committees, but the bickering in the name of Jesus surely isn't the work God called us to. They long to engage in something that they know makes a difference in the lives of others but they watch the church slowly become irrelevant to the world becasue it refuses to change and grow.
The most encouraging words I've found on the subject come from Dutch theologian, Willem Visser't Hoof: "Be part of the church that is for the sake of the church that ought to be."
Each of us who love Christ is called to help shape the church into His image. We are the body of Christ because we belong to him and because we long to see the church become a reflection of the love and hope we've found in Him.
My great hope is that the folks who have become disenchanted with the church are the ones who will most fully engage with it starting RIGHT NOW. Romans 8:28 says, "We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose." and it is my hope that those who hold up such a high vision for the church and have been disappointed by the reality of the church will use that experience for the GOOD of the church by being part of the church that is for the sake of the church that ought to be.
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Rev. Jana Quisenberry is the minister at Brightwood Christian Church. She's an ordained pastor in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). A graduate of Transylvania University in Lexington, KY and Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, IN, She now resides in Mt. Lebanon with her husband, two children, and dog, Sookie. Pastor Jana loves the church, science fiction, and coffee.