Church: Why aren’t they coming?

Published 6:15 am Thursday, June 30, 2016

Recently I shared Facebook responses to the question, “Why don’t people go to church?” Most of the comments fell in these general categories:

• We preach morality but seldom live it. Hypocrites.

• We focus on converts for our church rather than caring about others. Selfish.

• We’re out of touch with reality. Relevance.

• We’re quick to judge and slow to confess. Judgmental hypocrites.

This seems especially relevant in light of what happened in Orlando last week. In the midst of a national tragedy that impacts hundreds of innocents and exposes so many sensitive issues: terrorism, homosexuality, violence and gun controls.

How should we as the church respond?

Orlando is usually portrayed as the home of Disney World. Now, after the brutal murder of at least 49 and countless others wounded in a gay bar known as Pulse, Orlando takes on a new unwanted identity.

Like Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, Columbine High School, Fort Hood and others, Orlando is now forever marked as a place of tragedy and senseless horror.

We respond like we have so many times before with an outpouring of love and support. Thousands stood in line for hours to give blood, millions joined in prayer around the world for the victims and their families. As pictures and stories of the victims are shared, I find myself crying over the senseless violence that took so many promising lives away from us all too soon.

Leaders will argue over whether to put more guns in the hands of citizens vs. stricter gun control, strong military response vs. diplomacy which all leads to lots of debate with little or no action. It’s frustrating to watch knowing that soon there will be another tragedy with another place name.

What should be my response? As a Christian? As a leader? As a citizen?

Carey Nieuwhof speaks to church leaders around the world about leadership, change and personal growth. Recently, he wrote a blog, titled “Thoughts on how to be the church in an age of terror,” which offers six possible responses for churches and church leaders in the midst of the crisis of terrorism. You can read the entire blog and more by Nieuwhof at http://careynieuwhof.com/blog/.

• What the church is doing is more important, not less important.

• Confession and humility are more important than ever.

• Faith is a dividing line that ultimately can become a uniting line.

• The only ethic that will ever work is the ethic of love.

• Christians lay down their lives in the face of evil.

• External regulations cannot trump internal values.

So how does love gain a foothold in a culture threatened with hate? People will discover that love is when they meet a Christian who behaves like an actual Christian. And that means this begins with you and me. You may have never met a terrorist. But there are people you don’t like, and probably a few that you hate.

Start there. Forgive someone you actually know. The most radical thing you can do today is to extend love in the face of hate. It will require all you have. In fact, you will not be able to do it. You may actually need a Savior to help.

Which is exactly the point. So go be the church … the real church. The authentic church. The church Jesus had in mind. Repent. Confess. Humble yourself. Forgive. Love. Hope. Trust.

Turn to Christ for strength you don’t have. He has it. Church … we may actually have the things that can change the world. What you’re doing this week matters more than ever.

REV. LARRY E. DAVIES can be reached at larrydavies@sowingseedsoffaith.com.