This morning, while following up on an email sent from a seminary colleague, I landed on her church’s website and in an instant, my heart broke. When I glanced at her church’s calendar and read of all of the outreach in which they are engaged, I got upset thinking about my own church experience over the years. As an unwavering believer in Jesus Christ, I’m disappointed because my church experience reflects one in which many churchgoers are very interested in the material things of the church – the size of the sanctuary, the number of members, the annual budget, and so on – all the while, they are much less concerned about being the hands, feet, and heart of Christ! People are content coming to worship service and being seen on Sunday morning, but far too few want to go unnoticed and just quietly live Jesus. Too often I believe we forget that living Jesus and seeking to meet the needs of our community should be at the forefront of our mind. When I think of meeting the needs of our community, I’m not even talking about making a huge financial investment, which I think is often an easy way out…I’m talking about welcoming the lost and unknown with open arms or being there for people who need a listening ear or praying with someone who can’t even talk because their pain runs so deep or serving a meal to the hungry where they are. Somewhere, I think we’ve lost our drive to be a Christian in our heart in the church. Sadly, I don’t think this attitude is intentional among all people, rather, I think it’s a reflection of the changing culture in the Black church. Megachurches are in, one’s community church is out. Being a self-appointed bishop is in, being a God-fearing, well-studied, authentic preacher of the Gospel is out. Being noticed in church is in, simply being a willing worker is out. In some ways, it feels like church has become more of a social club these days than anything else, everyone wants to go to the church that has it going on, rather than attend the church where one’s soul is being nourished and challenged to be more Christlike.
My heart breaks because I believe the “church” is increasingly becoming a place that turns more and more people away from Christ, and I’m certain that this is not its purpose, but we’ve allowed stuff to cloud our work in ministry. Back to my classmate’s church…this particular church had programs ranging from parenting classes to exercise classes to feeding programs to “Ask the Pastor” sessions to Alcoholics Anonymous and support groups for various diseases. They had Bible study, meditation, reflection services for the Lenten season, and most importantly, they had a Pastoral Care Emergency line. They have a team of individuals on duty and ready to serve the needs of their congregation, no matter the circumstance, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. While I don’t know, I’m willing to believe that the people who are serving in these ministries do it from their heart because they feel called to be the hands, feet, and heart of Christ. That’s what it means to be a Christian.
This is a place of great struggle for me because I feel deeply committed to my faith walk, and yet, the “church” disappoints my spirit on a weekly basis. No doubt, I love my church and I love my pastors, but on many occasions, I feel that the institute of the “church” is failing God and I believe it grieves His heart. I’m far from perfect and will never get all things right, but I’m certain of this one thing…I don’t want to be a churchgoer who grieves God’s heart, I want to be a Christian in my heart!
Until next time, God’s peace!