These days you can walk up to just about anyone in America and ask them what their experience of church has been like, and chances are they will tell you a story that either embarrasses you as a christian or makes you cringe in horror.
I know because I do this from time to time.
As an Experience Architect and story-teller, I love hearing these sorts of stories. They fuel my mission and my purpose, and if the old adage is true that you can’t improve on anything that you don’t measure, then these stories become just as important and necessary for the church to hear than any other powerful testimony of transformation.
Just the other day I was talking to a Pastor about the church he planted. He had some really positive things to say but when I asked him about any challenges or if anything has surprised him in his journey, his tone began to shift.
To be honest, I wasn’t all that shocked by his answer, but you may be.
He said, “I never thought I would have faced this much rejection from other Pastors in the area.”
He went on to tell me that local Pastors were refusing to even meet with him all because of… wait for it… the translation of the Bible he preaches from.
And while I’m quite aware of the complexity and depth that the issue of Bible translation has had over the years, what this story really points to is the current state of the church in America.
Unfortunately, the church has created places where some people don’t fit and some people aren’t welcomed. It’s almost as if the church is now saying, well if you fit into any one of these categories or boxes, then the gospel isn’t for you, please go elsewhere.
Now when I was younger, I would well up with rage and anger against such church cultural statements, but these days my response is much softer and more gracious.
I understand something better today than I used to – I’m broken, and I tend to mess up. A lot.
Stories and situations like this present a mirror for me, and that mirror reveals my own heart and my own words of alienation and exclusion.
They should for you too.
Consider these words:
At the end of the day, part of why I love the church so much and why I partner with her to create awesome experiences engaging culture is because I understand that they are led by men and women just like me. They are wounded, abandoned, selfish, prideful, and yet full of the same Awesome Truth that I am.
And because we are created to worship and because we are most satisfied when Christ is most glorified in our lives, then this is the reason why I worship today. This is the reason why I choose to submit and confess and sing songs declaring I am not my own.
You may read this and have your own story of abandonment or alienation from the church.
Welcome! You’re in some really good company!
I ask your forgiveness, because I’ve been on both sides and my heart’s desire is to move closer to the securely attached places, where I’m free to love and speak words of truth in love.
Perhaps you have one of these stories, perhaps not, but no matter where you’re coming from today, can I just say one final thing to you. The Gospel is for you. It’s big enough and awesome enough for you no matter what you’re going through.
Here’s a question for you today:
What messages or stories do you have that tell you the gospel isn’t for you?
I’d love to hear, so leave a comment below!
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