Think you're not good enough for church? That's exactly why we want you

by Kyle
published September 6, 2013


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A dream job is getting paid to do the thing you would do even if you weren’t being paid. Last May, I started my dream job.

My church, where I had been volunteering as the youth program director for several years, hired me as a full-time associate pastor for the purpose of helping the church grow in the areas of youth, young adults and young families.

True to my considerable book-learning and no so considerable experience, I began gathering information and formulating plans. I decided I wanted to know what my own generation thinks about church, and I discovered something kind of heartbreaking.

Somehow, the American church as a whole has communicated to our culture (and I think in some cases has actually believed) that it exists to benefit its own members, and that if you don’t conform to it’s standards, you are subject to it’s condemnation. Oh, and could you also make sure to fill out a pledge card before you leave?

Nothing is further from the truth.

I like what William Temple said: “A church is the only organization that exists primarily for the benefit of nonmembers.” It’s just too bad that it’s not always true in the way our churches function.

We, the church, desperately need to change that. We shame our savior when we become a “holy huddle.” When we fail to demonstrate to the “unchurched” people around us that Christ loves them and that we love them, too, we put a stain on the name of our master and on the name “Christian.”

When the church acts like this, whatever we are doing, we can’t call it religion, we can’t call it church and we can’t call it Christianity.

This is exactly what James says in James 1:24-2:7.

The chapter division there is unfortunate, but James is making a single point. He begins with the famous verses at the end of James 1 where he defines “pure and undefiled religion” according to God’s standard as caring for orphans and widows. Apparently, the members of the church he was writing to were a) being careless with their words — which really exposes carelessness for people — and b) failing to care for the less fortunate and therefore less desirable people in the community around them.

On top of that, in the beginning of chapter 2 of James, we discover the church catering to the wealthy and neglecting the poor. After all, they’re the ones who fill the offering plate and keep the church functioning, right? Why should we bother treating people well if they can’t give anything to the offering plate?

Moreover, James points out that the cultural “cream of the crop” the church was trying to impress and draw in were the same ones who, outside the church meeting, were collecting unfairly high taxes, suing church members, and generally making the rest of the church look bad because of the way they treated other people. James injunction against them was to stop showing favoritism to the wealthy and to start treating the poor people among them like they were actually human beings worthy of the honor and respect due anyone God had made in his own image.

One woman I talked to told me that she hated going to church because she didn’t own nice enough clothes and felt like everyone was judging her instead of welcoming her. I guess not much has changed in 2000 years.

I told her I’d rather kick 10 people out for questioning what she was wearing than have one person who really wanted to worship, serve and know God leave quietly because they felt unwelcome.

If you are already part of a church: do me a favor and stay where you are. Take James seriously and, within your own church, make an effort to welcome visitors. The less “put together” the visitor looks, the more you should make sure they know they are welcomed and loved.

If you aren’t in a church: please know there are several churches around town who will welcome you with open arms! While I can only speak for my own local church body, I know several will join us in saying this: if you want to be around people who love God and will love you, you have a place with us. It doesn’t matter if don’t feel holy enough to be in church, we’ve got room for you.

The truth is I’m not holy enough to be in a church, either. Thank God he had grace enough to make a place for me in his church. If you trust him, I know he’ll make room for you, too.

What do you think?

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