In the midst of the morning prayer at the First United Methodist Church in Port Saint John, Florida, I peeked from my bowed-head position out at the congregation. It was a small gathering.
The church as a whole has been losing folks over the past few years. We could probably do a whole article on that subject, but let’s just work on the basis that there is an “exodus of the chosen people.”
So the denominations step in–Methodists, Lutherans, Baptists, Pentecostals and the like–and offer their remedies to try to plug the dike of leaking souls. The answers they come up with are rehashing of former traditions or speculation on how better to use social media.
What they fail to consider is that church is dying because the reason for church has been crucified.
- Church is for people.
- People are the church.
When the church does not relate to people, but instead, makes some arrogant attempt to reach God through vain repetition, then people run away to brighter prospects for encouragement and a chance to access their better selves.
People often ask me if I am anti-church. Quite the contrary. I think church is our last bastion of hope to retrieve community among all living creatures.
It’s just that we need to be willing, for a season, to be awkward.
We don’t know what we’re doing.
We don’t know how to reach people.
And we certainly cannot figure out a way to escape our vague practices to translate them into real “soul food” for the everyday consumption of our brothers and sisters.
And for those who have left the church–citing hypocrisy, boredom, indiscretions and scandals–I must say to them: well, it certainly doesn’t bother you that your politicians, your entertainers and your movie stars are riddled with unholiness.
We need people who feel awkward about returning to church to join with those who are awkward about being in church, to laugh and cry their way about coming to church.
Folks, it’s gonna be ugly.
But yesterday morning I watched beautiful, insightful, gentle human beings come together with two strangers and create fellowship in an inspired, clumsy way.
It made me cry–it can be done. But we need to get our heads out of religion and our eyes on the prize of finding new ways to love one another and repent of our foolishness without shame.
The good news? It’s just like when we were learning to date in high school and survived our feeble attempts, to eventually end up in a relationship.
The better news is that if we stop trying to be godly, and just start looking for the goodness that has been placed around us, we literally can become a community of faith that “comes, communes and creates unity.”
Published by Jonathan Cring