“We evangelize people who we want to sit with us in church and we do missions for those who we don’t.”
I went to lunch about a year and a half ago with a new local pastor, and these words of his have stuck in my mind ever since. I’ve recently realized something equally true: people don’t come to church when they’re dealing with real problems. I used to think it was out of some kind of shame, or that background feeling everybody seems to have that you have to be at some level of “good” to set foot in the sanctuary. We go on and on about how that’s not true, you don’t have to clean up before a bath, Jesus loves you as you are and we do too. Sure.
But I don’t think that’s why people stay away from church while they’re trying to mend deep wounds. I think that while you’re wrestling with real difficulty in life, most of what goes on at most churches just seems a little… fluffy. It’s Christian stuff for Christians. Easy to swallow platitudes wrapped in (sometimes) fresh sermon illustrations. Inoffensive small groups that rally around lowest common spiritual denominators. Nothing stretching, nothing difficult, nothing really healing. If you’re really hurting, that has no appeal.
I’m mentoring a couple of kids at local middle schools. One of them has a heartbreaking story: born premature when his mom was 15, his father died in a drunk driving accident when he was 7, there’s a stream of guys coming through their trailer than has him wondering (at the age of 14) if his mom is selling herself for drug money; he moved recently from his mom’s trailer to his grandmother’s two trailers over to get away from the drug culture his mom is embroiled in, and his grandfather is in prison on a handful of counts of manslaughter from a fatal DUI accident. Man, you know what that kid needs? 5 weeks of cute programming based on the movie Pitch Perfect. We start in two weeks.
I didn’t invite him. The last thing he needs is church. What he needs is community. He needs real Christian fellowship. He needs guidance. He needs a whole pile of things that for some reason aren’t in my job description. Are they in yours?
Seriously. How much would your job description have to change to allow you to actually impact the lives of youth in your community instead of just the kids of the parents that already come? How well would your church receive the news that you were canceling the 3rd youth program of the week in favor of focusing on building a mentoring program in local schools?
Does your church want to impact your community or does it just want to impact itself? Can it do both?
Your schools are full of countless hurting kids. How are you reaching them?