My newest article is up at Today’s Christian Woman, and I’d love for you to follow me over there and check it out. This week’s issue covers the tough seasons of frustration and disappointment, and I hope you’ll find some encouragement for whatever difficulty you’re facing today.
Here’s a sneak peek for you:
Over the years, I’ve heard several church-y iterations of John F. Kennedy’s famous words, “Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.” In the church, these words often sound like, “Don’t be just a consumer of your church. Get in there and serve; try to fix the things you think are wrong.” This is an important sentiment, but I think it often backfires. For me, it actually cements unhealthy, unrealistic, and unbiblical expectations of what the church should be: an institution that will meet all my spiritual needs. It allows me to believe that as long as I’m involved in church-related activities, I have a right to criticize the church when it doesn’t live up to my expectations (which are, most of the time, quite different from my actual spiritual needs).
If I Get Her Through the Door . . .
Over the last year, this sentiment grew. As an involved churchgoer, I took my “rights” seriously, and I started to rely on my church to do the work of evangelism for me. And—would you believe it?—I almost left my church out of frustration because I thought the staff wasn’t doing their job.
From my (frustrated) perspective, the sermons seemed either so watered down that they didn’t paint a full picture of Christianity, or they were too deep and abstract for non-Christians to understand. The worship music was off-putting. There was no chance for people to stop, think, and pray during the service. There were few opportunities for new people to connect, and the opportunities that did exist were probably intimidating for them.
But as it turns out, the problem wasn’t my church; the problem was me. And it wasn’t just my negative attitude and skewed perspective that were problematic; the far larger issue was my actions outside of church in my everyday life.
There is one person in particular whom I’ve been praying for intensely this year, hoping that she would finally understand the gospel. If I could only get Lindsay to come to church with me, she would come to know Jesus, I thought. I saw church attendance as the silver bullet that would lead to her salvation. The irony isn’t lost on me here: I thought my church wasn’t doing a good enough job with evangelism, yet I still thought getting my friend to church was the best way to help her know Christ.
Bigger than the flaws I perceived in my pastor’s sermons, though, was this: I rarely engaged in authentic conversations with Lindsay about anything at all, let alone about spiritual matters. Why? Because I was afraid. It was easier to ask her to come to church with me than to really share Jesus with her. It was far less vulnerable for me to invite her to church than to ask her tough questions myself, and then if the sermon failed and she didn’t come to Christ . . . well then, at least I tried, right?