I have heard numerous excuses for not attending church. If I take those excuses and apply them to other things that we do (or don’t do), like eating, they might look something like this.
I don’t eat anymore because…
I was forced to eat as a child.
People who eat all of the time are hypocrites; they aren’t really hungry.
There are so many different kinds of food, I can’t decide what to eat.
I used to eat, but I got bored and stopped.
I only eat on special occassions, like Christmas and Easter.
None of my friends will eat with me.
I’ll start eating as I get older.
I don’t really have time to eat.
I don’t believe that eating does anybody any good. It’s just a crutch.
Restaurants and grocery stores are only after your money.
We who are inside and outside a local church can come up with many excuses to keep us from the very thing that can bring nourishment. When I find people who are not attracted to the Church (universal, not local), it is usually because they have not been exposed to an authentic Biblical community. They simply have not seen the real thing. What they have seen, however, is way too many believers and too many congregations play church.
Churches in the United States have a problem. According to the Barna Research Group only 10-15% of Protestant churches are found to be effective. George Barna defines the effective church in this way:
A ministry is effective when lives are transformed such that people are constantly enabled to become more Christ-like. Effective ministries foster significant and continual changes in how people live.
In my years of involvement in youth ministry in both church and parachurch settings, I have found that youth (and people in general) are interested in Jesus, but it’s the local church that often is a stumbling block for them.
Each local body of believers should desire to be a contagious community that infects the world around them with the love of Jesus Christ. People who are in the church should have the type of environment that fosters Christ-likeness, and people outside the church should see what is going on and desire to be a part of that.
In a short series of posts I am going to look at the Church in Jerusalem just as it is starting as a model of what a contagious community can look like. We see a great snapshot right after Pentecost.
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved, (Acts 2:42-47, ESV)
In this passage we see three aspects which helped make this community successful – contagious communities look up, contagious communities look in, and contagious communities also look out. In my next post on this topic I’ll explore how the Jerusalem church looked up.