When I was young, church attendance was an important part of an individual’s and a community’s life. But recent history reveals that church attendance is in decline in North America. I suppose there are many reasons for this. I could point to several factors that attribute to this decline. However, the one reason sociologists have discovered and one that I have been pondering recently is that people see the church as irrelevant to their lives.
I have been pastoring churches over 30 years and have seen stark changes in our culture from changes in communication to technology to changes in our moral definitions. The church has tried, in many ways, to keep up with the changes, but at times has been detrimental to our message of our hope in Christ. We have pursued changes in music style to stay with the culture. We have tried to keep up with ever-changing technology. We have tried to communicate the ancient (yet, still relevant) message of the Scripture to the current culture. We have tried to keep up with all this because we have a basic desire to communicate to people that, even though the culture changes, God’s love for us and His purpose to redeem us and give us hope in life is still the same message. Yet, increasingly, the perception of the church in our culture is that it is some kind of exclusive club of do-gooders. The reality is actually the opposite; at least we strive to be welcoming and kind-hearted.
The church is a community – The church is regular people; people who love God with all our hearts and try to live it with our lives. We aren’t perfect by any means! But hopefully, through Jesus, we are growing and maturing to live more like Jesus.
The church is people who care about our community – We care about our community and we give back to the community in many ways. We help donating weekend food for the neighborhood elementary kids so they won’t go hungry on the weekends. We help with Haven House donating monthly paper products. We contribute to Love Inc with financial support and housing the Baby Ministry. We support the prison ministry. We participate in Family Promise, helping homeless families. We seek to be caring and helpful to our neighborhood.
The church is people who encourage, love and pray for one another. Sometimes life is a challenge. Medical needs, financial needs, heartache, disaster, etc. Through the love of God, we are there for each other. We encourage, we pray and we help each other through the hard times.
The church seeks to be outward focused – Our doors are open. We are not exclusive in that we welcome people to worship with us; to seek Christ together; to work together spreading God’s love.
I speak not just for our local congregation, but I know the churches across this community are the same way. And many times, we will work together, side by side, to help others. It is the cooperative efforts of the different congregations that make ministries like Family Promise, Love Inc, the Food Bank, etc. and the list goes on effective to make our community better.
The church seeks to be relevant as we help one another, encourage and pray for one another and as we work together to share God’s love in our community, state and world. It is a great place to find encouragement, love, accountability and support through people who care. I thank God for His Church!
• Rev. Dan Wiese is pastor of the Church of the Nazarene. “Living & Growing” is a reoccurring column written by different authors and submitted by local clergy and spiritual leaders.
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