I’ve been thinking a lot about evangelism recently. More specifically, evangelism in the church. I think that with the church I am going to, there really is a sincere desire to save souls and to reach out to the lost, but that it’s just not structured so that this can happen as effectively as it could. And I think that’s been bothering me a bit.
This has probably been mentioned before by myself and other people, but I think the focus of my fellowship group really has changed since freshman year. FiCS was without question a really uncomfortable time for me freshman year. But I think it was also super encouraging because it was a place where some people who might not be going to other fellowships could come. And did come. Even if it wasn’t consistent, the fact that they did sometimes come and that they had a connection to the place was just great.
Somehow the focus I think has changed. The thing is, it’s not necessarily better or worse; I mean there are definite better and worse elements to it, but it is unquestionably different. The big thing I think is that as a friend put it it’s become more about equipping the saints than reaching the lost. There’s a heavy emphasis I think on fellowship and forming close friendships. Which again isn’t necessarily better or worse but a little not me personally.
There’s more I think about this but thoughts aren’t coming coherently. Another thing that’s been on my mind has been dressing up for church. Our church does that, and a good majority of the people dress up for church. Me included, of course. But it’s starting to bother me a little bit. And this has to do with the evangelism thing. My dad has always said, and I’ve heard it many other places as well, as perhaps you have, that the church is a hospital. It’s a place for the sick, not for the healthy.
I think this is an attitude we really need to adopt. And I don’t like the idea that a newcomer might feel like they have to be in a certain level spiritually before they can come. In fact, I have seen in the past with younger Christians that do come out, they just kind of play the Christian superficial game while they do actually grow inwardly, but they I don’t think are ever comfortable with revealing their immaturity in the beginning, for whatever reason. I think it’s because there’s just this atmosphere of maturity that makes anyone who’s not mature feel uncomfortable revealing. And that’s not good.
Anyway, I think the ideal is that the church be a place where anyone and everyone feels totally comfortable in coming. And also ideally, no one would leave comfortable, mature or not, but everyone would leave challenged. I think that’s the goal of the church, that everyone come comfortable and leave challenged. But maybe that’s an impossible deal.
I forgot what dresing up has to do with this. Oh yeah. It kind of goes along with the having to be at a certain level before you come. I mean, ask people why they dress up for church, and I think the main reason is just respect and reverence for God. And obviously that’s not bad. But I get this sense that dressing up really is just an indication of something else, and along with the ida of reverence for God I think we have this notion that we need to do things for God, to be at a certain state or level before we can come to Him. So there’s this heavy emphasis on “preparing ourselves” for Sunday and on you know, dressing up and whatever on Sundays to show our devotion / reverence etc.
Again, that’s not bad, but I just wonder what a newcomer might think. Maybe they don’t think at all and just go along and dress up too. In the worst case, I think it might give the impression that they need to be a certain way, be it emotionally, spiritually, or fashionably, before they can come before God. And in a way, that’s true, because to approach God, we need to be perfectly righteous. But the way to that isn’t by our works it’s by our brokenness, by our repentance.
So my feeling is I wish we could emphasize the hospital aspect of the church and emphasize that we really are all sinners, that we don’t come before Him on Sundays “prepared” and “clean” and dressed up physically or whatever, but broken, and repentant, and aware of our sinfulness, and ready to receive His grace. I hate the idea that we need to do anything to make ourselves clean before Him. Everything is just about repentance and brokenness; I think this is the key to being close to God. Even in something as trivial as dress, I sometimes wish we could emphasize our brokenness more than our desire to do stuff, to prepare ourselves for Him. I don’t know if this makes any sense.
So I’m thinking we shouldn’t have to dress up on Sundays. Especially if this will encourage the notion among newcomers that really anyone can come, no matter what you’re like. Church is where we most want the messed up people of society, not where we should keep them away. And we should let them know that they are welcomed because Jesus welcomes them. And they don’t need to prepare themselves or be at a certain spiritual level or dress up to come, they just need to come as they are and listen to the words of Jesus and be challenged, knowing that they don’t have to be the way they are.
But I don’t know what I’m saying anymore. My problem sometimes is that I get passionate about things that are too abstract. Like I am very excited about my philosophical stance on free will and determinism, not just predestination, but just determinism. I’m passionate about the way I feel on it. But it’s kind of a pointless passion because how the heck do I live out this passion?
I think we sometimes forget that a part of loving God, maybe the only way we can really show that we love God, is to obey His commands. And I think that we forget that the greatest command after loving God is that we love the people around us. That’s pretty heavy, no? I mean, most of us I think would not really miss church based on how we’re doing. Even if we’re not doing well, we’ll go to church even if it’s half-hearted because there’s an obedience issue we need to recognize. Whatever our heart, we gotta go to church on Sundays because God commands us to. How much more important is it then, that we love our neighbor, even if we don’t feel like it, or if we’re not doing that well ourselves? I think a part of our obedience means that if we’re struggling, regardless, we love our neighbor as best as we can, even if it’s not perfectly sincere, but even with the outward forms of love, simply because Jesus commands us to, while we work out what we need to ourselves. Not taking obedience to God’s commands lightly.