I hear many people say that the church is like a family. But is it really?
In families, when someone offends you, when things don't go our way, when things are hard, we stay and fight. We work it out. And it's the struggling through the difficult things that helps us to be a family. It's by working out the difficulties that we grow together and the intimacy increases.
But churches don't function that way.
In churches, when someone is offended, when things don't go our way, when things are hard, people bolt. People leave.
Families just don't do that. Real families stay together particularly during the hard times.
Leaving is so much easier. Leaving is the coward's way. Leaving won't ever allow for intimacy and community.
Just as there are times when divorce is necessary - in situations of abuse for instance - there are times when leaving a church is necessary.
But that's not what I'm talking about. For the most part, when I see people leaving it's because we are so stuck and mired in this consumer mentality - where the customer is always right - that church members actually think that they are the customers. That the church is there to provide a service which they pay for. And when people don't get what they pay for, they leave.
I don't understand how we can have hundreds and thousands of positive encounters and experiences in the church, and then leave because of one negative experience. How can we do that to the body of Christ?
Being a part of Christ's body means that we are held together by the blood of Jesus Christ. Being a part of the body of Christ means that staying or going should never be made on the criteria of convenience or out of personal preference. It's a much bigger decision than that.
And until we can start living into being the body of Christ, the churches in America will continue to experience churches that are shallow.
Intimacy is developed through the context of difficulties and disagreements. Geniuine communities can only develop as we commit to working out the hard things.
I pray that that is what Jesus will find in our churches.