Last night (Sunday), we held another New Members Class at my house. We do these four times a year, and they’re always a highlight for me. Everyone watches our videos (which we desperately need to re-shoot) ahead of time, and then we get together to discuss our thoughts about the church. We talk about the values, our uniqueness, our mission, how we organize and our expectations if they would choose to continue the process to be members.
It’s a highlight because no one has to be there. Everyone’s excited at that point. There are various reasons each person or family has chosen to worship with us, and they’re considering making that official. So we haven’t disappointed anyone yet.
But we will, oh we will. It can be a downer when I discuss the ways we’ll let everyone down. We don’t try to. We don’t mean to. We hate it when it happens. We ask for forgiveness. We seek reconciliation. It may be tiny, tiny things or big huge ones. But it will happen. We’re sinners. We sin. Jesus hasn’t finished his work yet, and that’s not something we’re happy about but it’s still true.
Sometimes I sit at that meeting (like last night), and I wonder what it will be or who will be first. I might not be friendly enough. I might not remember their kids’ names. I may waste their time. I may not be able to show up at the hospital while they’re there. I may step on their toes in a sermon. I may miss an important event. I may say something dumb on social media that gets them riled up. I may cuss or smoke or drink. I may talk about crossfit too much. I may not respond to an email fast enough. I may be too controlling. I may be too passive. I may be too busy or not busy enough.
It’s tough to set expectations because I want people to love their church. So many people don’t. Honestly, most people have given up on the church altogether. They’ve bagged the whole idea. Sleeping in and soccer games beat out church by a wide margin. 70% of people in Oklahoma City don’t attend church. They have reasons.
I’d like to be a place where someone might turn that around. They might see the church does have something to offer. It is valuable in their lives. They can walk together with us in God’s story of rescue. They can have a diverse group of friends because we’re better together. We’d welcome lost prodigals and stop being “older brothers.” We’d tell our stories and have humble, authentic, fearless conversations. We’d listen to others. We’d learn in a holistic way, heart and mind. We’d be studying the Bible together not just to get smarter, but because we need to hear and embrace the good news that God saves sinners in and through faith in Jesus. I’d like to see people set free. I’d like to see people flourish. I’d like to see darkness diminish. I’d like to celebrate goodness and grieve where things aren’t yet as they should be. I’d like for us to love each other.
But we’re going to disappoint each other, and I’m at the top of list. I disappoint myself. The church isn’t filled with good people. We stink at all of this love stuff. We judge. We poke at others. We condemn. We’re self-righteous. We’re proud and arrogant. The list could go on forever.
So I need help to walk with you, and you’re going to have to forgive me a million times. I’ll try to do the same for you because it goes both ways. Let’s make this attempt together. Let’s hope for a better future as God works this out in our lives and world. Let’s be realistic because the task is a major one and we’ll never complete it fully until Christ comes back. But in our realism, let’s include faith, hope and love so we can hang in there together when it gets rough.