We like to think our churches are places where everyone is welcome. But if we are truly honest with ourselves, the choices we make in structuring our churches will tend to make some people feel more welcome than others. If you give extra attention to people who are well dressed and follow up with the “important” people, but you neglect those who are down and out, who do you think you will attract? If you blast the music so loud that everyone needs earplugs, what effect will that have on how older people feel welcomed and accepted? The truth is that every choice we make will either make people feel welcomed, or it will let them know that your church may not be the best fit.
Recently I was talking with someone at a church that is very focused on reaching their community. They serve their community in numerous ways, and they attract people from all walks of life. In talking with them, they made a statement that has really made me think. In their words, “most church people don’t last long here, because we expect too much.” They went on to say that many of their visitors are people from other churches who are dissatisfied and looking for another church. They come to this church because they hear of all the great things that are happening. But they easily get offended and leave when they realize they aren’t the center of attention. This church is successful because their people have learned to be servants. They know the purpose of church is not to cater to their every desire. Instead, they ask how we can share God’s love to the community in which we live.
Too many churches have structured themselves to make people happy. But once you go down that road, you will start attracting people who can never be pleased. I’m afraid that in our desire to be welcoming to everyone, we have created a culture of church consumerism. People need Jesus, and when we teach them how to love God and love others, we are taking the focus away from self-centeredness and placing it on the Christ we serve.
My challenge for you: Think and pray about the choices that you make as a leader of your church. What things lead to self-centeredness, and what things lead to a selfless devotion to Christ?