Changing the way the church is perceived

I wrote something last night that really struck me as a two sided coin.  Initially I wrote it in regard to the people who live in the Zuspan Trailer Park.  Many of you know our church had a VBS style block party there yesterday.  Afterward, I said it looked like we brought the circus to their neighborhood.  It was probably more like the fair because we didn’t have animals. (Insert your own joke here.)  We must have had 50 people from the church in that neighborhood yesterday!

Anyway, Diane told us last night as about 20 of us shared our experiences after it was over, that she heard someone say something like this:  When you guys (our church) came here today, it changed the way we look at how you think of us.  That’s a life changing sentence for me.  Being a follower of Jesus is about being transformed.  I believe every time we do something in Jesus’ name, it transforms us.  When I go to New Orleans, when I went to Ghana, Africa, when I went to the mobile home park yesterday, when I go to the food pantry, it changes me.  I don’t do it so I will be changed, I do it to be the hands and feet of Jesus, but it almost always has a greater impact on me than what I have on the situation I get involved with.

My young friend Nathan Weaver started a new blog.  In it, he quotes from a book by Sheldon Vanauken in which Vanauken basically says, the strongest argument for Christianity is Christians when we are being like Christ and the strongest argument against Christianity is Christians when we are somber and joyless, when we are self-righteous and smug in complacent consecration, and when we are narrow and repressive.

This all culminates in making me realize while we need to change the way those outside the church perceive the church, we also have to change the way many of those inside the church perceive the church.  We are the church.  A.W. Tozer puts it well when he says that you and I as individuals are the church.  Whatever we are doing is what the church is doing.  If we think church is simply about coming on Sundays and sitting in pews facing the front, doing our best to stay awake, and sometimes “enjoying the sermon” then those who don’t come to church are not going to have a very high opinion of the church.  And if we think that somehow coming on Sundays and maybe even a Wednesday makes us better than those who don’t come to church and those live in low income areas, neither they nor we are perceiving the church correctly.  Or maybe they are perceiving it correctly.  Maybe too many churches are nothing but a bunch of judgmental hypocrites.

It’s up to us who call ourselves Christian to change the way we perceive the church and that will eventually change the way those outside the walls perceive us.  It’s slowly and surely happening here at the Mason UMC.  All for the glory of Jesus.

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