Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Country Club Christianity

We've all seen them.

We walk into a church building and with minutes, perhaps seconds, some odd fellow approaches us. You know who I mean. This is the person that doesn't seem to understand personal space or even basic hygiene. Just those two issues combined will make any encounter something less than affable. Worse yet, imagine an entire congregation is filled with people who break the curve on the emotional intelligence scale. On the low end.

During my seminary years I was occasionally asked to preach the Sunday morning service at a rural United Methodist church. It was so small that the denomination has threatened to shut it down. To avoid this, the leadership went down to the local adult home for the mentally disabled and promised to drive them to church every Sunday, the result being that half of the 30 people in attendance were mentally disabled. Some were sweet and loving. Others were bitter and grumpy. None understood basic social conventions or expectations. I always enjoyed these mornings, partly because I had no idea what to expect (but mostly because of the great love the rest of the Body showed to these dear individuals).

As the apostle Paul preached throughout the Roman empire, he attracted people form all social classes. Some were quite educated and wealthy (e.g. "chief women", Acts 17:4,12), but many other came from the poorest and most marginalized of social classes. This is clearly evidenced when we remember that Paul refers to the deep poverty of his congregations (2 Cor 8:1-2) and frequently appeals to believers who were slaves (1 Cor 7; Col 3:22). Though Paul did not appeal directly to any special 'class' of humanity, it seems the Gospel found a particular audience among the 'lest desirables' (from a worldly point of view). The New Testament churches contained the wealthy and educated, but were chiefly comprised of the lower commercial and working classes, laborers, freed-men, and slaves.

Are you looking for a church that is populated by professionals? Suburbanites? College educated? Fellow farmers or factory workers? People like you? Or are you open to a church that shines the light of Jesus Christ and welcomes, warmly, all who come in? Do you simply tolerate sharing a pew with these 'others', or do you joyously share your life with them? Warren Wiersbe once said "the Gospel light attracts the strangest bugs".

It attracted you.

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