Church numbers are dwindling today. Pews are empty, and many churches struggle to keep their doors open. Christian organizations hold conferences and give workshops on how to draw people back into the church. But it seems to me the answer is pretty clear.
There are simply too many Christians who don’t act like Christ.
Acting like a Christian doesn’t happen within the walls of a church building. It isn’t about what type of music you sing, which version of the Bible you read, or the gender of your preacher. Acting like a Christian never involves treating anyone like an outcast or pointing out anyone’s sin. It isn’t about the name you use to represent God or how well you can quote scripture from memory. It isn’t about building a better church website.
Acting like a Christian literally means striving every day to act a little more like Christ, and too many Christians have forgotten what that looked like. Jesus walked among the people. He talked to them, he dined with them, and he taught them in the streets. Jesus loved the sinners; he literally sought them out. He didn’t scream at them about hell or try to shame them about their failings. He simply spoke to them, reached out to them, and showed them love.
There was only one group of people that Jesus ever got mad at or rejected: the Pharisees. Jesus said that these religious leaders were so focused on following the letter of the rules, that they had forgotten about the spirit of the people. He pointed out their hypocrisy, and defended sinners who were brought before them for punishment. One can only imagine how Jesus would respond to the sanctimonious, judgmental hypocrisy of so many Christians today.
So what does a real Christian look like? I honestly don’t know. I am just a poor sinner myself who begins every day amazed that the grace of God is still mine even though I will never be able to earn it or deserve it. I know that I am commanded by Christ to love God and to love all of creation, everyone in it, no matter how different they are from me and even if I consider them my enemy. I am commanded to not just love God, but to strive to love LIKE God, and in doing so, be a vessel of God’s love in the world.
Why are people leaving the church? Maybe it is because of the way they are treated when they go there. Churches should not be courts of damnation; they are called to be havens of hope.
Imagine if all Christians simply did the one thing Christ commanded us to do, love. What if instead of pointing out what everyone else was doing wrong, churches became the one place where love and acceptance were always guaranteed? What if it became incredibly easy to spot a Christian on the street because they were always the one lending a hand or protecting others from hate and attack?
My guess is that the churches would fill up, and more importantly, Christians would be acting like the disciples Jesus called us to be.
7 “Don’t judge, so that you won’t be judged. 2 You’ll receive the same judgment you give. Whatever you deal out will be dealt out to you. 3 Why do you see the splinter that’s in your brother’s or sister’s eye, but don’t notice the log in your own eye?