I wonder if churches today have become so insular that we have forgotten about the ones on the other side of the door needing and wanting to hear our messages of hope and love. So often, when you preach or teach, it is always the people already saved in attendance, thus the saying, “Preaching to the choir.”
Churches are becoming behemoths, the size of auditoriums, yet filled with people who seem to be content to sit with other saved people, but not to go outside the confines of the building to reach out to the truly lost and hurting. It is as though Christians today, like the Pharisees of old, do not want to eat and drink with sinners.
Yet, their Savior, Jesus Christ, regularly did so. In Mark 2: 16-17, it states, “But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum?” When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”
Today, it seems that spiritual hospitals are only available to healthy people, those who think that they are righteous, seemingly closed to the sick who don’t fit in. In Acts 16, I love the story of the apostle Paul preaching to women on a riverbank. Paul’s message was accepted by Lydia from Thyatira, a merchant of expensive purple cloth who worshiped God. She accepted the Good News of Jesus right there and she and her household were baptized.
What if she would have had to wait for today’s church people to come and tell her about Jesus, while she was in her public housing apartment or on a street corner, would she be saved? I doubt seriously that she would, particularly as many young preachers today think that door-to-door evangelism is “old-fashioned” and ineffective.
Yet, for me, it is our stories of triumph over drugs, alcohol, and all manner of addictions, our successes in overcoming unloved childhoods, and being survivors of events that seemed never to have an end that we have “medicine” to offer to a broken world. I believe that people need to hear our “war stories,” so that they will know that they are not any different from the people in the pews and are loved by God just as much.
I am guilty as well of not reaching out like I should, afraid of being rejected and seen as an extremist or fanatic. So, don’t think that I am denigrating everyone else and thinking that I am so good at it. No, I know that I can and must do better.
Yet, I have on more than one occasion looked out over the church and wondered what would happen if we broke down the walls, and we allowed everyone in, regardless of what they were wearing, how they smell, or how high they may seem? I believe that more people would know the love of God and that church people would benefit as much as the unsaved, for we would be closer to being like our Savior who ate with those considered unworthy by society.