By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
Over the past several weeks, I have read many articles about why certain demographics (mainly young adults) do not go to church. Many of these offer a whole series of reasons and some actually offer some possible solutions to this problem. I generally do not put my two cents into these types of arguments, but here I am. Do you want to be growing God’s Church? Well, stop looking to the why and start looking to the how. There is no way any church can adequately answer the concerns of each person who is disenfranchised with the church or religion in general. Here is what we can control: our actions towards every person outside our church walls. I truly believe that the most important part of sharing God’s Word is by living it. John 13:35 says: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Christ is very clear that in order for others to know you are His disciple, you must love one another.
Practically, what does this mean? There are an abundance of good people within the church who donate to good causes, help others within the church and even do the occasional service project. These are all good things, but I think there is a different aspect which often gets overlooked: how do you interact with others on a daily basis? Does your life demonstrate solid morals, encouragement and support to those around you, and forgiveness (perhaps even empathy) towards others when needed? This may sound like a lot, but my experience has shown me that all of this is made of little actions taken in everyday life. It happens in the course of what you already do, just a little beyond. It takes being intentional each day. It is not always easy. The results are worth it.
Let me share a story with you. This is not a story that glorifies my actions, but shows how little acts of obedience can have big results. The details of this story have been changed a bit to protect the woman’s identity, but the sentiments are accurate. I live in a small town. Sometimes, it seems as if there is a nearly impenetrable wall between the “haves” and “have nots”. Our community has a tremendous amount of poverty, so it is nearly impossible for the two groups not to cross paths in the course of daily life. I am blessed to have an abundance when it comes to provisions. While we may not be seen as wealthy on the grand scale, we are certainly well-off in our community. One day, in the course of a weekly routine, I met a young woman, an employee who struck me. I cannot say I fully understand why, but I know God intended our paths to cross. This young woman is hard-working and seems quite bright. However, she also comes from an extremely broken background, has been a part of several failed relationships, and was in the midst of extremely hard financial times. I think I struck up a conversation with her originally because she reminded me of one of my sisters in her mannerisms, but the initial conversation would lead to much more. This was not a situation where we were destined to become instant best friends and her life would turn around immediately. No, this would be a relationship where my experiences would help to give encouragement to this woman. I grew to greatly enjoy our conversations, because so often this young woman reminded me how important it is to keep working hard and doing the right thing. She was not perfect, and either am I, but this woman was working hard to find a break. Over time, my relationship with this woman was evident to others around me and they began to encourage her and help her when they could. In fact, not too long ago, this woman received such a shower of blessings from those around her, hope began to return. This young woman’s situation has not changed greatly, but her hope and peace certainly has. God reached out to this woman through a series of small actions and made a huge impact on her life.
This is only one story, but there could be numerous others told. The fact is, you must love people where they are, not where you want them to be. God’s love extends far beyond the church and Sunday morning. God never wanted to be contained to an hour or so each week. He wants to affect all of our actions. Are you wondering how you can begin to get people to come to church? Be sure that you are being obedient to God in all that you do. At work, in your daily errands, in your home and in your interactions with your friends. Everything can be a testament to God in your life. The results will amaze you. Not only does it open the door to more people coming to know Christ in their life, it will greatly impact your own life.
I leave you with a passage from 1 Thessalonians 5:13b-18: “Be at peace among yourselves.Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all.See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all.Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”