Years ago in New York City, I got into a taxi cab with an Iranian taxi driver, who could hardly speak English. I tried to explain to him where I wanted to go, and as he was pulling his car out of the parking place, he almost got hit by a van that on its side had a sign reading The Pentecostal Church. He got real upset and said, “That guy’s drunk.” I said, “No, he’s a Pentecostal. Drunk in the spirit, maybe, but not with wine.” He asked, “Do you know about church?” I said, “Well, I know a little bit about it; what do you know?” It was a long trip from one end of Manhattan to the other, and all the way down he told me one horror story after another that he’d heard about the church. He knew about the pastor that ran off with the choir master’s wife, the couple that had burned the church down and collected the insurance—every horrible thing you could imagine. We finally get to where we were going, I paid him, and as we’re standing there on the landing I gave him an extra-large tip. He got a suspicious look in his eyes—he’d been around, you know. I said, “Answer me this one question.” Now keep in mind, I’m planning on witnessing to him. “If there was a God and he had a church, what would it be like?” He sat there for awhile making up his mind to play or not. Finally he sighed and said, “Well, if there was a God and he had a church—they would care for the poor, heal the sick, and they wouldn’t charge you money to teach you the Book.” I turned around and it was like an explosion in my chest. “Oh, God.” I just cried, I couldn’t help it. I thought, “Oh Lord, they know. The world knows what it’s supposed to be like. The only ones that don’t know are the Church.”
When you joined the kingdom, you expected to be used of God. I’ve talked to thousands of people, and almost everybody has said, “When I signed up, I knew that caring for the poor was part of it—I just kind of got weaned off of it, because no one else was doing it.” Folks, I’m not saying, “Do some-thing heroic.” I’m not saying, “Take on some high standard, sell everything you have and go.” Now, if Jesus tells you that, that’s different. But I’m not saying that. I’m just saying, participate. Give some portion of what you have—time, energy, money, on a regular basis—to this purpose, to redeeming people, to caring for people. Share your heart and life with somebody that’s not easy to sit in the same car with. Are you hearing me? That’s where you’ll really see the kingdom of God.
It really makes you think that maybe churches need to look at what they are doing and consider what kind of image we are portraying. I was talking with my parent’s the other day and they were talking about a couple of churches that would hand women shawls if they came in with short sleeves on, granted that was many years ago. But I know of two friends who attended the same church (at separate times) not too many years ago and were asked to leave because of their appearance.
The first friend had decided that it was time to get his life right with God and so he decided to start attending church, so after getting off of work on a Sunday morning he went to a large church in my area. When he went in he was met at the door by an usher and told that he needed to go home and shower and change before he could come into the service.
The other friend had just had major surgery on his brain and decided that going to church to thank God for saving his life was something he wanted to do, so he walks into the same church wearing a hat to hide his scar. He finds a seat and as the service is starting he is approached by an usher and told that he needs to remove his hat. My friend explained to the usher that he had just had surgery on his brain and he did not want to remove his hat because the scar was ugly looking and he did not want to freak anyone out. The usher told him if he did not remove his hat that he had to leave. So my friend left.
Now fortunately the first friend decided that his desire for God was greater than the rejection that church gave him, but the other friend has no desire to ever walk into another church building again. However, I am doing my best to hopefully show him that is not the reality of what church is supposed to be.
It does make you think about what it is we do as churches that causes barriers between people and God. Is it a dress code? Is it a style? What is it that may be causing your church to turn people off to Christ rather than on to Him? I heard Mosaic’s podcast recently where Erwin McManus was talking about how someone said they would never put their faith in God, because they could not forgive their father for things they have done to them. And someone told them that they can’t forgive their father unless they can accept God’s forgiveness for them. In other words, you don’t come to God because you are all cleaned up, but after you come to God he will clean you up.
HT to Marko.