My Plea to The Church

This post is not a rant, but it is my heart splayed open across a blank page.  It is what I have lived and hated.  These things leave me scratching my head, my heart hurting.  These are the things that turn our children away from church.  They make women’s hearts grow hard.  They hurt people.

If you see yourself in this post, it’s not my intention.  In fact, chances are more than good I’ve never attended your church.  If you feel conviction of some sort, fall on your face before God.  He wants to restore, heal, and transform.  But, for the most part, I am not speaking to you.  Maybe you will read this post and be outraged.  Maybe you should be upset by it.  I am.

I turned the comments off.  Although I’d appreciate your ‘hugs’ and your kind words, they are not my purpose.  My purpose is share my heart.  Hopefully someone will read this and be kind to a child, welcome a visitor, open themselves to another.

I’ve witnessed church people being cold, unwelcoming, and down-right snobby.  It happens.  It shouldn’t, not in God’s house, but so many of our churches are not the house of God.  Not the God I know, the God of the Bible.  It’s ok when a woman’s unkindness affects me, but it’s intolerable when my children are hurt.

Please do not misinterpret this as a sermon.  It’s nothing of the sort.  Please stick with me until the end.  I don’t ask that you read much of my writing, but today I’m asking you to give me a chance to share my heart.

Galatians 5:22-23

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance:  against such there is no law.

Notice ‘fruit’ is singular.  So often we think of these attributes as fruits, but it’s one fruit with so many flavors of good.  The Bible says that when we turn by faith to God, repenting of our own ways – our sin, the Holy Spirit moves in, takes up residency in our soul.  These goodies are the outcropping of that Holy Spirit.

1 Corinthians 6:19

What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?

When you enter a church, an organization representing God, is it not appropriate to find love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance?  At least a little?

I know, you’re going to tell me that churches are full of sinners.

I can say like Paul, I am the chief sinner sitting in the pew.

But shouldn’t there be some love from those claiming the name of Christian, meaning Christ Follower?

1 John 4:7-8

Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.

We churchgoers are quick to make excuse for the atrocities that happen within the church walls.  Today I say, there is NO excuse.

When churchgoing adults invite my little girl to a mother/daughter dinner in the church, I expect to find some love.  Maybe even a little joy.

I do not expect for me and my nine-year old daughter to get all dressed up, to allow anticipation (on her part) to build for an entire week, and then to be tragically disappointed.

Oh, everything looked so pretty on the outside.  Ladies wore their pretty on their shirt-sleeve.  Flowers bloomed on tables covered in pastel.  The church looked like spring, like new life.

Only no-one would speak to us.   There seemed to be no seat.  No vacancy was shouted at each table.  Maybe a hundred woman filled the room, tables set, and men ready to serve, yet wasn’t there a place for a mom and her daughter who just walked across town to attend?  After all, you invited my little girl.  You promised fun and good food, a big girl’s tea party.

Finally we found a space, just two seats left unsaved.  For two hours we ate your food.  We watched your pretty.  We listened as your speaker told us the kind of women we should be.  She said God wanted us to be a certain way.  Only I didn’t understand.  Doesn’t God want us to be love and joy and peace?  Doesn’t He ask us to love Him with all our heart, mind, and strength and then to our love our neighbor just as we love ourselves?  Clearly we loves ourselves very much.  The room bloomed with self-love.

But no woman, or man serving the meal, spoke a word to us.

Not one little word.

No hello.  No welcome.  No glad to see you little nine year-old girl whom I invited.

I tried to cross the gap to pretty.  I even pinned a daisy to my blouse, not one bit wilted from our sprint around town, an effort not to be late.  We didn’t want to miss out – not one minute.

I opened my mouth in greeting, but was quickly dismissed.  My attempts at small talk were answered with as few words as possible.  I was looked over, sized-up, and left wanting.  It’s not the first time.  In fact, I’m getting used to being not enough.

But my little girl…the impressionable one…the child who never met a person who is not her best friend…you did this to her too.

That is not ok.  Not with me.  And, it is not acceptable to God.

1 John 3:18

My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.

Mark 10:14

But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.

Here in the North-East we wonder why our churches are growing old and dying.  We’ve lost a generation of children born into the church.  We hear our neighbor’s excuses – why they won’t go to church anymore.  We sit back in our hard pew and shake our heads, fingers wagging at the world and the devil.

I just wonder if it’s not our fault.  Maybe we ran our neighbor’s out of the church with our bickering and strife.  Could that life-long deacon have hurt a child?  Not in my church, I’m sure.  But are we sure?  Do we ignore the hurting, turn away the fatherless, lift our godly noses in the air when the less than desirable walk up the steps?  Did we kick someone out of the seat we’ve warmed for the past thirty-five years?  I’ve been told to change seats, because so-and-so sits there.  Do we ignore that little one who scribbles in the song book, only speaking to them in a yell when they dare run in the sanctuary?

Where has the love, joy, peace, longsuffering, goodness gone?

The Spirit gives the fruit, but maybe the Spirit, God’s Spirit, was never there to begin with.  Are we deceiving ourselves into thinking our church membership is enough?  Oh, but we are kind!  At least on Sundays.  Why, we gave money to those orphans in Ghana last year.  We are God’s and our church is good, probably the best in town.

Matthew 7:21-23

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?

And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

I think it’s past time that we, those who claim to be the church, examine ourselves.  Allow His Spirit to bear witness with our spirit that we are the sons and daughters of God.  If God’s Spirit is not present, in your life and your church, then fall to your knees and cry out to the one who is waiting to redeem you unto Himself.

1 John 1:9

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

As for me, I’m going to be a little kinder to my neighbor.  I think I’ll show some love to the people around me who seem quite unlovely.  Maybe I’ll even save an extra smile and good word for the church people.  I’m going to remember to welcome someone this Sunday, making them feel wanted.  And I’m not going to forget to greet those little boys with mud on their jeans and a frog in their pocket.  Maybe I can share some kindness with the little girl who comes to show off her dress.  Yes, I know I’ll remember, because there are some lessons you cannot forget, no matter how hard you try.