I was driving through town a while back and something odd struck me. As I ventured down a street I don’t usually take I came across a church marquee that made me scratch my head. It simply said this: We sing hymns. Now to many I am sure that this is not a statement too worthy of note, but to me being an avid attendee of my church, this statement rubbed me wrong. Not that hymns are bad. I rather like them. It made me curious as to the message that this church, or the person who put the letters on the sign, was trying to get across.
In three words I was taken back to the argument that has plagued churches over the last many years about which is better: praise choruses, or hymns. I have heard both sides of this time and time again. So much so that I am now sick of the argument, because I realized that the argument in itself does more damage than good. Isn’t the whole point that we are bringing our praises and our adoration to a God who is worthy?
The church sign has bothered me ever since, not because of the argument that it is presenting. It bothers me that this is what that church chose to say to all of the people that drove by. It is not inviting. It is not intriguing. It is almost…condescending.
Another sign I passed not too long ago said this: Has America blessed God? Now here is a whole other issue that we can talk about inside of the walls of the church. As a nation how have we strayed from the path God has laid out for us? What can we do to get back on the path we need to be on? However, this is not a topic that is going to draw people into the church. I know if I were the prospective attendee I would not set foot in the building because I had already felt the guilt on the sign outside.
Another sign I pass by from time to time has political messages on them. They are religiously political. Again, how is this helping people? How does this draw one into a meaningful relationship with their Creator? To an unbelieving world doesn’t it look more like religious and political positioning than a concern for the eternal? It seems to me that Jesus is controversial enough. Why do we need to add to the controversy?
In the book of John we see a statement from Christ that I seem to find missing from the messages these marquees have given me. John 13:35 says this: This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples–when they see the love you have for each other. (The Message)
Do people honestly know that we love them? Not that we are trying to convert them. Not that we are trying to save their souls. Not that they are sinners in need of God. Do people know that we have love for them? Do they know that their Creator loves them desperately?
I think it would be a fair statement to say that people in Jesus time knew that He loved them. Those He spoke with. Those He healed. Those He called friends. They knew the love Jesus had for them. They seemed to know that no matter where He found them, He loved them. He did not love the sin He found them in, but He loved them.
The word Christian implies that we are being like Christ. We are bearers of His image. Come to think of it, we were made in His image. When people look at us they should see an image of something more. What image has the church been giving off? We sing hymns. Has America blessed God? Political rants? Where is the love?
There are other signs I have been by that make me want to walk in the front doors of the building because I know there is life inside the doors. One sign simple said this: Mr. and Mrs. So and So (of course this isn’t their real names) welcome to the family. You could feel the love pouring off the sign.
Another sign said this: We are praying for you. Driving by I thought, for me? They don’t know my name specifically, but they are praying for me because God knows my name. He knew I would see the sign. They prayed for me.
It is quite possible that I have asked more questions in all of this than provided answers. I want people to know when they see me that God’s love is in my heart for them. I don’t have to know them. I just want to love them like God does.