Church conversations are uncomfortable.
But let’s talk about it!
I have been through many denominations. And like you, I have been hurt. I have felt awful seeing the smokescreen that was passed for something real.
People are hurting and hurt even more when the church is involved. Many look for a community to belong to, not that they are spiritually lost, but their hearts want more! Their hearts long for an encounter with Jesus. Recall the Samaritan woman at the well? John 4
I have had those disturbing conversations in the front line of rural evangelism. Meeting the unchurched, the lost, the left-the-church, the “wandering without actually settling” made me realize people are hungry. People are seeking. People want the real deal.
In one encounter, I met a hardworking young man who initially refused to yield. He lamented about his disappointment in church. As he uttered his displeasure, I stood in silence. Unbeknownst to him, I was well acquainted with His plight.
Then I asked him a question, for which he had no answer.
What if you look to Jesus and find community instead of quitting church altogether?
He scratched his head awhile. Then smiled and said, “I have never considered it in this light before”. Gently, I reminded him we are all sinners saved by Grace. We all need Jesus- the pastors, church workers, believers as a whole. Every time we move away from the anchor of our souls and turn to church hurt, we run into dangerous waters. That’s what kept me going. I retreated and pondered on my outing that day. I promised myself to do my part- forgive, grow, and keep growing.
Talking about Jesus especially in informal settings has provided me a helpful view of reaching the unchurched and those who have left church like the man I just told you about.
One thing I have found to be true over time is…
People will stay longer where they find the truth, are served continually and find love to nourish their souls.
When I got an opportunity to read Traci Rhoades new book, I jumped at it. This book no doubt is years of in-depth research and probe into church traditions and systems all rolled into o, Not All Who Wander (Spiritually) Are Lost. And it is worth your reading time.
Who would this book help? Church leaders, lay ministers, and evangelists, believers, those who yearn to reach the lost for Jesus would benefit from this resource. It will help us look at each other with compassion instead of competition and comparison. It will help us start hard conversations.
My Big Take Away: “The lost” is more important than the creeds and denominational setups and scruffles for membership cards and glory magnificent buildings. We need to step out of the bubble and build a true community of worshippers hungry for Jesus.
I posted my initial thoughts about her book on Facebook which were a set of reflection questions. Fortunately, Traci took the time to provide some thoughtful answers.
Questions that poke my heart:
1) Do traditions and creeds hinder people from actually getting to Jesus?
Tracie says: I think in their original intention, these things were meant to usher us into the presence of Christ and to help us better understand the foundation of our faith. It’s when they become idol-like and are used to harm others, that they lose their effectiveness.
2) Do people get hurt when their eyes are set on meeting church laws and keeping creeds?
Tracie: Our lives are negatively impacted anytime we take our eyes off Jesus and place them on other things. He is the lens through which we love in this world.
3) What if we long for Jesus with all our hearts and go beyond attending church services on the surface?
Traci: Yes! Amen to this question and may our readers consider it often.
4) What if we pray for one another instead of tearing each other apart?
Traci: Prayer and love. They’re mighty tools in the hands of a Christ-follower.
Reading church literature books teach you as a servant in God’s kingdom to be humble and compassionate toward the lost and hurting as you explore the church through the eyes of the ordinary. Sometimes, the church needs only to listen and look to Jesus as the perfect example.
This book is worth your time!
I’m excited to join Traci on the launch team for her debut book, Not All Who Wander (Spiritually) Are Lost. Publisher’s Weekly gave this book an early review, in which they said “She emphasizes that by listening and approaching others with an open heart, one can find new opportunities for experiencing Christ. Christians looking for community will relish this memoir of embracing differences.”