As I write this I am sitting at Olmsted Manor in the deep freeze of February. There is limited contact with the outside world. My cell phone can get a text message sometimes but unless you stand in a certain spot outside in the cold wind you cannot hope to have a conversation or even pick up voice mail. There is one spot in the lobby that I can connect to the internet so a couple of times a day I pick up my e-mail or check the weather on the web. The rest of the day you can’t get a hold of me.
I am here for training in coaching Natural Church Development and it is wonderful to be able to get away for a couple of days. As we talk about what are the characteristics of a healthy church, I begin to think about the purpose of the church. The purpose of the church is to go and make disciple of the world and then to provide opportunities for spiritual growth as a disciple of Jesus.
I believe that our call is to live in such a way that others want to know about the Jesus we are connected to and therefore to God. For many they have disconnected with the world so much that even though they are living in the midst of it they no longer see the world around them.
Several years ago I was running a grounds crew for a college during the summer. I have about 20 students working for me and a large part of my job was to keep track of them and make sure they were doing what they were assigned to do. One day as I was driving around checking on my crews there were three young ladies working in a flowerbed weeding and cleaning it up. I sat there for several minutes thinking there was something wrong but not able to put my finger on it. Finally it hit me! Here were three college age women and there was no conversation taking place. Each had their own headpiece on and were listening to whatever it was that met their personal need or desire. They were not communicating with each other.
Since that time I have noticed that we have disconnected with the world in many ways. We have also become out of touch with most of the rest of the world. In the book unChristian by Dan Kinnamen, published by The Barna Group, it is pointed out that the church is not viewed in a positive light by those in the 16 to 29 year old range. As I have shared this information with those that have been in the church for a long time there tends to be a “but that is not who we are” response. It really doesn’t matter what the truth is when the perception other have is different from what we think we are like. Notice, I said think that we are like. Many of the words that this group uses to describe the church are accurate in my estimation. The problem seems to be that we have become so disconnected from the world around us that we no longer know how to communicate with those in that world. And if we are honest, at times we would rather not communicate with them. Especially when they push us out of our comfort zone.
When I look back at the life of Jesus he was the one pushing people out of their comfort zone. Shouldn’t the church be the one pushing people out of their comfort zone? It seems to me that we are more interested in keeping people comfortable then challenging them to think about God’s expectations of them and the fact that might make them uncomfortable. Yet we have lost generations because they make us uncomfortable.
Maybe it is time to start looking for new ways to connect to the world that we have allowed to slip away.