Where we go to a church and see difference, in age, in economic status, in race, the Bible sees a mosaic of beauty. This is why Paul commends diversity in 1 Corinthians 12 and other passages. Each of us contributes to the mission of God by bringing our full package of strengths and weaknesses, talents and deficiencies, likes and dislikes. We submit those to Christ by submitting them to the body.
“I just don’t know if I fit here,” she confided to my wife and me one day. Alas, I had just been voted in as the senior pastor of a small, struggling, mostly older church. At 30 years old, I was the youngest adult in attendance every Sunday by several decades. Part of the reason the church had taken a chance on a non-seminary trained, green-behind-the-ears pastor was to generate some excitement among younger folks who might otherwise pass by the aging congregation.
I wrestled that first few years trying to get younger people to attend. We adjusted our music style. We included more events for young families. My wife and I did our own part by having three more children in the space of four years.
Yet we continued to encounter genuine frustration among young college-age adults who seemed to like the welcoming culture of the church and seemed to like my preaching but couldn’t seem to make friends with people their age. Thankfully, this wonderful young adult stayed at our church, despite being one of few her age, and began by her presence to attract and invite others her age. This also began to happen among young families as one young family saw another young family and slowly people our age began to call this church their home. Change was afoot, and everyone was excited.
Finding a comfortable church home is hard. I did not understand this fully until I had to help guide my own family in finding a church home when we moved to Nashville. I accepted a new role with a denominational agency and was, like most Christians around the world, a simple working layman. Suddenly all of those factors that may or may not attract people to a church became real to me. I understood, on this side of the pew, how hard it was to settle into a church.
I also began to understand the perils of trying to find a worshipping community that exactly fits my specific needs. Perhaps it’s a Western phenomenon, perhaps it’s the embarrassment of ecclesial riches that allows us to pick and choose which body of Jesus-followers we will join, but we Christians have gotten too picky, I think, about the kinds of people with whom we will commit our lives for the mission of God.