I’ve been spending the month of January posting my thoughts on community in the church. Let me share one last thought. A few years ago I was processing some of my pastoral journey with a trusted spiritual guide. At the time, I was frustrated that the church I was working at wasn’t a little bit bigger in size (familiar territory for pastors), even though I was okay with it not being a mega-church. So I said, “I honestly thought that if I planted a church that was healthy – not perfect, but healthy – it would maybe attract a few more people. I thought that if we were really honest about the real story our lives, taught the word, tried to be on a mission of some kind, and tried to have healthy relationships among the staff and the people – that if we committed ourselves to such things our church would attract more than a few people. But the fact is, it hasn’t attracted more than a few people.” At that moment, my spiritual guide shocked me because he laughed out loud. He laughed and then said, “Healthy is scary! The instant you commit to being a healthy church you’re going to scare most people away from your church.”
That conversation, ringing with laughter, was a total paradigm shifting moment for me. I realized the only options I have when searching for a church community as a congregant or leading a church community as a pastor are:
- To create and sustain a church community that will emphasize attracting as many people as possible while dancing around issues of health that might scare people
- Or create and sustain a healthy church community that might scare a few people off, but form and develop those who want nothing less than health under the reign of Jesus Christ.
So if you’re looking for a church, or you’re invested in a church, work towards health but don’t think it will attract big crowds.