“I didn’t feel anyone cared whether I was there or not.”
This was the response of 75% of the respondents who were asked in a survey why they had left the church.
Not surprisingly, research has shown that the more relationships a person develops in a congregation, the less likely they are to leave, or become inactive.
A British preacher, Daniel Harman, offered this observation.
“The neighborhood bar is possibly the best counterfeit there is to the fellowship Christ wants to give His church. It’s an imitation, dispensing alcohol instead of grace, escape rather than reality, but it is a Permissive, Accepting, and Inclusive fellowship. It is Unshockable. It is democratic. You can tell people secrets and they usually don’t tell others or even want to. The bar flourishes not because most people are alcoholics, but because God has put into the human heart the desire to know and be known, to love be loved and so many seek a counterfeit at the price of a few beers.
Whether you agree with Harman’s point or not, it is shocking to even consider his observations, when the church ought to be one of the most loving, caring and accepting places in the world. Yet, I’ve heard too many stories and see too many cases where Christians have feel isolated, ignored or even ostracized in their local congregation.
It would be well for us to remember that the “message of the cross” is one of inclusion. Consider these two passages from Paul’s pen.
“For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Gal. 3:26-28
“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1 Cor. 6:9-11).
The cross breaks down barriers that divide people. Racial distinction. Ethic background. Social status. Political preference. Financial success. Vocational accomplishments. Educational attainments. And family power, prestige and prominence. None of these should matter “in Christ.”
We put all these external differences aside because we share a common bond. “We are all one in Christ Jesus. We’ve all been redeemed by the Savior. Bought with the blood of His cross. Saved by His grace. Called into a spiritual fellowship. Together. None are excluded. It’s a relationship of inclusion.
Thus, we ought to “accept one another” (Rom. 14:1), “encourage one another” (1 Thess. 5:17), and “bear one another’s burdens” (Gal. 6:1-2).
Inclusion bind and bonds us together in a warm, loving and reciprocal spiritual fellowship.
To those who may feel excluded and disenfranchised in the church. Don’t give up your faith because of a few who fail to be what they ought to be. Don’t give in to Satan’s tempting whispers to quit. Don’t allow those who don’t understand inclusion to sour you on the Lord’s Church.
Remember, my Christian friends, God loves you. Christ died for you. The Holy Spirit dwells in you. And you are included in God’s Family.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman