The Hidden Beauty of the Local Church
The church is the metaphorical body of Christ. It consists of all followers of Jesus; and crosses denominational, racial, and national lines. The local church is a geographic segment of that global body. It is, in a very literal sense, God's hands in the community where it is located. And it is a beautiful thing. (Don't get me wrong it's also a mess, but it's a beautiful mess.)
I have more extensive experience with local churches than many people. Most Christians know their church, and maybe a few others. I travel literally coast to coast and sometimes around the world working in partnership with local churches. So often, I see churches that genuinely love their community. They're feeding the hungry; ministering to the sick and dying; visiting with prisoners; helping addicts and those who care about them; supporting ministry on a global scale financially and through prayer, and so much more. This certainly isn't true of all churches, but I've found it quite common in the churches I work with. Any time there is suffering, if you look closely enough you'll probably find the church right in the middle, working to make things better.
It's working with these kinds of churches that gets me really excited. It is truly an honor. I don't care about the size or public image of the specific church. I don't care how big of an event they can put on. I don't care whether or not working with a given church can be a "stepping stone" to more performance opportunities. I want to work with churches that care about "the least of these. (Matthew 25:40) In fact, if this describes your church, talk to us. I'd love to work along side you if I can.
When writing this, it occurred to me that most people don't see this when they look at the church. These types of ministries aren't generally promoted publicly. The workers in these sorts of ministries aren't in it for the credit. More importantly, it's very difficult to preserve the dignity of those in need while simultaneously putting them on display. Therefore, most of this ministry in the local church goes on "under the radar." This type of ministry could be going on in your neighborhood and you'd never even know it.
On one hand, the fact that this generally happens outside the spotlight is part of what makes it so beautiful. On the other hand, I do wish more people could see this side of the church. Because far too often, the loudest "Christian" voices seem to have a very different message. I can see this hidden beauty because I am on the inside in a position to do so. What if I were on the outside looking in, what would I see?
To put yourself in their shoes, try this thought experiment. Imagine that you weren't a Christian, and the only things you knew about Christians and the church was what you saw in your social media feeds. What would you think? What if you were politically liberal or Muslim or Syrian or gay or an addict, or had had an abortion? What would you think of the church then? What would you believe the church thinks of you? Or, if you want a really dangerous question, what would someone think if all they knew about Christians and the church was what they saw in your social media posts and shares?
I want to be clear that I'm not saying that theology isn't important or that we can overlook sin. We must share the truth, but we must do it in love. If people don't feel valued and cared for, they won't care what we say. Jesus was "a friend of sinners," and we must be too.