The shift over the last few decades in church has been noticeable — and that’s a good thing. We have gone from wearing suits and ties and dresses and skirts, to wearing our jeans and holding our iced lattes as we gather for Sunday service.
And gone are the days where we hear the explanations for last Sunday when we missed. When I was a child and young man, it was common to hear platitudes like, “We would have been here last Sunday, but Johnny was oh so sick.” Today the assumption in many churches is that we will simply be there when we can.
While some churches have statistically suffered a decline in attendance over the last few decades, we may now be in a period of opportunity; a period where healthy churches are now seeing a rise in interest, participation and attendance.
The main difference? While the message remains the same, it’s our approach that has changed dramatically. And change is to be embraced. In fact, we need to continue to adjust the lens in which we view approaching people in the name of Christ. In this increasingly hostile world, the old days where we approached others wielding our “Jesus bat” need to remain in the past.
Instead, an increasing divided and vitriolic world needs to know they are welcome within our church doors — ripped jeans (or suit and tie), designer coffee and all.
Of course, memories, like habits, sometimes die hard. So it’s our job as believers to reach out to our hurting world and let them know that the church of 2017 may have the same message as your grandma’s church, but like our clothes, our approach has changed. We reach out:
- In person, with empathy for the jobless and the financially struggling.
- In deed, through our actions for those affected by disasters.
- In print, to share with others we want them to join us in worship.
- Online, with the never-changing positive message that is only found in Christ.
- In prayer, for the hurting, that God may provide healing.
In every way that we reach out, kindness and compassion must be at the forefront of our approach. Because not only has the attire we wear to church changed, but so has (or must) our attitude. Rather than pointing fingers, may we reach out to this generation with hands of compassion.
Christopher Dixon is the Chief Operating Officer of eLectio Publishing (electiopublishing.com) and the pastor of West Finley Baptist Church near Fordland, Mo.