People Are Leaving the  Church – Part Twenty-three

We just reviewed and looked at the four main reasons people are no longer looking to the church for answers to the spiritual questions that they have and the spiritual hunger that they feel. The first of four reasons people are leaving the church is that they feel judged. The solution is for those who are attending to practice RADICAL HOSPITALITY. This sends a different message to people saying, “You are welcome just as you are.”

This acceptance of people just as they are is really an act of love and is the believer doing just what Jesus did – openly loving others without judging or looking down on them. Radical hospitality looks past the invisible differences (beliefs, attitudes, values, lifestyles) and visible differences (clothing, skin colour, age, gender, economic status). Radical hospitality really does welcome people just as they are. In truth, we are all the same and we all need to be accepted ‘just as we are.’ So, we are really only doing for others what we would want them to do for us if we were the new comer or the visitor in the situation. Everyone of us is really a part of “the least, the lost, and the lonely.”

Radical hospitality is magnetic and draws people in the same powerful way that Jesus drew people to Himself on a daily basis. When Jesus said, “You will be treated as you treat others,” He was referring to the cyclical nature of human behaviour. When the culture judges the church, we judge right back. And we want the culture to know it is misjudging us – we are not who they think we are. Likewise, people outside the church think that the church is misjudging them, because they are not who we think they are. Only when walls come down through building decent, respectful relationships do both sides have a chance of coming together.

Matthew 7:1-2 “Do not judge others. and you will not be judged.”  Jesus

In essence, Jesus says, “You’re welcome just as you are.” Throughout His ministry, Jesus embraced despised prostitutes, cheating tax collectors, smelly fishermen, and all manner of sinners. He reached out and touched the blind, the lame, and even the “untouchables” – the lepers. Jesus opened His arms and welcomed others in such a radical way that the churchy types got pretty ticked! We humans would rather people cleaned uo their acts BEFORE we connect with them. Thankfully, God doesn’t think like that.

The New Testament is packed with unforgettable stories of Jesus’ radical hospitality. We love the story of Jesus’ first encounter with Zacchaeus, a notorious cheat. It so vividly shows how religious people respond when Jesus reaches out to someone they don’t think deserves it. Jesus noticed Zacchaeus, called Zacchaeus to Him, and invited Himself over for dinner. The resulting change in Zacchaeus was miraculous. And, the reaction of the religious people was, well, disturbing. Jesus placed ACCEPTANCE WITHOUT ENDORSEMENT.

“So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we though of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know Him now! This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun.”  2 Corinthians 5:16-17

Remember, don’t expect someone to act like a Christian until they become a Christian. And even then, be careful you don’t impose your ‘standards’ of behaviour and lifestyle on them because a lot of what we consider to be Christian is really simply cultural.

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