Just this past weekend a few friends told me they disliked the lack of leadership the church presented when it came to reaching the non Christians. They felt the church should be doing more to reach out particularly in the inner city. I was able to both encourage and exhort them about the issue because I have also wrestled with this and similar issues in the past.
The church in the West could most definitely do a better job of outreaching but that is not an excuse for individuals to do nothing. Waiting for a program or class or ministry to be organized and put into action is not how the early, New Testament church became so successful with the culture surrounding it. No, the early church had power and changed lives because individual Christians didn't wait around for someone else to do the hard work. Early Christians were not afraid to " get their hands dirty." More on this thought in a moment.
I think part of why many people are bored with church is because they are stuck in a routine of simply going through the motions. They sit in a pew, listen to a sermon, watch the musicians, maybe tithe, and repeat it all again the next week. There is very little that they actually participate in. And there is even less that many church goers are willing to put into practice in their every day lives.
So they live defeated lives that are full of predictability, dullness, and restlessness. They become bored with church, bored with other Christians, and bored of God. Soon, they stop going to church all together and then they wonder why they wrestle with depression, loneliness, and dissatisfaction. All of these are inevitable consequences of living a Christian life not in line with God's vision.
Getting back to my thought on getting our hands dirty, I think the reason more Christians don't do it is for one of two reasons: 1. Christians are afraid and overwhelmed about how and where to start or 2. they are lazy and think the work is too hard, too uncomfortable to pursue. Either way nothing is done so nothing changes for the better.
Perhaps part of the problem is that many people misunderstand what is the church. The Christian church is not a building. It is not a place where people gather. The Christian church is not one person studying, preaching, and teaching the Bible. The church is not a place where people should be entertained and only experience warm fuzzy feelings.
The Christian Church is you and me. The church is made of flesh and blood where the Holy Spirit lives. The church is about spiritual growth not growing crowds of pew sitters. The church is about convicting people so that they improve in areas of their lives that need to change. It is not about making you feel good about yourself all the time.
The early church was successful because it wasn't pretending to be something it was not. The church was honest and didn't worry about being different than the culture. Today that would mean standing up for the things God teaches. Many times that means being unpopular. The Bible is very clear about where God stands on the topics of adultery, homosexuality, murder, lying, stealing, abusing power, and money.
No one questioned the dedication or sincerity of the early Christians because they didn't compromise or live by double standards. There was no rash of hypocrisy. The early Christians and their families literally died for what they stood for. How many of us are willing to do the same?
Like I said earlier I have wrestled, and sometimes still wrestle, with these issues. It is never easy to be an outcast or to be the sole voice of truth. Believe me I know. But honestly, Christianity is not about being comfortable as much as it is about sacrifice and dying to self. Imagine, if Jesus had only cared about fitting in and being politically correct and minimizing suffering anyway he could... none of us would have any hope right now. No one could ever be saved!
So how does all of this apply to us in a practical way? The Holy Spirit leads each of us on unique and personal journeys through-out life and many times living a life that is inspiring and impactful means being sensitive to Him.
When you feel the urge to go and do something for Christ don't let that fade away. God uses the Holy Spirit to spur us into action. But He will never force us to do His will. If we don't act when the Holy Spirit urges us then God will ask someone else who will act and we will miss out on blessings. We will miss out on opportunities and experiences that could very well take our lives into new and better directions.
The choice is up to us. God never wastes time. If we are not serious about our relationship with Him then we have no right to complain when life doesn't turn out the way we thought it would. There is no one to blame but ourselves.
If God is calling you to reach out to inner city people then you have to ask Him for direction and start acting. Be an investigator and find out how you can get involved. Befriend people. You will be surprised how many strangers are actually very open and willing to talk about God and life and death. People are hurting and it may mean a lot to them to have a stranger take a genuine interest in their thoughts and feelings.
Maybe the city isn't where you feel you are needed. Then what about hospitals or nursing homes? What about orphanages or those neighborhood kids you see always hanging around the corner wasting time? What about the old neighbor lady who you rarely see leave her house? What about the co-worker who struggles with pornography or just went through a divorce or just got diagnosed with cancer?
There are opportunities around you. The real question is whether-or-not you want to see them and if you do are you willing to trust God to help you know how to help, how to care. Alone we can do nothing. But with God all things are possible. You don't have to be afraid because God did not give us the spirit of fear.
Please know that your life is so precious and so important to the Kingdom of God. Please know that God wants to use you in amazing ways. Please know that one day, by His grace and love, you will hear Him say to you, " Well done good and faithful servant! Enter into the joy of your Lord!"