Recently, I saw images of signs held up at the Chicago Gay Pride Parade that apologized for the way the church has treated people in the LGBTQ community. It reminded me just how unloving the church can feel to so many.
And it goes beyond sexual orientation. History has seen the church mistreating people who have been divorced, people who have had children outside of marriage, people who have voted a certain way . . .
The list goes on and on.
Even worse? The way we treat each other on a regular basis within the church. How many churches have split? How many people have walked away from church after burning out? How many have sworn off community because they were treated harshly?
Sometimes we're our own worst enemy. And unfortunately, far too many of us have experienced that.
That's why the article "We Need to Stop Eating Our Own" from Leadership Journal caught my eye. In it, Michael Cheshire, a pastor, explains how a brush with death made him realize just how uncomfortable his church had become—and how he could no longer be pastor if things didn't change. He writes:
People will fade out of a church, a club, or a movement. But people don't fade out of their friendships; friends would notice and come after them. Yes, the mass exodus from our churches is continuing and spreading. Those leaving, for the most part, are not mad at God; they're mad at his followers.
Despite what you will hear from some religious leaders in today's church culture, the average Christ-follower walking out the door is not weak, unwilling to commit, or intrinsically selfish.
The vast majority of these Christians are leaving for two main reasons: First, and foremost, they are tired of being treated harshly by other Christians. Second, they feel the church has lost relevance to its community and to what they are going through in their everyday lives.
Often the way we treat each other within our faith communities is still stunningly poor. You don't need an in-depth study to find out why so many are leaving the church. Just have some conversations with the people who have left.
Read the full article at LeadershipJournal.net and then consider what small groups—what your small group—can do to reverse this trend. How can our small groups be more loving, more authentic, and more relevant to our communities?
We have an amazing opportunity in small groups to help people engage in meaningful, authentic relationships. And it starts one group at a time.