“… so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.” (1 Timothy 6:19)
Sometimes members forget that churches offer something people need. What do people need that congregations offer? Theologically, the answer may be “a relationship to God through Jesus Christ.” This is too abstract for most, and for many it feels heavy-laden with negative experiences of intrusive and aggressive evangelistic styles. But the question persists. How do we express with integrity and clarity what we hope others receive? What do people need from the church?
People need to know God loves them, that they are of supreme value, and that their life has significance. People need to know that they are not alone; that when they face life’s difficulties, they are surrounded by a community of grace; and that they do not have to figure out entirely for themselves how to cope with family tensions, self-doubts, periods of despair, economic reversal, and the temptations that hurt themselves or others. People need to know the peace that runs deeper than an absence of conflict, the hope that sustains them even through the most painful periods of grief, the sense of belonging that blesses them and stretches them and lifts them out of their own preoccupations. People need to learn how to offer and accept forgiveness and how to serve and be served. As a school for love, the church becomes a congregation where people learn from one another how to love. People need to know that life is not having something to live on but something to live for, that life comes not from taking for oneself but by giving of oneself. People need a sustaining sense of purpose.
How is your life enriched by being a follower of Jesus Christ? What have you received by being part of a community of faith?
“Grant, O Lord,
that what has been said with our lips we may believe in our hearts,
and that what we believe in our hearts
we may practice in our lives; through
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
—John Hunter, The United Methodist Book of Worship
(The United Methodist Publishing House, 1992)
Challenge: With a family member or friend, share your thoughts about these questions: “Why do people need Christ? Why do people need the church? Why do people need your particular congregation?” (Adam Hamilton, Leading Beyond the Walls [Abingdon Press, 2002]).
Excerpted from Cultivating Fruitfulness, ©Abingdon Press, 2008.