What models and methods are we clinging to that make the basic functions of the church harder than they should be?
Serving Jesus isn’t supposed to be easy. Christ told us we had to take up our cross daily. But Jesus made the gospel as accessible as possible. Too easy, according to the Pharisees.
I was reminded of this reality recently during – of all things – a battle with a stubborn hotel room ironing board.
Like that ironing board, the church often makes some of the simplest tasks much harder than they need to be.
Same Purpose, Better Access
Why is it that everything in my home and hotel room has been significantly upgraded in the last 10-20 years, but the ironing board is the same as it was 50 years ago?
In an era of easy-open windows, electronic door locks, select-your-firmness beds – even multi-setting, auto-off irons – why does every ironing board still have a hard-to-find metal release latch that sticks, then lurches open in fits and starts with a scratchy, metallic groan?
The purpose of an ironing board won't ever change. It will always need to de-wrinkle fabric. And it has to fit our clothes, so its basic structure will stay the same. But its ease-of-use needs a serious upgrade.
Don't Hide the Gospel Behind an Invisible Latch
Is your church like an ironing board?
Does it need a serious design upgrade?
No, not on the essential Biblical commands. Those never change. Just like an ironing board will always need to help us de-wrinkle clothes, churches must always help us worship, learn and grow in our faith in Jesus.
But some churches make those basic purposes harder than they need to be. Like the ironing board latch, the initial contact with the church or Christians is a painful experience for too many people. In person and on social media.
If it's hard enough, many people give up on it and, like a hotel guest ironing clothes on the bed, look for different ways to de-wrinkle their lives. Unhealthy ways. Unbiblical ways.
Then, when someone does overcome those initial barriers, too many churches creak and groan as they try to get us to open up to them. In an inter-connected, conversational, all-access world, we often put up more walls than bridges.
We hide the truth inside secret code words and behaviors. We talk at, not with people. We make hard questions almost impossible to ask.
As a consequence, we make the important truths harder to find.
Making Jesus More Accessible
In case anyone thinks this is about putting every pastor in skinny jeans and V-neck t-shirts, I want to be very clear. This is not about being trendy.
Yes, uber-cool hipster church, this post is for you, too.
This isn’t about being relevant – although relevant is always better than stale – it's about being genuine. And accessible. The cool, insider lingo of some new churches is as indecipherable to seekers as the arcane traditions of others.
We need to introduce people to Jesus. And we need to get rid of anything that makes that task harder than it ought to be.
It’s that simple.
Why do we make it so hard?
How Jesus Made Faith Accessible
One of the many characteristics that attracted irreligious people to Jesus was his accessibility. He went where they were, talked in language they understood and made deep truths simple without watering them down.
That's why, after he told them a simple story about the difference between building a house on a foundation of sand or a rock, "the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law." (Matthew 7:28-29)
In today's language, they might have said something like this: "Wow! When Jesus speaks, I understand him and he makes me want to change my life. Not like my pastor!"
Because the Message Matters
This isn't easy. The longer we've been in the church, the harder it can be to see where we're hiding the latch from others and groaning to open up to them.
Like someone who's familiar with how their rickety old ironing board works, my church still works for me, so why change it?
We need to change the method so the message can get through to people who've never experienced it before.
The good news of Jesus is too important to keep hidden behind a structure that only works for people who know how to crack the code.
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