The church will always have an image problem in the world as what the church is about is not in line with what the world is all about. However, there is an area where the perception of the church is remarkably different than the perception people had and have of Jesus.
People see Jesus as welcoming and grace-centered whereas they struggle to see the church in the same light. If you look at those who came to Jesus in the gospels and those who were coming into the early church in Acts you find consistency. They were drawing people who were desperate for healing and reconciliation: sorcerers, pagan idolaters, the sexually immoral and so many more.
The early church was a magnet for the marginal.
Today, it seems that many on the margins would see the church as the last place to go rather than the first. We can do better and I am convinced that we will do better to change this perception. How we do this doesn’t mean we have to become more like the world. How we do this means becoming more like Jesus and the early church, not less.
As Stanley Grenz once said we must be “welcoming but not affirming” and as Jesus said we forgive with the charge to “go and sin no more” (John 8:11, KJV).
This month let’s explore how we address this perception issue. Is it more perception than reality and if it is reality where does this come from? What kind of attitude adjustments do we need to make? What texts do we need to camp out on to change the culture of our churches? I am looking forward to the conversation and as always, thank you for reading.