After a long conversation today about what church was like when I was growing up, I felt burdened to pen these words.

I remember a church where all were equal. It didn’t matter about our social status, our neighborhood, our bank accounts, or positions any held outside of church. We were “all” equal, not only in the eyes of our Heavenly Father – but in each others eyes as well. We were all sinners saved by grace. Each person was in need of discipleship, encouragement, correction, guidance and prayer. None was thought of to be any more or any less than any other. No matter what age group, there was respect for each and every individual outside of our own. We didn’t question whether or not someone was called by God when someone surrendered their heart to go into a ministry based on what we felt their qualifications were – instead, we trusted in God’s promise that those whom He calls, He equips. It blessed each and every one of us to see those whom we prayed for and cheered to surrender. Those whom were called were humbled and submissive to God in a desire to only please Him and not man. They knew they could not do what He had called them to do without relying on His power and strength. They knew that they were nothing without God.

Today, the contrast we see in churches is often so far from what I remember growing up. Members hardly know the names of other members and rarely interact with other members even though they have all been members for years. This leaves me wondering how a church can pray for each other or encourage each other under these circumstances. There is a disconnect of reaching out when someone is in need of discipleship and counseling simply because of the attitude of someone doesn’t care or has given up on church or faith when they suddenly stop attending after being faithful for so long – an attitude of, “It’s not up to me to reach out to find out what is going on in that person’s life.” An assumption of just feeling as though as though it doesn’t effect the church at all when someone leave in such a manner.

It also seems that outreach is not a part of what concerns some churches today. There is a feeling of fear. A fear of harm coming to ourselves, our children, and our church because we ourselves are not all knowing in all things. We are afraid whom will answer a door; whom will sit beside us on our pews; what backgrounds will come inside the doors of the church. Yet, we are not fearful of shopping in large malls; attending theme parks; going to races; attending football, softball, basketball or soccer games; mingling with thousands at concerts – all the while interacting and sharing the same venue with the very people we are afraid to reach out to and bring into our church.

We have forgotten that God knows all things. We have forgotten that it is God whom chooses whom will hear the gospel – not ourselves. We have forgotten that He has chosen “all”. We have forgotten that our calling – whether we are pastor, deacon, or just member is to reach all – knowing that God will protect if we are faithful to that calling.

The church has also forgotten that we as a body are responsible for helping our fellow brothers and sisters in their times of need without concerning ourselves with the fear of being taken advantage of. We are to show love and charity regardless of our not knowing every detail of why our members are in need – it is up to those in need to answer to God when taking advantage.

It is often the churches response and how it is handled that can make the biggest change in someone’s heart, faith and attendance. We, the church, can bring fellow members closer to God…raising future missionaries, evangelist, pastors, pastor’s wives, teen leaders, Sunday School teachers, youth ministers, prayer warriors and faithful followers…Or we can be their biggest stumbling block…leaving those members to never reach their potential in what God may call them to do.

The choice is ours.