What Today’s People Are Looking for In A Church
Jesus told us that He came so that we would have "life to the fullest" (John 10:10). If that was Jesus' goal while He was on Earth, don't you think that should be a goal of the church? Most people aren't living life to the fullest. Sure, most people have full lives. They're always going from one place to another, from one accomplishment to another, and often from one relationship to another. Many people's schedules are full, but that's a far cry from living life to the fullest.
First and foremost, living life to the fullest starts with Jesus. We cannot have a full life without Him. Salvation is the starting point to a life fulfilled, but it's not the end. There are a lot of unfulfilled Christians. And that devastates our witness to the world.
After salvation, a fulfilled life is one where four basic needs are met. God has uniquely called the body of Christ to meet those needs. I want to share those four needs and explain how the church is best equipped to meet them.
1. Support – Everyone wants to know they're not alone. God said in Genesis 2:18, "It is not good for man to be alone," but there are a lot of factors in today's world that are causing us to be more alone. Some of the reasons include the increased infatuation of living in a virtual world, to the breakdown of the family structure, to even letting the love of “things” become more important than people. The reality is that when people visit a church they are searching for something to belong to. They want to know they aren't alone. They want to know someone cares about them. A church, when it is operating as it should, provides for this need. The church is designed to be a family.
2. Stability – People are looking for a strong foundation to build their lives on. In reality people are searching for absolutes to center their life on, even if they don’t know it. If one has no absolutes in their life, they are most likely living with anxiety and stress. Those who walk into a church want absolutes to build their life around. Whether they want to admit it or not, they're looking for principles to help guide them. Until people establish an authority in their life, they'll never have life to the fullest.
3. Self-expression – God made us all with a unique mix of gifts, passions, abilities, personalities and experiences. And He gave us an uncontrollable desire to express our uniqueness. When we can't express that uniqueness, it produces frustration, dissatisfaction and boredom. The vast majority of new people that come to church are bored with their lives and are looking for opportunities to express their gifts. Often, the media, their jobs, their family and their friends are trying to stuff them into a box that makes them just like everyone else. When people are looking for a church, they're hoping to get connected with a church that provides them with opportunities to serve and use their gifts without having to give up who God created them to be in order to fit the expectations of others.
4. Significance – We all want to know our lives matter. We want to be part of something bigger than ourselves. We've been wired for this. The church should corner the market on meeting this emotional need. We are a part of the biggest mission imaginable—sharing the good news about God's kingdom. I can't think of any bigger mission to center our lives around. As we help people see their unique part in this mission, we're meeting this huge need in their lives.
Philippians 2:13 in the New English Bible says, "For it is God who works in you, inspiring both the will and the deeds for his own chosen purpose." God has a purpose for our lives even before we were born. One of the greatest things we can do for people is help them to discover that. What is their unique mission? How does God want to use their uniqueness to tell His story?
Churches that are serious about growing and being relevant in the future are churches that will focus on meeting these unique needs of newcomers. It is my prayer that the Plymouth Church of the Brethren will always be a group of people looking to provide support and stability for people as they walk through the doors of our church. It is my prayer that we are a church that makes it alright for people to be who they are and not expecting them to be a certain way. And it is my prayer that we help people to see that they have value and significance.
In Christ’s Love,