• Stefan Youngblood

Fans, Followers, and Bratwurst

I heard recently that according to surveys, a “regular” church goer in the USA is a person who attends church at least once a month. That’s not much spiritual nourishment with fellow family members. If a person were to, say, eat once of month, we would say that person has an eating disorder. God help us.

Jesus died on a cross, exhausting every last breath for us, and we in turn, admire Him, as a spectator in the bleachers…or occasionally on the sidelines. Some Sunday mornings I look out at the scattered folks in their seats when we start our service and think that maybe we should’ve had a tailgate party before the service. Gas grills, bratwurst, and a parking lot seem to work perfect on “game day” in getting people to arrive hours early. Can you imagine a church where people can’t wait for the doors to open? That would be amazing, and in fact it’s happening in many places around the world.

A few years ago I led worship at a church in Yangon, the capitol of Burma. My friends told me we needed to get there early or we might have to sit on the steps or out in the hallway. They were right. People couldn’t see anything, and heard only a speaker, but they were happy to be in this jam packed house of hope. In a country without the freedom we enjoy in America, they take worshiping God very seriously. Services filled with passion, joy, and fully engaged worship. A visitor would think “what have these guys got that I don’t?” Jesus said, “I came that you might have life, and life abundant.”(John 10:10) Read the fine print and you’ll find that,”abundant,” is often a tough, yet beautiful cacophony of trials and contentment, pain and peace, comfort and sorrow, persecution and blessing. Add to this the crown of life, the promise of eternity and the ever present Jesus beside you every step of the way, and now you see the motive for joyful surrender.

That being said, why all the church fugitives? I bet Jesus would have a huge Facebook “Fan,” page, but Twitter followers…not so much. Sociologist Steven Carter says we treat God as a hobby. A new survey of U.S. adults who don’t go to church, even on holidays, found that 72% say “God, a higher or supreme being, actually exists.” But just as many (72%) also say the church is “full of hypocrites,” and 44% say “Christians get on my nerves.” Many see Christianity today as more about organized religion than loving God and loving people. I know folks who feel that churches aren’t getting through on the two greatest commandments, “to love God and love your neighbor.” When they look at churches they don’t see people living out the faith.

I met a sixty three year old man sleeping on the concrete outside my office last week who shared with me his story. I realized he had physical needs that we could help with. After a glimmer of hope in his eyes he said, “I ain’t no Christian though. I just want you to know that.” That makes him the perfect candidate for ,”Love thy neighbor as yourself.” I have joy inside when I hear of churches bursting at the seams because that very message has permeated their people, transformed their lives, affected their destinies, and changed cities.

In Cairo there’s a city known as Garbage City, a slum whose residents recycle the city’s garbage. The area often lacks running water, sewage service and electrical service. Its people are among the poorest on earth. And yet their community is home to the largest Christian church in the Middle East. The Cave Cathedral in Cairo houses two worship centers. One amphitheater seats over 20,000; a second was secretly built inside a cave. Both are packed with worshipers each Sunday. It’s said that the greatest reason for the growth has been God showing people their desperate need for Him, and people in turn inviting others to see and experience a God who transforms lives.

Know a church like that? Be there…early…and invite a friend. After church…hit the streets, the workplace, the neighborhood, your home, and demonstrate the love of Christ that’s changing your life, one step at a time.

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