On Finding Human Connection in Church
Researchers and social scientists have found that most people go to church looking for human connection even above spiritual connection. And, since most of us tend to gravitate towards people who look, think and act like ourselves, our churches tend to lack racial, theological, ideological, and socioeconomic diversity. Birds of a feather flock together as they say. We choose places of worship that most reflect ourselves because we dislike the discomfort that comes with crossing racial, theological, ideological, and socioeconomic boundaries.
Jesus proclaimed that we can experience our fullest humanity and spirituality when we face our fears, insecurities and biases and enter into the lives of people who are very different from ourselves…
“12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. ” Eph. 2 NIV
The reality is that most of us, in looking for human connection through church, have chosen the connection we want rather than the connection we need, the connection we were created to enjoy, the connection that Jesus gave his life to provide. Jesus gave his life to break down all the barriers that our fallen humanity has erected and exploited to divide and dehumanize one another.
The church, the gathering of followers of Jesus, is to be a radical departure from the social structures of the world, a place of equality, dignity and respect for everyone regardless of how the world defines and divides us. The sacrament of communion is meant to be a communal meal where rich and poor, powerful and powerless, men and women, children and adults, Jews and Gentiles break bread together as equally loved children of God recognizing that Jesus is our peace and he has given everyone something valuable to offer to the community. This is the new humanity in Jesus Christ.
If our churches do not reflect the beauty and diversity of our communities from the greatest to the least— than we are not the church, we are merely social clubs with a veneer of spirituality who have elevated personal salvation and personal purity above loving neighbor, sacrifice over mercy. If we are not actively reconciling people across the barriers Jesus died to destroy— than his death and resurrection are meaningless for us.
We want to feel comfortable in church but we need to embrace the discomfort that comes from leaving our tribe. We want our worldview validated but we need to understand other points of view. We want our kids to be comfortable in Sunday School and youth group but they need to learn to love and accept kids from different backgrounds with different challenges. We want to judge others who are different than us but we need to learn mercy. We want stuff, but we need to give our stuff away. We want to be served but we need to learn how to serve. We want to be right but we need to be open. We want rules but we need the Holy Spirit. We want control but we need to learn to trust. We want to be hip but we need to be humble. We want harmony but we need to work for justice. We want to exclude but we need to learn hospitality. We want church to be neat and easy but we need to love the mess. We want to support missionaries and go on mission trips but we also need to care for the neighbors we don’t look in the eye on the street corner. We want to be first but we need to learn to be last.
If you hunger and thirst for real human connection, the kind your soul needs, the kind that celebrates you for who you are, who you want to be, who you are afraid to be, for the sinner and saint that you are and the person who God loves unconditionally, come break bread with us as we endeavor to build a community of love, dignity, and grace for everyone. www.cornerstoneutica.com