Our team does the best we can to hang out with people from all walks of life. We are not perfect at doing this by any means, but we are trying every week to do better. We hang out with Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Agnostics, and Atheists. We hang out in temples and mosques and go to their celebrations. We hang out with them in their homes and we invite them to our home. They are our true friends. We love to hang out with people in bars, drum circles, and coffee shops. We love the conversations and we love to learn from them. We love and hang out with the gay community. We love the relationships that we have made. We are received with love and kindness. We love to hang out with drug addicts and alcoholics. We love to reach out to prostitutes and strippers and pray with great hope to find and love more and more of them. We love to meet our neighbors and we are trying to get to know more of them and be in community with them. We love hanging out with all people.
Oh how I wish that people knew that Jesus would be around all these same places and people and that he would be loving them. It grieves me that most people (in my personal experience) only equate Jesus and the Church with an unattractive stale religion that is full of rules, hypocrisy, legalism, and judgement. Again, this is my experience from talking to people.
Who gave them this view? I know Jesus didn’t. I know the Bible didn’t. Read the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) for yourselves to find out. Maybe its how the media portrays it. Maybe its because people have just had negative experiences with churches or people from the church. I am sure its a lot of things that we can all be guilty of, but one thing is true, we have the chance to show people a pure and good perception of Jesus and the Church through loving people and showing them the expression of Jesus that is in us. And if we don’t, people are going to have nothing else to base Jesus and the Church on, other than what they see in the media or bad experiences they may have had.
If you are a follower of Jesus, I encourage you to let people see your life. They need to experience followers of Jesus. In order for this to happen, followers of Jesus need to be with and in relationship with people of other faiths or with people who have no faith at all. They need to see people being changed by God and the Bible. They need to meet people who talk about how the Bible has changed their life by applying it to their life. They need to see how important prayer is to us. They need to see our worship. (Whatever expression that may be). They need to see our love for others and for each other. They need to see that people have a deep personal love for God. They need to see and know why we follow Jesus in the first place. They need to see how Jesus has redeemed our life. These are the real things about the Church. But how can people experience this if we are not in relationship with them so they can experience it? And how can they experience this if we do not share these things with them?
I want to also challenge you with something else, whether you are a follower of Jesus or of another religion, or if you just don’t believe in God. Maybe you have a negative view of Jesus, Church, Christianity, etc..And if you do, I want to ask you this question: Have you really looked into Jesus for yourself according to the Bible? Have you read the Gospels for yourself (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John)? I want to challenge you to do so. Take out all of your past perceptions of the Church and Jesus, and just read for yourself.
I am CONVINCED you will see something radically different from what you have perceived Jesus and the Church to be if you have had a negative impression of it. Because when I read the Gospels, I see Jesus hanging out with hurting people. I see him with the outcasts of society. I see him with the sick and caring for the sick. I see him loving sinners. I see him loving prostitutes. I see him loving adulterers. I see him loving the people that everyone else hated. I see him full of grace and mercy. I see him loving people that the majority hated. I see him sticking up for the poor and the downtrodden.
I see him doing supernatural miracles. I see him healing people and raising people from the dead. I see him literally giving his life for people, for you and me. I see him murdered in the most brutal way humankind could think of at that time and him willingly dying for us, so that we could be free from sin, to know him, and live forever in eternity. Then I see him being resurrected from the grave. After he comes back to life, I see him going back to talking and loving people, doing supernatural miracles, and then going up to heaven. And it doesn’t end there! It does not end with him going up to heaven and leaving us with nothing to do but believe in Him. Before he goes back to heaven, HE GIVES US THE JOB of spreading the love and the message that he gave to us, and then he gives us the Holy Spirit to help us do it. Does this sound like an “unattractive stale religion that is full of rules, hypocrisy, legalism, and judgement”?
To answer the question, “ARE PEOPLE REALLY INTERESTED IN GOD?” I would say this: Although it is my experience that most people equate Jesus and the Church this way, it is also my experience that most people are really interested in God separate from “religion.”
We talk about God in all of the places that I have mentioned and with all of the people whom I have mentioned. We have GREAT conversations about him. This is good news! But these conversations do not happen until they see God in our lives, how important Jesus is to us, and see our genuine love and interest for them.
So if people are really interested in God separate from religion, then let’s give it to them. We need to give people the opportunity to see God for who he really is. We need to provide people with the opportunity to learn about God by showing them the life of Jesus that is in us (the Church) by GOING TO THEM and by showing them the love that is in us, the love that is in YOU!