I was reading an article the other day written by one of my favorite preacher/authors, Francis Chan. Chan is pastor of Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, California. In it he was addressing the issue of why young people are leaving the church. He tells a story that I think gets to the heart of the matter:
A while back, an ex-gang member got baptized at Cornerstone. He fell in love with Jesus and turned from his old lifestyle. After several months at the church, he stopped attending. When we asked him why he stopped attending, he answered: “I had the wrong idea of what church was going to be like. When I joined the church, I thought it was going to be like joining a gang. You see, in the gangs we weren’t just nice to each other once a week—we were family.” That broke my heart because I knew that what he expected is what the Church was intended to be. It saddened me because I realized that in some ways gangs paint a better picture of loyalty and family than the local church body does.
Now, we all realize that gangs are far from what Christ intended for the church. Gangs are filled with violence and drugs and all matters of evil. But when it comes to loyalty and family, gangs seem to be filling that need better than the local church.
When we read Acts 2:42-47 we see the description of the early church.
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
This serves as the model for what the church today is supposed to look like. We must ask ourselves these two questions, “How does the church measure up to our scriptural mandate?” And, “What can I do to bring the church closer to what Christ intended?”
Young people aren’t leaving the church because of our lack of programs, creativity or ministry opportunities. Young people are leaving the church because of our lack of love and unity.
Jesus prayed, “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” John 17:20-21
They will know we are Christians by our love!