We need churches that always speak of love, unity and mutual respect – Baptist News Global


July 6, 2021

Letter to the editor

Mr. Editor:

Bill Leonard recently wrote of Samuel S. Hill Jr., who in 1960 wrote: “The heart of the matter is that the ministry of churches is less and less relevant to the people of the new society. And Leonard added: “Food for thought, increasingly evident in the empty benches of 2021.”

I would add two things: First, there are still old-fashioned and regular faithful who are stepping out of tradition, out of habit and, in many ways, find real value in their church membership and their attendance. We make friends, find opportunities for service, and enjoy study and discussion classes that talk about our lives and our needs. Second, many, if not most, of the non-church attendants simply don’t feel or see the need for all of this. If we could get them into church one time and show them what’s there for them, they might give it a try – or at least take a closer look.

My Methodist church is very active in community service, with maybe a dozen areas of outreach and service. We bring “prayer shawls” to hospital patients; we support local elementary school teachers with supplies, lunches and tutors. We fund several local agencies that deal with homelessness and poverty. Much of this is paid for by our Rise Fund, which depends on additional donations from members.

Now, if we’re bringing someone into a Sunday school class, we’d better not discuss Moses, Noah, Leviticus, or Revelation with all this obscure, mostly irrelevant material. Neither Paul’s journeys as a missionary or the old Jewish customs on life and religion. No, better to study the Sermon of Jesus on the Mount with values ​​for living today and forever; a discussion of a contemporary and immediate issue in the news and the Christian response to it; personal testimony from older and younger members of how the church affects their lives.

I had a student whose volunteer mission was to visit people in a health center. He ended up playing checkers with an old man once a week and thought his job made little sense – until the old man died and was the only person at his funeral. There is simply no way to measure the impact of such an experience or to do more to make the work of the church relevant for today.

“We don’t need churches that specialize in judgment, division and hate.”

Churches can do what individuals cannot do. Who can organize a weekly study group for gay adults in Dallas? Or a program of recovery after divorce or an AA hangout? Now, my church can. I gave classes to 35 gay men who had nowhere to be. I couldn’t get them into my living room, but the church accepted them.

We don’t need churches that specialize in judgment, division and hate. We need (and have) churches that always speak of love, unity and mutual respect and that welcome everyone in all the church has to offer. We need churches to step away from obscure theological arguments and speculative sermons on Revelation and talk about life today – our society and how we can serve it. We have to greet people at the front door and ask them what they want today and take them there. We need to follow up with a phone call, maybe a visit to show them that we are serious about them and their needs.

I once visited a huge Baptist church for a dinner for parents of deaf children. After dinner we gathered in the sanctuary and the senior pastor (who looked a lot like Moses) came out and greeted us and invited us to church on Sunday. He said, “It’s a great place and if you get lost ask one of these deacons with a badge. We have a lot of stuff here for people, and if we don’t have what you need just tell us and we’ll get it for you. Who heard that somewhere at a rally? This is the “real church” for you.

Paul Magee, Dallas


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