While attending seminary, I also had the opportunity to work for a large company. I was paired with an experienced senior employee who was bright, outgoing, kind, and humorous. She was well-liked by everyone and helped me with my job.
One thing I noticed about her was that, despite having many great qualities, she was often highly critical of her church. In passing, she would criticize her church and the people with whom she worshipped.
After a few years of listening to her periodic negative comments, I finally told her that it sounded like she might be ready to try a new church. She quickly rebuked me, asking, “Why would you say that?” I sheepishly responded by pointing out some of the specific “concerns” she had shared with me about her church during the time we had worked together. Even though she listened to what I had to say, she defensively responded, “I love my church and could never leave it.”
Over time, I have never forgotten this incident. My coworker was respected in my office and had many good qualities. I couldn’t figure out why she attended church when she was so highly critical of it. After listening to her comments, I wondered why anyone would desire to attend her church. There must have been something that kept her from wanting to make a change. Perhaps her church wasn’t that bad after all, but she never said anything positive or redeeming about it.
What do you say about your church around others?
Throughout my life, I have heard many people speak negatively about their churches—not because there is nothing good to say, but rather because they have decided to be critical instead of sharing a good word to listening ears. I’m sure I have been guilty of this at some point in my life, too.
While no church is perfect, the hope is that everyone would work together to make strides towards positive change and growth. Congregations are the biggest promoters of their church. If they don’t have anything positive to say, why would anyone want to come?
This is something I wish I had asked my coworker years ago. What did she love most about her church? What kept her going back Sunday after Sunday? I wish she would have shared her positive thoughts with others. Sometimes a kind or positive word is all it takes to make a life-changing difference that will last forever. You never know who may be listening.
Prayer for the week:
Lord Jesus, may I be the Christian ambassador that You would have me be. May I be prepared to say a good word about You and the Body of Christ (my church). Forgive me for the times I have fallen short of this standard. Help me to look for opportunities to encourage my pastor and other leaders. Help me to understand that You can use my positive and sincere words to help others draw closer to You. Amen.
Bob Buck is senior pastor of Liberty Church of the Nazarene in Liberty, MO, USA.
Written for Coffee Break with Holiness Today.