I sat across the table from a girl I hadn’t talked to in 20 years. The things we talked about now were a far cry from our previous conversation so long ago. We talked about children, family life and ministry as we caught up on each other’s lives. We talked about how ministry is hard. And it can be lonely. About how we need to stay focused on what God has called us to. We talked about what happens when churches get caught up with all the things we need to “add” to Jesus. As if he needs our help convincing others what He’s all about. She said this quote which has stuck with me.
“What you win them with is what you win them to.”
I thought about what happens when people start feeling the need to talk you into coming to church. To try and convince you and twist your arm into having a relationship with Jesus. It’s all like…Come to church with me! But don’t worry…it’s not just about God and all that boring stuff, the way other churches do it. We’ll give you popcorn and games and you can watch a show. So that way you’ll really like it and feel comfortable.
Hm. I started thinking. What if people did that with me? What if my friends who said they really loved being with me started inviting their friends to come to my house too. Would it look the same? Would it be all…You should come hang out with Rachelle. But don’t worry. It’s not just boring-old-her. We’ll give you coffee, play games, give you a prize, watch a movie. It will be fun trust me. Would I want that? In my friendships I want someone to want to hang out with me just because they like me. Maybe because they like what I can give them. But I don’t want my friends to have to talk their friends into liking me by adding all the other side things.
See, here’s the thing. Jesus is God. He doesn’t need me to add anything to Him to make Him appealing. And who am I to think I could even come anywhere close to explaining all that He really is? He is all I need. Literally. When I invite someone to church, it’s because I want them to meet Jesus. I don’t care if they sit in the most comfortable chairs, if they see the smoke on the stage and the cool purple lights. I don’t care if they get popcorn and coffee when they come. No offense. But I am not winning them to a show. To an event. To a place. I am inviting them to a real relationship with a real Heavenly Father who gives me strength on Monday morning when nothing is going right. To a person who stays with me when it feels like everyone else around me has abandoned me. And to be honest, church is so not what I’m trying to win anyone to! I am trying to win them to a life that comes complete with a manual for living. I am trying to win them to a life that includes peace, hope, joy and satisfaction that lasts. Church is good and all the rest, but that’s not real life. Real life is a real relationship with a real person. It’s understanding that I can’t do life on my own and maybe I can handle things now, but how will I handle things when someone close to me dies? Or when I find out I have a disease? Or when I can’t pay the bills? Those are the real questions that need answering.
Maybe if we weren’t so busy standing around making popcorn for people we would realize that at the end of the day, Jesus doesn’t need my popcorn. He speaks for Himself. People need my Jesus. And giving Jesus to people can happen in a small living room. It can happen on the seat of an airplane. It can happen over the phone. It can happen on someone’s death bed. Let’s step away from the popcorn maker and start working together to live lives that show how incredible Jesus is. I want people to come to my church because they see what my marriage looks like and they want to know where I’m finding the secret formula for that. I want people to come to my church because they see how I overcome pain, financial struggles, and loss. And when they see that it doesn’t come from alcohol. It doesn’t come from drugs. It doesn’t come from a church or a program, that is when we are showing who Jesus really is. I am winning people to a relationship with a God that gets you through every second of every day. I am not winning them to an event that you are counting down your miserable week days and partying hours to get to.
I have nothing to gain from bringing you to my church. I’m not going to post the number of how many attendees are there, or how many kids came to a particular event. Nope. I am going to tell you this. Jesus. changes. lives. Just plain Jesus. No event. No show. No hype. Just Jesus. And before you think I’m being blasphemous by saying “just Jesus.” I don’t mean, little-old-Jesus. I mean just Jesus because once you find Him? You will wonder why you waited so long. Once you find Him? You won’t ever want life any other way. Once you find Him? You’ll understand that by saying “just Jesus”, it means Jesus is all you will ever need.
Church is great. Events are awesome. But it’s not what you need. Jesus is all you will ever need.