“So many people come to church with a genuine desire to hear what we have to say, yet they are always going back home with the uncomfortable feeling that we are making it too difficult for them to come to Jesus.”
~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship
A classmate of mine called my attention to an interesting phenomenon happening across the US and the globe. Congregations are springing up to help individuals “live better, help often, wonder more”. The Associated Press published an article about this phenomenon titled “Atheist ‘mega-churches’ take root across US, world.” That is right, Atheist congregations. Intrigued by the concept I went to the website and after reading about their beliefs and strategies I had to ask myself, what can the Christian church learn from this? Here we have a self-professed godless organization that is seeking to inspire, assist, and connect individuals. They aim to create a community of like minded individuals that offer support so each can live their lives to the fullest. Their Sunday gatherings are a “100% celebration of life… a house of love and compassion, where, no matter what your situation, you are welcomed, accepted and loved.”
Some may see this as a challenge to the church, but I see this as an opportunity to reflect on who we are as Christians and what it is we offer to those who seek something more to life. We must begin to reflect about the mission of the church, not from an institutional perspective, but from a personal one. After all institutions cannot affect change, that is something only individuals can do. Theologian Tim Keller once wrote: “While the mission of the institutional church is to preach the Word and produce disciples, the church must disciple Christians in such a way that they live justly and integrate their faith with their work. So the church doesn’t directly change culture, but it disciples and supports people who do.”
How are we offering hope to this hurting world?