... about how people today often join a church and come to Christ (that order is intentional).
A couple things triggered these thoughts in my mind. The first was a conversation I had with a pastor about a high capacity individual who had recently started attending their church. The pastor was salivating to get this person into leadership. [Insert here all the usual warnings about exposing new people too soon to the dark side of the church.]
The second trigger was a meeting I was in this week where someone from another state was involved. They were from a secular organization interacting with Indiana Wesleyan University. I wondered how the experience was for them. Did they attend church back in their home location? Did we seem any different as an audience from any other place?
I pictured a scenario where a not-too religious person comes into contact with some people he or she likes. Maybe they're friendly. Maybe they're nice. Maybe they're honest. Maybe they're good. There's something attractive about them. The person thinks, "I'd like to hang out with people like this."
So they start attending their church. Is this person an exception to the environment there? Or are there more people like them at the church? Are these positive people, people who really want to help the world in ways that most people would agree are helpful? Or are they a bunch of curmudgeons? Or is this a place to vent anger--that's attractive to some but more likely to be a shadow church. A shadow church is a church that pretends to be a church but really has very little to do with Christ.
Now comes another scary part for me. Once a person has become a part of this community, the ideas of the community will become a bigger and bigger part of the new person's life. Whatever the community--Mormon, Wesleyan, Baptist, Muslim--the person who has become a part of the community now becomes vulnerable to whatever the ideological system of the community is. That's how you turn a normal person into a suicide bomber or a fundamentalist.
My hope is that we will remember why they started coming in the first place and major on the major... it's not our ideas. Love God and love neighbor--that's the idea we should be teaching. Anything that distracts from that is infection.
Make them lovers.