“The human spirit can endure in sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?”- Proverbs 18:14
“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”-Psalm 147:3
I was talking to my brother, Chris, about last week’s sermon and he told me a useful analogy. He said that “the problem with church is that it is like Facebook- it is often full of seemingly perfect people with perfect lives, all carefully made to give a certain impression.” Chris went on, “People compare themselves on Facebook. The same goes when an outsider walks into a typical church and only sees those people once a week and those churchgoers are all well mannered, well dressed, are all smiling, and seem to have perfect lives with everything together. This causes the occasional church visitor to feel awkward and fearful of judgement since if these religious people have it all figured out then clearly either this visitor has done something wrong, or worse, is perhaps hated by God and these people. Typical church people in typical churches don’t seem broken. But here at Skyline you realize that actually we are all broken. And I don’t use this term lightly, but it is a safe space to ask God for help and to be open and honest without comparing or judgement.”
Chris had hit on something here. As Pastor Jeff said, the church exists for the benefit of its nonmembers. The new apologetics is about changing the public perception of the church from the assumption that it is full of stuffy, religious, bigoted people to one where the church is a family that seeks God’s will and helps others. Christians often forget that the whole point of the church and great commission is to reach everyone- especially those who would normally never set foot in a church.
Part of this new apologetics is how well the church itself acts as a family. For me, I can say that the way I was treated at Skyline made the difference in whether I was going to keep going. I had stopped attending church for the first half of college and only went back when things had gotten very rough. As a result of convenience more than conscious choice I had ended up at a Vineyard during the last two years of college. The people were good to me and so I deliberately sought out another Vineyard when I graduated. When I first moved to Virginia three years ago, Skyline was only a year old and was meeting in a local high school. I had to take two buses and spend an hour and a half traveling to get to church on time. Skyline members from the very beginning were not only friendly, but they were real and helpful. The conversations were not shallow and we wrestled with deep issues. Several people went out of their way to become my friend and to give me rides to and from church when they were able- in fact several still do and I am immensely grateful for the time and money that has saved me.
Now two years later Skyline is still my family and we are growing to expand Skyline’s outreach to the Northern Virginia community. Soon our Summer of Love community groups will come to an end as will our block movie parties that we throw for free for the public. To provide a free movie and free food is something valuable and one of many ways to show those who don’t go to church that we want to offer them something. Our individual interactions, including community service and taking the time to talk to and feed the homeless that we encounter also demonstrate our desire to show God’s love. All of these individual and corporate acts of love add up and help to show what Christ’s church really is and could be like. In a broken world where many are lonely and suffering in our human condition, Jesus offers healing and companionship to us and to everyone. The church must remember that Jesus blessed us so we could be a blessing to others.
John Dale Grover is a native of San Antonio, Texas and attended Bowdoin College in Maine. Currently he is a graduate student in Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University. He loves board games and owns way too many books. John is also an advocate for self-care and mental health.