Churches, like people, need to see themselves through God’s eyes
For the Nevada Appeal
According to the newest survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, the fastest growing segment of the population considers itself as “unaffiliated” (16.1 percent), 12 percent of these believe in “nothing in particular.” The fastest growing segment of the unaffiliated are 18 to 30 years old, with one-in-four claiming to be unaffiliated. Here in Nevada, and in the West in general, these statistics are considerably less in favor of organized religion.
With news like this, it is no wonder that many churches are feeling inadequate to stem the tide of losses and reach new generations for Christ. I believe many congregations are suffering from a severe case of low self-esteem. Churches like individuals can focus more on their limits and inadequacies then on their potential and possibilities. As a congregation, when you look into the mirror what do you see? Do you see yourselves as God sees you? And how does God see you? When God sees you, God claims you as the “body of Christ.”
We are much the same as those first followers of Jesus who gathered behind closed doors in Jerusalem. There was only a handful gathered there, less than 200. Most were poor, uneducated, and not much in the eyes of the world. Yet God saw unlimited potential among these “losers” and chose to pour upon them the Holy Spirit. With this new power, these first Christians went out into all the world bringing with them the good news of Jesus Christ. The world was never the same.
Churches suffering from low self-esteem easily get down on themselves when they see their numbers dwindling and more old than young. These churches see themselves as the world often sees them, as irrelevant and has-beens from the past. But, when God sees them, God sees the potential power in their love-force. God sees the mission they can be and the love they can share. How do we see ourselves, as the world sees us or as God sees us? It is imperative that we get in agreement with God and begin to build a more positive self-image. We have to use our words to be in line with the way God sees us.
Here is a simple recipe for churches to claim their God-given potential. These are four keys to better self-esteem.
1. Accept the Body of Christ (all the folks in your congregation) as it is, with grace and humor.
2. Value your mission independent of superficial measures of success. The important measure is how many people’s lives are changed.
3. Give the Body of Christ love and approval. Be enthusiastic about your church and its leaders. Praise, encourage and support each other.
4. Focus on your mission, making disciples of Jesus in order to transform this broken world.
Let the whole world see your light and let it shine.
• Rev. Dr. Rob Jennings-Teats, is senior pastor at Carson City First United Methodist.