There’s a fine line between pursuing effective communication and peddling Christianity. As a church planter, this struggle is pronounced because of the constant internal and external pressure to start a church. How do we let people know we’re here without building a brand? How do we gather a new church without treating existing churches as market competition? How do we avoid the appearance of a bait and switch? How do we draw people to Christ without a great location, exciting programs, or a trendy logo? These questions have been paralyzing.
In his book, Get Real, John Leonard acknowledges this challenge: ”Western individualism has turned the church into an event that I may or may not participate in, depending on what I get out of it. This is not what the church is to be. It is a community of people who bring the best of the grace that God has given us and give it to one another.”
Last weekend, we vacationed with a fellow PCA pastor and his family. We had a blast boating and swimming in Lake Marion together. It was such a sweet time of fellowship. One of the highlights was getting to interact with his oldest daughter. She was great with our kids and Laurie and I enjoyed our moments of solemn conversation and prayer together. How many 15-year-olds do you know who ask you to pray for them? We were challenged by her faith.
During our last night together, she shared with Laurie and me about some of her struggles to fit in at school. “It gets so bad sometimes, and I am so hurt that I just start crying. And no one, not even the teachers, do anything to comfort me.” Laurie reminded her how Jesus suffered, and no one came to comfort him either. He was even forsaken by the Father! Yet he humbly suffered all the way to the cross where he bore our griefs and carried our sorrows. And through his pain we are forgiven and restored. He comforts us with his grace. She replied, “Yes, I understand. But what can I DO when I’m feeling so terrible?” I opened my Bible app and asked her to read a verse from Second Corinthians: “[God] comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” We encouraged our friend to change her great misery into a grace mission. “Remember what Jesus has done for you, and look for other hurting people that you can comfort. Give them the grace that Jesus has given you.”
What a great reminder for us too. Pray that God will build a community of Grace-Givers here in Orangeburg and that we will communicate this vision effectively and without compromise.