It's 1:35am and I can't sleep so this is a warning before this blog begins! :)
I was sitting in bed and thinking to myself about the people I have met in the various churches I've attended over the years and I thought I would summarize in a blog what I was thinking. You may think differently and if so I'd love to know your thoughts...
At any given time I believe you will find six categories which people fall into at your church. Very rarely do any of us stay in one category but I'm sure there are exceptions. Like me, you've probably experienced times when you fell into each of them - sometimes you hurdle two or more. So what exactly are they?
The first category is the group I call the "socially elite"
The socially elite group is all about who's there, what they've accomplished in the week versus what someone else has accomplished, what folks are wearing, who has the brightest children or grandchildren, what their bank account or retirement account balance reads this week, what social functions they have lined up to enjoy next and who is attending with them, etc. With the socially elite group you never really know where you stand. The people in this group try so hard to impress eachother and to make their lives sound so much better (or worse!) than others that they rarely listen to what you have to say. They talk primarily about themselves and when you begin to talk about your life, they look to see who else they can talk to. This leads others to believe they care solely about themselves. I don't think this group is altogether bad but they do seem preoccupied with a lot of "stuff".
The second category is what I call the "wannabees"
This group goes around trying to impress the socially elite group but they don't quite measure up to the socially elites ever-changing standards. The wannabees have tremendous insecurities (not unlike the socially elite group) but they measure their spirituality by if the socially elite think they are ok. You see them constantly attempting to impress, "suck up to" or otherwise lavish attention on the socially elite. They do this so they can occassionally be invited to hang out with the socially elite or get a compliment or two. The socially elite love the wannabees if only for the attention they get from them that they so desire and require.
The third group are the "frustrated"
They've been around the block a time or two - they've seen the church play church and they may have even seen the church be truly on fire for God. They've seen what they view as people being hurt more than loved on, ignored more than included and condemned more than accepted. They see those that claim to be Christians but refuse to give up areas of their lives that are sinful because that area is off limits to God. This group wants to make a difference but they've forgotten how. They are consumed with others - the way they act, the way they are treated, whether the church is performing up to their standards, etc. They do a lot of comparision thinking - "oh my church back home was much better at...", "the last church I was at didn't do that", "we've heard this sermon before", "the band really sounded off this morning". Whatever. Those that are frustrated complain. Maybe not verbally but in their mind you better believe they are struggling. They believe things should be "fixed" but they either don't know where to begin, don't want to invest that amount of time in the church or they may even try to make an attempt but usually they leave God on the sidelines while doing so.
The fourth group are the "hurting"
They come to church in pain. They are desperate for someone to listen to them, put their arm around them and say things are going to be ok. They look for someone to pray for them and to promise to continue to pray until things improve. They're going through a difficult time at home or in their workplace. They are struggling financially or they are sick. They have loved ones they are losing or they are depressed from trying for so long without seeing results. They come to church looking for answers, encouragement, love and a touch from Jesus. Whether they get those things or not depends on the church and the people that make up that church. They want to open up and share but are usually drowned out by the problems of others. This group is the one you find that overlaps with all the others at at least one point or another. The socially elite hurt, the wannabees hurt, the frustrated group hurts, etc.
The fifth group of people are the "disciples"
This group remains usually very low key. They always have a kind word for you. When they say they'll pray, you know they will. When they raise their hands to worship God it's not because the pastor told them to - it's because it's a genuine outflowing from their hearts. You often see them kneeling in church - humbleness and love epitomize who they are. Rarely if ever are they invited to be a part of the socially elite group as their very presence is convicting. You know this group is sincere. They will never say an unkind word about anyone and they won't hang around others that do. They love and give expecting nothing in return and they come to church truly to be in the presence of their savior. This group is the true Romans 12:1,2 group. They have been transformed by Jesus and want to be more like Him and only Him, every day.
The last and final group are the seekers
The seekers are for the most part, non-christians. They come to your church once - occassionally more to check things out. They are looking for the fifth group of people as they've heard they exist but more than likely they've only been around the first four groups their whole lives. If they are fortunate enough to meet someone in the fifth group, chances of them returning go up - unless they meet too many others in groups one through four and think to themselves that this church is no different than any others. They might be skeptical or hurting, frustrated or just truly investigating their options but your chance to reach them is usually limited to that day - that 1.5 hours, those 3 minutes of "meet and greet your neighbor" time in the service.
Maybe you will disagree with me - call the groups by different titles, add a category or two or disregard everything I've said as complete rubbish(! :))but this was on my heart and I thought I'd share it. I will say I have fallen into every category at one time or another. Our pastors wife said it, "spiritually complacent". All too often I am spiritually complacent. I get frustrated too easily, I try to impress others. I exclude and try to fit in. I complain in my heart and I don't forgive as quickly as I should. I get angry at stupid things and at terrible times. My quiet times become rituals I must complete rather than something that transforms my life each day.
I, like most in the church, am a work in progress. If we are truly Christians - God will reveal to us our shortcomings in His gentle, loving ways and He will discipline us to make the changes He needs to make in our lives. He is tough on His children but it is always for our good and for the good of the church. He wants us to be truly transformed by the Holy Spirit - to reflect Him when others look at us. I have a long way to go and I pray He never gives up on me. My sins are always in front of me staring me in the face. I can't run far.
The church is not perfect but Christ died for the church and He is the true head - no matter how much we love our pastors, they are just people like the rest of us. One day God will put an end to all that divides us and we will see how truly far we were from what He called us to be. Until that time I pray God will continue the work in you (and me) that He started and that we will be ever filled with His presence, peace and love.
Verses that came to mind for each of the groups if you're interested in reading further:
Socially Elite: Romans 12:2, "Don't copy the customs and behavior of the world" and Phil 2:3 "Don't be selfish; don't try to impress others."
Wannabees: John 12:43, "For they loved the praise from men more than from God" and Galations 1:10 "For am I now seeking the approval of man or of God?"
Frustrated: Matthew 7:2 "For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged" and James 5:16 "Confess your faults one to another and pray for one another than you may be healed."
Hurting: Matthew 11:28 "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest" and Romans 8:18 "For I am confident that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us."
Disciples: James 1:22 "But be ye doers of the word and not hearers only" and James 5:16 "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much"
Seekers: John 1:12 "But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God"