During a recent trip to Ohio, I experienced yet another conversation, this time with my Uber driver, about how the church has been an utter disappointment. Most of these conversations start with the other person telling me their life story, then asking what I do for a living. My answer usually prompts them to apologize for vulgar language first, then fill out the rest of their story with references to the church they no longer attend.
The encounter in Cleveland unfolded much the same way. The driver’s life story was filled with betrayal, divorce, homelessness, and anxiety. When we got to the church part, I wasn’t surprised to hear that her church was not a place where she found support or nurture. She felt judged, not affirmed. She said the language of worship didn’t speak to her. And of course, she had an example of how someone at church had said something, or done something, that made her feel “less than.”
I’ve heard all of this so many times it makes my heart hurt. Too many of God’s beloved people have been turned off by churches whose liturgy and whose members fail to connect with their deepest needs. The next step is to confuse their church with the church, thus removing all churches from the list of places a person with deep spiritual concerns might go.
Pastor and author, Lillian Daniel recently published a book titled, “Tired of Apologizing for a Church I Don’t Belong To.” I haven’t read it yet, but the title makes me think I’ll recognize the story. Instead of feeling tired, though, my conversation with my Uber driver (and countless others) actually inspire my belief that the church as I understand it and experience it has quite a bit to offer a world full of people deeply in need of its message.
On this Reign of Christ Sunday, I’m reminded that Christ is counting on us to be that church, and I’m grateful to be about that work with all of you.
Your friend and fellow minister, Rev. Kathryn Kuhn