by Kevin Harney
Over the past decade I have been surprised by the growing hostility toward the Church. Mud is slung. Criticisms are leveled. Fingers are pointed. Harsh articles and blogs are written. Sadly, much of this is coming from Christians!
It does not shock me when non-believers beat up on the Church. This is to be expected. What astonishes me is how many followers of Jesus feel free to unleash their venom on the bride of Jesus.
I believe it breaks the heart of our Savior and compromises our witness!
Our Savior declared that the world would know we are His followers by the way we love each other (John 13:35). When Christians beat up on Christians, we send the wrong message. When believers slam other churches, we fuel negative fires in the hearts of non-believers.
If we want to increase our testimony to the world, we will need to love the Church. Jesus loves His Bride… we should too.
Don’t get me wrong. I know the Church can be a tough place. I am a pastor and I have received some of the most vicious attacks, unfair accusations, and hostile behavior from members of churches I have served. But I still love the Church. In every congregation, there will be the sickest and the healthiest of humanity. That’s the way it should be! We are the Church.
Every follower of Jesus should seek to grow his or her love for the people of God…the Church. Instead of being critics, let’s remember that Jesus loves people, even broken people…especially broken people.
I believe one hidden key to evangelism is learning to actively and consistently love the Church. Here are a few simple ways to grow your personal love for the Church:
- Pray for other churches in your community. Every time you drive by a Bible-believing Christian church, pray for God’s power, blessing, and for evangelistic revival. If you are driving with a group of believers, invite them to pray with you!
- Partner with other churches. Do mission work, evangelism, and special events together. Pool your resources and prayer for special causes in your community. Let the lost people in your community see you working together. Show love for each other and they will see Jesus.
- Talk about your church in positive ways. Don’t air your concerns or issues with non-believers (or with believers, unless it is productive). Tell people how much you love your church, what you learned in a class or sermon, the joy of community, or anything else positive you experience in your church.
- Talk about other churches and pastors in positive ways. Be quick to speak well of the good things happening in other churches where you friends attend. Be specific and bless other local congregations.
- Pray regularly for your church leaders. Pray by name, pray with passion, and pray in faith. Get a list of elders, board members, and ministry leaders. Then, lift them up before God and ask for His power and presence in their lives.
- Express appreciation to church leaders. Send a handwritten note, email, or text message to a leader from your church, or to a leader to another church in your community. Thank them for their faithful service and the sacrifices they make to serve Jesus and your community.
- Invite people to your church. As you grow in love with your church, invite others to love the church too. You will see your church through new eyes when you sit in a worship service, Bible study, or small group with a non-churched friend next to you.
Every time we beat up on the Church, we hurt other believers, sadden our Savior, and compromise our witness to the world. Commit to be a fan of the Church and to love her well. Certainly, raise concerns in the right way, at the right time, with the right people. The Church is not perfect, and there is always room for growth. But, spend a whole lot more time building up the Church, praying for the bride, and loving God’s people… this is a hidden key to evangelism.
Kevin Harney (@KevinGHarney) is a local church pastor, author, and international speaker. He is the founder and visionary leader of Organic Outreach Ministries International. Kevin is the author of the Organic Outreach series of books (with his wife Sherry), and many other books and studies. He trains movement leaders in how to transform the culture of an organization from being inwardly focused to evangelistic on every level.