Church Part 6: Pushing and Pulling

Part 1: Out of Place
Part 2: Believing the Right Things
Part 3: Imperfect Understanding
Part 4: The Theology of Fear
Part 5: The Theology of Extra Baggage

When I was younger, my father told me that there would be a lot of Protestants surprised to see Catholics in Heaven. He also said there would be a lot of Catholics surprised to see Protestants in Heaven.

I think there will be a lot of people surprised to see Alice Cooper in Heaven.

When it comes to the afterlife, we seem to profess a firm understanding of who will make it and who will not. We walk through life identifying the sheep and goats as if it some sort of mental health diagnosis. Then we treat people in accordance of our assumptions.

Assumptions aren’t always correct. When we treat people based on their presumed worth, we begin to see them as something less than human. No matter how you rationalize it or try to gloss it up, the end result is always the same.

We push people away.

When we evaluate our place in the cosmos, we need to look at our relation to those around us. Are we pushing people away or pulling them closer?

Are we walking through life with our heads down and hands in our pockets? Or are we walking with our head high, ready to lend a hand?

Do we recognize the hurts and needs of our neighbors, or pass by because it’s none of our business?

Are our arms open or crossed across our chests?

Is it all about them or all about us?

We really only have two options. We can push people away from a relationship with their creator. Or we can pull them in and share with them the joy that we profess.

We’re like magnets. Attract. Or repel.

We too often approach religion wondering ‘what’s in it for me.’ I find it funny that we also take this attitude everywhere. We ask that of our government, our schools, our employers, our families.

It is selfishness. And it’s delusional.

The quest for self is a lie that ultimately dead ends. It isolates those who would naturally want to support you. When you are in constant pursuit of your own interests, people start losing interest in you. You end that journey alone.

It is this selfishness that breeds discontent. It breaks up marriages and families. Dissatisfied people quit their jobs. All looking for greener pastures.

Selfishness begins the steeplechase, church shopping, bouncing from one community to another in hopes that this one will be better for you.

If Christians can’t be happy with the church they’re attending, how can we expect anyone else to appreciate it? How can we draw in visitors and strangers in the same moment we’re running away?

We need to change this pattern.

We can’t create a church atmosphere that is welcoming and effective if we walk through the doors expecting to be the center of the universe. While we do need to find a church that fits us, we also need to be open to where we might fit. Instead of asking what the church is going to do for us, we need to look at what we can do for the church.

Think back to your time in high school. Which students seemed like they most enjoyed those four years? Was it the kids who showed up because they had to? Or was it the people who were involved in something. At my school it was the kids on the football and soccer team. The drama geeks and band nerds. The choir kids. DECA, FFA, and ASB. The yearbook staff. Doing something gave my peers ownership, made them feel like they were a part of something bigger than themselves. It made them appreciate it and enjoy it more than those that showed up just before first period and went straight home after the final bell.

Look at college life. The frat boys, the kids with athletic scholarships, the editorial staff at the student newspaper. The people who leave college with fond memories are usually those that were actively involved with some organization within the school.

I see it at work. Those that take an active interest in their job enjoy working there. Those that are there for a paycheck hate their job.

I see it in my community. The people who most love living here are often the same people who volunteer their time with non-profit organizations or are involved with civic groups.

The same is true in our churches. Generally speaking, the people most involved with some sort of ministry are happiest where they are.

There is a strange correlation between happiness and involvement.

If you want to go to a church that pulls people in, do something. Get involved. Some of my favorite times in a church were spent sitting behind a sound board or staying up late with a bunch of teenagers ten years younger than me.

Can you imagine what it would be like if everyone in your church did something? What would it be like if everyone volunteered in some aspect? The nursery would never be shorthanded. There would always be someone to greet visitors at the door. The bathrooms would always be spotlessly clean. The free coffee would always be hot and fresh. Every youth event would have enough adults to supervise the chaos. The lawn would always be mowed. Every electrical problem would be fixed. You could eat off the gym floor.

Would that be the kind of church that draws people in, or chases them away?

What about you? Would you be happy serving at a church like that?

I realize that this is a utopian church that (as far as I know) does not exist. But what if? What if we could make that a reality? What if we could stop being selfish for long enough to do something for someone else? What if we realized that we don’t see people the way God sees them? What if we treated people as if we were not their judge?

Would we be pulling them in or pushing them away?


  1. That was a pretty well thought out analysis. Thank you for sharing it with us.

  2. Absolutely - and thanks for dropping by Herb.

    p.sp - by no means am I claiming perfection. When I say these are problems that we need to fix, I'm including myself in that list of people that need to do the work.