Every Sunday when it comes time to worship at New Story, I’m amazed that people show up. Really.
There’s lots of reasons why:
1) On the outside wall of our church we have a sign that says, “Everyone is welcome here. Everyone.” Lots of people don’t like this. People have left our church because we have interracial couples, gay people, addicts, the homeless, and every type of person imaginable. But here’s the thing: I just don’t understand how a church can be a church when it is only filled with people who are all the same color, dressed to impress each other, seemingly well adjusted, and who all believe exactly alike. I read the Bible. A lot. And I don’t find that picture of church anywhere in it.
2) Keeping people happy isn’t one of our goals. It’s always tempting to compromise our core values to keep everyone singing Kum Ba Yah. But Jesus never did that. So, we don’t shy away from conflict and we’re much more interested in people growing in their faith than getting everything they want. At New Story Church we’re about making a real difference in the world, not making sure that Doug and Wendy Whiner have nothing to complain about. We keep it real, even when keeping it real is uncomfortable.
3) We teach all of the Bible, not just the easy parts. I’m sure our attendance would be 10 times what it is if I would preach a cheesy message that promised good health, lots of money, and all your dreams coming true if you’ll just be active enough in church and give enough in the offering. There’s just one problem: I think that’s crap. And wildly damaging. Jesus (and every other faithful person in the Bible) lived tough lives that involved some heartbreak, exhaustion, sparse living, hatred by others, and more. How could we possibly think that if we faithfully follow Jesus it will be any different for us? I’ve found in my own life, the greatest spiritual growth comes through the tough times, and I’ve actually learned to be thankful for them. Well, that last part might be an exaggeration, but I’m moving in that direction.
4)We’d rather do things to help our community than to help ourselves. Sure we could have more programs that served us, encouraged us, and made us feel better about ourselves. While we believe classes are important, we think it’s even more important to live out our faith by feeding the hungry, helping the homeless, having programs for those struggling with addiction, and the like. When people tell me they’re leaving our church because they think we should focus more on them, I politely ask them to show me where that thinking is in the Bible, and then wish them well when they tell me they’ll find a church that will “meet THEIR needs”.
5) We’re adamant about keeping things simple. We’re always tempted to start 10 new programs to try to have something for everyone. But we’ve decided that we’ll only do a few things and do them really well. We have great kid’s programs, we do tons of our outreach to our community, and we have inspiring and meaningful worship. Throw in a few classes here and there to help us grow deeper in our faith, and that’s all we’re about. Seriously. And it feels great.
Are we ever going to be a huge church? I doubt it. But being huge to impress others isn’t important to us. We care about trying to be a faithful church. And remarkably, God brings us people every week. Lots and lots of them. People who want to make a difference and not just talk about making one. People who are broken. People who have been hurt by church. People who have never stepped foot in a church. People looking for a New Story. And every week I’m amazed all over again at its awesomeness.