This may be wishful thinking and it is admittedly anecdotal, but I’ve noticed a shift in the kinds of new people coming into the life of Good Shepherd these days.
In earlier seasons of this church’s life, we seemed to get a lot of people who were looking for “a better church” than the one they were currently attending. I think some of my ministry style at the time — as well as my still-unredeemed competitive nature — fed into that.
There are two huge drawbacks to that kind of growth, however. First, Jesus calls us not to be traders of sheep but fishers of men. Second, it’s usually not long before those same folks are off in search of their next “better church.”
These days, I get these sense that we have more broken people coming through our doors and then staying involved in the church who are in search of a “better life.” My hope in preaching is that they will sense they are neither alone nor judged in their brokenness, but that they are part of a community now walking together towards hope and healing.
So when I preach about doctrine these days, I try to do so with an eye on how that doctrine connects with our lives. Now: doctrine matters. A lot. I want to get it right. The bible is still authoritative and Jesus is still decisive.
But I want the doctrine I preach to relate to the lives people lead.
So that they don’t leave church on a Sunday morning thinking, “man, my last church didn’t preach doctrine that way.”
But that they go home with this in their minds: “I am not alone. I am so messed up the cross is what I needed and so loved the cross is what I got. There is hope.”
If we get it right, people in search of a better life will find the answers they need.
And people in search of a better church might just stick it out and work hard and well to make the church they attend into that better place. Including Good Shepherd.