23rd January 2002
Let's answer the question up front: Every kind of person goes to church!
Whatever stereotype you come up with to categorise churchgoers, you'll find countless church members who don't fit that stereotype. Best not even to try.
Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.- 1 Corinthians 1:26-27
God builds his church from whoever he chooses, paying no attention to the ways that we would judge or classify people. If anything, there is a bias towards the poor - although there are certainly plenty of ``upper-middle'' Christians in the New Testament (Zacchaeus, Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus, Luke.)
The People Of Destiny team in Washington, D.C, is led by two men: Larry Tomczak graduated from college top of his year, and was a classic example someone who seemed to turn whatever he touched into gold; but C. J. Mohaney, who is now the team's senior leader, left school with no qualifications and could easily have ended up in jail had he not become a Christian. God has used both of them together.
While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew's house, many tax collectors and ``sinners'' came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, ``Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and `sinners'?'' On hearing this, Jesus said, ``It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: `I desire mercy, not sacrifice'.''- Matthew 9:10-13 (also Mark 2:17 and Luke 5:31)
Some people say that churches are full of needy people as though that's a criticism! What nonsense. That's like concluding that hospitals are obviously bad for you, because they're full of sick people. A church that doesn't have needy people in it is failing to reach out to the people that Jesus would reach out to.
At the same time, the Church also needs healthy, whole people to help those who are more encumbered by problems. The great thing is to avoid falling to two camps - the healthy and the needy; rather, the healthy help the needy to become healthy.
Didn't the whole feel of North Central change when David and Beryl joined? Until then, Maureen was the only over-forty in the whole Church. Now we have a sense of stability; we are in a position to learn from experience and wisdom that we didn't have before. One of our needs at the moment is still to acquire some more members from what we might diplomatically call the more mature end of the age-range.
By contrast, many traditional churches have the opposite problem: they are overloaded with elderly people - mostly old women, which skews the demographic yet further - and so they're desperate to recruit some young blood. Neither of these situations is healthy. The church is supposed to encompass the whole demographic range. Everyone has something to give.
If you think I'm going to get into whole male/female thing, you're profoundly mistaken :-)
Seriously, this is a big issue for every church, and I could not possibly do it anything approaching justice in a few short minutes. We will have to reach conclusions on the whole question of women in ministry, and we will surely preach on this some time in the coming year, but let us say for now that it is absolutely essential to the church that it has both men and women working together in various capacities. The male-female imbalance at North Central is another issue we want to address ... There are a lot of people praying for more men to join us :-)
A Brief Digression on the Role of Women
For the record, here's what we've established about the role of women in North Central. Our ``common-sense'' tells us that there's no reason women can't do all the same things as men, but the bible appears to teach differently, and we won't simply ignore what it tells us in favour of our own, possibly flawed, understanding. We have women leading small-groups, Alpha, Sunday worship, etc., but have not yet had a woman preaching. We probably will, but that's yet to be decided. When we are fully established with elders, it's unlikely that women will be on the eldership (authoritative leadership) team. That's all I'm going to say for now.
Again here, we're touching on a massive subject that really merits a whole preaching series to itself, not a three-minute slot in a sermon on another subject. But Paul writes ``I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord's affairs - how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world - how he can please his wife - and his interests are divided'' (1 Corinthians 7:32-34)
The evidence is that Paul himself was unmarried (1 Corinthians 7:7); but we know that Peter, who was the leader of the Jerusalem church, was married - Jesus healed his mother-in-law (Luke 4:38-39). Both states are good.
The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. If the foot should say, ``Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,'' it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, ``Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,'' it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ``I don't need you!'' And the head cannot say to the feet, ``I don't need you!'' On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.- 1 Corinthians 12:12, 15-22, 26-27
The diversity of the church is part of its glory. When Paul writes ``There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus'' (Galatians 3:28), he's not just describing a state of affairs that heppens to be true in the church he's writing to; he's outlining Jesus' intention for the Great Universal Church.
In the end, the only people who don't go to church are those who disqualify either themselves (because they think they're not worthy) or the church (because they don't understand what it is.) Non-christians fall into the second category: let us fall into neither!
If you're reading a paper copy of this document, the soft-copy can be found at www.miketaylor.org.uk/xian/people.html.