I was thinking this week about an old slogan, or maybe it was just one of their ads, that used to run for McDonald's. It said something to the effect of, McDonald's is a happy place. As that old song ran through my head (repeatedly, you know how it is when something sticks like that?) I thought to myself, "Why aren't churches happy places?"
I believe that the issue isn't that the church isn't a happy place it's the people that aren't happy. Too many pastors beat down their congregation with the idea that they are all on a pathway to hell. Too many of the members of the congregations are certain of their own salvation but clearly see (in their judgmental view) that their neighbor is living a life that doesn't fit their image of a "redeemed, sanctified, born-again" lifestyle.
Herein lies the problem. How can we be happy if we are too busy looking for our neighbor's shortcomings rather than celebrating their blessings?
I have driven by churches on Sunday when folks are coming out the doors and sometimes, I see people laughing and smiling but more often than not they just seem sad. I would love to think they look sad because church is over, and they have to wait a week until the next Sunday rolls around but I'm a realist and know that is probably not the case. What I really believe is that they have not "heard the Good News" or else there was no "Good News" presented.
Here's my idea, you can take it for what it's worth: Let's come to church on Sunday knowing that God is present, Jesus loves us no matter what we look like, how much money we have (or don't have), who we love (or don't love), if we have a big family or we're a family of one, and last but not least, the person sitting next to you in the pew cares about you (even if you didn't know it before). At church we're one. If we remember these things, we can't help but be happy.
Peace & Blessings,
James "Skip" French is the pastor of Highland Christian Church located at 1500 Forest Hills Blvd. in Bella Vista. Opinions expressed are those of the author.