Of all the priceless legacies my late dad left to me, the one that defined me and enriched my life most was his love for Jesus. Right behind was his love for Jesus’ church. I wish you could have seen that love in action. It was a huge part of his happiness, and mine.
So, when I read articles today citing a decline in church membership, I value my dad’s legacy all the more. Everyone is free to make their own decisions regarding faith and church, but the joy of loving Jesus’ church is a factor I want more people to understand.
Statistics and survey results are ubiquitous. I see no need to cite them here. I see little value in breaking down this decline in church support on partisan, racial, class or gender lines. I have no agenda to make Jesus’ church more or less popular. I am not calling for a more polished ministry strategy to stem the decline. I trust Jesus to carry his church into eternity.
But I am concerned. I want my dad’s legacy of church love to impact more people. I chose ministry as a career because I want to see Jesus’ church thrive.
Out of genuine concern, some ministers soft-pedal the tougher elements of our faith to make the church more culturally relevant. That’s a mistake. Like a ship at sea, we sink as we take in too much of the ocean. As Christians, we gave up our desire for popularity when we gave our lives to Jesus. But we did not give up on love. Yet, Jesus’ love did not make him popular. He spoke often of his own “wicked and adulterous generation” and he loved them enough to call for repentance. This got him killed. Nevertheless, his death on the cross was God’s plan all along to stand as a timeless atoning sacrifice for sinners like you and me. His forgiveness is what formed his church.
But God’s forgiveness mandates transformation. The most dehumanizing form of atheism says, “I am what I am and nothing can change that.” Christianity begins when we repent of our sins and give up our inclinations to “define” ourselves, having seen where that got us. We permanently place ourselves in God’s hands to remake us on his terms. God’s Holy Spirit and his inspired word play a huge part in that lifelong redefining process.
Sadly, we often fight against God’s transforming work. Churches that call for sinners to submit to God’s life-changing power often pay a price in popularity. But since God is not concerned with temporary popularity, neither are we. Our main concern is to love others as he first loved us.
Having grown up loving Jesus’ church, I struggle to understand those who want to leave. I do not struggle to love them. I just think of my dad, Horace Solliday (1929-2017), whose love for Jesus and his church made him love others all the more.
Solliday has been the minister of the Lewiston Church of Christ at 302 Southway Ave. in Lewiston since 2011.