As the church, what works better: to curse the darkness or light a candle? Many seem convinced that God is calling them to curse. First and foremost. This seems especially true in matters of sexuality.
For example, consider the issue of couples living together outside of marriage. For some church leaders, this is the ultimate test for admittance. If a couple is “shacking up” and then asks the pastor to officiate a wedding, the couple is frequently disqualified from marrying in that church. In some churches, unmarried individuals who are living together are denied membership or fellowship in the congregation. “You are living in sin–and we will not condone that in this church,” is the cry.
How is this approach working out? Sadly, I know many people who have been shunned over this issue and have walked away from the church. Some have abandoned their faith.
Yes, scripture is quite clear about God’s idea for marriage. And we displease God anytime we live outside of God’s will in any way. But how can the church be most helpful in bringing people into the light of God’s will?
Lighting a candle
The leaders of a church in Colorado chose to address some of these sexuality and relationship issues in a direct–but surprising–way. The pastors were well aware that some of their people were living together outside of marriage. After a sermon series outlining God’s desires for men and women, the pastors could have concluded with a predictable cursing of living together, and left it there. Instead, they stunned the congregation–and the community–with a novel and grace-filled offer.
The pastors had become aware that couples avoided marriage for many reasons, including the high financial cost of weddings. So, they announced a special offer. For those who were ready for a Christian wedding, the church would provide–for free–the ceremony, the pastor, the venue, and even the wedding photographer.
Did it work? Well, more than 90 couples stepped forward to be married, one after another in a marathon of separate weddings.
These couples and the entire congregation witnessed how a church shows Jesus-style grace, shines light, and leads God’s people into his will. This wedding blitz is another example of Radical Hospitality, one the “four acts of love” described in Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church Anymore.
What might happen if more churches would spend more energy and creativity on shining light than bellowing curses?