From time to time, I provide consulting to Christian organizations. And I've noticed that I am occasionally uncomfortable in the presence of these clients. Not always, but sometimes. They seem to have an air of theological superiority. I just feel like I'm being looked at with judgmental eyes, as if my worthiness is being assessed. Or as if they assume that I'm an outsider and couldn't possibly be at the same religious level. (By the way, I never feel this way with other types of clients, even Fortune 500 clients.)
What makes this even more strange is the fact that I grew up with Christianity as a central part of my life. A family member and role model was in the clergy, I went to church regularly, I went to a Christian school, have been on plenty of retreats, etc. So if I feel like an outsider when I'm in the presence of church people, I can't imagine how a real outsider would feel. And this is a huge problem.
Christians are often Christianity's worst enemy. Or at least, its primary hinderance. Leadership at churches, both clergy and laypeople, often lack humility, kindness and joy. Let's take these one at a time.
Humility. As a person acquires knowledge about a subject, he/she can fall prey to the potential arrogance that can come with it. Many church people naturally exude this self-righteous quality without even knowing they do. But trust me, they do. If you're one of them, please take your smarty pants off at the door.
Kindness. A byproduct of lacking humility is the lack of kindness. That is, some church people are critical, even silently, of people that don't live to their standards. And therefore, they feel justified to not extend kindness to these “substandard” people. Their kindness is reserved only for those who are like them, those who appear to be part of their club of righteous Christians.
Joy. This one may sound odd, but I often sense a total lack of joy in these serious, stuffy, legalistic, dogmatic church people. If they were really filled with the Holy Spirit, they would be overflowing with love, kindness and joy. They would actually smile instead of purse their lips and cross their arms, even when someone says something they don't agree with or appreciate.
I bring all of this up, because I am seriously worried about the future of the Christian church. I hear these church people lament the fact that they have few young adults in their congregations. And they desperately want to attract more to their church. But the vibe they give off is more likely to repel young adults than attract them. They have turned their churches into cloisters. Sure, the doors may be open every Sunday, but the hearts and minds of the church people are not.