What People Want

Our organization has just completed a series
of extensive interviews with people who voluntarily agreed to tell us about what
they are seeking in their spiritual lives. The interviews are revealing and
disturbing.

I would like
an experience
that does not
condemn you
for what you
believe but
concentrates
more on
doing unto
others…
–Interviewee 1

Our organization has just completed a series of extensive interviews with people who are seeking deeper, more meaningful experiences of the spiritual in their lives. Their responses tell a story that is touching, revealing and sometimes disturbing.

Most say they want authentic relationships with others who will accept them as they are and help them to change in order to become the persons they believe they should be. All of this is wrapped in a quest to find a relationship to the Creator and to serve other people. Many express the desire to commit to something more compelling than they have found in their religious experiences so far. However, they find it difficult to locate a group of people in which this search for acceptance, affirmation and growth can take place.

The specific
things I feel
are missing
are a sense
of community,
doing things
that will make
our community
better in
little ways.
–Interviewee 2

If this group is typical, and we believe they are, there is much in these comments that is hopeful. However, there is a disturbing side of the snapshot as well.
The national dialogue about religious values is creating as much rejection of Christian community as it is encouraging people to join in.
This is especially true of those who are sensitive to the need for personal acceptance and who also believe that faith should be inclusive and informed by science and reason.

Many of these individuals tell of rejection or other negative experiences in a church at some earlier stage of their lives. They speak of a desire to believe, but they are seeking faith that is intellectually and morally consistent with their day-to-day experiences. They want faith to help them unify their lives and help them find balance and harmony. They want healing in a divisive and damaging culture.

I would also
like to find
a faith that
rejuvenates my
life, which
gives it direction,
which answers
some of my
deepest questions
about identity
and purpose.
–Interviewee 3

But they aren’t getting what they want. In the current heated national conversation about values they read and hear media coverage about polarizing absolutes–homosexuality, abortion and evolution. Many persons seeking community feel left out. Worse, they feel they would be rejected by the church because they don’t hold the values that are being presented in the media.

As a result, they are wary, if not hostile, to the Christian community. Having been damaged once, they are skeptical that there is a place for them within the church community. Many, especially those with no direct connection to a church and who know the church only through media reports, see the Christian community as judgmental and rejecting.

No matter where you stand on these issues, I think it should concern those in the religious community, especially Christians, that Christians are perceived to be judgmental, exclusionary and lacking in compassion. The very practices that Jesus embodied are viewed as missing in the practices of his contemporary disciples.

I don’t need
to know
I will be
judged.
I already
know that.
–Interviewee 4

He connected with those who felt left out of the majority culture–the Samaritan woman at the well, the tax collector, the prostitute, among the many. To them he said, “come to me if you’re heavy-laden and I will give you rest.” And to his disciples he said if you look into the faces of those who are least, the poor, vulnerable, outcast, sick and in prison, you will see my face. He spoke of inclusion and new life. He spoke of creating new relationships with each other in an inclusive community.

How tragic that those who gather in his name today are perceived to be living and speaking in a manner so inconsistent with his teachings. This is not what people want.

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