Churches are communities. At least, they are supposed to be. Every community has a something that ties the members together. In a neighborhood, it is geographical location. Before the internet, that was just about the prerequisite to every community. Relationships could traverse distances through phone calls or letters, but those relationships were always 1-to-1, not a group. The internet has changed this somewhat. Now no matter how obscure your interest you can find people somewhere in the world that share it.
The church is a local community. To be clear, each church is an individual community. Yes, churches of like faith ought cooperate in the work of the ministry. Yes, one day there will be but one church as we are all gathered together in the presence of the Lord (Hebrews 12:22-23). Until that day, our focus is centered on our local congregation.
I fear that we often confuse what draws us together in a church as a community of believers. It ought be Jesus Christ. Yet too often we allow other issues and interests to rise to such a level that we raise the bar of entry. This plays itself out in a hundred different ways from "politely" ignoring to outright disrespect those who don't fit the mold. The country bumpkin may be ostracized for being backwards in an upscale urban or suburban congregation, while city slicker is mocked in the rural church. North and South. Rich and poor. Ethnicity. Education. The list can go on and on.
Christ must be the central focus of our life and our church life. We can have hobbies and interests, but they must pale in comparison to him. We must be willing to be uncomfortable to reach those that need Christ. We must be willing to step out of our comfort zone to help those grow who love Jesus but are different than us.
Tomorrow: how has this cost our churches many of our young people as we live in an increasingly hostile world.