I always wanted to be one of the popular kids. I watched the popular girls closely enough to know exactly what it would take: I needed Guess Jeans, a jean jacket, and a couple of Izod shirts to layer on top of each other. A Swatch watch, straight blond hair and parents who would let me stay out late wouldn’t hurt, either. But none of that ever came together. In the end, I was happy enough to be the kid who got along with everyone and who quietly went about her business.
As I got older, I realized that changing how I looked in order to be popular probably wasn’t going to fit my genuine interests and gifts (I played the pipe organ and loved algebra, after all). And a funny thing happened. As I got more comfortable in my own skin, other people got more comfortable with me, too. As I became secure enough to show people my heart, they wanted to be part of my life. And I’m still a work in progress – still learning who I am and how to live it out.
There is an attractive beauty that clings to people who are authentically themselves. We’re attracted by their quiet confidence. We’re attracted by their joyful clarity about life. We’re attracted by their kindness and generosity; because they’re secure in themselves, they can pour themselves out for other people. We want to be like them.
The same can be said for churches. Of course we want to be the popular church. We want the big youth group. We want to be known in the community for our effective service and outreach. We want to be respected and admired because we’re growing and affluent. And churches are like people: you can change what the program and worship looks like, but it is what’s on the inside that really matters. Churches that know who they are and are confidently living into it will have an attractive beauty that others want to be part of.
Here’s the attractive beauty that I think people are starving for: people these days, just like in Jesus’ time, are dying to be loved and to be taught how to love. People are starving for others who have gone to the deep places of faith and who can guide them there, too. People are parched for authentic community, where they and their kids are loved and treasured, even when they’re a mess. People are aching for opportunities to pour their hearts, their energy, and their resources into the world, where they can die to themselves and really change the world. Churches that have these three: deep, joyful connection with God, compassionate love for each other, and challenging and rewarding service in the world, will be the churches with that attractive beauty that calls people home.